The Ten Commandments

make no law respecting an establishment of religion

A random dude on Facebook – I didn’t know him – wrote that he read on Facebook that the state of Louisiana is mandating that The Ten Commandments be displayed in classrooms. But he didn’t necessarily believe it because it was on Facebook.

Back in my working librarian days, I would fairly often have conversations about media literacy. I’d ask someone for the source of information. They’d say Facebook or Twitter. My follow-up would be, “But what was the source, the reference?”

In any case, when I read the information on Facebook,  I already knew about it in newsfeeds from the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, and Newsmax, among others.

The general conversation on that Facebook stream then turned to: “Well, with all of the problems in our schools, this isn’t really that much of a big deal.”  

I developed a low-grade headache.

Then I was reminded about something that a couple of people I know IRL have been bugging me about. They believe that civics is not being taught in our schools.  What IS civics anyway? It is “a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens.”

Amendment 1

So, citizens, there’s a thing called the Constitution of the United States!  It replaced something called the Articles of Confederation, the nation’s first framework, effective March 4, 1789.

But the critics of the Constitution wanted more guardrails. Constitutional supporters agreed to create a Bill of Rights “which consists of 10 amendments that were added to the Constitution in 1791.”

The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

Ah, but you note that it was a Louisiana STATE law that imposed the Ten Commandments. However, the Supreme Court has “interpreted the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments.” 

Requiring classrooms to display the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments reeks of the state of Louisiana establishing religion, this old poli sci major and Christian will tell you. Gov. Jeff Landry (R-LA) makes this clear. “If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses.” 

Of course

So naturally, the presumptive Republican nominee for President supports it. Per Newsmax: “‘Has anyone read the ‘Thou shalt not steal’? I mean, has anybody read this incredible stuff? It’s just incredible,’ Trump said at the gathering of the Faith & Freedom Coalition [on June 22]. ‘They don’t want it to go up. It’s a crazy world.'”’

Conversely, Austin, TX  pastor Zach Lambert notes: “If your version of Christianity wants to put the Ten Commandments in schools but take free lunch out of them, you are worshipping something other than Jesus.”

Read the fuzzy argument that Oklahoma’s state superintendent of public education, Ryan Walters, makes in requiring all public schools to teach the Bible and the Ten Commandments.

Getting back to civics

I worry about how the “rights and duties of citizens” are being abridged. In recent years, being able to serve on a jury, serving as an election poll watcher, and even the very right to vote, have been threatened. When I wrote that I would have served on a particular jury, it wasn’t because I would have wanted to; it’s because a citizen has an obligation, so the external threats are unAmerican. Poll watcher intimidation is unAmerican. Wholesale purging of voter rolls: unAmerican. 

As we celebrate the 4th of July, let us remember the preamble of the Constitution, a direct result of the Revolutionary War fervor. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Then we need to act as though it were true.

Lydster: home for the summer

jury duty?

The Daughter came home for the summer on Saturday, May 4. She’d gotten most of her schoolwork done, and whatever she needed to finish, she could complete online.

She also applied for several jobs in our area. The job she had in the summer of 2023 was with rue21, a “fast-fashion retailer” in one of the malls. The chain is shutting down nationwide.

Unfortunately, she ran out of time to finish her packing. It wasn’t the first time I’ve helped someone move and ended up sticking stuff in boxes as well.

She had decided that she wanted to rent a space in a local U-Haul to store some of the stuff to use at college in the autumn. Her mother and I are of the same mind about this. 1) Is this REALLY necessary? 2) She made the arrangements all herself, and we see this as a good learning experience.

But it DID add to the time, especially since there was but one overworked clerk at the rental space.

We put the items in storage, headed back to a very crowded downtown Amherst and had pizza with one of the daughter’s fellow art students, which was nice. Back to the college, but it was clear that the three of us were running out of gas.

Back at home, the Daughter spent some hours cleaning her room to make room for the additional items, aided by her favorite father. She also helped her mother with various projects, many of them work-related.

