Friday, May 21, 2010

Who Will Decide the Truth for Voters

Sinclair Broadcasting thinks they have the responsibility to do just that.

Television Station WPGH in Pittsburgh, owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad this week. The station management did not return phone calls to news organizations requesting comment on the issue. Other stations in the market said they would continue to air the commercial as scheduled.

Kent Gates, a political adviser for Tim Burns, the Republican candidate who is the target of the pulled ad, says that it, "falsely claims Tim Burns supports a 23 percent national sales tax and wants to ship jobs overseas." Burns is running against Democrat Mark Critz in a special election last Tuesday, May 18, 2010, for the late John Murtha's seat. Some sources that are familiar with both the station and the Republican campaign claim that FactCheck supports the claims by the Burn’s campaign.

FactCheck also states that both sides are airing ads that are "chock full of false and misleading claims." But, of all the ads that are being aired and run in the market, only Sinclair pulled the Democratic supported commercial.

But, is the community best served by having the media determine what we see and what we don’t in a political campaign?

It is the voter that ultimately must decide what is important. To have a media outlet determine for the voter what is fact sets up the opportunity to have corporations choose what goes on the air based on a political point of view they may support. (While FactCheck, the website that Sinclair appears to have used to support their action, also said other commercials where wrong, yet, Sinclair didn’t withdraw those commercials. This indicates that the broadcaster took a position in the election.) FactCheck.org, as an example, doesn’t ask for commercials to be removed or force commercials off the air, they research the statements and provide supporting evidence for their conclusions. Voters can go to web sites like FactCheck for their own research. Additionally, it will help the voter decide who to vote for by knowing what outrageous claims are being made by candidates.

In the end, the collective intelligence of a well informed community about all sides of a political decision is better than one that is receiving filtered information. Sinclair Broadcasting didn’t serve their community in an open and fair way by refusing to air a commercial that didn’t support their own political position.

But, apparently, the voters saw through all of that. Mark Critz, the Democrat, won the election, not the candidate that Sinclair supported.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Supreme Court Rules about Life Sentence for Children

A child can’t be sentenced to life in prison without a chance for parole for crimes less than murder the Supreme Court has ruled. The court strongly asserted the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eight Amendment in the ruling.

In Florida, Terrance Graham, was 16 when he was involved in a armed robbery while out on parole. The prosecutors rightfully tossed his parole agreement and pursued charges for the armed robbery. The jury and the court found him guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison without chance for parole. He is now 22 years of age. (It is believed that Florida doesn’t have a parole system for any prisoner.)

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that few underage individuals, only 129 in all of American and 77 of those in Florida, were sentenced to life without parole. Most jurisdictions allow a prisoner to demonstrate he has reformed and should be allowed to return to society. Sense there are only 129 cases in the country that don’t allow a chance for review, the court decided it was cruel and unusual. Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with Kennedy along with four other justices.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from them majority. They believed, as Thomas wrote, that the court was imposing “its own sense of morality and retributive justice". He believes that states should have the right to impose such sentences as supported by the voters.

During the colonial times, there were forms of punishment that if applied to today’s standards would be judged to be cruel and unusual. Lawbreakers at the time could be whipped, placed in a stockade in the town square or hanged for more than just the crime of murder, in some cases, petty theft. Many representatives that attended the Several States Convention to write a new Constitution in 1787 were concerned that if the Eight Amendment was adopted, many of the punishments that were currently used at the time would be deemed cruel if not also unusual.

To accept the current court ruling as being appropriate, there must be a way to reconcile the Eight Amendment with shifting standards. The answer is embedded in the debate that the representatives engaged in at the convention. They supported a vaguely worded amendment that would allow each generation to apply their own standards of punishment. It wasn’t because they didn’t believed they had the right answers about crime and punishment. It was with the wisdom to know that perhaps better ways could be developed that were less cruel and unusual but still provide the deterrent that is needed. This, of course, would need to be determined by each generation based on the amount of crime and the sensitivities of the public (voters) at the time.

With only 129 children held without parole, it seems that the that voters through their judges, prosecutors and legislative bodies have made their sensitivities about crime and punishment very clear.

The court ruled with a well reasoned opinion that supports the community.

(1) The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Constitution 111 by Jonathan Elliot

Monday, May 17, 2010

End illegal immigration in five steps

We can end illegal immigration with 5 difficult but worthwhile steps. These are not solutions from the moment. These are what have be gleaned from years of research from all sides of the political spectrum. But, be careful, we will need to support these solutions with a functioning budget of people, time and money.

1) Enact a national identification program that is real and tough for everyone. Until we are sure who is here legally we can’t expect anyone to up hold the law. That means that every one that lives in the country must have documents that prove they are a legal worker or a citizen. This has received very strong opposition from all sides. There is the fear of the government intruding on our lives and a severe loss of privacy. But, that is the cost that must be paid.

2) Enforce the law about employing the undocumented worker. This must be done on the national level, not the local or state level. Unless every employer understands very clearly what they need to do to make sure their work force is legal, they will make mistakes at the very least and ignore on the most flagrant level. If each state has different rules, employers will have a huge bureaucratic problem.

Employers, small and large, must also believe that I.C.E. (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) could arrive at any moment for an employee audit. Employers must be obligated to document that each employee is legally employable in this country. If they can’t, they must pay a fine that is far greater than the risk of being caught.

Now comes the hard part, but these solution must also be developed otherwise the first two will not work.

3) Manage the border, not control it. Let them in if they can prove who they are. After all, we let thousands if not millions in everyday so they can vacation in this wonderful country. This will mean the United States must work with other countries to insure that all parties are properly documenting everyone. If they can’t get a job because of point two, what will they do? They will spend money, see relatives and go home.

This also means that those that are already here will be able to return to their host country with the knowledge that they can return. Right now, the illegal worker doesn’t go home occasionally or at the end of the work season because they may not be able to return. So, instead they stay.

Additionally, the people who now patrol the border trying to control it, will be able to do the real work of keeping the bad guys out.

4) Provide a path to legalizations. Every generation since the turn of the last century has done this. The only way the illegal’s will come out of the shadows of black market employment is by the security of knowing that they will be able continue to live and work in America. With other measures that are enacted, they will receive pressure from their employers to turn legal. This will be in the best interest of companies to help their employees since enforcement from I.C.E. will mean heavy fines if they don’t.

5) Finally, build the economies of the host countries. People don’t leave their families, their communities and their countries unless they have to. Some do leave for wonder lust or political reasons, but for the most part people want to be successful at home, not somewhere else. People from poor countries will always want to migrate to rich countries for work. Migration will not be stopped until they feel they can provide for their families where they are.

None of this will be easy. It will cost money that some people in this country will not be willing to support. They will continue to believe that they are easier solutions, such as just through the bums out. Then, to keep them out will take a far greater investment by controlling the border then by managing it.

Success at anything doesn’t come easy. We have to invest and work hard to be successful. If we make the investment in these solutions there is no reason to believe that the pay off will not be a much better community for everyone.

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