Religious Freedom Cannot Be Brought About By Discrimination

Image courtesy AJC.com

EDIT: Since originally posting this story and concluding with the idea that you might be lead around by certain leaders for the purposes of money or influence, the AJC.com has a fantastic, short write-up of how this “hunch” was correct.

Here in the great State of Georgia, we have been getting almost non-stop local coverage over the issue of religious liberty. And while I believe that all Americans — regardless of their personal belief system — should have equal protection under the law, the knee-jerk reaction to what Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of HB 757 has produced (one of the two religious liberty bills floating around our General Assembly) needed some rational commenting.

However, what really got me going today was what the Rev. Franklin Graham said yesterday about this issue. I am really sorry that Rev. Graham is taking the stance that he is, because he clearly has not actually read HB 757, and neither has Sen. Ted Cruz, because it would absolutely not do anything that they’re going on about. The bill would have essentially provided for the following:

  • From Section 2 of the bill, any leader in a faith-based organization has the right to allow or disallow activities based on their beliefs and cannot have negative repercussions on account of their stance;
  • From Section 3, any business has to allow for reasonable accommodation for an employee to have a day of rest either on Saturday or Sunday;
  • From Section 4, a faith-based organization can’t be forced to rent, buy or sell products or services that go against their faith, and such refusal can’t be grounds for a lawsuit or other repercussions;
  • From Section 5, no faith-based organization is required to hire or retain talent who has a different belief system than that of the faith-based organization.

From a religious perspective, a number of those points sound great, don’t they? But remember that such laws tend to have unintended consequences that would occur. For example, what happens if all of your employees were to decide that they weren’t going to work on a Saturday or a Sunday, and if you threatened them in some way, they could come back and sue you — but wait: they couldn’t sue you, because the same law says that you cannot be sued on account of religious stances. Ooo. First bug.

What about wholesale discrimination? According to this law, if you were a church leader (or any other type of lay person), you could legitimately refuse anyone who is gay, divorced, a glutton, an adulterer (or any other favorite sin) from darkening your church’s doorsteps and such potential parishioners could do nothing about it (because you’re protected from being sued). Further, if your non-church organization decides to do the same thing (by virtue of rejecting to sell products or services), you’d be free and clear to discriminate.

Well, you’d be free and clear to discriminate at the State level. However, there is still federal law that states that, in the marketplace, you can’t discriminate based on protected areas. Ooo. Second bug.

As a third illustration, what about the situation where you’re an employer and you discover that your employee is a Jehovah’s Witness, or maybe a Mormon (both of which are considered cults with respect to orthodox Christianity), perhaps even a Roman Catholic (because you think all real Christians must be Protestant, or maybe it’s vice versa)? Or, maybe the employee is pro-choice, and you’re not? Perhaps the employee has gay friends, and you vehemently disagree with that lifestyle? According to this legislation, you as the employer could fire that employee solely based on their beliefs and/or belief system. Ooo. Third bug.

For those who are detail-oriented, you might be saying, “but wait — doesn’t the law specifically describe a faith-based organization? This doesn’t count towards a ‘regular’ business, does it?” To which I would then say the following:

  • Section 2 only refers to the individual, not a business situation, and is therefore open to interpretation;
  • Section 3 specifically refers to businesses, not faith-based organizations;
  • Sections 4 and 5 do specifically refer to faith-based organizations.

As such, we can already see that this proposed law is, at best, not complete in its application of discrimination, something that federal law takes great pains to alleviate (i.e.: you must equally cover law across everyone in your jurisdiction). And make no mistake, this is lawful discrimination.

You might not like hearing that, but the reality is — and as Gov. Deal specifically stated in his veto promise — the First Amendment to the American Constitution already guarantees the right of free speech. In my opinion, trying to add to or take away from this fundamental right only confuses the issue. Unless your right is being infringed by someone impugning someone else’s ability to exercise the same right, there is no wrong here.

As a corollary, however, the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to be heard. Whether you’re a left-winger or a right-winger, it’s already a truism (sadly, except for the concept of health insurance, which is currently a federal mandate upon all American citizens) that you cannot be forced by any third-party entity to buy, sell or otherwise engage in something you simply choose not to engage in, specifically when it comes to any private entity. This carries with it the onus on the individual to proverbially change the channel and go somewhere else if the current situation is not in that individual’s best interests.

Let me tell you why this is therefore such a big deal, and why some don’t believe the First Amendment essentially has anything to do with this (if you listen to their banter).

