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Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category

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INTRO:

In the past we have had superheroes who flew, who possessed amazing strength, astounding agility, could stretch and duplicate.  Superman, Spiderman, Batman & Captain America were the heroes we read about in comic books, fantasy universes superimposed over our own real world.

Today though, we need a new hero.  One firmly rooted in reality and our world, because our foe is the politician who lives in a fantasy world, a fantasy world that he is trying to impose upon our own.  And, if successful, will usher in a time of pain and suffering upon the innocents, and will wreck this once great country.

His tool for accomplishing this goal?  The lie.  And, thus is born Truth Matters Person.  Unlike most prior superheroes, Truth Matters Person has no set age or sex or gender identity or race or religion.  Truth Matters Person consists of everyday people who look for and do not turn away from truth, and then are not afraid to tell that truth to all.

All of these stories contain only part of the truth, a necessity in order to achieve brevity.  However, at the end of each there will be links to the more complete truth.  Also, all words spoken by Trump in these stories are actual quotes from his tweets and his speeches.

Episode 1:   The Dangerous Hordes of Refugees

2ff1cd0ecda4a9a2b839be9fb4611b56“Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?”  “Refugees from Syria over 10k plus more coming. Lots young males, poorly vetted.”

No Donald.  The truth of the matter is that we do not take in many refugees at all asian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001compared to other countries.  Canada has taken in 32,400 for example.  And this is out of 4.9 million Syrian refugees.

Of those that the United States has taken in, 72% are either women or children under the age of 14.

22868475614_e0f545173a_bBut, but, but the vetting, there is no vetting.   “Altogether, under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to vet them…”

I’m glad you brought that up Donald.  The truth of the matter is that we have an extremely asian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001thorough vetting system for refugees, more thorough than any other in the world.   It takes on average 18 to 24 months for a refugee to go through this process.

It starts with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees interviewing and checking refugees and deciding which ones should be forwarded to the US as a potential refugee for the United States.  From there, the refugee has to pass numerous interviews from several agencies, their biometric data collected and checked against several security and law enforcement data bases, more interviews, and more checks.  During this process the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department,  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,  Department of State, and the National Counterterrorism Center check their identity and backgrounds against several databases.

The link provided below by Natasha Hall, whose job was to vet these refugees, is an interesting read and highly recommended.  Often those countries that many are claiming do not have enough documentation –  such as Iraq and Syria –  do have more than enough to properly check people out.  And, if there is not enough documentation on a particular candidate, then that person does not get through.

Further, there are medical evaluations done, and towards the end of the process, the refugees have to attend a Cultural Orientation to teach them about practices and customs here in the United States.  By the way, once in, they are not just let loose.  Instead, various different agencies whose purpose is to help the refugee settle in and find jobs meet them and guide them during this initial period.

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c07c45_61a2c43deb564d6fa3857650cbe3858f.jpg_srz_1903_1269_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzWe “are letting tens of thousands of people come in from Syria and nobody knows who these people are and a lot of those people are ISIS.” “We have no idea who we are letting in. You’ve seen what happened.”

 

Donald, a lie does not become truth just because it is repeated.  I have already shown you that we do know who we are letting into our country.  And, the truth is, that we have seenasian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001 what has happened by letting these Syrian refugees in.   We save lives, and give people who are suffering and afraid and lost a chance to create a new home.

And despite the claims that these refugees are a burden on our economy, they have proven to be a benefit.  As the PBS article linked to at the bottom notes, they add to the labor market and add needed skills.  As the US News article notes, also linked to at the bottom, while Cleveland spent $4.8 million dollars settling refugees into their area, they wound up creating an economic benefit of $48 million dollars through increased demand for goods and services and because refugees start up new businesses that hire people.

As for the danger they pose, so far there have been no fatal attacks by any Syrian refugee in the United States.  As the Atlantic article notes, also linked to at the bottom,  over the last 40 years the United States has accepted 3.25 million refugees.  Only 20 of them have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorist acts in the United States.  Further, only three Americans have been killed in attacks by refugees, and these were by Cuban refugees during the 1970’s.

