Ambidextrous Thoughts

This site is intended to offer research and commentary on current events covering a wide scope of topics. Over and over again, I see social media offering quick access to the latest news or trend, but often with very little thought or fact-checking put into it, which lends itself to misleading half-truths. The intent here is not to take a political side, but to discuss the differences expressed by many who use social media as their source of news and information. My aim is to look at both extremes of a topic, and try to find a way to come together. I welcome input and suggestions on subjects that you’d like to know more about. Some conversations may have a political theme, but I hope to discuss issues that affect our everyday life, whether it be what kind of education our children are really getting, why are medication prices spiraling out of control, are unions a help or a hindrance to our workers today, or what “entitlement” really means. Bookmark this spot and see how we do as we try to make a fair place to open discussions on the subjects that interest you most. By – JRBecker

GENERAL OVERVIEW OF THE THREE BRANCHES OF THE GOVERNMENT

Posted by on Aug 24, 2018 | 0 comments

GENERAL OVERVIEW OF THE THREE BRANCHES OF THE GOVERNMENT

 

General Overview of the Three Branches of Government

as determined by the Constitution of the United States of America

I’ve seen several questions and comments lately on social media that indicate a large portion of our society doesn’t really understand how our government works, so I decided to try to develop a general overview of the three branches of government, how they function, and how they relate to us as citizens. The following chart shows a brief breakdown of each branch and their intended purpose. I followed that with a slightly more defined list of duties, and also links that you can use to find out more if you have a particular interest or question. Essentially, I wanted to show how ‘We The People’ need to use our vote as our voice to protect our own interests.

Too many people think the President of the United States carries all the power, and all the responsibility for how our nation runs. In fact, the President may have less than the other two. The President is expected to be a leader in actions and speech. He or she sits as an example of how we expect to be perceived by other nations, and how we should act as a country. Our Legislature makes the laws of the country to the benefit of the majority of its citizens. The Supreme Court is designed to insure that all laws are in compliance with the Constitution of the United States of America. These three branches are intended to work in unison, to protect our natural and given rights, and to keep us viable in global relationships of which we often have very little control. These people work for us and are paid by our tax dollars. They don’t rule us, and they aren’t above the law.

Our responsibility is to vote to the best of our ability. We need to look at the big picture and decide who can do the best job for the most people. There will never be a time when 100% of the citizenry are content with our government and its laws, so we have to trust that the majority will do their duty and elect the candidates who have intentions that are best for the general population, and not their own personal interests.

C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\Branches.JPG

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

PRESIDENT

  • Cannot make laws, but can veto laws presented for signature, which can only be overridden by 2/3 of House and Senate votes
  • Can add some provisions/modifications to existing laws through Executive Order
  • Needs Congressional approval to declare War (except when the U.S. is under attack), Sign Treaties
  • Nominates/Appoints Justices for the Supreme Court, Federal Judges, U.S. District Judges, Cabinet Members & Ambassadors
  • Commander in Chief, Armed Forces of the United States of America

Departments (Cabinets)

Agriculture

Commerce

Defense

Education

Energy

Health & Human Services

Homeland Security

Housing & Urban Development (HUD)

Justice

Labor

Interior

State

Treasury

Transportation

Veterans’ Affairs

There are and can be other lesser Cabinet positions and duties. Each administration can make additional positions. These are the 15 that have always been carried over, and all of them are in line for the presidency, should there ever be a crisis where the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and President pro tempore are unable to serve as President. The next in line is the Secretary of State. Cabinets of the United States

 

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

U.S. Senate (Vice President is President of the Senate – only casts deciding votes)

President pro tempore (steps in when V.P. unavailable, but is able to vote on all matters)

Senate Majority Leader (Chosen by the majority party)

Senate Minority Leader (Chosen by the minority party)

100 Senators (2 per state)

Powers:

  • Oversight of the Executive Branch through investigations and hearings
  • Conviction of Impeachment (President and other federal officials)
  • Appointment of Presidential nominees for Cabinets, Supreme Court and other federal courts & offices (see exceptions-House)
  • Treaty Ratification (see exceptions-House)
  • Law Making/Changing (both Senate and House must pass any new law)
  • 17 Senate committees, 70 subcommittees
    • Each committee is assigned to a general policy, i.e. Homeland Security
    • The subcommittees take on more specific parts of the policy, such as ‘emergency preparedness’, ‘cybersecurity’, ‘border & maritime security’, etc.