It’s because they (whomever they are) have an agenda. They want you to stop thinking for yourself, stop doing your own homework, and simply trust what they have to say. This way, they can persuade you to think like they do, and ultimately give them money and support. This is brutal commentary, but it’s the truth.

What’s my agenda? It’s to first vent, and then to present what I see as the facts of a percolating situation in the court of public opinion. I’m simply tired of folks being led by the nose towards irrational ends by leaders in the community who really do know better (and if they don’t, they’re being disingenuous with you) because the facts simply contradict what their griping and whining is actually stating.

At the end of the day, you are not going to lose your ability to go to church if this bill doesn’t get passed. You are not going to lose your right to free speech, nor your ability to formally confront someone (sue them) about your rights being infringed. Why not? Because of the First Amendment!

Instead, perhaps we all ought to be asking the following questions of our alleged leaders:

How will my rights under the First Amendment be curtailed if Georgia’s so-called religious freedom bill does not pass?

How will someone be able to stop me from going to church or from me being able to opine on a blog if such a bill does not pass?

How will I not be able to sue someone else if they make certain claims against me if this bill does not pass?

-Phil

How the #GOPConvention Rules and Delegates Would Work

Image Courtesy Phil Skinner, ajc.com

If you’re a political junkie like me and have been a little bit more concerned than usual about how things might go at the RNC National Convention this summer, fear not, based on what the man pictured above had to say to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the past few days.

His name is Randy Evans, and his bio reads thusly:

Randy Evans is the chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association, a member of the Republican National Committee, as well as a member of the RNC’s rules and debate committees. He has served as outside counsel for two U.S. House speakers, Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, and was a top advisor to Gingrich during his 2012 presidential run.

Evans has also presided over debate at every Georgia Republican Convention that most of us can remember. In other words, his interpretation of rules and bylaws matter.

The AJC went into quite a bit of detail over five questions they asked him about the upcoming convention — it’s worth a full read here.

The newspaper also spoke about the happenings from today’s delegate conventions. Of note, here’s a synopsis of how Mr. Evans sees things:

Evans also addressed four changes to convention rules that are likely to be considered at an April meeting of the RNC:

— One would unbind all delegates. That’s unlikely to pass.

— Currently, a candidate must win a majority of delegates in eight states to have his name placed in nomination at the Cleveland convention. Proposals have been made to change that to five, or even three. This would benefit Gov. John Kasich, who has won only his home state of Ohio so far.

“I have consistently said if you play seven innings of a ball game, you need to finish the last two innings with the same rules you started with,” Evans said.

— A third rule change proposal would permit candidates to pledge delegates. This would allow two to combine forces and broker the main outcomes of the convention – both the nomination of a presidential candidate and selection of his running mate. Evans indicated he’s likely to oppose that, too, because it would reduce the clout of individual delegates.

On his existing trajectory, Evans said, billionaire Donald Trump is likely to enter Cleveland 75 or 100 short of the 1,237 needed for outright nomination.

And then these two thoughts, especially regarding former Gov. Romney:

“It’s ‘way more likely than not that we end up with a presumptive nominee. It’s not that I know some inside secret. It’s that I know how the process that I designed actually works,” Evans said.

“It’s why I chuckled when I heard Governor Romney talk about strategic voting. Cause I told him it might be helpful if he first knew how it worked before he started recommending how people could strategically vote.”

Both links are worth a full read.

As always, it’s not quite as crazy as talking heads make it out to be.

-Phil

Political Conventions and Citizen Activism — How It’s Done (Because I’ve Done It!)

Image courtesy Politico.com

Beginning soon at a local precinct near you, delegates will be selected who will eventually ascend to represent their State at the national RNC convention.

How do I know this? Two ways — I just yesterday received an email describing the process for my particular area in Georgia, where the delegate selection process begins this weekend, and the fact that I’ve been a delegate up to the State convention level in Georgia back in the 1990s.

Today, NBC News posted a great article (relatively dispassionate) regarding the upcoming GOP convention and how some party insiders have been speaking about the words, “contested” and “brokered” as bandied about in the press recently.

Before deep-diving into what this is all about, let’s get something out of the way first. Remember this “controversial” point made by a party insider, that the party picks the nominee, not voters? Aside from the relative hysteria that could be whipped up absent proper context, allow me to explain this point.

When you go to the polls (or participate in a caucus), you are actually voting for delegates to represent your vote. In reality, what the major political parties do is nearly identical to the concept of the Electoral College. You as a voter are not directly voting for any given candidate; you’re merely voting for how your State’s allotment of delegates will represent your State with respect to a given candidate (typically allotted per party rules; I’m not sure how States, per se, play into this, but that’s irrelevant for this discussion).

