Monday, November 26, 2012


Last week was Thanksgiving.  The lore of the holiday is that the native Americas and the recent immigrants sat down to share a meal.  It was done when the harvest was completed and the food was stored away for a long winter.  It is not for this post to explore the issues of the day.  But, it is to examine how our own myths about the holiday have more meaning than the reality.  Here are two groups of people that should have more to fight about than to share, sitting down peacefully at the dinner table – the quintessential symbolism of mutual trust and brotherhood.

To those invited, the only requirement to sit at the table was not to harm anyone.  They brought their own religious views, their own cultural mores and dressed as each did in their own homes.  At the table, there may have been passionate discussion about each side’s point of view, as is common at many Thanksgiving feast throughout the land.  But, in the end, everyone was able to be themselves.

The myth the symbolism portrays is that it should be part of the human experience to sit with our antagonist to share and talk.  By sharing a common human experience we can then begin to understand how many things beyond dinner we have in common.  We all have families, loved ones and dreams of a better life.  Of working with the world and creating a paradise for all to prosper.

That myth doesn’t always get expressed in the real world.  In our communities we have competing forces that work against each other.  This rivalry is not based on the things we have in common, but on our differences.  While we pretend to provide an open and free community, the restrictions that the patriarchal majority place on the minority are based on the differences between the two.  The restrictions should, instead, be based on the one requirement that the first Thanksgiving had, to not do harm.

The myth of Thanksgiving suggests that we shouldn’t care about the religion, political beliefs, gender, race, marriage or anything other differences of those that are sitting at the table.  What matters is that we invite all to break bread, to use a religiously loaded term.

Thanksgiving is a time when we should reflect on our achievements, even if they are only partial achieved.  One of our greatest achievements is the myth that all in the community can come together at the same table and share the bounty.  Existentialism tells us that while the Thanksgiving myth is only partially achieved in our community, to keep striving is the purpose.

With reflection on the true meaning of the Thanksgiving myth, we can come as close to the fully actuated myth as possible.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why only 54% voting in last election

An Arizona woman ran over her husband with a car because she found out he hadn’t voted in the presidential election.  The woman, Holly Solomon, believed that if Obama was elected, her family would be worse off, so she took things into her own hands.  Solomon’s husband is in critical condition in the local hospital. 

If the man survives (I certainly hope he does) and if doesn’t get divorced (although, one can’t help to think he will) he will certainly think twice about not voting the next time an election comes around. 

Voter turnout this last election was at about 54% according to Loyola University.  That number might be revised in the future, but it is a working estimate right now.  This reverses a trend over the last couple of decades according to George Mason University.  In the seventies the percent that voted was as low as 40%, but has been rising since.  In 2008 during the last presidential election, a record setting 62% voted.

So much has been written about this subject at the end of every presidential election that it might be difficult to find a new angle on the story.  But, in this case, I am not sure it needs a new angle.  What the numbers tell us is that there a 50/50 chance that the guy standing behind you in the theater line didn’t vote.  Even though he didn't vote, he is still ranting about the evils of government to his date. 

The truth is we are living with a government that only half of the people are taking part.  The rest, live or die with the outcome, but don’t take the time to be involved in the choices.  In the 70’s, a minority of people made all the decisions.  In a representative democracy, that is a poor indicator of the apathy of citizens. 

When you think about the way political campaigns are conducted, it is no wonder.  If fast food marketing was like political marketing, I am not sure the industry would be doing any better than our political process.  The difference is fast food marketing avoids bashing the competition.  They also make sure that everyone can participant in the purchasing of fast food and enjoy it.   

Political advertising, especially those coming from Super Pacs, produce advertising campaigns that make all politicians look like evil incarnated.  (Yes, I know, many of you already think that, but part of the reason is that you have been told that by both sides.)  Rarely do they define the issues and propose clear solutions.  Fast food restaurants don’t talk about the poor nourishment of their competitors.  They know that might come back at them.  Instead, they show happy people enjoying their food while inviting us to join them.

But, more importantly, especially for this past election, fast food restaurants make sure that you are never far away from getting your fast food fix.  I doubt any of us are more than a mile away from a palace of grease.  The majority of the time, you are likely to be much closer to more than a dozen.  If fact, if you can’t get to them, they will bring the food to you. 

Every day, fast food chains are in our face telling us how close they are and how happy we would feel if you would just come on down.  In this last election, states and local communities were attempting to suppress voter turnout.  Then, they challenged those that did show up.  Can you image that happening at a fast food restaurant? 

“Burger and fries with a shake, coming right up sir,” the counter person would say.  “Do you have a driver’s license or other id with a burger-and-fries-with-a-coke card allowing you to make this purchase?”
There is no question that we need to make sure those that show at the polls are eligible to vote.   In advance, we need to ensure that everyone knows the rules, has the proper documents and has the time to understand the rules and obtain documents needed.  Then, make it easy to actually vote when it comes time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

End filibusters in the senate

Carl Levin, the senior United States Senator from Michigan, is calling for changes in the United States Senate filibuster rules.  The change is so overdue. Let’s hope he finds enough support come January to change the rules.  But, in an irony of circumstances, a minority can prevent it from happening

Right now, the senate’s filibuster rules aren’t even what are historically known as a filibuster.  In the past, a senator would stand and talk for as long as he could to prevent a vote on a piece of legislation from coming up.  Other senators that may have agreed with him would take some floor time and allow the originator of the filibuster to rest.  These maneuvers around the rules were done to give a brief pause before voting on legislation.  This would allow each side to get support for their point of view or change someone’s mind before voting.  Other times, it was intended to get the attention of the public.  But, after a day or two, debate would be cut off and a vote taken.  Currently, the House of Representative’s operates under the rules that a simple majority vote can cut off debate and move to a vote.      
But, the senate’s rules are much different.  It only takes a minority of senators to put a stop to any legislation.  (Although, the house and the president have found ways around the filibusters, it isn’t the way things are intended to work.)  If just 40 senators ban together they can prevent debate on the legislation from being cut off and a keep the full senate from voting.  Then, nothing happens.  Senators don’t get up to talk so senators are not under any pressure to get support or change someone’s mind.  They just stall the current legislation and move on to other business. 

