Posts tagged ‘Bill of Rights’

I Have a Dream!

I say to you, my friends, even though we face difficulties today, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. I have a dream, that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

I have a dream, that one day all across this country, all people will …. [more]

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The Black NRA and Sarah Silverman

ZoNATION: The Black N.R.A.? More like the Fake N.R.-eh?

There is hope for the Bill of Rights.

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I Have a Dream

I say to you, my friends, even though we face difficulties today, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. I have a dream, that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

I have a dream, that one day all across this country, all people will sit down together voluntarily at the table of brotherhood without being compelled by the heavy hand of the state or by forces of political correctness. (And especially free of the heavy, groping hands of strangers dressed up as TSA agents touching our children and our private parts.)

I have a dream, that one day even the state of California, a state suffering from the heavy hand of the government, being oppressed with high taxes and numerous regulations, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and liberty, and its elected officials will recognize that those who govern least govern best.

I have a dream, that one day all of our children will be literate, numerate, and have a basic understanding of economics (TANSTAAFL).

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Government by consent of the governed

There are village tyrants, as well as village Hampdens, but none who acts under color of law is beyond reach of the Constitution.
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The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.

Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 1943 (emphasis added)

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Modern Witch Trials

Who is Lawrence O’Donnell?

In one sense, O’Donnell isn’t to blame for what he did. He didn’t claim to be a criminal defense lawyer, knowledgeable in the ways we think, act and work. He is what he purports to be, a talking head on a third-rate cable channel watched by insomniacs and people wearing elaborate hats made of tin foil. But then, these tend to be the types of folks who are most easily misled, most impressionable, as they lack the radar that enables them to distinguish reality from the O’Donnells of the tube. These are the people seeking confirmation bias, validation of their wildest imaginings, and if some guy on TV says so, then so it must be. Proof that they were right all along!
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Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a criminal defense lawyer anywhere who would explain that the only reason a defendant doesn’t testify is because he’s guilty. That’s just crazy. I mean, totally batshit nuts. It’s simply not true.

And yet anyone watching O’Donnell will leave the couch thinking they now know the magic secret of the inside world of criminal defense, and carry that stupidity with them as they speak with friends, teach their children and, pathetically, sit on a jury.

It would be one thing for O’Donnell to hold a foolish opinion if it was just something he trotted out at the occasional cocktail party, but when a guy has a television soapbox, with its inherent credibility as an entertainer paid to fill in the voids between commercials, he can do some serious damage. And no doubt he did.

To Talk Inside Baseball, You Have To Be Inside Baseball

We don’t need no stinkin’ bill of rights. “Racists” are the new witches, the new heretics.

It’s like a never-ending onslaught of destroying people’s rights lately! Did no one take civics class in high school?? What is wrong with people lately?! Recently, this little piece by Lawrence O’Donnell from MSNBC started circulating on Twitter. And I saw it. And it made my head almost explode.
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This thought process, this complete and utter shitting on the Constitutional rights we’re all guaranteed, this idea that we don’t have to grant “bad” people–people charged w/ crimes–the full panoply of rights and presumptions because we’ve decided we don’t like those bad people…that’s why we’re all in trouble. Eventually, we’ll erode these precious rights down to nothing and everything this country was founded on–all the things that people fought and died for–all those principles will be meaningless. Because we decided we were going to ignore the right to remain silent because only guilty people remain silent.

And, for what it’s worth, if I were ever arrested even if I did nothing wrong, I would 1) not consent to any searches; 2) not agree to talk to police; 3) immediately demand a lawyer to be present for any questioning; and 4) probably wouldn’t testify. You know why?? BECAUSE I CAN. Because it’s my right to do all of those things. And it’s yours, too, despite what blowhards like Lawrence O’Donnell may think.

Where are we going? And why are we in this handbasket?

Strength in Unity! Forward!

Already this morning, television news has broadcast the twits of New York City politicians and candidates following the verdict. They have the potential to enlighten, to calm, to inform. Instead, they are pandering and inflaming the passions and ignorance of the public, playing the confirmation bias card.

Whether they too lack a working grasp of our legal system, or know better and just don’t care, is unclear. Either way, a million people could end the day stupider than it began. Is it worth a vote? Don’t answer.

Zimmerman: No Appeal From The Court of Public Opinion (Update)

The pro-Trayvon campaign shows how illiberal ‘anti-racism’ has become.
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These accusations of racism might sound radical, but they aren’t. Today, we’re told, the roots of racial conflict are not found in government policy (Obama and others are seen as anti-racist), nor among the elites generally (it is gauche to espouse such views in polite circles), nor even so much among the police. Instead, the blame for racism is put squarely on the shoulders of working-class types like Zimmerman.