In other words, your vote as a primary or caucus voter expands the pool of delegates available for your chosen candidate.

Once everything is tallied for your State, there are then deadlines for the next most important part of political activism — party participation. And the best way to participate as an activist is to get involved through the precinct/county, district, State convention and, if you’re really into it (and get enough support), the national convention level.

Being a delegate is a painfully simple process. All that’s required to begin is for you to show up on time with some identification as well as your voter registration card. Seriously, that’s it. While it helps to understand party rules, typically the only time that becomes an issue is if someone at some point in the process tries to fight you on the rules (and that doesn’t typically happen unless you’re potentially threatening someone else’s ability to be nominated for the next process step).

As far as the actual steps, this depends on your particular State (go to this page on TheGreenPapers.com and scroll down to pick your State to see actual meeting dates/times). However, to use my own 2016 steps as an example, things would go like the following bulleted list. Be aware that you’d need to know times and locations for each meeting, else you could disqualify yourself simply by not showing up on time:

  • If you live in a small county, you’d first have a “precinct mass meeting” (which really isn’t as big as it sounds because of the lack of population), which you’d have to nominate yourself or ask to be nominated to go to the county convention. Then, you’d have to be nominated (by self or someone) to be a delegate or alternate delegate to go to the district convention. After that, you might be able to go to the State convention, and then there’s the national convention in Cleveland, OH for the GOP
  • If you live in a large county, you’ll probably first have a county convention, then potentially proceed to the district convention, which can then lead to the State convention, and then to the national convention

As you can see, the process is relatively straightforward to become involved in the party process. For me, when I was involved years ago, there wasn’t nearly as much interest in this process, so I had almost no competition for being a delegate all the way to the State convention. Of course, this year is significantly different, so if you became involved, you might have more competition at a lower level in the process to be able to proceed.

This is why it’s just as important to be nominated as an alternate delegate as it is to be a full-fledged delegate. As the name implies, being an alternate delegate means that you could be called up to serve at the next level in the event that the nominated delegate is unable to attend. Also be aware that the higher up you go, the more that you’ll run into long-time party politicos who’ve built up more friendships within the apparatus, and this can make it more difficult for a relative newbie to be able to proceed. Therefore, to go to the national convention beyond the State convention, be aware that, at that level, you’ll be dealing with delegates from precincts all over your State who are similarly vying for the same chance.

This is important. After all, you want folks in your own party who are just as willing to hold the line with similar party plank thoughts as you are; this is the point of activism, after all.

Now that you know how the process works, perhaps the concept that “the party picks the nominee, not the people,” is better understood and is technically true. Let’s say that you’ve been active for long enough in your State’s party apparatus that you now have a chance at being an alt delegate or even a delegate to the national convention. This is obviously something you’ve spent a lot of time doing and that you’re not taking lightly. You, as a delegate, are the one who helps determine (along with all other delegates aggregated nationally) who the party’s nominee will be. While you’re technically a voter, you’re actually a part of the party, and you’re taking your State’s allotment of votes and are now representing your State at the convention.

With all of the above said, what does this have to do with “first ballot,” “second ballot” and the rest of the voting process for (in this case) the RNC? As a delegate, depending on your State’s or State party rules, you would be bound to vote the way that you’ve been initially allotted on the initial ballot (by the way, as a delegate, you would then be directly voting for an individual to be a nominee). If after all delegate votes are summed and the 50%+1 number is not reached, depending on rules, you’d then move to a second round. At that point, you as a delegate would not be required to vote per your State’s allotment, and that’s where the “contested” convention comes into play. As a delegate, you would then take the responsibility to vote as whatever the rules state.

Politically, as the NBC News article pointed out, the idea that a delegate would vote for someone other than whomever had gone through the primary process would be more than counter-intuitive. Outside of the convention, it would be seen as going against the will of the People. Also remember that delegates to the national convention have a much greater likelihood of showing up on the news, where reporters — much less candidates — would be asking you why you voted the way you did, especially if you were part of a “floor fight” to vote for someone other than those who ran in the primaries. I think you can see where that would go.

If no primary candidate reached the “magic” 50%+1 number of delegates on the first ballot, then what is more than likely to happen is that the delegates — those to whom the party bestowed the power to make the selection (and who one day could be you) — would end up voting for any number of candidates who “suspended” their campaigns. In fact, part of the point of a candidate “suspending” their campaign is so that they can keep a hold of any delegate allotment they current possess (again, depending on party rules) and so that they can arrive at the convention with the capability of being a player.