That means that a minority in the Senate can effectively kill legislation.  And, if those 40 senators are from low population states, a small minority of the population can keep an up or down vote on any issue. 
The Constitution does say that the house and the senate are allowed to make its own rules.  So, at the start of each session, every two years, each body votes on the rules for the upcoming session.  This January when a new session of congress comes to town, new rules will be considered.  This provides an opportunity to get the rules changed on filibusters. 

The authors of the Constitution never intended the Senate to make rules that allow a minority to rule.  With few exceptions, those times when a two thirds majority is required, voting is based on a simple majority.  Even then, it is expected that a vote would be taken in a timely fashion. 
For good or bad, depending on your point of view, the winners of any election and the party with the majority of seats get to pass the legislation they want.  This is the way a representative democracy works.  To allow a minority to prevent legislation to come up for a vote is to ignore the will of the voters.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Carl Rove will not give up

Carl Rove, George W. Bush’s political advisor and director of the Super Pac Crossroads, said he will not give up the battle.  Even though Romney lost, Rove still believes strongly enough in his own point of view that he will continue to work for them.

Good for you Mr. Rove.  We don’t find answers in our human experience by blindly allowing one side or the other to dominate the debate.
Many years ago, Dr. Jacob Bronowski wrote a book called the “Ascent of Man.”  It accompanied a series that was broadcast on PBS stations.  He explores human existence from the very beginning to the present day.  Not so much a history of man, but more of an outline of man’s search for the truth.  Bronowski believed that by dedicating ourselves to science, research and knowledge we can find the truth that seems to elude us. 

On his journey through time, Bronowski stopped on Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp that slaughtered perhaps millions of people.  He found a place in the camp where the ashes of the people that were killed there were dumped.  As Bronowski reached down into the mud on a rainy afternoon that could still contain some of the ashes from over 60 years ago, he looked straight into the camera and quoted Oliver Cromwell, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”
That very thought is the foundation of the research being conducted by SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).  A scientist was asked during an interview about what happens when they find something that has some of the characteristics of being made by intelligent life.  The first thing they do is challenge their own findings.  This challenge doesn’t take the form of confirmation, that might lead them to just reinforce their discoveries.  It takes the form of error checking, that would lead them to another conclusion if they were originally wrong.  Then, they turn to the outside scientific community and ask them to tell them why they are wrong.  Repeat, why they are wrong!   

We don’t find truth for our country by adopting something that sounds good and resonates with us alone.  That is a personal outlook.  We find truth by asking questions of those around us and having questions asked of ourselves.  To have a single power in our culture or any culture that defines what is right and wrong is a dictatorship.  Looking back at the Nazi’s, that is what killed over ten million people.
The words of Voltaire, "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" is still true today.  Our collective quest for the truth must be based on that very phrase.  To silence on a single voice means that we have denied the freedoms that we all share to that single voice.  That could be our undoing. 

So, Carl Rove, keep up your work and your quest.  I will from time to time (if not a little more often than time to time) disagree with you.  But, the continuing conversation in the public form will help all of us find the right path.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Demand to know who is speaking

The next time you go to the doctor, don’t worry about who he is or what his credentials are.  It doesn’t matter and he shouldn’t have to tell you.  Or, when you go to your financial advisor, if he keeps hidden that he is an employee of the fund he suggests when he leads you to believe he isn’t, he has a right to privacy.  Oh, and your baby sitter – not to worry that you are not able to find out who she is and anything about her past. 

If you think those are really dumb statements, I would agree with you.  But, when a clandestine organization goes on television with information about one of the constitutional proposals or a candidate; you don’t have the right to know who they are.  If you wouldn’t accept advice or trust people in your personal life that you don’t know, why would you trust a group that you know nothing about in your political decisions?
That is what has happen during the last election more than any other time in United States history.  Claims, accusations and downright lies filed the advertising of the political ads.  It should make honest, good people ill.  (Yes, everyone, before you get excited, both sides have committed this sin.)  But, we didn’t have the chance to evaluate their point of view because we don’t know who provided the financial support for the advertising. 

Additionally, people and organizations called “bundlers” skirted campaign laws and used them to hide the source of money for candidates and parties.  Many of us were upset when we found out that Romney said things in private that were difficult to support in public.  Romney himself even said that it could have been said better.  But, did any of us find out who was in the room that night (other than the host, a bundler)?
Is there anyone that thinks that the “smoked filled rooms” of yore where secret deals were made was the proper way to govern?  Well, of course not.  If your local politician takes money from an oil company then votes in support of their petition to drill in your neighborhood, wouldn’t you want to know?  Do black hooded people stand on the floor of the United States Senate and make a speech about policy?  No, because we all demand to know who is speaking.

Yet, we put up with Super PAC's and bundlers that raise, over the last election in this case, literally billions of dollars.  This money flows to candidate’s campaigns and their parties like water down a hill, filling the lowest ground.  In this case, the money fills the coffers of candidates that are willing to accept every last cent.  There are candidates that don’t accept the money blindly, demanding to know where the money came from.  But, many of them, I feel confident, feel great pressure to accept the money so they can compete against a foe that does take the money. 
Don’t be fooled.  When people go to the store to buy a stove, they want certain features and they want it to work.  No one, let me repeat, no one, gives a dime to any campaign if they don’t think they will get the results they want.  Give enough, your voice will be heard.  A little more, your plan will be enacted. 

The Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech.  It is an amplifier to your own voice.  This is true.  Also, people do have the right to assemble to combine their resources so that their voice will be louder – and delivered with force.  But, the voters, as the ultimate decision maker in any policy decision, should have all the information available to make an educated decision. 
Let's all cry, "Enough of this lunacy!"  In a Responsible Community, when someone exercises their right, they are to take responsibility for their action.  It is not a violation of someone’s freedom of speech to ask that they take the responsibility to say who they are.  

If it takes a new ruling from the Supreme Court to change the current situation, then let’s find a case to carry to their doorstep.  If it takes more than that, then let’s change the Constitution.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A shift in social attitudes

The campaign from the right tried to make the 2012 Presidential election a repudiation of President Obama’s economy.  The message was; there isn’t enough job growth, the economy is sluggish and the deficit is too high.  Many voters did buy into this message.  The electorate clearly moved to the right in this election. 

Most Americas it appears are fiscal conservatives.  In the past, when the economy was slow or sluggish, the incumbent faced certain defeat.  Votes may want their religion and their guns, but what they really want is a job and a future for their children.  There is nothing wrong with that.  After all, the thinking goes, without a healthy economy it may all be for naught.
With the blind confidence that the right’s strategy to focus on the economy was the correct one, many thought the voters wouldn’t notice the other ideas that the right would bring quietly with them to their elected posts.  But, those Republicans who could not be controlled by their party came out of the woodwork.  (Maybe a better word than “woodwork” might be “cave”.)  Most of the ideas from the most extreme Republicans were talking points from a century ago.  Birth control, rape, abortion, race, the rejection of gay rights, the role of government (or lack thereof) and many other old, tired ideas.  While the generation that came from those times may have been happy to talk about them, those from the last two generations rolled their eyes.

With an economy portrayed as being bad and an electorate that shifted to the right (actually, more like a shift to the center) should have been enough.  But, the social positions that the right holds so dearly brought it all back to focus.  It turned enough voters back in support of Obama. 
This represents a fundamental change in the social attitudes of the country, as slight as it may be.  In this election cyle, a president with a liberal social agenda won in what was portrayed as a sluggish economy.  Perhaps as many as four states (three for sure) supported marriage equity.  The voters want the financial reforms that came out of the crisis to stay in place.  They supported the continuation of the health care reform.  The right to choose will be left in place.  Gay rights will be supported by more and more people.  Also, many other ideas from the last two generations will now become accepted as part of a new life of freedom and security in the country.

If the Republicans continue with their current track of holding on to old social ideas they will soon be obscure.  But, if they change they may have a chance.  That of course, in the irony of the times, is actually what they are fighting against.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gay rights and marriage equity

The Responsible Community blog is working through the blog’s position on issues important to an equable community and comparing them to the presidential candidate positions and their respective parties.  Abortion and gun control have been reviewed in the last couple of days. 

Today’s issues are gay rights and marriage equity.  As I have asked in most every post about gay rights and marriage equality, where is the harm?
Government is tasked to protect its citizens.  That means making murder, stealing, assault and other actions like them illegal.  All those listed as well as many more not listed and the variants of each, hurt people in some way.  It can’t be shown in any way how being gay hurts anyone. 

To make it illegal for a same sex couple to get married is placing their action in the same category as those that commit one of the other crimes listed above.  There is absolutely no rationalization for it. 
Governor Romney has stated very clearly that he will not support gay marriage.  Members of the party he belongs to have tried for many years to pass a constitutional amendment that would prevent states from enacting laws that would permit marriage equity.  The party also, in the house and the senate teamed with a republican president, passed the Defense of Marriage Act (odd name for legislation that restricted marriage instead of expanding the rights of marriage to more citizens).  The courts have struck down the act, but those in supported of the act are fighting it to keep on the books.  It is believed that Romney working with his party would set back the quest for gay rights and marriage equity many years.

Obama on the other hand has come out in support of gay rights and supports marriage equity, although he said he would leave it to the states.  When the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional by the courts, he refused to defend it, an action that let the court’s decision stand.  The house, controlled by Republicans, is now taken up arms in defense of the act. 
For gay rights and marriage equity, Obama receives the Responsible Community’s support.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Abortion should remain legal and safe

Of all the hot issues, none is more deeply passionate to people than abortion.  But, just because of the heat, it can’t be ignored. 

Abortion should remain legal and safe in America. 
In the perfect world, as I wrote in, “Body autonomy, at the core of abortion rights,” in January of this year, everyone’s rights would be given the same weight.  The reality is that it can’t be done. 

The primary focus on all rights is the concept of body autonomy.  What happens to your body is in your control.  Government and society can’t force someone to work for someone else without their permission.  To force a woman to carry to term would mean that we are assigning second class rights to a large portion of society. 
Lately, many senatorial candidates from the right have said some very strange things about abortion, pregnancy, rape and incest.  The Republican Party believes that abortion should not be allowed in almost all cases, if not all.  For the life of me, I can’t understand saying abortion is wrong, but making allowances for rape and incest.  How far is the step in logic to support abortion for rape and incest but not for failure of medication or a simple mistake?

Romney has been all over the board on the issue.  While Governor he supported a woman’s right to make the choice.  Then, he didn’t think it should be allowed in any circumstances.  Now, he is coming back to the middle.  His party, the Republicans, as stated above, is against a woman’s right to choose.  If Romney was elected president, he would be hard pressed to move against the Republican Party and his own campaign statements.
Obama on the other hand is pro-choice.  He has not waived.

Obama receives the nod for his support of body autonomy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gun control and the presidential candidates

Gun control is at times a hot subject in politics, but it is taking a back seat in this Presidential race.  Obama has not taken a direct and strong stand on the issue and Romney has stated that he is a strong supporter of gun rights.  But, the issue has not risen to the top even when we had a couple of big events that have come up in the last few months.

There is no doubt that the Constitution has guaranteed the right for individuals to own and carry guns.  That is true if you believe the document insured that right in a limited way through regulate state militias, or, in the most extreme unlimited way of packing heat anytime, anywhere.  A reading of the Federalist Papers and the documents collected on the debates of the Constitution do not provide any more clarity.  But, one thing is for sure, guns were a part of the frontier life of individuals at the time of the signing of the Constitution.

But, there is another thing for sure.  The Second Amendment, or any of the other amendments for that matter, where not intended to be absolute.  There are reasonable and narrow limits on all the other rights, why should the most volatile of the rights be absolute? 

The Constitution was established for many reasons, but one of the most pressing at the time was that the Articles of Confederation were not working and was not protecting people.  The leadership at the time gathered together in an effort to fix the Articles of Confederation.  But, they found it was best to create a new government.  In the new document that outlined the process of making laws, the Constitution, there were no rights guaranteed.  It was felt that if the government went too far in restricting rights to provide for the safety of the community, the elected officials would be voted out of office and the restrictions would be drawn back.  (This is the reason many at the time believed that voting was more important than all the other rights that could be listed on a piece of paper.) This process created a balance between the freedoms that individuals can practice and the responsibility of the government to protect people.

But, there is a Bill of Rights and all the amendments that have followed over the last two and half centuries.  Also, many rights that are not numerated in the amendments have been carved out to protect an individual’s rights.  These rights, numerated and un-numerated, were added to the Constitution as a base line to guide the legislature, executive and judicial branches not as a proverbial line in the sand. 

There is no argument that can be made, based on the above, that means the ownership, use and possession of guns cannot be limited as long as there is a clear and present danger if action is not taken. 

As stated in the opening, Obama has not taken a direct and strong stand on gun control and Romney made statements in support of gun rights.  Obama having not made a clear statement about his position on gun rights, at the very least, suggests he is in support of reasonable gun control.  Romney, having made his clear statement about the issue, suggests that he is not for reasonable control of guns. 

The Responsible Community supports reasonable gun controls.  The current president, Barack Obama, receives the Responsible Community’s endorsement on this hot issue.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review of the candidates

Let’s take the next two weeks to review the candidates for President and their parties. 

As a basis, this blog is about individuals and communities.  So, the list of issues that we would compare and contrast the candidates about would be those issues that most impact individuals and the communities they live in.  A review of the blog subjects and the positions taken will provide the basis for the conclusions.

Perhaps the first issue is the candidate’s party affiliation.  It was decided to judge the candidates and their party because it is very clear in America today that the parties have taken more control of the debate on issues.  There was a time in American when those holding office in local, state and national positions were independent in their views and did not always support the party they were affiliated with.  As proof of this and with recognition of the passing of someone that crossed the aisle many times, it is important to mention the recent passing of Arlen Spector, the longtime senator from Pennsylvania.  While Republican in party he was an independent in thinking. Using his own conscience to help him decide on issues and not what the party supporters dictated.

Whoever is president, if the president’s party shares power with him, it is the party that will dictate the position on the issues and how they are addressed.  (I say him here because, unfortunately, it is only men who are running for office.) 

As I have discussed before, it is not likely that Romney will be able to stand up to the powers that support the Republican Party.  That doesn’t mean the leadership; it means those that drive the support and the money behind the party.  If the positions he has taken in the past are any indication, he is a moderate leaning to the right.  He was at one time pro-abortion; he did author the health care law in Massachusetts and did support reasonable control over guns in that state.  But, since he began running for president, he has said himself he is an arch conservative.  If Romney was a stronger man, he would have pulled his party into the middle where most of the voters in America are.  But, instead, he took the money and support of those that hold extreme views on the right.  Now, he is stuck and must continue to support his party’s extremist.

As for Obama, if he wins the election, he will be a lame duck president.  Obama will not need to watch the polls for his own good because he is unable to run again.  Knowing this, the powers of the Democratic Party will do everything they can to have him work on their behalf.  As is with Romney, Obama is a moderate but leaning to the left.  He did preside over the enactment of the health care law, is pro-abortion but has done nothing to restrict guns and other civil rights.  The leadership and supporters of the Democratic Party are left leaning.  Obama will be pulled in that direction. 

After considering the above arguments on both sides, it is believed that both Romney and Obama will be under control of their individual parties more than they should be.  Both candidates receive a pass.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Selling, teaching and building cars

Selling has been my profession for many years.  There are a lot of reasons I like sales, but one of the biggest is the possibility of commissions. The harder I work, the more people I see, the greater the possibility that the big sale will come my way. 

You might ask then, why I am against merit pay and promotions for teachers based on test scores of the children they teach?  Simple answer, the control of my client base is in my control.  Teachers don’t have that some control.  Teachers must deal with whoever is placed in front of them. 
If the prospects on my current list will never make a purchase, I find new prospects to replacement them.  If the people that are buying from me can only spend a small amount of money, I find others that can spend more money.  With some exceptions, if the geographic area that is my territory is economically depressed, I can move away from the territory.  In short, I find a client list that will purchase, that can spend lots of money and in a territory that allows a return.  I then build a long term relationship with them.

Teachers are not able to do that.  If the students in the class are not interested in learning, if they family doesn’t support the children and the community ignores them at best, the teacher can do a lot of things, but she is working against the culture.  The teacher has no control over the family life and the community the kids live in.  Finally, they only have most of the students for nine months of the year.  A new batch clears the old out each school year.  Starting over from scratch is a tough thing to do.
It is like working in a factory building cars.  The people that work in the factory are always blamed if the cars are lemons.  But, in many cases, the material that the parts are made from are bad, the parts will be defective.  The worker assembles the car the best he can, but when the parts are bad, the car will not run like it should – if at all.  Would it be appropriate to reward the workers that assemble cars made from good parts but not the workers who worked just as hard but were provided defective parts?
Don’t take any of this the wrong way.  It is not my intention to let bad teachers off the hook.  I worked with schools professionally for six years as a public relations director.  There is nothing more frustrating for administrators then teachers that don’t care and do nothing to improve their methods.  Administrations work with them for as long as they can, then find ways to get them out of the classroom. 

Every teacher should work as hard as they can to get the interest of the kids they are given and get them to learn.  Over 90% of them do just that.  But, without the control of the product, you can’t make judgments about the teacher.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Romney will not be able to control the agenda

In the last post, I suggest that Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, is not strong enough to hold back the extreme conservative agenda.  As if custom made, the Todd Akin issue offers proof of my case.  While the issue is much deeper than just Todd Atkin’s comments on Fox News, Romney was not able to get Atkin to back down for the best of the party (and the country for that matter.)

Atkin is just one of the extreme conservative representatives and senators that will be running the government if Romney wins.

Oh, and more on Atkin and the abortion issue in the next post.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More concerned with the right than with Romney

Romney’s problem with the Responsible Community isn’t so much his stance on the issues, we all know them. (well, we know them today, perhaps they will change tomorrow.)  He is against abortion, medical marijuana, wants less restrictions on guns, less restrictions on the financial industry, he will change Medicare in ways that will harm the coverage for some in the short term and many in the long and says he will do away with the health care act.

The problem is the unknowns.  If Romney wins in the fall, he will bring with him a Republican majority in the senate and the house will maintain its majority.  This will empower Romney to enact many of his proposals for the economy and the culture.

But, it will not stop there.

If Romney wins the Presidency and sweeps in Republicans, they will be controlled by the Tea Party or the extreme right.  Evidence of this is the amount of Republicans that are winning in the primaries right now that are supported by the Tea Party and other conservative groups.  Many of these individuals do not understand running on the right as a position and governing from the center.

Every extreme idea will be built into almost every piece of legislation that passes.  Even if the riders have nothing to do with the original bill.  Romney, someone who has switched positions on almost every issue, will be powerless to stop them.  Not because they will such a strong force, of which they will of course, but because he will be weak to stand up to them.  He will want to run for a second term and will need their support.

That would not be bad for those that agree with the positions that Romney holds in the first paragraph.  But, you have to ask yourself, how far right are you willing to go?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

States can't have it both ways

States can’t have it both ways when it comes to DNA evidence and other modern law enforcement tools.  They use it for all cases that are relevant or not.

Law enforcement officers in Maryland arrested Alonzo Jay King, Jr. on an assault charge.  The state requires that people arrested for certain crimes have a DNA sample taken.  It was later found that his DNA matched a sample found during a rape investigation of a cold case from a few years early.  Alonzo, partially based on the DNA evidence, was convicted of the rape.

Alonzo’s lawyer contested the evidence on the grounds that it was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.  The Fourth Amendment reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

After moving through the state courts, a Maryland Court of Appeals agreed with Alonzo and overturned the conviction on the rape.

Chief Justice John Roberts was watching the case.  The chief justice after conferring with the other judges on the court placed the lower court ruling on hold.  Roberts believes it is a case that is likely to be taken up by the court when its term begins in October.

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler said in a statement that he applauded the chief justice’s decision.  Gansler said it allows the state “the uninterrupted use of this critical modern law enforcement tool” that helps authorities solve crimes. Since Gansler wants to continue using “modern law enforcement tools” to solve crimes, he will file an application to the high court in August to overturn the lower court ruling.

There are two issues in this case that is important.  The first is the obvious Fourth Amendment issue that asks if evidence from one case can be used in the investigation of another case.  Keep in mind, the DNA sample taken from Alonzo on the assault charge is legal.  It is important to identify an individual charged with a crime and match it against any evidence found on the crime scene.  This would be no different than taking finger prints, or for that matter, a photograph.  This evidence, once collected, is now part of the public domain.  If police have DNA evidence of the suspect, they should be able to use it just like finger prints or a photograph.

But, there is a paradoxical problem here.  It isn’t about using collected evidence from one case to identify a suspect in another.  It is about using “modern law enforcement tools” as the attorney general of the state of Maryland said, to help solve crimes.

If government is tasked with any job, it is to protect individuals living in the community.  The obvious task is to protect individuals from other people that may do them harm.   But, it is also to protect individuals from the system.  Communities need to also be sure that a suspect is the correct person, even after conviction.

Before DNA testing as a modern law enforcement tool was widely available, samples were not collected from individuals or from other evidence discovered by the investigating authorities.  In most cases, it can now be collected, even from much smaller samples then previous thought.  Some people that have been convicted of a crime are asking the states to use DNA testing on the evidence used to convict them.  But, in many cases, states have refused to or would only conduct the testing if forced to by the courts.

States claim that there must be certainty in a conviction.  The theory is that since the cases were prosecuted with the best resources available at the time, the conviction should stand.  That any review opens up the community to an endless drain on resources that could be better used to pursue current cases.

But, that is the paradox.  Prosecutors may not want to reopen cases that ended in a conviction, but there is no prosecutor, that wouldn’t reopen a cold case if DNA could be used to enhance the evidence.  (That is exactly what happened here.)  If they are willing to use modern law enforcement tools to reopen cold cases they should also use it to re-assure the community that they have the right person in prison.

As a community, we start with the presumption of innocence to anyone that is the focus of a criminal investigation and prosecution.  (The phrase presumption of innocence, by the way, is not used in the Constitution.)  After conviction, there is no reason that when new evidence presents itself by advancements in law enforce tools we should not at least give the benefit of the doubt to the individual.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-a could have ducked and weaved his way around questions about his support of “Biblical” definitions of marriage.  But, instead he chose to stand his ground saying he doesn’t support gay marriage.  Well, good for him.  At least he has the guts to support his convictions.

Many around the web are now asking for a boycott of the Chick-fil-A restaurants across the nation.  There are a few locations in Michigan.  The response has been polarizing as you can imagine.  Others say that Cathy should be supported because he stands his ground and doesn’t hide in public relations no man’s land.  To boycott the restaurant is to be against free speech. 

But, Cathy made it an issue.  Those that will boycott the restaurant would perhaps have never known about the support provided to anti-gay groups either by the company or Cathy himself.  Their hard earned dollars would have continued to be spent at the restaurant so that some of those dollars could work against them.  It is almost like buying the gun that will shoot you.
But, the great issue here has nothing to do with Cathy’s support of anything.  It has everything to do with the political PACs that spend billions of dollars in political races throwing around a lot trash talk that isn’t supported. 

How is it that I can make that connection?  This seems a long ways away from keeping your name or your company’s name out of the political arena but spending lots of money to influence elections that will benefit you.  Can you see the connection now?
If the name of every person and company was known who donated to a political PAC, it would place a target on their company sales.  People who have a pet political agenda would boycott the companies because of its support of an opposing agenda.  But, companies can give money and other material support to organizations that are not required to provide a list of where the money comes from.  Unlike Cathy, many hide behind this wall of silence.

This is all the result of Supreme Court rulings.  It struck down campaign laws on the federal level and recently struck down laws on the state level that required full disclosure.  Even arguably the most conservative justice on the court disagreed with the ruling.  Anthony Scalia as recently as today during an interview with National Public Radio said that to understand political speech you must know who is speaking. 
In a community, an open discussion of the issues is important.  To have some that are involved in the discussion to be unknown is in violation of the political process.  We all condemned the “decisions made in smoked filled rooms behind closed doors” of many years ago.  Well, by not knowing who the supporters are of any speech means we are right back there. 

I am glad that Cathy has the guts to support his convictions.  I will have the guts also to not visit my local Chick-Fil-A for lunch, just because of his public announcements.  This is the way the process is suppose to work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where is the nation debate on guns?

The NRA has accomplished one of its goals, to keep guns “free” while squashing the freedom of speech.

Over the last week, the news has been filled with the shootings in Colorado.  A man was able to purchase four guns including two assault rifles that have only one mission: to kill as many people as possible.  He also purchased over 6,000 rounds of ammunition on line.  This same man was denied entrance or membership to a shooting range, because the manager could hear something in his voice. We can all assume that the manager that denied the shooter access is a pro-gun kind of guy. Twelve people were killed; scores wounded and even more lives traumatized forever.

What should happen after an event like this is a national discussion about guns and weapons designed to kill people.  But, there is has been near silence on the topic.  The NRA has worked so hard in the past with their campaigns of fear to their brotherhood of gun totters and spread their cash around to politicians like whiskey in a cowboy saloon that no one wants to start the debate.  If someone did, the advertising and campaigns about “freedom” would rage with their slanted view.

The freedom to bear arms has its place.  Even if you think that arms are guaranteed in the United States Constitution to support militias, that still makes it a right in our country.  Even lacking a Constitution that vaguely supports the right to bear arms, a Responsible Community should allow the ownership of guns.

With that in mind, there is no argument that can be made that the authors of the Constitution and those that supported its adoption ever thought that reasonable controls could not be placed on any of the rights, including the right to bear arms.  There are restrictions on speech, publishing, religion and other rights.  Can we not work at finding the balance between guaranteeing the freedom of arms and the safety of the community?

One argument that would arise, if the NRA’s strong arm tactics didn’t clamp down on speech, is that even absolute restriction would not have stopped the gunman in Colorado.  He would have found a way to get the guns anyway.  Perhaps that is true.  But, it would have taken longer.  This may have been enough time for those that would protect the lives and safety of people in the community to respond.  It may have also allowed enough time for the gunman, who was sane enough to make the purchases and develop a detailed plan to come to his senses.

Maybe enough time would have past to keep just this one event from happening.  The 12 people that died and the scores of others that were shot by him could have just enjoyed the movie.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Chief Justice to the rescue

In the midst of a very strongly contested Presidential election, partisan politics running at its deepest and arguments over the role of government taking on new passion not seen since the 60’s, a true leader arises.  The leader isn’t from any elected office, not a president or legislature, but an appointed official, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Thought of as a conservative and nominated by a conservative president, Chief Justice John Roberts was not seen by anyone as being a swing vote to support a “liberal” cause.  But, Roberts was the vote that allowed the health care act to survive.  Even more to his credit, Roberts’ argument in support of the health care law was that congress has the right to tax – taxes not being a favorable thing on the conservative side of the aisle.

Roberts did not side with those that said the act was allowed under the commerce clause of the Constitution.  That clause grants the power to congress to control commerce among the several states.  But, controlling commerce that voluntary takes place and commerce that is forced are two different things in Roberts’ view.  To force people to purchase something, in this case health care, is not what the clause is about, according to Roberts.

Instead, Roberts went off the reservation held by the other conservatives on the court that passionately disagreed with him. (Passionately being a polite word given the degree of anger expressed in the dissenting opinion.)  He applied the clause in the Constitution that grants the power of the congress to tax.  The penalty you pay if you don’t purchase health insurance is not a fine, but a tax according to Roberts and those that support the health care bil.  Therefore, congress can write that into legislation.

Think about it for a moment, in a twist not thought of before Roberts’ opinion.  There are other things that I pay dearly for if I don’t do something.   If I don’t purchase a house with a mortgage, I pay a penalty.  There is a higher tax liability because I don’t have interest payments to deduct.  If I don’t give to charity, I pay a penalty because I don’t have a deduction.  In a twist on this twist, I don’t pay an additional tax when I don’t buy cigarettes.

Roberts reasoning is sound, but that isn’t the point of this blog post.  To his real credit is that he stood up to follow conservatives on the court and faced down conservatives across the spectrum that did not share his opinion.  (Roberts even stood firm on his opinion of not allowing cameras in the court.  A group of Republicans had requested filming of the opinion a few weeks ago.  Roberts turned down the request, avoiding the dragging of the Supreme Court into the morass that is our political landscape right now.)

In a time when leadership is lacking, when the two parties can’t figure out a way to get things down, a leader arises.  Roberts placed politics aside and provided a well-reasoned opinion.

Thank you Chief Justice John Roberts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Let's jail owners of abandon property

If it has never happen to you and your neighbors, imagine for a moment.  You have a great house in what you thought was a good neighborhood.  Then, the owners of two houses on the block stop making repairs to their homes.  Maybe there were rental properties that went vacant because of the leaky roof or the electrical problems that haven’t been repaired.  Brush piles up, the pool in the back yard fills with swampy water creating a hazard for kids in the area, not to mention the mosquitoes.

After many violation tickets and years of issues, the property still doesn’t get fixed. 

According to a study by the University of Michigan, in Flint and other areas around the state, the value of a home in a neighborhood drops by 10% for every blighted house.  Not just on your block, but in a two block radius. 
A law proposed by Senator Virgil Smith that is getting some attention in Lansing would help with that problem.  Property owners that don’t care of their property could be jailed for a second offense.  It could be a year in the slammer for a third offense.   It would also speed up the process of placing liens on properties and prevent land owners with liens of obtaining building permits on other property.

People have the right to own property.  But, with any right, there comes responsibility.  When any right is exercised, as in purchasing property, the responsibility takes effect.  Property owners that don’t take care of their property, endanger the safety of people in the community and have a detrimental effect on the value of other property need to eventually lose their right to own property. 
This is a bigger problem than someone losing their job and not being able to take care of their property.  There are solutions to issues like that.  This issue is focused on properties owners that own multi properties and are abusing their right.  This is focused on banks that take over foreclosed property and don’t maintain them.

These bills in Lansing need the support of the community.  If we are to maintain our living environment, everyone needs to live up to their responsibility.  If not, they lose their rights. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Occupy needs to go home and vote

The protesters in Chicago will be leaving town soon because the NATO summit is over.  The protesters will plan their next campaign, perhaps an Occupy somewhere, maybe a protest in a city that hosts another national or international summit or conference.  The end result will be the same as before they took to the streets, nobody took much notice beyond the inconvenience they caused to the residents that just wanted to get back and forth to work.

That is unless they make some changes.

The Tea Party did the same thing a few years ago.  Remember the protests at the health care public comment meetings.  They were yelling and screaming at elected officials that voted for the law.  Images of angry people with veins bulging in their necks flashed on the front pages of newspapers around the country.  Two years later instead of continuing to yell and scream they are having a real effect on the outcome of elections.

What is the Tea party doing that is so different then what Occupy and other protest groups on the other extreme doing?  They organized, stayed local and motivated their base.  The establishment noticed because the Tea party people and their supporters showed up to vote.
Individuals and groups can have the very deepest and sincere passions about making changes, but unless they channel the passion, it will go unnoticed by elected officials.  People that are elected to office pay close attention to those that got them elected.  It may be the money people that provided the funds to run an expensive campaign.  It may be the unions that provide a natural organization to motivate.  Or, as we as seeing now, it is the Tea Party that is getting their supporters to the polls.

A politician told me a long time ago about his strategy for keeping his seat in the house.  By his telephone, he kept a voter registration list.  When someone called to make a comment about something, while politely listening he looked for their name on the list.  If it wasn’t there, he got off the phone as soon as he could and moved on.  If the name was there, he made sure he followed up on the issue.
As a community organizer for many years, I paid close attention to those that supported the positions I worked for and that were registered voters.  At the beginning of conversations about the issues I tried to find out the last time they voted and how they stood on the issues.  If they didn’t vote, I moved on to spend my time finding people that did vote.

It matters little that some may think that the system is rigged to help the incumbents.  You can design the very best representative government and somewhere along the process, someone has to vote to support an issue or a candidate.  The issue or the candidate will fail if there aren’t enough votes.  As the old expression goes, victory goes to those that show up.
Much of what Occupy and other groups say would be good for the community.  Any responsible community should support their positions because they will make improvements that are needed.  But, unless they go home and vote after the protesting is done, nothing will change.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Domestic violence needs to be stopped

From a distance it can be difficult to understand what the current status is of a bill working its way through congress.  It can also be difficult to have a good understanding of the provisions of a bill and its impact on the issue.  Compromise, research, lobbying, the Constitution and many other things can all play a part in the final outcome.  What you can do is define the overriding issue and ask that the legislation address the issue in a clear way that is fair to all parties.

The Violence against Women Act is up for renewal, as it is every two years.  The Senate expanded the definition of those that could qualify for assistance to adjust to the change in domestic living arrangements in American society.  The House version doesn’t adjust and maintains the status quo.    

The Senate’s expansion in coverage recognizes that there are more same sex domestic partners in America.  It has been discovered that they are beginning to experience the same kind of problems that duel sex families face.  One of the members in the family can be an abuser and make life a living hell for the other.  The abused in same sex relationships can be just as trapped as others.  The Senate bill would allow the abused, no matter the legal relationship as long as they are domestic partners, to receive support to get out of the relationship while receiving protection from the abuser.  The House bill, as written at this moment, would not recognize the domestic arrangement.  The victim in same sex relationships would not be afforded assistance or protection.
There is a lot of pressure on the House Republicans, the party that is responsible for the wording of the current house bill, to change their opinion and broaden the definition of domestic relationships.  Let’s hope they recognize the importance of an inclusive bill before it gets to the house floor for a vote.

Think for a moment, if two people are being assaulted on the street, the cops that come to stop the violence don’t first ask the gender preference of the victims to know which one to help.  The cops stop the assault on both, arrest the abusers and protect the victims from further violence.  But, in domestic violence, the cops ask the gender preference, they then only help the straight victim while allowing the assault to continue on the gay victim.  Why is it different if it is a domestic relationship when both are of the same sex?  This is a relatively possible outcome of the law.  The victim from the duel sex marriage receives financial support to get out of the household, has protection provide by law enforcement and the local community has help in prosecuting the abuser.  None of that help is available to the same sex victim.  The current House bill would only help one kind of person, apparently the kind the House Republicans like, and not the other kind of person, apparently the kind the House Republicans don’t like.
People are people and deserve the community’s help regardless of their living arrangements.  House Republicans need to change their position on the current legislation and provide support to all domestic partners, not just those that are married.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gay marriage and dire predictions

Barack Obama has become the first President of the United States that supports gay marriage.  In an interview broadcast on the Today show, President Obama said he personally supports same sex marriage.  It ends a long weekend of speculation after Vice-President Biden said he was comfortable with it.  It also ends a long period of time when the President said he was conflicted about the issue.

There are now statements claiming that America is falling off a cliff and moving quickly down the road of moral degradation.  Similar claims were made when Abraham Lincoln ended slavery.  When Woodrow Wilson came out in support of giving the right to vote to women, more dire prediction where made.  In 1968 when the Supreme Court struck down keeping the races from marriage, it was said to be the end of civilization as we knew it.  But, the world didn’t end and debate soon dried up because of the terrible logic of those supporting the status quo. 

Now the national debate can happen again.  People will have to make choices about perhaps one the nation’s last codified discrimination policies.  There are two arguments over the last couple of days that have come to front and center on the issue. 
First, it is a moral issue.  Many religions think of marriage as only between a man and a woman.  The push to get amendments written into states’ constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman is based on moralists trying to use a community’s laws to up hold their own moral code.  This is not the purpose of law or community.  The purpose of any community is shared responsibility and to build a safe environment.  Communities should address issues that prevent activity that endangers the safety of an individual.  If the community has no compelling reason other than morality to prevent an activity, then it should not be prevented.  Marriage equity doesn’t harm anyone, so it should not be prevented. 

The other is a more fundamental reason for the fear and loathing about same sex marriage, children.  While not often talked about because of its stealth nature, it is now beginning to rise to the surface.  After Obama’s statement, religious leaders on TV talk shows mentioned the issue to grab the fear of people that are undecided about the issue.  Moralists are concerned that by allowing same sex marriage, the couple will adopt children and advance the “gay cause” by increasing the amount of gay people.  They believe that by a gay couple living the lifestyle it will teach others how to be gay.  Besides the fact that there is no evidence that being gay is a choice, children will not be harmed.  They will find themselves in a situation just like their friends that have duel sex marriage.  That as long as the children know they are loved, they are safe and they are expected to succeed, they will be just fine. 
On a final point, how can the community prevent something that is legal (and doesn’t harm anyone as mentioned above)?  If it were illegal to participate in a same sex relationship, it might be argued that same sex marriage should be illegal.  A ruling by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas judged that laws prohibiting sex between consenting same sex couples is in violation of the Fourteenth amendment.  So, it is not illegal activity.

The President did the right thing to come out in support of gay marriage.  Like all the other times that we have broken with tradition, when we move pass this storm, we will find that no great harm will come to past. 
Our country is enjoying a little bit more freedom today.  Let’s allow it to grow. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

The protection of the Constitution applies to all that live by it

An immigration case out of Chicago, Chaidez v USA (1), makes us question who shall receive the benefits of Constitutional justice and how the community should respond when justice isn’t applied.

The case is about a woman from Chicago, Roselva Chaidez, who was born in Mexico.  She has lived in the United States since the 1970s.  By many accounts Chaidez was the unwitting participant in an insurance scam.  The many details of the case are less important than the resulting issues, but it is clear that she was not involved in any violence and even the fed’s let her plead guilty and let her off with a fine.

Her lawyer worked the deal for Chaidez, encouraging her to tell the truth and end the case.  He did tell Chaidez about the direct punishment she could expect by pleading guilty.  What he didn’t tell her is that it would not allow her to apply for citizenship.  It isn’t clear if the lawyer knew that or not.  It should be expected that if a lawyer makes a strong suggestion that someone like Chaidez should plead guilty, he would inform her of all the collateral damage that would result.  That is the reason an expert is hired in any field, to help understand the short and long term consequences.

When Chaidez did apply for citizenship, she was picked up for deportation.  She was able obtain another lawyer to challenge the case in the courts.  It has found its way to the Supreme Court.

Chaidez’s new lawyer has built the case on a ruling by the Supreme Court after Chaidez’s guilty plea and conviction.  At the base for her case is Padilla v Kentucky.  In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that non-citizens that are not advised that pleading guilty to a felony means automatic deportation were deprived of their Sixth and Fourteenth amendment rights to effective counsel.  Chaidez’s is the same situation, but since she pleaded guilty before the Padilla case, the United States is asking that the conviction stand.  The court is being asked if the ruling only applies to cases after Padilla or should it be retroactive.

The Obama administration is taking a hard stand on the issue.  The administration said that, “[it] will have a significant impact on the federal government’s efforts to enforce this nation’s immigration laws against those who have become removable as a result of pre-Padilla criminal convictions.”
Groups siding with Chaidez have taken an equaling strong stand in opposition.  “The lack of remedy,” the groups assert, “[for pre-Padilla ineffective counsel] imposes harsh consequences on countless non-citizens facing detention and deportation as a result of wrongfully procured plea-based convictions.” (3)

Whatever the legal arguments are, there are four practical issues for the community to consider.  First, the community can’t tolerate ineffective counsel for defendants when charged with a crime.  Second, while prosecutors have a responsibility to pursue their cases as aggressively as possible, they also have a responsibility to keep defendants, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, aware of the full consequences of the charges applied against them.  Also, there can be no finality to a case when Constitutional rights come to light after convictions, such as Supreme Court rulings that apply directly to the defendant’s case.  Finally, being a non-citizens living in the country doesn’t mean that that you are not protected by the Constitution. 
The right to counsel is a Sixth Amendment issue.  It clearly states that we all have the right “to have the Assistance of Counsel for his [her] defence.” (4)  To believe any other way means that people could be picked up and sentenced to prison with no trial.  After all, if they are guilty until proven innocent, let’s just get them off the street right away, no need for a trial. 

An innocent person has all the rights and privileges of the community and should expect that the community will defend them against all threats to their life, safety and freedoms.  So, if people are innocent until proven guilty, the logical responsibility of the community is to assure that they are properly defended and understand all the consequences if they are found guilty.  The community must be certain that the lawyer the defendant hires, or is provided, is competent enough to understand the obligations of providing a proper defense. 
As for the prosecution, we expect the prosecutor to aggressively pursue their case against a defendant.  Our system has provided this right to the prosecutor.  But, for every right there is an equally important responsibility.  The responsibility here is that the prosecutor will insure that the accused is fully aware of his consequences if convicted of the crime he or she is charged with. 

Once convicted, no matter the circumstances of the conviction, the case can only be final to factual issues not Constitutional issues.  If a person is convicted under a law that made his action criminal and is later changed, the convicted is to receive the benefits of the change.  This prevents laws from being enacted that make an action criminal just to jail someone, then changed once they are convicted.  Why should it be any different for Constitutional issues?  When the Supreme Court makes a ruling on an issue, it needs to have the same effect as changing a law.
Perhaps the most difficult issue for many is the non-citizen status of Chaidez.  The argument may be that since Chaidez is a not a citizen, she doesn’t have an automatic right to receive the full benefits of the Constitution.  (There is a question as to Chaidez’s immigration status.  It is not clear that she is here “illegally?”  But, it doesn’t matter because of the of the amnesty legislation that has been passed since Chaidez’s arrival.  The only issue that is important to this case is her non-citizenship status.)  All the time that Chaidez was here, she was expected to follow all the laws that the Constitution allows.  Yet, as soon as she runs in to trouble with the law, she is not given the full benefit of the Constitution.  In this case, she didn’t receive a proper defense as dictated by the Constitution.

This is not the intent of the authors of the Constitution.  They intended the rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution to apply to all.  It is simple to say this because of our own interpretation of the words of the document.  But, this time the proof comes from none other than a founding father. James Madison said, “But a more direct reply is, that it does not follow, because aliens are not parties to the Constitution, as citizens are parties to it, that, whilst they actually conform to it, they have no right to its protection. Aliens are not more parties to the laws than they are parties to the Constitution; yet it will not be disputed that, as they owe, on one hand, a temporary obedience, they are entitled, in return, to their protection and advantage.” (5)
According to Madison, when someone has the responsibility to live under the laws of the country, they also have the right to the protection of the Constitution.  This is the very essence of a Responsible Community; a balance between rights and responsibilities.  You can’t have one without the other.

(4)  Sixth amendment to the United States Constitution