There is a terrible irony to the response to the Zimmerman verdict: it is those who profess to be on the side of Martin and justice, who claim to be anti-racist, who are really promoting prejudice and illiberal solutions. The pro-Trayvon lobby promotes explicit prejudice against ignorant jurors, against crazed men carrying guns, against ‘white Hispanics’ and others who fail to appreciate all races. It is also the loudest critic of basic legal principles, such as innocence until proven guilty and reasonable doubt. The whole thing reveals how what now passes for ‘anti-racism’ has become a divisive outlook with authoritarian overtones.

Who’s really promoting prejudice? (emphasis added)

Budding fascists.

Also see “A fool’s competition: who can be more ignorant about the Constitution?

The government should not punish people for their beliefs.
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Double jeopardy.
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Although it was predictable that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would demand federal charges against Zimmerman after he was acquitted, it is sad to see the American Civil Liberties Union, which should be standing up for the rights of unpopular defendants, jumping on this bandwagon. In a statement issued on Sunday, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said “it is imperative that the Department of Justice thoroughly examine whether the Martin shooting was a federal civil rights violation or hate crime.”

In other words, the ACLU is calling for a federal inquiry into an acquitted defendant’s beliefs with the aim of justifying a second prosecution for the same crime. What part of that says “civil liberties” to you?

4 Reasons to Reject Federal Charges Against George Zimmerman

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Low Information Voters and the Bill of Rights

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Police State

There’s certainly a lot of overlap between the war on drugs and police militarization. But if we go back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were two trends developing simultaneously. The first was the development and spread of SWAT teams. Darryl Gates started the first SWAT team in L.A. in 1969. By 1975, there were 500 of them across the country. They were largely a reaction to riots, violent protest groups like the Black Panthers and Symbionese Liberation Army, and a couple mass shooting incidents, like the Texas clock tower massacre in 1966.

At the same time, Nixon was declaring an “all-out war on drugs.” He was pushing policies like the no-knock raid, dehumanizing drug users and dealers, and sending federal agents to storm private homes on raids that were really more about headlines and photo-ops than diminishing the supply of illicit drugs.

How Cops Became Soldiers: An Interview with Police Militarization Expert Radley Balko

Overarmed federal officials increasingly employ military tactics as a first resort in routine law enforcement. From food-safety cases to mundane financial matters, battle-ready public employees are turning America into the United States of SWAT.

FBI agents and U.S. marshals understandably are well fortified, given their frequent run-ins with ruthless bad guys. However — as my old friend and fellow columnist Quin Hillyer notes — armed officers, if not Special Weapons and Tactics crews, populate these federal agencies: the National Park Service; the Postal Inspection Service; the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Labor, and Veterans Affairs; the Bureaus of Land Management and Indian Affairs; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Even Small Business Administration and Railroad Retirement Board staffers pack heat!
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The police lie? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

But are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.

That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly. Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

Stop-and-Frisk Watch App – MY ACLU

Numerous scandals involving police officers lying or planting drugs — in Tulia, Tex. and Oakland, Calif., for example — have been linked to federally funded drug task forces eager to keep the cash rolling in.
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The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.

Why Police Lie Under Oath – Cato

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Google Books

(Elizabeth Ritter and Coward County Sheriffs “Officers”)
Nothing to see here, move along.

Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP)

The Agitator – Radley Balko

[A]n innocent man was convicted of murdering a Brooklyn rabbi in 1990. Chaskel Werzberger, an adviser to the Satmar rebbe, was fatally shot by a would-be robber who stole his car while fleeing the scene of a bungled diamond heist. David Ranta, now 58, has been in prison since 1991 for the crime, based mainly on testimony from self-interested witnesses who later admitted they had lied and a detective’s uncorroborated report of a confession that Ranta has always denied making. Powell and Otterman report that “four of the five witnesses in the first lineup did not identify Mr. Ranta.” Furthermore, the eyewitness who should have gotten the clearest look at Werzberger’s killer, the diamond courier he tried to rob, testified at the trial that Ranta was “100 percent not” the right man. The jury evidently gave more weight to other witnesses, including one who was 13 at the time and now says a detective told him to pick Ranta out of a lineup.