Due to our already extreme vetting system, refugees  pose no more danger to you and to the citizens of the US than any other citizen.  In fact, most of the attacks carried out by Muslims in the United States have been by permanent residents or native born citizens who had become radicalized.

The truth is, instead of being afraid of the refugees, we should be welcoming them.  Instead of turning the United States into a Fortress of Solitude and Isolation, we should live up to our reputation of welcoming the weary and embrace our common humanity.  We should be showing the world that we have the courage and decency to act upon our empathy for those in need instead of allowing overwrought fear to cause us to spread hatred and rejection.

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And the Truth Shall Keep Us Free!

To learn more both for personal satisfaction and in order to better spread the truth, check out these links.

On the demographics of the Syrian refugees,

From Migration Policy

http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/syrian-refugees-united-states

From the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

http://www.unhcr.org/en-us

http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

Good article about Syrian refugees by US News

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2016-12-19/countries-hosting-the-highest-proportion-of-syrian-refugees

More information about our refugee vetting system.

Here is the article by Natasha Hall, the former immigration official whose job was to vet refugees.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/02/01/refugees-are-already-vigorously-vetted-i-know-because-i-vetted-them/?utm_term=.304f0cda8b00

From the US Department of State, the graphic at the bottom of the article provides a very good guide to the process.

https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/

The New York Times provides a simpler version of the same graphic I mentioned above about the vetting process.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/29/us/refugee-vetting-process.html

And here is an article by a refugee who went through the process.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/i-went-through-americas-extreme-vetting-214703

On the dangers of refugees. 

Here is an Atlantic article about the “dangers’ of refugees.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-ban-terrorism/514361/

And one from CNN on the same subject.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/29/us/refugee-terrorism-trnd/

On the economic impact of refugees,

An article from US News

https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/09/15/would-syrian-refugees-be-an-economic-boon-or-burden

And from PBS

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/whats-the-economic-impact-of-refugees-in-america/

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Republican presidential candidate Gingrich speaks at a meet and greet at the Willow Ridge Golf Course in Fort Dodge,

“We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported

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“Look, the first step is you have to ask them the questions. The second step is you have to monitor what they’re doing on the internet. The third step is — let me be very clear — you have to monitor the mosques. I mean, if you’re not prepared to monitor the mosques, this whole thing is a joke.” Gingrich on Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

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“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” campaign press release

 

“Do you think we might need to register Muslims in some type of database, or note their religion on their ID?” Yahoo Reporter

“We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.” Donald Trump response

……….

“Should there be a database or system that tracks Muslims in this country?”  MSNBC reporter

“There should be a lot of systems. Beyond databases. I mean, we should have a lot of systems.”  Donald Trump response.

 

And with these statements both Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump have stabbed with intent to kill that which both have professed to love and protect – the Constitution

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 “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States..” Article 6  United States Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”  First Amendment, United States Constitution

 

An integral part of being an American is being able to live your life in accordance with the dictates of your conscience and religion.

For those Jews so inclined there are rabbinical courts.  For those Catholics so inclined there are diocesan tribunals.   For other religious groups both Christian and not, there are organizations that, for  those so inclined, will resolve marital issues, individual disputes, business disputes, rule on inheritances, and more – all based on the precepts of that religion.

All of this is allowed by the free exercise clause as long  as they meet the following standards:

  • Participation is voluntary on the part of everyone.
  • What is decided does not violate US laws.
  • What is decided does not violate the US Constitution.

This is part of what being free to live in accordance with your conscience and religion means.  It applies not to just a few, not just to some, not just to most, but it applies to all Americans.

But Gingrich, Trump, and too many others wish to deny this Constitutional right to our Muslim citizens.  They would say to these Americans,

“No, you cannot follow your religious laws under the same guidelines as others follow theirs.  In fact, you are not allowed to follow them at all.  And yes, we are instituting a religious test on who is considered a full and good citizen of the United States.

And yes, although we may deny it, in doing so we are destroying that  which we profess to love and swore to protect.