U.S. House of Representatives

Head: Speaker of the House (Chosen by the members of the House)

435 Representatives (Based on percentage of state population and recounted with every census, 2010, 2020, 2030, etc.)

Powers:

  • Oversight of the Executive Branch through investigations and hearings
  • Impeachment of federal offices, including president (This then goes to the Senate for trial)
  • Law Making/Changing (both Senate and House must pass any new law)
  • Casting the vote to break a tie in the Electoral College
  • Originates most spending bills necessary to keep the government running
  • *Exceptions to Senate power – House approval needed for Vice Presidential appointment and for treaties that involve foreign trade
  • 23 House committees, 104 subcommittees
    • Committees and subcommittees operate the same in both the Senate and House, and are subject to change in number and title for each new Congress

For more details, see Legislative Branches

 

JUDICIAL BRANCH

Federal Level

  • Supreme Court
    • Interprets the Constitution
    • Interprets the constitutionality of laws – can declare a law unconstitutional, even though the Congress and president have all approved it
    • Has the final say on laws or court actions brought before it
  • Court of Appeals
  • Administrative Courts
  • Circuit Courts
  • District Courts

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/df/US_Court_of_Appeals_and_District_Court_map.svg/1200px-US_Court_of_Appeals_and_District_Court_map.svg.png

State Level

  • Each state has its own Supreme Court, which works in a similar manner as the U.S. Supreme Court, but its rulings only apply to that state.
  • Administrative Courts
  • Superior Courts
  • Family Courts
  • State, County and City Trial Courts
  • Many individual courts, such as bankruptcy, traffic, juvenile, probate, criminal, civil, and so forth

Besides interpreting laws and resolving legal disputes, courts also assign punishments, fines, sentences and supervisory details for individual cases.

In some states, local judges and magistrates are chosen by the people in a non-partisan election process. Most states have at least some judges appointed by commissions or governors. To find out what your state does, see: Selection of Judges by state

For a more in-depth view of the Judicial Branch and its processes, see the following: U.S. Judicial Branch -THE END

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WHY SHOULD YOU VOTE?

Posted by on Feb 14, 2018 | 0 comments

WHY SHOULD YOU VOTE?

VOTING MADE EASY

BUT WHY SHOULD YOU VOTE?

Apathy (lack of concern) about voting has allowed us to become embroiled in an unimagined state of chaos within our government. Congress is no longer representing any of us. Our protections for water and air quality are being stripped. Regulations are being cut without regard to secondary effects. For instance, bankers and financial managers are no longer required to give you advice that will be helpful to you!!! How crazy is that? We can still correct this, but only if we vote. It isn’t always easy to know who to vote for, or how to go about it. I can’t tell you who or what to vote for, but I can help make it easier for you. Let me explain.

For more than 200 years, Americans have been fighting for the right to vote, in one sense or another. Our forefathers tried to build a Constitution to protect us all. They did a very good job, but, of course, they couldn’t foresee everything.

The Constitution is in some respects a work in progress. Ratified 6/21/1788, amendments have been added continually, the last time being 5/7/1992 for the Twenty-seventh Amendment. There are 5 amendments about voting (so far).

The Fifteenth Amendment: Ratified 2/3/1870

  1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
  2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Nineteenth Amendment: Ratified 8/18/1920

  1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Twenty-fourth Amendment: Ratified 1/23/1964

  1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors of President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or any other tax.
  2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified 12/6/1868 was the first attempt of setting voting rights, but it also included other citizens’ rights, direction on giving aid and comfort to our enemies, rules of insurrection and rebellion as it pertained to government officials, and references to slave ownership, U.S. public debt not to mention that the right to vote was given only to males in this amendment. If you’re interested to reading it in its entirety, the following link will take you to a site where you can click on separate links to the articles or amendments of the full Constitution. https://usconstitution.net/const.html

The Twenty-sixth Amendment changed the voting age from 21 to 18 years of age ratified 7/1/1971.