In 1996, five years after Ranta began serving his sentence, a woman testified that her husband, an armed robber who was identified by an anonymous tipster as Werzberger’s killer shortly after the crime but died in a car crash a few months later, had confessed to her. But that was not enough to win Ranta a new trial. “I figured I was going to die in prison,” he told the Times. Since then, Powell and Otterman write, “nearly every piece of evidence in this case has fallen away,” including the testimony of a criminal who avoided a potential life sentence by claiming to have been Ranta’s accomplice. This week Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, who was elected to his first term the year before Werzberger’s murder, announced that he was recommending Ranta’s release based on an investigation by a unit that Hynes created to uncover wrongful convictions. Powell and Otterman’s story shows how the pressure to solve a high-profile murder, a criminal’s incentive to lie in exchange for more lenient treatment, and a cop’s determination to convict someone he’s sure is guilty can combine to create a terrible injustice.

When a Cop Claims a Murder Suspect Confessed, Ask for the Tape

Photography is Not A Crime (PINAC)

Simple Justice – A New York Criminal Defense Blog

Bill of Rights card


Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. We also need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT) and to prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading.

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George Wythe “Teacher of Liberty” (1726-1806)

George Wythe (pronounced “with”) was the personal mentor to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison (1749-1812) [a cousin to the more famous James Madison], John Marshall, and many other notable founders of the United States. Consequently, he was known as America’s “Teacher of Liberty.”

A statesman in his own right, Wythe signed the Declaration of Independence, served in the First Continental Congress, and was a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He also helped develop the Bill of Rights. While teaching at the College of William and Mary, he was the first professor to make American Constitutional Law the subject of regular instruction.

About George Wythe University

Wythe House in Colonial Williamsburg, VA, by Bradley Jones

Wythe House in Colonial Williamsburg, VA, by Bradley Jones

His grave is in the yard of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, VA.
Source: America’s Founding Fathers: Virginia, National Archives

George Wythe, from William and Mary Law School

George Wythe, from William and Mary Law School

The first chair of law in America and the second in the English-speaking world was established December 4, 1779, at the College of William and Mary. The College’s board of visitors included among others Governor Thomas Jefferson, James Blair, James Madison (1749-1812) [a cousin to the more famous James Madison], Edmund Randolph, Thomas Nelson, and Benjamin Harrison. They elected as the first professor to occupy that chair George Wythe, styled by Jefferson as the American Aristides.
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[Thomas] Jefferson said of Wythe, “He was my ancient master, my earliest and best friend, and to him I am indebted for first impressions which have had the most salutary influence on the course of my life.”

Besides Jefferson, Wythe at one time or another taught John Marshall, James Monroe, Edmund Randolph, and Henry Clay. Thus the mind of George Wythe, acting through those whom he had trained, dominated the policies of this republic for fully fifty years, and is still a potent force.

George Wythe: William & Mary’s – and the nation’s – first law professor, W&M Law School

Seals of Virginia, B&W

Seals of Virginia, B&W

Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Encyclopedia Virginia

Wythe played a role in creating [Virginia’s] new constitution and served with Jefferson on the committee that revised Virginia’s laws. Wythe also sat on the committee to design Virginia’s seal.

Jefferson wrote a brief sketch of Wythe near the end of his own lifetime.

George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Monticello.

Virginia Seal, color
Sic semper tyrannis

(letter) I became acquainted with Mr. Wythe when he was about thirty-five years of age. He directed my studies in the law, led me into business, and continued, until death, my most affectionate friend. A close intimacy with him, during that period of forty odd years, the most important of his life, enables me to state its leading facts, which, being of my own knowledge, I vouch their truth. Of what precedes that period, I speak from hearsay only, in which there may be error, but of little account, as the character of the facts will themselves manifest. In the epoch of his birth I may err a little, stating that from the recollection of a particular incident, the date of which, within a year or two, I do not distinctly remember. These scanty outlines, you will be able, I hope, to fill up from other information, and they may serve you, sometimes, as landmarks to distinguish truth from error, in what you hear from others. The exalted virtue of the man will also be a polar star to guide you in all matters which may touch that element of his character. But on that you will receive imputation from no man; for, as far as I know, he never had an enemy. Little as I am able to contribute to the just reputation of this excellent man, it is the act of my life most gratifying to my heart: and leaves me only to regret that a waning memory can do no more.
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(notes) George Wythe was born about the year 1727 or 1728, of a respectable family in the county of Elizabeth City, on the shores of the Chesapeake. He inherited, from his father, a fortune sufficient for independence and ease. He had not the benefit of a regular education in the schools, but acquired a good one of himself, and without assistance; insomuch, as to become the best Latin and Greek scholar in the state. It is said, that while reading the Greek Testament, his mother held an English one, to aid him in rendering the Greek text conformably with that. He also acquired, by his own reading, a good knowledge of Mathematics, and of Natural and Moral Philosophy. He engaged in the study of the law under the direction of a Mr. Lewis, of that profession, and went early to the bar of the General Court, then occupied by men of great ability, learning, and dignity in their profession. He soon became eminent among them, and, in process of time, the first at the bar, taking into consideration his superior learning, correct elocution, and logical style of reasoning; for in pleading he never indulged himself with an useless or declamatory thought or word; and became as distinguished by correctness and purity of conduct in his profession, as he was by his industry and fidelity to those who employed him. He was early elected to the House of Representatives, then called the House of Burgesses, and continued in it until the Revolution. On the first dawn of that, instead of higgling on half-way principles, as others did who feared to follow their reason, he took his stand on the solid ground, that the only link of political union between us and Great Britain, was the identity of our Executive; that that nation and its Parliament had no more authority over us, than we had over them, and that we were co-ordinate nations with Great Britain and Hanover.

