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Letter 15 (page 4)

And in other news

Some of you with long memories will recall that one of the principle reasons we came to the US was to be a tourist and that the original intention was to stay for 9–12 months. That was over 7 years ago now so we feel that we have "done" Denver and surrounding areas and it is time to move on. We made that decision about a year ago, just as the job market was drying up. Lan has been applying for jobs Chicago, Washington, Boston and New York but so far without success. Since her job pays better than mine, it will be her job that determines when and where we go. Strangely, ever since the terrorist attacks, I've been drawn to New York even more. It is expensive but there is so much to see in the city and will serve as a great base to see the rest of the north-east, including the major Canadian cities. Something will come up eventually.

"It’s all based on the constitution"

Many of you will probably recognize this as being a quote from The Castle, the movie we now regard as the best movie ever made anywhere. Seriously though, two interesting constitutional issues have come up recently.

The first has received very little attention. As I commented in an earlier letter, the 2nd amendment says, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." While pro-gun groups focus on the second part about the "right to ... bear arms" and politicians have done little to publicly argue otherwise, the government’s official position has been that the unrestricted right to bear arms belongs to "militias", now the National Guard. At the time the Constitution was written, there was no national army, so the nation’s defense relied on local militias made up of regular folks who would be part-time soldiers. The Supreme Court has never directly ruled on the issue but lower courts have almost all taken this interpretation. However, the Bush administration recently filed a court brief indicating that it believed the right does apply to individuals. The National Rifle Association has won a huge victory.

The other concerns the "Pledge of Allegiance". School children in many states recite a pledge each morning that includes the words "under God". However, the Constitution demands the separation of church and state and a court one level below the Supreme Court has ruled that forcing children to recite this phrase is unconstitutional. The court said it would be no more acceptable to say "under Krishna" or even "under no god". Although coins and notes say "In God we trust" and a prayer is said in Congress each day, the court has been very restrictive when children are involved so public prayer in school is also forbidden. Christian conservatives9 , who hold substantial political power and normally rush to support the Constitution, have been outraged. Politicians rushed to defend the phrase with virtually the entire Congress rushing to recite the pledge for the TV cameras. Interestingly, the pledge was written by a socialist and the words "under God" were only added in 1954 to make Americans remember why they were different from the evil communists. The issue is almost certain to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Bumper stickers

I regret I don't have many to share with you, even though it has been a year and a half since our last newsletter. Anyway, those I have seen are good:

  • Last time we mixed politics with religion, people got burned at the stake.
  • Don't do it.
  • Vegetarian: Indian for lousy hunter.
  • Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
  • I think. Therefore I am dangerous.
  • Dogs have masters; cats have staff.

Well, that’s all for now. Send us an email or a note when you get a chance. We love to hear your news too.

- Peter and Lan

Previous: September 11 and all that

Note 9: Also called religious conservatives though I think neo-fascist is more appropriate for some of them.