Now that you know a bit more about the political process and how any voter can get involved, you can see that, at the end of the day, political parties are loathe to go against how States have voted, and that those delegates are really the ones who directly vote for a nominee. And if those delegates go completely off the proverbial range (such as voting for someone who was not part of the primary process), they open themselves up to both political and court of public opinion scrutiny for why they did what they did.

Nevertheless, if for whatever reason the delegates could not vote on a 50%+1 candidate during the balloting process, the unlikely event of a “brokered convention” could try to come into play — whereby long-time party supporters could try to throw someone outside of the primary process into the mix. However, I’m not sure how that would work, as the delegates would still have to vote on such an individual. I don’t think that would go over very well!

Of course, what happens if, say, Mr. Trump gains the requisite number of delegates going into the convention? I would suggest that the #NeverTrump folks out there are going to have to do some serious soul-searching, and if the party folks actually thought about radically changing rules at the convention, realize that the delegates have a number of proverbial cards to play on their own — so this isn’t necessarily a GOPe-based situation where nothing can be done about the Establishment.

The bottom line: it’s all about the delegates :)

-Phil

In Response To Rush on Why Folks are Choosing @realDonaldTrump Over “Conservatism”

Image courtesy wikipedia

“The question is, with this many millions of people angry, upset, disaffected, feeling left out, whatever, at both parties in Washington, why wasn’t conservatism turned to by these people instead of Trump?” -Rush

All other things being equal, there seems to be no question that the population of Republican primary/caucus-goers should be backing either Sen. Ted Cruz or Dr. Ben Carson, given their respective, solid stances regarding the Constitution and their own perspectives on conservatism (in its most fundamental sense) instead of Donald Trump.

The population of Republican primary/caucus-goers — as is being amply demonstrated through today, Super Tuesday, in State-wide voting results — is heavily pursuing Donald Trump instead of a brazenly outspoken conservative because these individuals see Washington, DC as a broken system as their foremost concern.

Don’t miss the fundamental issue at hand here. I don’t think that the typical primary/caucus-goer has an issue with conservatism or constitutionalism, per se; they have an issue with the process in DC at the moment. Furthermore, the main issue with conservatism as it’s now executed in DC is that not enough of a critical mass of elected officials are executing on the concept! (Many conservative circles call this group RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) or GOPe (Grand Old Party Establishment))

Therefore: for the typical Trump voter, they feel as if they need to rectify the terms of engagement first, and then deal with the product of conservatism afterwards.

Conservatism is a means of governing, but if the “right” people (typically defined as whomever is voted into office) are not engaged in executing conservative principles, then the electorate is going to move forward based on righting the ship first and then consider directionality (e.g.: conservatism) second.

This is why the “typical” conservative is not winning (at least at this point, prior to Super Tuesday results) in the primaries/caucuses.

Conservatism is not on trial here, and I really wish that some talking heads would be smart/wise enough to realize this. Instead, as mentioned previously, Jacksonian Americanism is moving to the forefront.

In fact, the festering perspective of a corrupted DC may take a bit more time to rectify than many now realize. It may take the spirit of Andrew Jackson to right the proverbial ship first before conservatism gets a chance to be laid down as the process of going forward.

-Phil

This is How to Vote in Your Primary or Caucus

Image courtesy news.yahoo.com

There have been gigabytes – perhaps nearing terabytes – of digital ink being spilt by those who get paid to do so to influence the average American citizen (certainly at least those activist enough to vote in primaries/caucuses) which way to vote.

In fact, a certain talking head has come right out and made his thoughts pretty absolute, no matter how things turn out by the conventions this year (more on this at the bottom of this posting).

My advice? They’re only partially right.

This is how I’d recommend any American citizen to vote.

If you’re in a caucus State, you get an additional chance to hear out a representative of the candidate regarding their stances and opinions on issues. If given the opportunity, think of the top three things that most concern you and ask them. Then listen to their responses and make a judgment.

For those like me who’ll be voting in their State’s primary, the process is significantly shorter – simply show up to vote and do it.

A primary is meant to gauge the relative percentages of all remaining candidates. It is therefore your opportunity to vote for the individual who best represents your views. Don’t be afraid to vote that way. This is primary season, not the General Election.

Furthermore, as a Christian, I believe there is supernatural accountability during the primary process – therefore, make it count!