In addition. there was the Voting Rights Act, signed into law in 1965 by President Johnson, partly in response to the well-known violence that took place earlier that year between police and peaceful protesters in Selma. Alabama. It was written as a reinforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment.

One would think this should more than cover the whole proposition of voting. The Fifteenth Amendment even covers incarceration, in that it includes “…shall not be denied or abridged…previous condition of servitude.” This means once sentence and parole or probation have been concluded, voting rights must be restored.

One would think… Yet, states and organizations continually find ways to inhibit voting rights. Despite the clause about servitude, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia ban convicted felons from voting for life, while Maine and Vermont allow even prisoners to vote1. Some states don’t provide enough polling places to accommodate the population of certain districts, while other states restrict voter registration to county seats or Federal buildings. People who can’t drive are often deprived of the ability to register and vote. Usually these types of restrictions target the poorer, black/Hispanic or immigrant districts which commonly contain higher concentrations of Democrats, putting them at a disadvantage.

Sometimes political groups or agitators send out misleading or false mailers saying your polling place is now at a different address, or the election date has been changed. One pastor in Mississippi pinned a creative flyer to his notification board stating that because of unexpectedly large voter turnouts, if you were voting YES on the [Life Begins at the Moment of Fertilization] you should vote on Tues. Nov. 8th, (the correct date) and if you were voting NO to vote on Wed. Nov. 9th.2 Robocalls have been used in many states, giving out false dates and other information.

With the Internet, social media is full of misdirection and deceit. Of course you can find legitimate information online, but you have to search in the right places. We can no longer accept what we’re told just because it sounds good. We need to verify things better, and go to official sites to get important information. MEMEs can be funny, thought provoking, or outright lies, so check them out before accepting their message. Republicans hate Democrats and Democrats hate Republicans, or so they say. Even news stories can be misleading.

So here’s the point. With all these attempts to misinform and stop you from voting, it becomes obvious that your vote counts even more – otherwise, why would they bother? I’m going to give you a few tips to help you navigate the world of voting.

March 20, 2018 brings the first Primary Election and it’s for Illinois. Each state sets their own date, so you need to be sure you know when the primary is for your state. You also need to know where your polling place is located. If you go to the wrong one in most cases you will be turned away. More importantly, you need to make sure you’re registered. Even if you believe you are, it’s best to check. There have been reports of tampering with electronic data, and some states have had errors occur where the wrong political party has been assigned or data has accidentally been purged. You can check your registration status and polling information online at https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote , or at https://www.headcount.org/verify-voter-registration/ which will also provide you with a voter history report that will look similar to this:

C:\Users\JulieB\Documents\Writing-Blogs and Articles\Pictures\Voting History.JPG

Below is a list showing state options. Early voting at your polling place or the county recorder’s office is helpful if you know you aren’t able to make it on the date of the election. Mail-in is the easiest and most failsafe way to vote if your state offers it. Some states have a combination of early/mail-in and absentee voting. A few states only allow absentee voting. Colorado, Oregon and Washington are the only states that have mail-in only voting. Most states allow absentee voting (military, bed-ridden, business out of state, etc.) but some require proof of need.

Here’s one last thing. An open state seat in the Georgia House of Representatives – no incumbent. 7% of registered voters voted.

Quote from a friend’s post:

Georgia State House of Representatives, District 175, special election on 2-13-18:
Only 7 % of the registered voters in three South Georgia counties cast their ballot in the special election to fill the vacant House District 175 seat. Republican John LaHood of Brooks County won the seat with 2,337 votes, receiving 70 percent of the vote. Democrat Treva Gear finished second with 24 percent with 778 votes. Coy Reaves received 4 percent of the vote, and Bruce Phelps received 2 percent. All of Brooks County and parts of Lowndes and Thomas counties make up the 175 House of Representatives District.

7%? Really? Now, THAT is the epitome of apathy.

So why should you vote? To protect your rights; to protect the rights of your children and their children. To preserve our democracy. To take back what is ours!

VOTING IS NOT JUST YOUR RIGHT

It’s your duty – your responsibility!

1 http://www.businessinsider.com/states-that-dont-let-felons-vote-2012-10

2 https://www.866ourvote.org/issues/deceptive/through-the-years

-END

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Electoral College – Stay or Go?

Posted by on Oct 23, 2016 | 0 comments

Electoral College – Stay or Go?

 

CONVERSATION: How does the Electoral College work, and do we still need it?

The president and vice president are selected through the Electoral College system which gives each state the same number of electoral votes as it has members of Congress. (One for each Senator and each House Representative.) The District of Columbia gets three electoral votes. Of the total 538 votes available, a candidate must receive 270 to win.

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3c/Electoral_College_2016.svg/1020px-Electoral_College_2016.svg.png

 

With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, all states assign a delegation of electors who pledge to honor the winner of the popular vote, or who follow that state’s regulation which binds the electors by law to vote according to popular vote for the whole. The pledges are not mandated by law, but the rule of popular vote is generally followed. In Maine (4) and Nebraska (5), the Electoral College gives two statewide votes to the winner of the popular vote, with the rest being decided by congressional district. No senator or representative can be named an elector nor can any other person holding an office of trust or profit for the United States. The 14th Amendment also disqualifies any state official found to have taken part in rebellion or insurrection towards the United States, or giving aid and comfort to its enemies, from being an Elector. The following states show the names of their Electors for the Electoral College on the ballot: Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Dakota.

The 12th Amendment says that a separate vote must be given to the president, and then to the vice president. The same amendment states that in the event of a presidential tie, with no one having a majority, the House of Representatives will select the president, but will receive one vote from the delegation, not the actual state representative. Should there be a tie for vice president, the Senate will select the new vice president.

This method of electing the president and vice president was decided by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The question of the day was, should the president be elected by Congressional Representatives or by popular vote. Remember, there were no computers, no adding machines, no phones, no telegraph, and certainly no trains, planes or cars, so getting popular votes in and counted across the country wasn’t even feasible. Congressional vote for President was out, as many thought there was too much chance of corruption if the vote was decided by a group of men who knew each other from frequent inter-action during sessions of Congress. Another concern was the difference between the northern states and the southern states regarding slavery. The Electors method of voting prevented states that had free Negroes from using them to influence elections, as Negroes were not counted in the population census. So all in all, having Electors was the best solution of the times. (The first time the term “Electoral College” was used in law was in 1845, and comes from the Roman Empires’ use of the Latin phrase; collegium electorum.)

Many people today think the Electoral College should be eliminated, so let’s talk about that.

Currently, the Supreme Court holds the position that nothing in the constitution assures Electors of complete freedom to vote as they please, so some states require them to pledge along a party line.

How would choosing by popular vote alone change the system?

A clean and simple count of ballots would ensure that a true majority of voters would determine the winner. This does not include registered voters who don’t make it to the polls or don’t mail in their ballots. It also gives no representation for unregistered citizens. 63.3% of eligible voters actually voted in 2008, and that percentage dipped to 57.5% in 2012. (Would elimination of the Electoral College encourage more people to register and vote?)

If we decided to keep the Electoral College, could it be improved upon?

Since all states have their own rules for selecting the Electors, it might be more even-handed if standard rules were applied for all state Electors. Aside from the one rule named in the Constitution; No senator or representative can be named an elector nor can any other person holding an office of trust or profit for the United States, possible rules to consider might be as follows:

  • All states must list their Electors on general election ballots
  • All states must list their Electors on primary and general election ballots
  • All Electors are bound to vote according to popular vote of their state (or district), and providing an enforced law for misuse of powers if not followed
  • All states must choose their Electors by district, as Nebraska and Maine do
  • Nebraska and Maine must abide by popular vote standards statewide
  • Electors must be announced before all elections, and their votes must be made public through news media at the time of the official count

Now that you’ve read this article, if you have any other suggestions or any comments, please post them in the comments section. I will follow up on them, and post as an article if you want to add to this conversation.

Other sources of information to round out this article were:

www.Wikipedia.com

https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/electors.html

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