Monday, March 23, 2015

Birther butt-biting

He's only been in the Senate for a short time.  He has little, if no, executive experience.  He attended Harvard Law School.  He has an odd-sounding foreign name and a multiethnic background.  There are questions about his birth certificate and his American citizenship.  

Sound familiar? 

His name is Ted Cruz, and at midnight today, he Tweeted the following: 

I'm running for President and I hope to earn your support! 

I don't know yet if I am going to vote for Ted Cruz. I'm still looking at candidates. 

But let's get one thing out of the way now: Ted Cruz is Constitutionally eligible to run for President of the United States. 

Back in 2008, when Barack Obama was running for President, the question of his citizenship arose, and it will not die.  For the record, I believe him to be a citizen of the United States, born in Hawaii, to a citizen mother and a Kenyan father.  I disagree with him on many things, and I didn't vote for him, but I have no question about his citizenship.

Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution lays out the following requirements for President of the United States: "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

So, the question is, what is a natural born citizen?

The 14 Amendment defines U.S. citizenship as follows, in Section 1:  "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." 

So, according to the Constitution, if you are born in the United States, or are naturalized in the United States, you are a United States citizen.

Since the Constitution specifically states that only a "natural-born citizen" can be President, the question arises, what is a natural-born citizen?  

A report issued by the Congressional Research Service, a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, states the following: 

"The weight of legal and historical authority indicates that the term "natural born" citizen would mean a person who is entitled to U.S. citizenship "by birth" or "at birth," either by being born "in" the United States and under its jurisdiction, even those born to alien parents; by being born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents; or by being born in other situations meeting legal requirements for U.S. citizenship "at birth." Such term, however, would not include a person who was not a U.S. citizen by birth or at birth, and who was thus born an "alien" required to go through the legal process of "naturalization" to become a U.S. citizen."  (From Maskell, Jack, Qualifications for President and the “Natural Born” Citizenship Eligibility Requirement.  The full report is located at

So, a "natural-born citizen" is someone who is entitled to U.S. citizenship by birth. There are two ways a person obtains U.S. citizenship.  One is by the principle of jus soli.  Jus soli means that if you are born in a particular country, you are automatically a citizen of that country.  So, if you are born in the United States or in a territory of the United States, you are entitled to American citizenship.  It doesn't matter if your parents were American citizens or not; if you were born in the United States or a United States territory, you are an American citizen. (The one exception to this law is a child born on U.S. soil to a recognized foreign diplomat.)

The other principle governing American citizenship is that of jus sanguinis. Jus sanguinis means "by right of blood".  In other words, if one or both of your parents is an American citizen, you automatically have American citizenship, no matter where you were born.  If you were born overseas to an American parent, you are an American.

I have heard the argument by so-called "birthers" that "Obama may be a citizen, but he's not a 'natural-born' citizen, because he wasn't born of two citizen parents.  A 'natural-born' citizen is one born of two citizen parents." Also, "Obama wasn't born in this country (which is not true, he was born in Hawaii), therefore, he's not eligible to be President."

Well, with Ted Cruz's announcement that he is running for President, the arguments of certain birthers are about to come back to bite them in the butt.

You see, Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, of a Cuban father and an American mother. He wasn't born in the U.S., and he didn't have two citizen parents.  So, by "birther" logic, he shouldn't be eligible for the office of the President, right?

Uh, wrong.  Ted Cruz's mother is an American citizen.  She was born in Delaware.  The law states that if a child of a U.S. citizen parent and a foreign national parent (Cruz' father became a naturalized American citizen in 2005) is born outside the U.S., the child is an American citizen if 1) one parent is a U.S. citizen, and 2) the U.S. citizen parent was "physically present in the United States for at least five years, including at least two years after 14 years of age." (From  Cruz' mother attended college at Rice University in Houston.  She also worked in Houston as a computer programmer.  I'm assuming this means she lived there for at least two years after the age 

of 14.  

Therefore, Ted Cruz is a U.S. citizen by birth, and thus a natural born citizen, and thus Constitutionally eligible to run for President.  

The principle of jus soli, by the way, also applies to Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio.  While neither of them had U.S. citizen parents at birth, they were both born in the U.S.  That makes them both citizens at birth, which makes them natural born citizens, which makes them Constitutionally eligible to be President of the United States.