Once completed, you’ll have done your duty and will await final results.

When the General Election comes around, I’ll repeat the same questions:

If your primary choice isn’t the eventual nominee, will the nominee be better or worse than (let’s say) Hillary Clinton? Why or why not? Specific evidence to back up your claim will beat out subjective emotionalism every time.

Is the eventual nominee better or worse than Barack Obama? Why or why not, again, with facts, not just what someone tells you to think?

If the eventual nominee does not 100% align with you on certain issues, why would that be a problem with you in voting for them (if this is true)? You do realize that there has never been, nor will ever be, a perfect candidate?

Perspective: the elected office holder of the presidency will always have five hundred and thirty-five other individuals through whom all legislation must go. In a good four-year term, discount fifty percent of campaign promises as passable legislation. Of the remaining fifty percent, discount that down to about an optimistic thirty-five percent and you get the idea of a best-case scenario of original campaign ideas actually making it to law in that same four-year time span.

Choosing a candidate is important. Finding the perfect one is, at best, practical foolishness. Primary voting is for idealism; General Election voting is for practicality.

Choose the eventual Democratic nominee if you think the country is doing great and you want more Socialism. Choose the eventual Republican nominee if you want to get back to what was working before Barack Obama assumed leadership. Going third party (assuming the Republicans don’t get hijacked on the way to the convention) assures current inertia holds.

As a final thought, there is a talking head who is apparently comparing voting to salvation, to wit: “How terrible it is that you are are willing to gain the world with Trump and lose your soul in the process.” While this could warrant an entire posting to properly address, I’ll put it simply — responding as a fellow American citizen with nothing more than a blog to post thoughts.

First of all, nothing within Christendom (in the widest sense of the word) equates the free gift of Christ’s salvation with voting in a presidential election. In fact, to put things equally bluntly, there’s evidence in the New Testament that those who attach other means of approaching the Gospel of salvation outside of Jesus’ blood, power and grace are adding to themselves curses instead of blessings.

Secondly, it is equally the responsibility of each individual to soberly approach the electoral process on their own terms and with their own minds as it is with hyperbolic reaction; the former is a rational approach — the latter is based on thinking with someone else’s mindset, which is rarely a good combination.

Once again, you are responsible for your own vote, and nobody else’s; I always tell folks that it’s none of their business for whom I actually vote. In that sense, as mentioned, I believe you’ll be accountable for that vote. At the same time, there is a definite difference between the primary process and the General Election.

 

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Interview Over FBI, Cybersecurity and Civil Rights

In the debate between Apple and the FBI, it’s important to understand a full context of what’s at stake.

CEO Tim Cook makes some excellent points during a recent ABC News interview regarding public safety, civil liberties, and asking the right question of should something be created.

Approximately halfway through the interview, it’s interesting to note that Mr. Cook states that the federal government never initially contacted Apple for help, and that if the company were contacted at once, they could have recommended the terrorist’s iPhone be set to backup overnight to iCloud, making direct data retrieval a possibility. Instead, the feds made a choice that prevented that from occurring.

Watch the whole thing.

-Phil

Could It Be a @realDonaldTrump / @marcorubio Ticket?

Image Courtesy Vox.com

Consider the following points of fact (whether anecdotal or otherwise):

Donald Trump has arguably the strongest base of supporters of any candidate (perhaps save Sen. Sanders) this primary season.

Mr. Trump has maintained such steadfast support because he is not beholden to anyone (self-funded) and he speaks his mind quite frankly.

Mr. Trump has never campaigned as a conservative but instead as a Jacksonian American.

On the flip side, Mr. Trump now has the highest negatives of any candidate (only Gov. Bush was higher, but he’s now out). He is also nobody’s “second choice” candidate.

Mr. Trump does have a ceiling of support; nobody knows what that is yet, though some might speculate it’s roughly a third of the Republican primary voters.

So how do I get from all the above to suggesting that Mr. Trump could be looking at Sen. Rubio as his running mate?

First, Mr. Trump must garner at least two-thirds of the GOP primary voter blocs in order to both securely win the nomination (yes, I realize he technically only needs half plus one of the delegates to be nominated) and to have a chance in the General Election.

Secondly, if you’ve watched every GOP debate to date, you will have noticed that Mr. Trump has always attacked Govs. Kasich, Bush and Christie and Sen. Cruz. He has never attacked Dr. Carson or Sen. Rubio. Ever.

