Saturday, April 24, 2010

How Many Rights

The questions from Thursday was, How many rights are guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States?

While the Bill of Rights guarantee that the citizens have many rights, just because many are listed doesn’t mean that is the full and complete list.

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were concerned about listing guaranteed rights for fear that people would think it was a complete list of rights.

They added the Ninth Amendment to let people know that there were other rights that are retained by the people, but not listed.

The answer: innumerable.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Citizenship as a Birthright

Senator Harry Reid (D-Utah) is being quoted as saying that immigration reform is not on the agenda. Well, as soon as a politico says such a thing, it usually means it is.

When immigration does come up again, many will be talking about changing the way citizenship is granted in America. Right now, there are two ways, you are born here or you are granted citizenship through a long application process. Many feel that just because a child is born in the United States while the mother is in the country illegally, the child should not be given automatic citizenship. But, the Fourteenth Amendment states that children born in the United States are citizens. It states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Those opposed to citizenship as a birthright argue that the Fourteenth Amendment was passed only to insure slaves would be citizens. This would deprive the southern states from enacting legislation that would only allow citizenship to those whose birthright goes back many generations. Therefore, preventing many former slaves from voting.

Assuring citizenship to former slaves was important. But, there was something else going on in America at the time. By the end of the Civil War there were large immigrant populations that had arrived over the last 20 years. As chronicled in both, “A Different Mirror” by Ronald Takaki and “The Party of Fear” by David H. Bennett, these immigrant populations were not well liked. One of many reasons is they were having an impact on the politics of the still young country. These populations represented large voting blocks in many northern states.

Before the Fourteenth Amendment citizenship was granted by the state you lived in. If states didn’t grant citizenship, chances are you were not a citizen of the country. The southern states knew that all they had to do was pass state laws sharply restricting citizenship to former slaves to prevent them from voting.

This was of great concern to the immigrants in the northern states. Many were born elsewhere, or were the first born here. If the northern states started doing the same thing, many of the new immigrants from European countries could lose their citizenship. So, the northern states supported a clause of the Fourteenth that would automatically granted citizenship to all people born in the country.

As a country, we may decide to make some changes in the way citizenship is granted. That would take a change in the Fourteenth amendment, or, perhaps a challenge to the interpretation of the amendment by the Supreme Court (the subject of another post at a later date). But, until then, birthright citizenship is there for everyone born in the country.

As a nation of immigrants, we should not change what has made us strong.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Question of the Week

Question of the week.

How many rights are guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States?

Come back Saturday for the answer.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Terrorist are Common Criminals

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CN) is expanding the legal fight to attain information on the Fort Hood shootings in November of last year. He is issuing a subpoena to obtain information that Lieberman claims the Obama administration is holding. The Homeland Security panel is investigating the shootings because it has been described as an act of terrorism. It is believed that Major Nidal Hasan had been in contact with Islamic clerics and may have acted out of opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

This is legitimate power that the congress holds and the Obama administration should cooperate with the panel in its investigation. Hopefully, the panel is aware that some of the information should not be released because it will weaken the case against Hasan. But, the senate has not only the right but the responsibility to investigate this tragic crime in an open forum.

It appears though, that the senator is proceeding with the investigation because of the contact with the Islamic clerics. He has been quoted discussing this issue many times. Since 9/11, any act of violence that is connected with Islam is automatically characterized as terrorism. Even in this case when Hasan is a United State citizen and a US military officer.

It must be asked if the Homeland Security panel of the senate will also investigate the Hutaree Militia. Their plan according to the FBI was to force a revolt in the country by killing police officers. The revolt was necessary because of what they believe is the government’s illegal involvement in the lives of everyday citizens. It isn’t connected to Islam but was connected to a Christian church in Michigan.

The use of violence is wrong. It doesn’t matter what the religion is. To have a senate level investigation into a an act of violence by a United State citizen in the Fort Hood shootings just because the shooter talked with a Islamic cleric is one thing. But to not also investigate other acts of “terrorism” because it was a Christian right wing group is wrong.

The people that commit these acts are criminals, killers that need to be dealt with like any other criminal. To raise their status to “terrorist” just because they talked with clerics of any religion is to dignify their crimes in a way that encourages more violence.

Don’t give these killers honor by giving them a higher status.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Money for Minds that Hate

“If you want money for minds that hate, count me out”. So goes the lyrics to the famous Beatle’s song, Revolution.

A cache of weapons was found in the woods in Clare County as reported in the Oakland Press on line, April 14, 2010. At this moment, it isn’t clear what the weapons were for, but law abiding people don’t stash their weapons in the woods under some old logs.

There was also the arrest of members of a militia group called the Huratee. The FBI accuses them of planning to kill police officers. Then, when others officers came to the funeral, they would kill them. All of this in hope that the killings would cause an uprising.

Also, It has been reported that at least 30 governor’s in the country have received a letter asking (demanding I think it really said, but not sure at this point since I have not seen a letter) them to leave office in three days or they will be removed. If this country was run by some repressive regime that was in power because the military has more arms than the general population, I might say – as the song goes – show me the plan.

But, this is America. As much as you may disagree with the current people in power, we don’t change our government by threats and intimation. Peaceful protest, organizing and voting is the way the government is changed.

In the past dramatic change has occurred by voting. The New Deal, the Civil Rights legislation and the Health Care bill would not have been possible if not for the big shift in voting blocks.

We have a constitution that clearly outlines how change is done. This document provides a plan for changing government that hasn’t failed yet. While a crisis may occasionally arise, we have all worked it out peacefully, with a nod to the civil war.

We have a court system that has managed to stay independent of the other two branches. The Supreme Court in particular has made many important decisions that struck down legislation that was popular at the time, but didn’t square with the Constitution.

But more than any other institution that we have in this country, it is a well developed political culture that is balanced on both sides that will help us. It is our very own American Political DNA that works well. Through history and experience we have well established ways of adjusting the policies of the country.

Let’s move back from the edge just a moment. As a Responsible Community we need to show a little respect for the law and our institutions. If we do, and work within the system for change, “Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right”.

Seems the Beatles knew what they were talking about.