The Congressional Research Service report I cited earlier ​also states the following:

"In addition to historical and textual analysis, numerous holdings and references in federal (and state) cases for more than a century have clearly indicated that those born inthe United States and subject to its jurisdiction (i.e. not born to foreign diplomates or occupying military forces), even to alien parents, are citizens 'at birth' or 'by birth' and are 'natural born' as opposed to 'naturalized' U.S. citizens.  There is no provision in the Constitution and no controlling American case law to support a contention that the citizenship of one's parents governs the eligibility of a native born U.S. citizen to be President." (boldface emphasis is mine.)

So birthers, if you're going to use the argument of "both his parents weren't citizens, therefore, he's not a 'natural born citizen'" against Barack Obama--a man you don't like as President--you have to use the same argument against Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio, men you just might like as President.  If you want to go by the rule of law, the law has to apply to all people, not just to the people you don't like.  

Your arguments against a man you didn't want to be President have just come back to bite you in the butt.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bracketology, Tina style

Let the madness begin!

March Madness is in full swing.  For those of you that live under a rock, March Madness is the unofficial name for the NCAA's Men's College Basketball tournament.  The field starts with 64 teams, then narrows down to 32, then the "sweet sixteen", then the "elite eight", then the "final four", and then the last two, who play for the national championship.

Last year, I decided that this year, I was going to fill out a bracket.

So this year, I went to ESPN and did just that.

Now, I know there's a science to "bracketology", and all this analysis you're supposed to do in order to put the proper teams in the proper brackets.  But I am not a basketball expert.  So, here's my bracketology, Tina style:

I picked Kentucky to win it all.  In order for Kentucky to win it all, I had to pick Kentucky to win each game.

Then I went through the rest of the brackets and just randomly picked.  Some I picked because they were the top seed.  Others I picked, well, just because.

Today, I learned that my bracket--like several thousand others--has already been busted.

I picked Baylor to beat Georgia State, mainly because Baylor was ranked higher.

Georgia State won, 57-56.

I also picked Iowa State to beat University of Alabama at Birmingham.

UAB won, 60-59.

(Notre Dame, a team I did pick, has advanced to the second round.)

Such is the reality of March Madness.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Generation gap

Last week, one of our newer ministers began teaching my Sunday School class.  He'll be there for the rest of this month.  I think he's about in his mid-to-late 20's (and his wife's name is Tina!)

I've had him as a teacher in a Wednesday night class before, so when I saw him, I said, "Either you are stuck with me again, or I am stuck with you."

He said, "I'm happy to be stuck with you."

I answered, "Like the song says?"

I spent the next five minutes explaining to him that this was the song I meant:

The song went to Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1986, nearly thirty years ago.  I was in college then and about ready to graduate with my master's degree.  My Sunday School teacher may not have even been born yet, or if he was, he was either a baby, toddler, or preschooler.

Now I know what it feels like to be on one side of a generation gap.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Springtime in Atlanta

Springtime in Atlanta arrives in clumps of pink and white.

The cherry trees, with their pink blossoms, bloom first.  They are closely followed by the yellow of the daffodils and the forsythia bushes.

This is the time of year when winter and spring commence their annual dance, fighting over which season will dominate.  First spring pokes up a tentative head, usually with the cherry trees and the daffodils.  Winter roars back with dropping temperatures and the occasional attacks of frost and maybe a snowflake or two, enough to send metro Atlanta into panic.

Then winter dies down, and spring again pokes up its head.  It adds the white blossoms of the Bradford pear trees, followed a little while later by the lavender of the wisteria.

At this point, winter has a choice to make.  Does it make one last stand, or does it wave the white flag of surrender?

Sometimes, winter fights back.  I remember one week at the beginning of April when I thought the white stuff in the air was white blossoms from the Bradford pears.  It wasn't until I got out of the car and saw the "blossoms" melting on my coat that I realized they were snowflakes.

Eventually, though, winter must wave the flag of surrender.  Spring marches in, in shades of pink and yellow, lavender and white.  It's also accompanied by the greenish-yellow of pine pollen, which drives Atlantans to the car washes, to wash the pollen into the storm drains; to the drug stores, to buy decongestants by the boxful; and in some cases, to the doctor's office, where allergy medicines are prescribed.  The daily pollen count becomes a temporary staple of the weather report, along with WSB's Kirk Mellish's recitation of the pollen sources: "oak, cedar, grass, pine, ketchup, and mustard".