Thirdly, Sen. Rubio (at this point, barring some unforeseen circumstance) remains the final hold-out for the non-Trump supporters, a key voting bloc that Mr. Trump will have to woo by the time the General Election campaign gets into full swing (I see Sen. Cruz’ recent communication issues being nearly insurmountable for him — I of course could be wrong).

Regarding Mr. Trump’s negatives. By his own admission during certain rallies, he admits that this is because of his personality. Yet, he has also been quoted as someone who can change presentationally as he needs to in order to close the deal. And since his personality is the main reason for the negatives, assuming that he continues on his present trajectory, he will pivot his personality by the nomination in order to ramp up for the General Election.

As a disclosure, I will not be voting for Mr. Trump during the primary process. However, if he becomes the eventual nominee for the GOP, I would have zero problems voting for him if the only alternative is a Neo-Communist or Socialist on the Democrat side. As for any third-party nominee, a vote in that direction typically guarantees that my least-favorite candidate will win.

Many talking heads believe that Mr. Trump has changed policy or personal positions based on political whim. While they could be right, remember, fellow citizen, that any candidate could choose to change their mind on any issue in the future, depending on the facts as presented to them. In other words, we can’t read peoples’ minds; unless Mr. Trump admits it, then we have to take his word (as we would with any other candidate) for why he’s changed the way he has. Frankly, even Sen. Cruz’ or Rubio’s past senatorial votes don’t ultimately mean anything as President.

I don’t know any more than another casual observer if this theoretical ticket would be anything more than that. I do know that once the parties have chosen their nominees, the political calculus changes drastically for the General Election.

You will have the opportunity to ask the question (especially in the case that Mr. Trump becomes the GOP nominee):

Does Mr. Trump present a greater challenge against the United States than does Pres. Obama? Is it better to risk voting for Mr. Trump than for a Neo-Communist or Socialist?

Remember: any President has five hundred and thirty five other individuals to work through in order to get anything done. By definition, that means that, statistically, even with a smooth four-year term, only fifty percent of what a candidate promises will actually occur, and the statistics fall further because of compromise on proposed legislation.

That’s how the system was supposed to work!

-Phil

@TedCruz and Presidential #Eligibility, Part 2

Courtesy KansasCity.com

As a follow up to a previous posting on this site, frankly, not much has changed regarding the question of whether or not Sen. Ted Cruz is fundamentally eligible for the presidency.

And no matter the pontification on the part of legal scholars, other presidential candidates, or talking heads, the bottom line is that nothing has changed since the State Department’s official documentation on presidential eligibility:

Ed. 7 FAM 1131.6-2 Eligibility for Presidency (TL:CON-68; 04-01-1998) a. It has never been determined definitively by a court whether a person who acquired U.S. citizenship by birth abroad to U.S. citizens is a natural born citizen within the meaning of Article II of the Constitution and, therefore, eligible for the Presidency. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86757.pdf

Even a very recent Congressional Research Service memo of January 11, 2016, confirms this fact:

Questions from time to time have arisen concerning whether one who is a U.S. citizen “at birth” because of the operation of federal law, is also a “natural born” citizen for purposes of the presidential eligibility clause. Such questions often concern persons born abroad to parents who are U.S. citizens, or persons born abroad when only one parent is a U.S. citizen who had resided in the United States.  Although such individuals born abroad may clearly be U.S. citizens “at birth” by statute, would such persons also be “natural born Citizens,” or is eligibility to the Presidency limited only to “native born” citizens?Additionally, questions have been recently raised by some as to whether one born “in” the United States of one or more alien parents—and who is thus clearly a U.S. citizen “at birth” by the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as by federal law and common law—was intended to be considered a “natural born” citizen for purposes of the presidential eligibility clause.
 
The Constitution does not define the term “natural born Citizen,” nor are the notes from the debates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 instructive as to any specific collective intent of the framers concerning the meaning of the term. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has never needed to address this particular issue within the specific context of a challenge to the eligibility of a candidate under Article II, Section 1, clause 5, the only place in the entire Constitution that the phrase appears, although federal courts have discussed the concept extensively with respect to other issues of citizenship. Consequently, although there are numerous Supreme Court cases, as well as other federal and state case law, discussing the phrase and its meaning from which conclusions may be drawn, there has still been certain speculation on the scope of the language.

Therefore while Sen. Cruz can say that he is eligible, Mr. Trump is at least technically correct in saying that there is the possibility — however remote — that if a party with standing (possessing the correct credentials to bring a case to a court) were to proceed forward with an eligibility case and if that court were to be asked the right question and if that court were to rule a specifically-scoped definition for “natural born citizen” with respect to presidential eligibility, then Sen. Cruz could potentially have an issue.