And yes, by doing so we show that our true love is to the United States as a nation first and its ideals only a distant second.  And preferably a nation of Christians with a few Jews tossed in.”

 

Oh, what joy this must give our enemies who have charged us with hypocrisy, to have their once lies now made true.

Oh, what pain it gives seeing too many of our leaders recommending suicide as a way to protect our nation.

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Recently we had a confederate flag flap when our annual stock show parade banned the battle flag of the Confederacy (but still allowed the original national Confederate flag).

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Around the same time a letter was printed in the Fort Worth Star Telegram from a Ms. Barbara Kirkland strongly defending the flying of the Confederate flag. Part of that letter helped bring further into focus the reasons why I do not defend this flag nor its flying by any government agency.

In her letter she states that her ancestors “fought for the Confederacy” and “I’m proud that when the call came to stand and defend the South they heeded the call”.

Their “call” was to defend a rebellion against their own country – the United States of America. Now, rebellion is, at times, justified if the cause is good and just. But, in this case the cause was the exact opposite of good and just. Many issues were involved in causing the Southern States to try to dissolve the union, but the chief and foremost of them was the issue of slavery. The treatment of other people as nothing more than property, with no more rights than a cow or horse. This was the root cause of why the Southern states rebelled and tried to break up the union.

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Yes, most confederate soldiers did not own slaves. Yet they supported the government who broke away from the union that protected their “right” to own a person if they wished or were economically able.

Just like we don’t honor the Nazi heritage of Germany just because most Germans were not Nazi’s and not involved in killing the Jews, so too should we not be honoring this part of Southern heritage by flying any confederate flag. It is a part of our heritage that should be condemned.

This letter writer, and those who think like her, have the right to fly that flag if they so wish. However, no government entity whatsoever, at any level, whether city, county, state or national, should be flying any version of the Confederate flag. And I will protest any that do.

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Despite what they may believe, the heritage they are “celebrating” and the cause for which this flag stood for were traitorous and, worse, condoned barbarous actions against the dignity and worth of humanity. This flag is worth honoring just as much as the Nazi flag – not at all.

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Daesh, al Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorist groups claim that the United States is waging a war with Islam. That we hate Muslims and that our religious liberties are for Jews and Christians only, not Muslims. That Muslims are a hated and second class citizens, at best, within our borders. These claims are part of how they manage to gain recruits, highlighting our supposed intolerance of Islam and Muslims and casting this as a religious war of self-defense on their part.

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For the most part, we have avoided playing into that scenario of theirs internally. American Muslims are among the most integrated of any countries. However, now we are letting our fears and biases provide an element of truth to the terrorist claims, making their propaganda and recruitment efforts even more effective.

With the rise of hate crimes against Muslims in America, talk of internment camps, registries, and such what do you think would happen to those Muslims who truly do love the US and are proud to be citizens? Imagine if this were to happen to Christians here, what would happen to your loyalty to the US? What if your religion were demonized and reviled, you and your family and friends viewed with suspicion and often outright hatred? What if friends and family who are Christian living outside the United States could no longer visit you?

I know that these proposals are not in place…..yet. But they are being talked about and too many Americans are thinking them a good idea. Along with the fact that too often when mosques are being built they are being protested, that even Islamic cemeteries face an uphill fight to get city government approval to be created, when protesters armed with guns march outside your mosque – how safe would you feel in your own country? American Muslims make up the single largest group providing tips to the FBI on possible terrorist activities. What do you think would happen if that should cease?

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And in foreign affairs, this sort of rhetoric and these actions would be devastating. Our Muslim allies such as Jordan would cease to be allies. Our European allies would, justifiably, revile us. If a small percentage of Muslims based largely in the Middle East and Africa can create this much harm to us, imagine if the percentage were larger – or even to become the majority worldwide?

Carpet bombing Daesh with the huge loss of civilian and innocent life would indeed destroy the military capability of Daesh. But it would also give Daesh a huge propaganda win, feeding life into its Frankenstein creature of an American war on all of Islam. Our allies in the region would turn into our enemies. Muslims worldwide would decry the loss of innocent lives. And, if we made the sands glow, to paraphrase Ted Cruz, even our European allies would denounce us.

