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Canary in the coal mine

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Jim Thompson

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

When one looks at the history of countries with shady governments, the genesis of this problem has usually been manipulation of their court system. Whether they be “banana republics,” dictatorships or something else, the path from a well-organized, honest government to a poorly organized, dishonest government has often gone through the courthouse.

I am not here to argue cases, to me the issue is respect for the courts of law (including the impeachment process) and sketchy court manipulation.

In the United States, modern disrespect for the courts may stretch back to 2000, when the Supreme Court decided the presidential vote in Florida, and hence the presidential election.  

Many people were upset over that, and not in the “normal” way. They thought they had been robbed. Can’t say that I blame them.

The next case that caused a great deal of consternation was the Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) case, handed down in June 2012, where it was clear from the text that Chief Justice John Roberts had changed his vote at the last minute. Was he pressured by someone? We’ll never know.

We next have the parade of impeachments of President Trump.  

Following close at hand, and continuing, the prosecution of the people who entered the people’s house (the Capitol) on January 6, 2021. This is an ironic set of circumstances if there ever was one. Apparently, it is illegal for people to enter the People’s House.

Then, there is the Dobbs vs. Jackson abortion case of June 2022, which has unleashed nearly continuous illegal protests at the Supreme Court Justices’ homes.

Now, for many months and continuing, there have been cases brought, near and far, against former President Trump that, by and large, seem to be on very shaky legal ground. As I said before, I am not here to argue cases. What concerns me is we have become court centric and are using the courts in ways that, traditionally, have not been used in this country. This is worrisome. It is worrisome because this path seems to have been the precursor in other countries for very bad outcomes.

One final note on this subject. There have been several news sites this week headlining the case in Oregon where the state Supreme Court has barred 10 Republicans from seeking reelection. They present this as a tragedy. If you read the background on this case, this state Supreme Court had no choice. It was not bad jurisprudence, but a bad law which they are bound to uphold. Good for them. Bad for the media sites implying this is something other than what it is.

Canary in a coal mine, for you youngsters, refers to a practice in the olden days of placing a caged canary in a coal mine. The canary, being more sensitive than humans, would wind up feet up in the bottom of the cage before the miners became ill from odorless gases and ended up in the same posture themselves. Can’t believe I need to explain this term these days, but I guess I do.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at


David Anthony Mayer (not verified)

3 February 2024

Jim, having to explain "the canary in the coal mine" theory and sayings like "bet the farm" are examples of a misguided generation when TikTok and AI are used to "create" news. The common belief being, if it is on the internet, it must be fact. Even worse is the major news networks push false information. Yesterday it was taxation of self employed gig workers. The network consumer reporter said you do not have report income under $400. All gross recepits, with or without a 1099, must be reported. Misinformation from a long established big three network. With tax filing deadlines approaching, social media will be abuzz with false comments on tax laws. And it will not be limited to one generation. Aware of a person who do not file and missed all three stimulus checks. They also missed the increased child tax credit. And would have had no tax liabilty anyway.

Matthew (not verified)

5 February 2024

Jim, As far as writing thought provoking and straight forward columns, the Pioneers get the arrows.

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