And therein lies the rub. Since this blog followed the vast majority of judicial attempts to attain President Obama’s legal eligibility, a number of points were learned over the years.

Let’s start with a few (and likely not exhaustive) legal points:

  • A party bringing an issue to a court (typically the plaintiff) must have standing (discussed above)
  • That plaintiff must be able to prove subject matter jurisdiction (does the court in question have the jurisdiction to even hear the case?)
  • The question at hand must be ripe (is the timing to hear the case and have the remedy fulfilled reasonable?)
  • The remedy to resolve the issue at hand must be reasonable (what’s the outcome that the plaintiff desires? Can it be accomplished in a reasonable and timely manner?)
  • The plaintiff must be able to prove particular harm (how, specifically, is the plaintiff being harmed by the question at hand?)

If someone were to successfully overcome all of the above points, there would be other considerations that the judge(s) of a particular court(s) would have to consider:

  • Is this rightfully a political or a legal question? (At the end of the day, a judge could simply rule that the Legislative branch has the authority to make an eligibility determination and throw the question back to, say, the Electoral College or to the major political parties (see this posting from 2008)
  • Will the question being brought before a court actually answer the right question? (Is the question to define citizenship strictly for the purposes of presidential eligibility ?)
  • Would the Supreme Court grant a writ of certiorari? (Will the Supreme Court choose to hear the case? Likely only if multiple circuits have different outcomes and only if they believe there’s a uniform outcome to these differing views — or they could simply vacate the question the grounds of it being Legislative and not Judicial)

Additional points:

  • Will those who challenge Sen. Cruz’s eligibility face the same pejoratives as those who questions President Obama’s? Evidently, to some degree, yes. As recently as the latest GOP Presidential Debate, Sen. Cruz himself used the term, “birthers” (a carry-over pejorative label from those who questioned the President) to describe those who were questioning his eligibility
  • How likely is it that a case could be moved towards the Supreme Court? This would likely be as proportional as the degree to which Sen. Cruz is doing well in the primaries. In his case, a case could pick up some momentum because the GOP establishment has a vested interest in having the Senator declared as ineligible — which begs the presence of a “political question” that many judges are loath to take on

In the absence of a legal definition, it is therefore incumbent upon the American citizen to make their own judgement regarding Sen. Cruz’s presidential eligibility. As we approach the primaries, we’ll see how the political process plays out.

On Cybersecurity and What’s Being Done About It

Image Courtesy CNN.com

From a security analyst point of view, today became a great day for a write-up on the current national discussion of cybersecurity — and, more importantly, what is actually being done about it.

This morning, LegalInsurrection.com posted quite the prescient article entitled, “What If Spying On Social Media Sites Could Save Lives?” In it, one of Dr. Jacobson’s contributors, Jonathan Levin, posits that while the initial introduction of DARPA’s Total Information Awareness program could not have had worse optics, a discussion should begin again over whether or not the intentions behind the program couldn’t be legitimately (read: legally, politically, etc.) recycled into something that balances the needs of security with privacy.

Add to this piece a webinar that InformationWeek’s DarkReading site hosted this afternoon highlighting the state of cybersecurity from 2015. Check out some of these concepts that the presenters shared:

  • Attendance at BlackHat — the world’s largest security gathering — went from 9,000 in 2014 to over 11,000 earlier this year
  • One of the biggest take-aways from the conference was a car hack demo that eventually led to manufacturer recalls
  • IoT (Internet of Things) is greatly misunderstood and incredibly encompasses everything from toys to smart phones to light bulbs to logic controllers in factories and refineries
  • Same mistakes repeatedly made in terms of maintaining default passwords, keeping comm ports open, etc.
  • Biggest issue with encryption may not be simply privacy, but better ways to trust end-point profiles (e.g.: you are who you say you are)

On the webinar, everyone agreed that this year was the year that IT security made it big — it’s now political and it’s being felt at a personal level.

Why do I care enough to post about the topic? My new employer is right in the middle of this discussion — ThreatConnect. And while it might appear that I have a number of shameless plugs in this posting (which I do), don’t recoil too much, because there are some fascinating things happening in this space, and ThreatConnect has played a major part in many of these issues.

Here are some examples of how a TIP (Threat Intelligence Platform) was able to resolve recent breaches:

OK, great — we know the scope of the issue (people are at the very least losing their personal data in the lightest of instances), and we know that presidential candidates are talking about it, but what does all this mean to the common, everyday citizen?