Such is the changing of the seasons in Atlanta, Georgia.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ten years later . . .

Ten years ago today, I went on an errand and wound up across the street from a killer.

The day before, I'd gotten a call from my best friend, asking if I was okay, and then telling me that there had been a shooting in downtown Atlanta.  This was in the days before I had an iPod Touch and an iPad, and thus I didn't have news apps that would alert me of breaking news.

While telling my friend to calm down and breathe, I turned on the TV and discovered that there had, indeed, been a shooting at the Fulton County Courthouse.  Brian Nichols, a man on trial for the rape of his former girlfriend, was accused of shooting and killing judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau, and Sergeant Hoyt Teasley, a Fulton County sheriff's deputy.

I watched the news, and saw over and over the video of someone giving Sergeant Teasley CPR as they rushed him to an ambulance.  I kept the news on all day, and at least once, the reporter said that they thought Nichols might be heading to Alabama.  So while I was upset by the events, I wasn't concerned that he would be coming around here.

Later, I learned that Nichols had overpowered and beaten a sheriff's deputy, Cynthia Hall, taken her gun, and used it to shoot Judge Barnes, Julie Brandau, and Hoyt Teasley.  He also carjacked at least four vehicles, including two belonging to employees of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That was on a Friday.  By Saturday morning, they still had not found Nichols.

This was back during the days when we still had two cars, so Frank took one car and took Matthew with him, probably to the park.  I took the other car and loaded it up with stuff to be recycled.  The recycling place is about four and a half miles from where I live, across from an apartment complex.

When I got there, I saw a crowd of about twenty-five to fifty people gathered around, three police cars, and a man lying on his stomach in the driveway of the apartment complex.  I figured that the cops were just on edge because of the shootings, and that the guy in the driveway was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

Someone in the crows asked, "Is it him?" Someone else said that they'd been ordered to leave the complex. And yet another person said, "They say he's killed three more people." I had heard on the way to the recycling center that a US Customs officer had been shot and killed, and that the officer's badge, ID, and pickup truck were missing. 

I still wasn't worried, but given the police activity around the complex across the street, I decided that
it would be best for me just to drop my stuff off and get out of there, fast. Which I did. 

That morning, around 11:45, I had the radio on and heard the announcer reporting a "hostage situation" at an apartment complex. When I heard the location, I realized that I had been there, just an
hour ago. Inside that apartment complex was exactly where Brian Nichols was holed up. 

The previous night, a 26-year-old woman, Ashley Smith (now Ashley Smith Robinson), had gone up to a gas station up the street to buy cigarettes. Nichols, hiding in the shadows, accosted her when she got back, forced her into her apartment, and tied her up.  

I admire Ashley Smith for what happened in the next seven hours.  Instead of panicking and screaming, and possibly getting herself shot, she kept her cool and got Nichols talking.  She talked to him about her young daughter.  She talked to him about God.  She read to him from the book The
Purpose-Driven Life. In the book she wrote after the ordeal was over, she admitted to giving Nichols crystal meth. She was a drug addict, struggling with her addiction at the time. 

Finally, after talking and cooking him pancakes, she convinced Nichols to let her go and pick up her daughter.  He offered to hang her curtains while she was gone. Once out of the apartment, she called 911, and the cops and the SWAT team came. I saw some of the cops when I went to the recycling center. 

Nichols, at around noon or shortly after, came out of the apartment, literally waving a white flag. He was immediately taken into custody and left in a police car, to the applause of the bystanders.  After arguments, trial motions, more arguments, more trial motions, he was finally tried in July, 2008.  He pled not guilty by reason of insanity.  He was found guilty and sentenced to multiple life terms in prison, to be run consecutively.  The jury failed to reach a unanimous conclusion on whether or not to give him the death penalty.  His ultimate "death penalty" will be to die in prison.  

Ten years later, courthouse security in Fulton County has been ramped up.  The families of the murder victims have had to adjust to life without their family members.  Those that Nichols attacked have had to live with the consequences of his actions.  At least one deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.  Cynthia Hall, the guard badly beaten by Nichols, went through rehab and today volunteers in the Atlanta area.  

By coincidence, this week I was also in a courtroom, having been summoned for jury duty.  I do admit that a few thoughts of the Atlanta shooting crossed my mind.  However, Gwinnett County has some good security.  We were well taken care of by the bailiffs assigned to us, and there were two uniformed officers with us in the courtroom while we were there.  Being an ex-court reporting student, I was more interested in the court reporter's work than I was in worrying about security.  