The three of us went back the dorm on the afternoon of Friday, May 17. The rest of the work was not as onerous as we all had recalled. She dropped off items at the U-Haul, but this time we were closer to home.


In September 2023, the Daughter got a jury summons. I got it postponed for her. Then she was scheduled to report for jury duty on May 29, 2024.  But when she called the weekend before, she was informed that NONE of the 240 people in that pool had to report. Not only that, she won’t be in the jury pool for six years.

I would have served on the djt jury

volunteers of America

One of the things I do with some regularity is to try to put myself in others’ shoes. I concluded that I believe I would have served on the djt jury if I had lived in New York County (Manhattan). In spite of my… antipathy for the man, I think I could have looked at the facts in this particular case.

And I am specifying the “hush money” case, not the election interference case or the overthrow of the government case, about which I just can’t shake the overwhelming evidence that I’ve seen and heard.

Maybe it’s because I watched a LOT of lawyer shows growing up. They included Perry Mason, of course, but also The Defenders with E.G. Marshall and a pre-Brady Bunch Robert Reed (I have the first season on DVD); Judd For The Defense, starring a post-Donna Reed Show Carl Betz ; and The Bold Ones: The Lawyers with Burl Ives, Joseph Campanella, and James Farentino.

In fact, I watch so much of them that, for a good while, I thought I would become a lawyer until I didn’t.

Often, I imagine how I would respond  to certain circumstances. In the 1980s, there was high-profile murder case, the details I’ve largely forgotten. A lawyer who came into FantaCo regularly was attending the trial daily, and he was convinced the person would surely be convicted of second-degree murder. All I knew was from television and newspaper reporting, but I became convinced that the alleged perpetrator would be found guilty of the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter. Much to the shock of the attorney, it was precisely how the trial was decided.

Picking the jury

After watching about how they chose a jury in this case, I realized that, if I had lived in Manhattan, I could have been questioned in voir dire, somewhat differently than I experienced in 2014. I’d get to indicate my disdain for almost all of his policies – with him listening, which seems like that could be enjoyable – but that I would promise to treat his case fairly.

Ultimately, though, I would have served because it’s important. Yes, I would have to weigh the appeal of civic duty with time considerations: The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Personal safety, I suppose, would also have been a concern. CNN, among others, essentially outed some jurors. “Juror five is a young Black woman who teaches English in a public charter school system. She has a Master’s degree in education, is not married and doesn’t have any kids.” When her friends and relatives note she’s largely unavailable for a couple of months, they will surely figure it out.

American values

The Weekly Sift guy called trial by jury as defending American values. Trial by jury is fundamental to the American ethic. He notes: “The central mission of a rising authoritarian movement is to destroy public trust in any institution that can stand in its way.”

Specifically, the movement tells us:

  • We can’t trust historians to recount the story of American racism, or librarians to make sound decisions about books that discuss either race or sex. So we have to push back against ignorance.
  • We can’t trust our secretaries of state and local election officials to count votes. This is why I was a poll watcher in the past and should do so more often going forward.

Interestingly, I haven’t been called for jury duty in a decade. Only recently, I discovered I could volunteer to be included in the jury pool in the state of New York if I can understand and communicate in English, am a citizen of the US, am over 18, haven’t been a juror in state federal court in the last six years, and a couple of other factors. Frankly, I think it’s a little weird.

Do I want to volunteer? Maybe, after I check some items off my Must Do list.

Lydster: the grown-up stuff

American Community Survey

My daughter is experiencing the grown-up stuff.

About a week after returning to college, she received in the mail at home what I assumed was a jury summons. After texting her for permission – something I needed to do with my now-adult progeny – I discovered I was correct.

I called the number on the form and spoke to the very understanding representative on the other end, explaining my daughter was currently in another state. “No problem.” They’ll contact her again in mid-May.

She was chagrined; she was looking forward to working that summer. (That $40 per day is not very robust.) Of course, she may not be called beyond one day. Incidentally, I haven’t been called for jury duty since 2014, when I wasn’t chosen.


Then, in early October, she got a notification that she was supposed to contact the campus about a letter she got from the US Census. She wondered if it was legit. I asked her if it was about the American Community Survey, and it was.