The short term destruction of Daesh’s military capability would be hugely offset by the fact that they would have won the propaganda war and would gain millions of new adherents and sympathizers. And take a good look at Paris – does that sort of action really require a country to support it? They can work underground and with the sympathy and help of millions of other Muslims, Muslims that had opposed them before, they can create even greater havoc and chaos more frequently.

This language, these proposals, these possible actions are just what Daesh and the other Islamic terrorist groups want. They want us to act out of fear, to violate our own supposed morals and principles, and create a reality in which more Muslims than ever would flock to their banner. There are many signs that Daesh is having a harder time recruiting Muslims. These actions and this rhetoric can turn that trend around for them. Trump, Cruz, and others as doing exactly what the terrorists want. Far from fighting terrorism, they are helping it.

And the above is just the practical reasons why all of this rhetoric from Trump, Cruz and too many conservatives is harmful. Just as important, in fact even more important, are the moral considerations.

We are holding people accountable for the actions of others due solely to the fact that they belong to the same religion. Not because they helped those responsible for their terrorist acts (the great majority denounce and condemn them). Not because they shared the same exact religion – like Christianity there are many forms of Islam, some good and some evil. Not because they even shared the same nationality or origin. Just because they share the same religion.

This violates all of our principles and morality. Our constitution requires that there be no religious test for office. The same principle should hold true here too – no religious test should be used to condemn a person. Especially not an American citizen.

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This is not the only supposedly American principle this hateful rhetoric and proposed actions violate – innocent until proven guilty comes to mind too. Extreme gun rights people argue, correctly, that law abiding gun owners should not be blamed for the actions of those who use guns to kill (note: I do not intend and will not be drawn into a gun control debate here as that would take attention away from the central message). Yet, they seem to, as a group, to be one of the groups who have a hard time applying this to other situations – law abiding Muslims should not be held accountable for the actions of those who are not.

Our current political climate and the rhetoric and proposals coming mainly from the conservative and Republican side are helping the terrorists. Ironic that. And scary too.

 

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I am both saddened and enraged at the cowardice and lack of humanity being shown by too many Americans today, many of them Republican politicians.

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So much for being the home of the brave when we are too cowardly to provide shelter and protection to those coming to us for help from horror and abuse.

So much for being the land that says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” when we turn away those in need.

And why are we so willing to give up our shared humanity, our ideals, our empathy and what had been considered deep seated beliefs? Two reasons.

First, Paris was attacked by Muslims, and the refugees are Muslim. Never mind that the vast, vast majority of Muslims condemn these terrorists. Never mind that these refugees are also victims of the same people who attacked Paris.

You would think that the victim of our enemies would be considered sympathetically and efforts made to help them. But too many Americans are refusing them, vilifying them and even comparing them to rabid dogs. They want to kick out any Syrian refugees already here and refuse any more. Men, women, and children. No matter that they have nowhere to go and that returning to Syria would result in their deaths.

Second: a Syrian passport found near what remained of a dead terrorist. From that many have made a leap to concluding the terrorists are coming in with the refugees. Never mind that all the other terrorists were French and Belgium, many of them being born and raised in those countries. Never mind that the mastermind was not a refugee and was instead a Belgium, being both born and raised there.

And never mind that the passport was likely faked, and the possible terrorist was not a Syrian refugee, as discussed in this Wall Street Journal article.

And why, one might ask, would a terrorist organization wish to plant a passport to stir up fear and animosity against the refugees. The reason is simple, it is because the vast majority of Muslims are against them and their terrorist tactics. It is because they know that most Muslims do not believe as they do. And so they set it up where we, in our fear and ignorance, will act in such a way so as to push the moderate Muslims into their arms. They want us to do the work of radicalizing the majority of Muslims, and in so doing grow their ranks for them.