Ten years later, I find it interesting how close people can be to a moment that could change their lives forever.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Number 32

For several hours today, I lost my identity and became known as just Number 32.

Several weeks ago, I was summoned for jury duty.  My day to report was today.  After making arrangements with Frank to get home early so he could be home when Matthew got home, I arrived at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center around 7:30 a.m.  We prospective jurors were seated in the assembly room, where we were treated to two large screens that repeatedly scrolled the FAQ's about jury duty, and told us how we were going to get compensated.  Instead of a check, we will get paid with a debit card, and we were informed that "this is NOT junk mail!"

I was first sorted into a pool of 70 people and told to sit in a particular chair.  That was when I received my number, Number 32.  Each of us got a number, and when we were called into the courtroom, that was the way we were referred to.

Before getting called into the courtroom, I sat and I caught up on my Bible lesson for my ladies' group.  Last week, I was sick with a cold and I didn't go, and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to go tomorrow . . . but just in case I did go, I wanted to have my lesson ready.  So while waiting, I went through the lesson we are doing.

When our group arrived at the courtroom, we swore that we would answer each question truthfully.

The case that was put before us was a child molestation case.  From the names and ages of the defendant and the alleged victim, I suspect that they were a grandfather and granddaughter.  The charges of what the defendant allegedy did to the victim were very specific, down to the parts of the body he touched.  I mentally shuddered.

We were asked a number of questions, such as, "Do you read crime fiction or watch crime shows?" "Have you or anyone you know, or a member of your family, been a victim of a similar crime?" "Have any of you ever served on a jury before?" "Is there anything weighing on your mind that might keep you from paying attention this week?"  "Do you have legal experience?"

If the answer to these questions was "yes", you were to raise your card with your number, and the prosecution and defense attorneys would write down the number.  I do read crime fiction (I just finished a James Patterson book and I watch Criminal Minds and Law and Order, among other shows), I do have legal experience (as a former court reporting student), I have never been a victim of a molestation, and I have served on a jury.  (That trial ended in a mistrial about five minutes after it began.  The bailiff let two jurors out on a bathroom break without asking permission--I was one of the jurors the bailiff let out!)

We were sent out on our lunch break and told to report back to the assembly room at 2 p.m.  I got there at about ten till two.  The original group of 70 was called out 14 at a time.

My group of 14 didn't get called until 4 p.m.

While waiting, I read two books (both a quick read) and watched as the battery on my iPad went down to 17%.  Had my battery died, I would have gotten a magazine from the magazine rack in the assembly room and read that.

When my group of 14 was called, we went to the courtroom by a back way, only to learn that the judge was not in the courtroom.  So we waited in a jury deliberation room.  Several of us took bathroom breaks.  I was the last one, and when I came out . . . the jury had left without me.  The bailiff was waiting.  I apologized, and he said, they were supposed to wait for you and they didn't.

We were each questioned one by one . . . and that's when I discovered that out of 14 people, SIX of them knew someone who had been molested.  Of those six, four of the victims were family members. I was, as the British would say, gobsmacked.  One woman who had a family member molested began to cry.

When my turn came, I was asked to state my name, and thus regained my identity as Tina and not as Number 32.

The prosecutor asked about my jury service, and then he asked, what's weighing on your mind?  I said, I have a teenage son with autism, he gets home at a certain time and he has to be met by an adult.  My husband was able to arrange time off of work, but we only have one car, he has to use public transportation, and I'm concerned about something happening with the transportation.

The defense attorney did not question me.

Previously, a physician who was an epidemiologist said that he had a friend who'd been molested and that she was "really messed up".  They GRILLED him.  They asked him about DNA evidence, could he make a decision without DNA evidence (which leads me to believe that they don't have DNA in this case), could he separate what happened to his friend from this case, etc.

After an hour, we were told we could leave. I told the court reporter on the way out that I was an ex-student and that I admired what she did.

It was about 15 minutes later, back in the assembly room, that my name was called, along with several others--including the physician and the woman who cried--and we were all told that we were excused and that we did not have to come back.

I, and my sore feet, were relieved.  I wore a "dressy" dress which needed "dressy" shoes . . . and those "dressy" shoes hurt my feet and gave my heels blisters.