As mentioned, there is always a tension that exists between individuals enjoying liberty and its polar opposite, security. On the one hand, candidates such as Donald Trump suggest that certain Internet-based sites should be taken down (he says this in CEO fashion, but I think this is the gist). On the other, now-former candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham strongly suggested that devices should have encryption “back doors” that allow for what he might determine as legitimate spying by state actors; interestingly, Tim Cook was quick to resist.

Here’s the thing. Platforms like ThreatConnect have already proven many times over that we as a nation (or as organizations and individuals) can already track down who’s doing what and where using existing, open technologies on the Internet; where and when some assets need to be shut down is a subsequent law enforcement question.

In reality, that is the job of the security analyst — the unsung hero who hangs out in both public- and private-sector organizations pouring through reams of data in hopes to connect the proverbial dots. A TIP expedites her job by semi-automating much of the legwork of some of these streams, freeing her up to do the actual analyst work of connecting computing IoCs (Indicators of Compromise) with real-world persons, places and things.

As threat assessment tech, methods and procedures evolve and mature, it will provide a smoother path to finding the bad actors in the world. If you read the linked resources in this posting, I think you’ll better appreciate that dealing with risks is a constantly evolving and attainable process. But it is a process where the journey is the destination.

This shouldn’t be an either/or discussion into which a politically tinged topic can devolve. However, cybersecurity platforms do exist and greatly increase the speed of resolution in finding out what the threats are and, sometimes, who the real adversary is.

I hope this helps shed some light in this fledgling but quickly maturing space.

Does Presidential Candidate Personal Net Worth Determine Lack of Lobbying Access?

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally on Friday in Mobile, AL (courtesy NYTimes.com)

PersonalCapital.com recently put together* an infographic concerning the personal net worth of the major political candidates as well as historical perspective on net worth of historical candidates. I thought this information was particularly poignant in light of my comments on why businessman Donald Trump is doing so well in current polling for the 2016 presidential election (as a brief aside, they report Mr. Trump’s net worth at just over $4 billion; BusinessInsider reports — based on FEC disclosure — the figure to be closer to $10 billion; the point is he’s quite wealthy).

While I don’t necessarily endorse the above-mentioned site, I wanted to use the opportunity to discuss another important topic: the real impact that exceptionally rich candidates play in political races.

Donald Trump rarely has a campaign stop or press conference in which he doesn’t talk about the concept that since he’s worth billions, he doesn’t need anyone’s money — and certainly not lobbyist or donor money (he’s quick to emphasize) — so that he therefore does not owe anyone (but himself) favors once he is potentially firmly ensconced at the White House.

At the same time, American politics has been dramatically impacted by the growth of such libertarian-conservative movements as the Tea Party, one significant point of which is to bring nearly daily awareness to average citizens of the goings-on of not just the District of Columbia, but virtually all political races at all levels of society.

If we bring both of these topics together, I think we approach a question that is rather stark to consider:

If a presidential candidate (we’ll stick with the top job for the purposes of this conversation) does not have a sizable net worth such that they have to have outside monies to make a run, does that mean that they have to make decisions — should they reach the presidency — based on what a particular donor demands of them at some point in the future? What if that candidate says “no” in the instance that such a theoretical demand goes against the best interest of the country (this is the point that Mr. Trump makes)?

ABC News reported that the Mobile, AL police department reported that Friday night’s “rally” had 30,000 individuals in attendance — the largest such gathering to date for the 2016 contest. Assuming that national and State polling continue on as they have, and assuming that this town of 100,000 can produce such a large gathering, and we extrapolate that throughout the rest of the country, then obviously something is resonating with Donald Trump.

Does this mean, then, that other equally viable candidates who possess a mere fraction of the net worth of Mr. Trump must listen to what their donors say (assuming such donations are not of individual sources of, say, less than $500), no matter what?

Or, could this be yet another new concept in politics: an exceptionally high net worth individual makes it to the White House and can literally do whatever he wants (such as what he believes is best for the country) because he owes nobody any favors?

Maybe Donald Trump will become the first candidate since the era of billion-dollar campaigns that makes it to the top office and shows what it means to be beholden only to the will of the country — assuming that he maintains this mindset.

*I’d like to thank a representative from PersonalCapital.com for having reached out to me over comments I made regarding what seems to keep Donald Trump  high in the polls at this stage in the presidential race.