And we, cowardly, ignorant, fools that we are, gladly do so. Governors are refusing to house the refugees. Republican Presidential candidates, supposedly bright and moral people of courageous convictions talk of not only not taking more refugees in but sending those we do have away. Others wish to use this as a pretext to take away the rights of some Americans, those who are Muslim. Warrantless searches, making them wear a special ID, refusing to build new mosques or tearing down ones already built. When it comes to Muslims and refugees our fears are turning us into Nazi’s

And in our fear of the terrorist, we wind up helping them recruit new followers. We make their lies about us true.

Religious liberty! Hah! Only for the Jew and Christians. They can live by their laws as they wish. But not the Muslim. The U.S. wants to ban them from doing so.

Religious liberty! Hah! Only for the Jews and Christians. They can build churches and synagogues where they wish. But Muslims trying to build a mosque face protests and refusals. Even the attempt to create a Muslim cemetery resulted in protests and a massive effort to deny them.

A land of hope and opportunity, a haven for those in need. Hah, they turn away hurt and crippled children. Unless they are Christian.

Some talk of the risk that a terrorist may sneak in among the refugees. They say that we need to ensure that the US has a proper vetting process to keep the terrorists out. This includes all manner of politicians and presidential candidates.

Ignorant fools.

Our vetting process already takes 18 to 24 months. As this Atlantic Monthly article discusses, this includes background checks by the UN Commission for Refugees as well as background checks by every intelligence and security agency the U.S. has – Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Defense Department and others. In addition to these background checks these refugees face multiple interviews as well as a physical exam. This is the most secure and thorough vetting process we have.

The result of this vetting? Of the 784,000 refugees that the U.S. has accepted since September 11, 2001 only three people have been arrested for terrorist activities. “None of them were close to executing an attack inside the U.S., and two of the men were caught trying to leave the country to join terrorist groups overseas.”

So I call bullshit on all of those governors and Republican presidential candidates who say we need to examine and modify our vetting process, that we don’t have one. They are in the position to know better and should. They are using the politics of fear to gain power.

As for those who are buying into that fear and hatred – get informed. Don’t stay so ignorant – it is a disease that can be cured. Do not let your fears and bias keep you blind.

People such as the Syrian refugees are why we have a refugee program, so that we can live up to the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. Words that we have a dismal history of failing to live up to, but one that I hope we will someday.

So despite our ideals, despite our extensive and successful vetting, despite the desperate need we say, “No, never mind all of that. We reject you, we deny our shared common humanity, we deny our own stated ideals and values. We are instead afraid of you, of refugees such as the family whose five year old daughter lost a leg in the violence in Syria and whose 11 year old son lost two fingers. No, we quiver in fear and turn a blind eye to you and with a cold and hardened heart turn you away, reject you. Just as we have done other refugees in the past.”

And in so doing, in so saying, we provide immeasurable help to the enemy, the violent Islamic extremists.

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Unlike France which has announced that even after the attacks they are not only still committed to taking in 20,000 refugees but will now take in 30,000 Americans seemingly have no moral courage and empathy for those in need.

Fools. Cowardly fools.

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I am currently reading, and greatly enjoying, a book by Ray Raphael titled “Constitutional Myths”. It looks at various beliefs many if not most Americans hold about the Constitution, its creation, and the founders and evaluates how much truth there are to these beliefs –Taxes, Politics, Principles, etc. It generally finds a kernel of truth, or has so far, but finds that for the most part these myths do not hold up well to the reality.

Now, having read quite a bit about the origin of our Constitution, I knew, in broad outlines at least, a great deal of this information. But this book is providing a great deal more details and also puts it together in ways that made me more aware of things that in my previous readings I had just passed on by.

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Given our current political climate, I thought a few comments on these might be of interest.

First and foremost – the Constitution was a compromise from beginning to end. I doubt that there were any of its writers who were satisfied and happy with it. Madison, Washington, Hamilton, and others have written letters stating this. Gouverneur Morris said that although he continued to have serious objections to this plan he would “take it with all its faults”. This was a common refrain.

Next, was the sheer amount of politics involved in this – politics at its worse. We often portray the founders are dealing solely with great principles of government and being guided by reason and a concern for what is best for all. However, the reality is that while that was partly the basis of their deliberations there was an equal, if not more, amount of self-interest, regional politics, and political wheeling and dealing and bluster. Issues such as how to best ensure representation for both small and large states, slavery, and other issues almost scuttled the whole process many times. In fact, the vitriol and rancor involved in these deliberations was probably almost as great as what we see today in Congress. Their saving grace though was a willingness to make a deal and compromise.

In fact, the electoral college was one of those comprises between intransigent groups. It was mainly between those small states who wanted one state one vote and the larger states who wanted votes based upon a state’s population, What I found interesting in this is that they also tossed in the House being the only one who could initiate money bills – something that had been defeated in an earlier vote establishing the Great Compromise on the Senate and House representation. This was tossed in to sweeten the deal for the larger states so that they would buy off on a Presidential election system that somewhat favored the smaller states. Today too many are willing to stand totally on principle and then condemn those who would work to find compromises.

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Also, in light of how many are touting state’s rights and pointing back to the founders, I found it interesting how many of them not only were not strong supporters of state’s rights but also saw them as a danger to the nation. Madison and Washington (along with one other delegate whose name escapes me right now) before the convention had corresponded about some ideas of what should go into a new Constitution. One such idea was that the national government should have the power to review laws passed by the states and veto them if they found them inappropriate. At the end of the convention both Madison and Washington still considered the lack of such a mechanism a great flaw in the Constitution.

In fact, Madison was against the Great Compromise that had the House being set by a state’s population whereas the Senate had each state equally represented regardless of population, and argued strongly against it. “Whatever reason might have existed for the quality of suffrage when the Union was a federal one among sovereign States, it must cease when a national Government should be put into the place.”

Another point that was made was that taxes were the reason for the Constitutional convention and was one of the main motives for the creation of the Constitution. To be clearer, it was the necessity for the national government to have the strong ability to tax and raise revenue. After seeing the results of trying to create a functional government under the Articles of Confederation and knowing how vital a sure revenue stream was for good government, the lack of such was a major failure of that government and a major reason for the convening of the Constitutional Convention.

Finally, although I have not gotten to the chapter about Originalism, what I have read so far just henrycc2reinforces my own thoughts from prior readings – the idea that we can interpret the Constitution based on what the founders originally thought is balderdash.

First, the word “founders” presupposes that all or most of the founders thought the same way and agreed. They most assuredly did not. As I mentioned, the Constitution was a compromise document in which most had serious reservations on at least part of its provisions (which part varied by person). Further, as soon as the Constitution was ratified and started to be applied to specific issues of the day you would find the writers of that Constitution lined up on opposite sides of almost each and every issue. If those at the convention who wrote and signed the Constitution together could not agree on how to understand and apply it, what chance does discerning original intent today have?

To make this even more complicated, thoughts about the Constitution and how to interpret and apply it changed over time. For example, Madison’s thoughts from just after the ratification of the Constitution and his thoughts at the end of his life about the interpretation of the constitution changed. So too, did many others.

Given that our founders did not speak with a unified voice and their thoughts and ideas on the Constitution also changed over time, the idea of discerning original intent seems more of a chimera than a rational and realistic approach. It will be interesting to see what Raphael has to say at the end of the book.

For those Americans who are interested in the origins of or constitution “Constitutional Myths” is not a bad place to start. I know I am greatly looking forwards to finishing this book.

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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The Pew Research Foundation released a poll about the troubles happening in Ferguson Missouri the other day that, while it doesn’t surprise me, still greatly concerns me. The findings of that poll were:

Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.” Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about of whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown’s death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.
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By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
Fully 65% of African Americans say the police have gone too far in responding to the shooting’s aftermath. Whites are divided: 33% say the police have gone too far, 32% say the police response has been about right, while 35% offer no response.
Whites also are nearly three times as likely as blacks to express at least a fair amount of confidence in the investigations into the shooting. About half of whites (52%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the investigations, compared with just 18% of blacks. Roughly three-quarters of blacks (76%) have little or no confidence in the investigations, with 45% saying they have no confidence at all.

This same distrust of the police in Ferguson by blacks is also seen more generally in other polls, such as a recent Gallup poll.

All of these reactions are symptomatic of the underlying gap in the ways whites and blacks view the police in the U.S. today. Blacks have significantly lower levels of confidence in the police as an institution, and lower assessments of the honesty and ethics of police officers specifically.

Why this difference between how most blacks view Ferguson and the justice system and how whites view the same?

Is it because blacks are lazy and wanting handouts; to be coddled and want to moan and groan about how hard they have it rather than actually working to improve their own black culture?

Is it because whites want to protect their privileges; hate or dislike minorities of any sort, but especially the blacks?

While there may be a small minority of whites and blacks to whom this applies, for the most part both answers are wrong. I think what is needed is for all of those involved to walk a mile, or better, many miles in the other’s shoes. Let me say here that while I think it necessary for both whites and blacks to walk those miles, it is more important that whites do so. Whether they believe Elaine Riddick,Tony Riddickthere is a real problem or not the fact is that whites have the greater power. The system gives them that power both economically, politically, and in terms of justice. Those with the power almost always have the greater responsibility to correct and fix the problem. Besides, too many whites are in denial and have to play catch up. Until they do, until most whites recognize that there is a real problem in regards to race, nothing will happen. Blacks already know there is one, which puts them one step ahead.
For those whites who do not see this as a racial issue and believe that race it too often blamed and talked about, that we live in a post-racial age – I would ask, have you ever considered polls such as the Pew poll I quoted from? Or the Gallup poll I mentioned? You do not get that amount of suspicion, that amount of mistrust of the justice system on the part of blacks unless something is causing it.

In addition to the polls, consider the following facts:

  • A 2013 report by the Public Advocate Office of New York City found that when stopped by police and frisked it took “93 stops of African Americans to find a weapon” while a weapon was found on a white person “in one out of every 49 stops” . It took “61 stops of African Americans to find contraband” , but only 43 stops of whites to find contraband. Despite this, and despite whites being a larger share of New York’s population than blacks, blacks still constituted “84 percent of all stops” by the police.
  • According to the Death Penalty Information Center, even though only 50% of the murder victims were white, over 75% of the cases that resulted in the death penalty had white victims. A 2011 study by Pierce and Radelet found that in some parts of Louisiana “the odds of a death sentence are still 97% higher for those who kill whites than for those who kill blacks. These results are remarkably consistent with general findings from previous research across a multitude of jurisdictions in the United States over the last 30 years
  •  A 2013 analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found prison sentences for blacks were 20% longer than for whites convicted of similar crimes

These few facts are only a small sampling of similar facts that are backed up by a large number of studies showing that the belief of blacks that our justice system is not blind and favors the white person is accurate. Even more, it not only favors the white person, but harangues, harasses, and can be an active danger to blacks.

blackgirlsconfinementBut, go beyond those numerous studies showing racial bias within our justice system and spend some time talking and, more importantly, really listening to blacks. For example, one of the companies I worked for had a production plant in an almost all white community. My black workers all had stories to tell of police who would pull them over and question them as to why they were there and what they were doing. They would often leave early every day to ensure that on those days there were pulled over they would not be late to work. This happened despite the fact that these workers had no outstanding tickets or warrants, had no defect with their car, and were not given any tickets.

Do I really need to say that my white workers very, very rarely got pulled over. And this is only a mild version of what blacks experience.

The miles walked in the other’s shoes is for the white to understand that there is a racial problem in the United States so that they will take action. Because I hear it so often, I know that many whites will point to police shootings of unarmed white men and of police mistreating white people too. And it does happen, and I discuss one such story shortly. However, when you take a look at how often it happens, it happens much more often with blacks. In fact, while it is not difficult to find a white person who has had no problem with the police, it is very difficult to find a black person who has not had difficulties with the police. Often multiple times. And that difference is significant and troubling, and needs to be corrected if we are ever to have a truly just society.

I also know that many will point to all the laws that have been changed and enacted and then say “Surely justice is blind now!” However, it is not. The reason for this is that laws and the workings of the justice system consists of much more than just words on paper. Words on pages cannot do anything. It takes people to carry out the meanings of those words – police, judges, lawyers, jurors, etc. And if people are still biased and make judgments based on a person’s race, then even though the laws may be color blind, their enactment is not.

For the blacks the walk is needed in order to understand that this problem is usually not the result of overt racism, but the more subtle unconscious bias and bigotry that influence reactions and views. Fortunately, today people who are overtly and almost rabidly racist are a minority. Most Americans would say that they are not prejudiced and do not discriminate. Yet the facts show that most do. The reason for this discrepancy is due to unconscious attitudes and biases that even the most liberal of people can have in regards to race; biases and attitudes that have prevented our justice system from living up to her blindfolded standards, despite the advances made in our legal codes.

For example, which would you find most threatening when walking down a dark street at night, a black man or a white one? If you say black, then when serving on a jury for someone who shot in “self-defense” an unarmed black man because she felt threatened and at risk, you are probably more likely to sympathize with her and to either let her off or give her a lighter sentence. After all, you know from your own experience that a black person is threatening.

In Benaji’s and Greenwald’s book Blind Spot The Hidden Biases of Good People, they compare our social knowledge to that of the eye in that both have blind spots. In regards to social knowledge, this consists of what we think we know about different social groups.

These bits of knowledge are stored in our brains because we encounter them so frequently in our cultural environments. Once lodged in our minds, hidden biases can influence our behavior toward members of particular social groups, but we remain oblivious to their influence.

With this sort of hidden bias in place even in good people, it becomes evident why our justice system still has racial equity problems. Police will become more suspicious more quickly with the actions of a black person than a white. When a white person charged with shooting a black person claims that they felt threatened, juries are more likely to believe that since they too feel more threatened by a black person than a white.

Injustice

To put this in the context of the shooting of Michael Brown, the officer could well not be racist in imagesregards to his beliefs. However, due to his unconscious biases he saw a threat and reacted to it even though it did not exist in reality, or he resorted to deadly force sooner than he might have if faced with a white person who he did not see as threatening. In other words, it was not malicious intent on the officer’s part, but unconscious bias. That is not to say that if the evidence shows he shot and killed Brown when he had his hands over his head that he should not suffer the consequences, only that the source of the problem needs to be adequately defined before we can ever hope to deal and correct this on-going social blight.

What makes this even worse is the fact that some of these actions on the part of police and others is not due to racism or unconscious bias. For example, Libby Anne in her Love Joy Feminism blog recounts her extremely frightening experience with a police officer. Libby is a white, college educated woman with no police record and who as pregnant and with her young son when this happened, and it really gave her a sense of what blacks must experience all too often. It is well worth reading.

Now, if you are white take a walk in a black person’s shoes now. You know that you have been stopped by the police for just being black. You have friends and family who may have experienced worse just for being black. If what happened to Libby had happened to you, wouldn’t you too put it down to racism instead of a bastard cop? It becomes hard to distinguish the reason for things such as what happened to Libby, but since racism still exists and makes its presence known in our society and our justice system, then it becomes too easy to ascribe all such actions to racism. Such actions are always wrong, yes, but not necessarily racist. But how does a black person tell the difference?

And so those whites who sit on their comfortable chairs and refuse to put on a black person’s shoes and take a stroll will point to those cases where the cause was not racism even though some blacks may have claimed it to be and then ignore all those other times when it was. And Ignore the fact that this sort of action is so common that it clouds many individual incidents and thereby makes it all worse.

To bring this back to Ferguson, did the officer fear Michael Brown because he was big or because he was big and black? This would not be a case of overt racism but one of hidden biases if so. Until we know for sure what happened it will be hard to say with certainty. The protestors in Ferguson do though have a right and cause to be upset. Too often such incidents become ignored and forgotten by the system. And given the disparity between the racial composition of Ferguson and of its police force, and the many documented incidents between police and citizens there, if I were there I would be protesting too.

04062012_Atticus_and_Tom_Robinson_in_court600_jpg_600

Until most whites acknowledge the flaws in our justice system in regards to race there will be no true solution. And the events of Ferguson will continue to tragically happen.

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