When I got home, Frank fed me dinner, gave me a foot rub, and filled up a basin with water so I could soak my feet.  I am still soaking my feet as I write this.

Jury duty can be inconvenient.  It consists of long periods of waiting punctuated by walking, by being quizzed, and more waiting.  And being referred to by a number instead of a name can come across as slightly dehumanizing.  (Efficient, but dehumanizing.)

But had I been chosen, I, Number 32 in the jury pool, would have done my very best to listen to the evidence with an open mind, apply the law to the facts of the case, and return a fair and just verdict.

Because everyone is entitled under the Constitution to a trial by the jury of their peers.

Inconvenience, waiting, and being called by Number 32 are worth it.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Listening to a hero . . .

Today I sat in church and was privileged to listen to a hero.

Dr. Kent Brantly didn't go searching for greatness, nor has he sought celebrity.  Rather, he is one of those people who had celebrity thrust upon him.

Last July, news hit that a young American doctor, married with two children, had contracted the deadly Ebola virus.  He was a medical missionary working in Liberia, helping with the Ebola outbreak.  After a week where he hung between life and death, he was evacuated on a medical transport and brought to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.  He recovered.  Since then, he has been speaking about his experiences to audiences throughout the United States.  Today, we were the audience that was privileged to listen to him.

He is not a hero because he survived Ebola.  Rather, he is a hero because of how he has used and is using those experiences.

Kent Brantly is the nephew of one of the ministers at my church.  During his talk, he commented that if it were not for the Ebola, it wouldn't matter how great of a person his uncle thought he was, he (Kent) wouldn't be up there talking!  (That line got a laugh from everyone.)

I had thought that he would tell his story about how he got Ebola and how he dealt with those days until he was brought to Emory.  And while he did share some details of that story, that was not the focus of his visit.

In our Sunday School, he spoke about being an "ambassador for Christ", and said that his goal was to find a way to be the hands and feet of God.  It was that goal that eventually led him to become a doctor.  It wasn't because of fame, celebrity or prestige.  What he wanted was to be God's hands and feet--which is what we, as Christians, are all called to do.

In speaking of his illness, being brought to Emory, and getting well, he said that while he did believe that his being alive was a miracle, he wasn't sure where the miracle was.  Was it that ZMapp, the experimental drug, was available to him, and that he was willing to be the guinea pig for that drug? Was it the logistics that all came together--including someone in the State Department that decided that Dr. Brantly needed the help--that got him to Emory?  Was it that the staff at Emory unanimously said "Yes!" when asked, do we bring him here?  (I would like to think that maybe "the miracle" was how all of that worked together.)

I got two impressions while I was listening to Dr. Brantly talk.

One was, "I could do that.  I could be the hands and feet of Jesus."  That is a different perspective than the one I got during my college days, when "ambassador for Christ" meant "sharing your faith", which meant "invite everyone you see to church, study the Bible (really, that meant "study our study series with them") and get them into the baptistry.  Once there, you teach them to do the same things, and that is how you bear fruit.  If you do not do this, or if you do this and you do not have 'success', you are a failure as a Christian."

The other was the sentence that dropped into my brain, "Dedicate your writing to God."

Dr. Brantly asked the question, how can we live as ambassadors for Christ wherever we are?

He also said that he'd learned, God will give you everything you need to be faithful to him.

When Don spoke to Dr. Brantly during our church service, he asked the question, "Why are you comfortable with Christ as your master?"

In answering that question, Dr. Brantly referred to his favorite book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  When, in the land of Narnia, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver were telling the Pevensie children about Aslan the lion, they asked, "Is Aslan safe?"

Their answer: Aslan wasn't safe.  But he was good.

God isn't safe.  But God is good.  I don't understand all of the ways he works, nor do I understand why he does what he does.  But I do believe he is good.

The last sentences I have in my notes for today is, "Mission is not a location.  God invites us to join his story where we are."

So what's my takeaway?

1.  I can be the hands and feet of Jesus, wherever I am, whenever I am, wherever I go.  I'm not completely sure what that's going to look like, but I do understand that it involves loving God, loving my neighbor as I love myself, doing good to all, avoiding evil.

2.  I can give my writing to God.  I believe that writing is a gift from God, and I want to use it for

3.  The experiences I have had, I can use those in joining God's story.

So, here I am.  I am joining God's story, right here, right now.

Come join with me.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.