Letter to John Saunderson, Esq., Notes for the Biography of George Wythe, by Thomas Jefferson, August 31, 1820. (Copy of handwritten note at the Library of Congress.)

General Court in the Capitol, Williamsburg, James City County, VA, Library of Congress, csas200905870

General Court in the Capitol, Williamsburg, James City County, VA, Library of Congress, csas200905870

One person has estimated that Wythe instructed fewer than 200 pupils in the law, yet is is amazing what these students accomplished in later life. Students taught by George Wythe occupied almost every office this young nation had to offer, including President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Attorney General, U.S. Senator, Speaker of the U.S. House, Chief Justice, Associate Justice, federal District Judge, foreign Minister, Governor of Virginia, President of the Virginia Court of Appeals, member of the Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina legislatures, President of William and Mary, Professor of Law at both William and Mary and Transylvania, and Episcopal Bishop of Virginia. While some of the men who occupied such stations were taught by Wythe in a private capacity, it is also true that “no law school in America has since sent from its class rooms into public life, in the same length of time, if at all, an equal number of men of such amazing ability.”

Chapter 8 The Teaching of George Wythe, by Thomas Hunter, in “The History of Legal Education in the United States: Commentaries And Primary Sources, Volume 1, by Steve Sheppard and William Enfield. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1999, reprinted by Lawbook Exchange, 2007, pages 153-154, footnotes omitted.


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James Madison, Father of the Constitution (1751-1836)

Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

–James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention on Control of the Military, June 16, 1788 in: History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788, vol. 1, p. 130 (H.B. Grigsby ed. 1890). (Google Books)

James Madison, 4th President of the United Sates, is known as “Father of the Constitution” and “Father of the Bill of Rights” (1751-1836)

James Madison, Father of the Constitution, 4th President of the United States. Portrait by John Vanderlyn

James Madison, Father of the Constitution, 4th President of the United States. Portrait by John Vanderlyn

Born March 16, 1751, Madison was brought up in Orange County, Virginia, and attended Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey). A student of history and government, well-read in law, he participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution in 1776, served in the Continental Congress, and was a leader in the Virginia Assembly.

When delegates to the Constitutional Convention assembled at Philadelphia in 1787, the 36-year-old Madison took frequent and emphatic part in the debates.

Madison made a major contribution to the ratification of the Constitution by writing, with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, the Federalist Papers. In later years, when he was referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison protested that the document was not “the off-spring of a single brain,” but “the work of many heads and many hands.”

In Congress, he helped frame the Bill of Rights and enact the first revenue legislation. Out of his leadership in opposition to Hamilton’s financial proposals, which he felt would unduly bestow wealth and power upon northern financiers, came the development of the Republican, or Jeffersonian, Party.

Source: James Madison – White House

When James Madison’s second term as president ended in 1817, he and Dolley retired to Montpelier. In retirement Madison stayed active and interested in politics. In 1819 he founded the American Colonization Society dedicated to freeing slaves and transporting them to the West Coast of Africa. Madison served on the board of visitors at the University of Virginia, and briefly came out of retirement at the age of 79 to attend the 1829 Virginia Constitutional Convention. On June 28, 1836, James Madison died at Montpelier at the age of 85 and was buried in the Madison Family Cemetery on the mansion grounds.

Source:James Madison: Retirement and Death,” James Madison’s Montpelier



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