The ACS “helps local officials, community leaders, and businesses understand the changes taking place in their communities. It is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about our nation.”

The ACS is the source of much of the more granular data the Census releases. Unless one is a Census nerd like I am, people don’t know about it because only a random sampling of people receives it each month.

The letter from the college was delivered to my daughter’s room, directing her to contact a person with Census. I verified that this person worked for the Bureau because that’s what fathers and librarians do.


When we visited our daughter at college in October, her mother and I marveled at the great organization she had implemented in her tiny room. Everything is in its place. At home, her bedroom is… a work in progress.

On her wall at college is this banner. She painted the flags on the cloth, representing her DNA from Ireland, Nigeria, England, Cameroon, Scotland, Benin, et al. The blue flag I did not recognize is a banner for the Bantu people.

Sunday Stealing: FB PCs

necessary for our Nation to function

Sunday Stealing this week is FB PCs, which stands for, much to my surprise, Facebook Postcards USA.


1.  What do you have hanging on your walls?

Not nearly enough stuff. My wife said we could put artwork and photos on our living room walls once they were painted. That was over a decade ago! And if you ask why I don’t put them up myself, I’m seeking her better sense of design.


2.  Have you used an outrageous excuse to get out of jury duty?

NEVER! I wouldn’t ever do so. ‘

A good friend wrote this recently: “I’ve received a summons for Federal Grand Jury duty, and I find it disheartening how many people IMMEDIATELY start giving me advice on how to get OUT of serving. I am being given an opportunity to help determine whether a criminal should be charged, or an innocent exonerated. It may be inconvenient, but it’s a service that is necessary for our Nation to function, and all too few seem willing to participate. I think that’s sad.”

I’ve written about my two experiences with jury duty here and here  A friend I ran into leaving a grand jury session this spring reminded me that I’m overdue for another opportunity.
3. Where do you like to go shopping (not for groceries)

I hate shopping. When I go, I finish as quickly as possible. I used to run the mail order department when I worked at FantaCo in the 1980s, which may explain why I embrace it so readily. 

That said, if I shop, it’s mostly at Lodge’s in downtown Albany, founded in 1867.

4. What was the last movie you saw in a movie theater?

Barbenheimer, NOT on the same day.


5. If you wrote a note and put it in a bottle to throw out to sea, what would the note say?

Be of good cheer.


6. What decision have you made in your life that you regret?

Too many and too personal. Okay, here’s one: wearing hard-soled shoes when I was on JEOPARDY in 1998.


7. What is in your junk drawer?

It’s next to my dresser, with coins, pens, cough drops, and goodness knows what else.


8. Have you ever gone to a high school reunion?

My 10th, 35th, and 50th. Also, my sister’s 45th and 50th.


9. Would you rather receive the GOOD news or the BAD news first?

BAD, for sure.


10. What are your top 3 pet peeves?
Self-important folks who block crosswalks, sidewalks, et al. with their cars. Cruel bullies. People who don’t take responsibility for their actions; from here: ” I frankly don’t understand the argument that Trump can’t be found guilty of trying to overturn the election if he really and truly thought he’d won it. Does that mean that you couldn’t convict that North Carolina man who fired an AR-15 rifle inside a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. because he really and truly believed it was the home of a Satanic child sex abuse ring involving top Democrats?”
11. Are there famous people from where you live?

William Kennedy, Gregory Maguire, Rachael Ray. Mike Tyson trained and fought in the area; I saw him once with Jack Nicholson backstage after an Anita Baker concert at the Palace Theatre in ALB. Here’s a Wikipedia page.


12. What kitchen gadgets do you use most?

Stove, can opener, microwave.


13. Who was your elementary school best friend?

Probably Ray, whose mom was the den mother of our Cub Scout troop.


14. Choose an animal and tell us four things about that animal.

Cat: mysterious, unpredictable, furry, hungry.


15. What is your favorite pizza topping?  What do you never want on a pizza?
I’ve grown partial to white broccoli but I’ll try anything if it doesn’t have anchovies.
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial