Category Archives: Justice System

Average Joe SCOTUS: Hughes v. Northwestern University

Do you have a corporate retirement plan, like a 401k or company stock purchase plan? Well then, this case is for you!

Northwestern University has two plans, an employee match plan, where they throw in cash to match the employee’s contribution, and a Voluntary Savings plan the University doesn’t throw any scratch in.

At issue is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Employees of Northwestern, led by busybody extraordinaire April Hughes argue that the people managing those funds for Northwestern suck like the vacuum of space at what they do. Performance is weak as balls, and the fees they charge are high.

Hughes and company are like, “Someone needs to make a fucking law to hold these incompetent fucks to a certain standard. We’re losing our asses here.”

But traditionally, the courts have found that as long as people have other options, this is a free-market issue, and y’all need to invest elsewhere if you’re unhappy.

ERISA dictates the people managing this shit operate with “care, skill, prudence, and diligence [of] a prudent man [sic].” One of the complaints against them, is that they offered retail plans with high fees, when the same fucking plan in wholesale version with lower fees was available to them. Plus, they also complain that because they wanted to offer a gazillion fucking options, managing all that shit increased the fees to do so.

Isn’t it ironic that all these fuckwads at a prestigious university are the ones pushing radical left-wing ideology, complaining about greedy corporations, and yet they can’t even manage their own fucking retirement plan without bitching and moaning that their own experts don’t know what they’re fucking doing?

Northwestern is basically like, “This is ridiculous. We’re educated people. How dare you question us, punks!” They argue that in order to lose, Hughes and company have to prove intent to do a shit job. Did they know they were making poor investments, or paying exorbitant fees, and were like, “Fuck ’em, we don’t care. We’re doing this bad shit over here instead.”

A district court, and then the seventh circuit on appeal sided with Northwestern, stating it’s basically a free market issue, and they could have invested elsewhere.

However, in a unanimous decision where Justice Barrett couldn’t be bothered, SCOTUS sided with Hughes, telling the seventh circuit that they’re fucking idiots. Yes of course, they could have gone elsewhere, but ERISA is a law, and these idiots at Northwestern are in violation of it. Their investment skills suck ass, and their fees are ridiculous for such shitty ass work, which therefore means, they aren’t operating with “care, skill, prudence, and diligence” as the law demands.

Hear oral arguments and/or read about the case here.

Average Joe SCOTUS: New York State Rifle Association v. Bruen

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, 2nd amendment.

While the rest of the country seems intensely focus on whether Roe v. Wade is overturned, a good number of us are pretty interested in how this one goes.

The People’s Republic of New York, the most statist state that ever stated, is under the scrutiny of SCOTUS again, thanks to the New York State Rifle Association (NYSRA), and their crusade against New York’s tyrannical positions on guns.

The latest kerfuffle is over permits to carry. You see, New York knows they can’t ban guns outright, but they have done everything in their power to make sure you can’t actually wield it.

One of these rules is that in order to carry a gun on your person in New York, you must apply for a permit, and show cause for getting one, such as someone has been threatening you, or you’re in some high-risk job.

This seems totally fair, right? Criminals are always courteous enough to give you a heads up that they’re coming for you, so you can apply for such a permit, buy a gun, and be prepared.

Counsel for NYSRA opened by saying, “Carrying a firearm outside the home is a fundamental constitutional right. It is not some extraordinary action that requires an extraordinary demonstration of need.”

We’re of course biased here at Logical Libertarian towards the freedom to own and carry a gun, but few other rights, if any, allow the state to make you prove your desire to exercise that right. This is highly “atypical” as Counsel Paul Clement put it. The bill of rights specifically says, “to keep and bear arms,” but NY’s law effectively makes “bearing” a privilege the state grants you, not a right.

For instance, you don’t have to go to the Mayor and get a permit to tell your local conseltwerp to eat a bag of dicks, and then be required to supply a load of evidence to suggest said counseltwerp has a demonstrable need to eat that bag of dicks.

Justices Barrett, Roberts, Alito, and Kagen all pressed NYSRA’s counsel on the “sensitive places” allowances. This is the idea that the majority of justices agreed in previous decisions, the government has a right to refuse carrying in places like schools, government buildings, etc. So they were testing the idea of whether NY is just basically declaring the entirety of a city or district, can be deemed a “sensitive place.” The crux of the argument being, when is it OK to declare a place a sensitive place, versus when is the place to broad to be declared as much.

One thing to note, in the sensitive place issue, people still have the right to carry in general, and even if they have a permit, they can’t carry in a sensitive place, so it seems a little disingenuous to debate. The law in question forces people to get a permit to carry in general. The sensitive places restricts anyone other than law enforcement from carrying in that particular place. While they’re related, they are not the same.

Counsel for NYSRA stated succinctly:

At the end of the day, I think what it means to give somebody a constitutional right is that they don’t have to satisfy a government official that they have a really good need to exercise it or they face atypical risks.

~Paul Clement

Counsel Clement went on to point out that while they accept the “sensitive places” limits, and even limits on who can carry, such as criminals and people with mental illness, their side opposes the “atypical” stance NY has adopted. Meaning, that NY is essentially saying a typical person may not carry, only a person who’s atypical, such as someone at elevated risk, is the problem. It can’t be a right, if one has to be unique to exercise it.

One issue that also comes up, is tradition. SCOTUS like to make sure laws are adjudicated consistently, so people who were perfectly OK one day, aren’t criminals the next. Change should come gradually, and not sweeping and fast.

They’ll look at old law, sometimes even English law adopted prior to the Constitution, but which the Constitution got it’s basis from. Sotomayor wanted to cite traditional laws restricting weapons, which states have adopted, many of which American law is inspired by.

She stated:

The one thing that I’ve looked at in this history is the plethora of regimes that states pick, and that starts in English law, through the colonies, through post-Constitution, to post-Civil War, to the 19th Century, to even now, those 43 states that you’re talking about, most of them didn’t give unrestricted rights to carry in one form or another until recent times. Before recent times, there were so many different regulations.

What it appears to me is that the history tradition of carrying weapons is that states get a lot of deference on this.

And the one deference that you haven’t addressed is the question presented is what’s the law with respect to concealed weapons. In 1315, the British Parliament specifically banned the carrying of concealed arms.

In colonial America, at least four, if not five, states restricted concealed arms. After the Civil War, there were many, many more states, some include it in their constitution, that you can have a right to arms but not concealed. You can go to Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, which are now more open—more free in granting the right to carry guns, but they prohibited through their history concealed weapons, the carrying of concealed weapons.

It seems to me that if we’re looking at that history and tradition with respect to concealed arms that there is not the same requirement that there is in the home. One of the things Heller pointed to was there were few regulations that prohibited the carrying or the keeping of arms in homes. But that’s not true with respect to the regulations about keeping of arms outside of homes. Putting aside the prohibitions, regulations on sensitive places, regulations on the types of people, it seems to me that I don’t know how I get past all that history

~Justice Sotomayor

But justice Kavanaugh, speaking with Clement reiterated that rights start with the Constitution’s text, not tradition or other laws. So basically, Sotomayor’s argument was stupid, and she should shut the fuck up with that noise.

As counsel Underwood for the state of NY came to make her shitty arguments, Justice Roberts hit a home run with this question:

Now Heller relied on the right to defense as a basis for its reading of the Second Amendment, or that was its reading. Now I would think that arises in more populated areas.

If you’re out in the woods, presumably, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re going to run into someone who’s going to rob you on the street.

On the other hand, there are places in a densely populated city where it’s more likely that that’s where you’re going to need a gun for self-defense and, you know, however many policemen are assigned, that, you know, there are high-crime areas. And it seems to me that what you’re saying is that’s probably the last place that someone’s going to get a permit to carry a gun. How is that, regardless of what we think of the policy of that, how is that consistent with Heller’s reasoning that the reason the Second Amendment applies a direct personal right is for self-defense?

~Chief Justice Roberts

Counsel Underwood argued:

Well, and the other thing is that these regulations are all an effort to accommodate the right, to recognize and respect the right of self-defense while regulating it to protect the public safety.

And in areas where people are packed densely together, as the questioning that just happened displays, the risks of harm from people who are packed shoulder to shoulder, all having guns, are much more acute.

~Barbara Underwood

Justice Roberts, realizing this argument was weak, countered with:

What if it’s one of these crime waves, whether it’s a celebrated spate of murders carried out by a particular person, I don’t know who that is—you know, the Son of Sam or somebody else? Is that a good reason to—a atypical reason? Is that a justification? Some random person is going around shooting people.

I’d like to have a firearm even though I didn’t feel the need for one before?

~Chief Justice Roberts

Justice Alito, not to shy away from this line of questioning, pushed Underwood further by asking:

Could I explore what that means for ordinary law-abiding citizens who feel they need to carry a firearm for self-defense? So I want you to think about people like this, people who work late at night in Manhattan, it might be somebody who cleans offices, it might be a doorman at an apartment, it might be a nurse or an orderly, it might be somebody who washes dishes. None of these people has a criminal record.

They’re all law-abiding citizens.

They get off work around midnight, maybe even after midnight.

They have to commute home by subway, maybe by bus.

When they arrive at the subway station or the bus stop, they have to walk some distance through a high-crime area, and they apply for a license, and they say: Look, nobody has said I am going to mug you next Thursday.

However, there have been a lot of muggings in this area, and I am scared to death. They do not get licenses, is that right?

How is that consistent with the core right to self-defense, which is protected by the Second Amendment?

~Justice Alito

Counsel Underwood’s arguments in response again were that basically, a lot of people crowded together with guns, is inherently an unsafe situation, and thus why NY should have the right to prevent such a situation. An argument not supported by any evidence, but commonly argued as justification for restricting gun rights.

Justice Alito really went after her in this exchange:

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

There are — there are a lot of armed people on the streets of New York and in the subways late at night right now, aren’t there?

Barbara D. Underwood

I don’t know that there are a lot of armed people.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

No?

Barbara D. Underwood

I think there are people —

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

How many — how many —

Barbara D. Underwood

— there are people with illegal guns if that’s what you’re —

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

Barbara D. Underwood

— referring to. Yeah.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

How many illegal guns were seized by the — by the New York Police Department last year? Do you — do you have any idea?

Barbara D. Underwood

I don’t have that number, but I’m sure there’s a — it’s a substantial number.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

But the people — all — all these people with illegal guns, they’re on the subway —

Barbara D. Underwood

I don’t — I don’t —

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

— they’re walking around the streets, but the ordinary hard-working, law-abiding people I mentioned, no, they can’t be armed?

Barbara D. Underwood

Well, I think the subways, when there are problems on the subways, are protected by the — the — the transit police, is what happens, because the idea of proliferating arms on the subway is precisely, I think, what terrifies a great many people. The other point is that proliferating guns in a populated area where there is law enforcement jeopardizes law enforcement because, when they come, they now can’t tell who’s shooting, and the — the — the — the shooting proliferates and accelerates.

And, in the end, that’s why there’s a substantial law enforcement interest in not having widespread carrying of guns in densely —

As you can see, NY’s laws are common among anti-gun legislators, that the people should rely on government to protect them, as she points out the transit police. While it may be a compelling argument to people who don’t like guns, it’s antithetical to the principles this country is founded on.

Justice Kavanaugh, took issue with her underlying premise that the state can and should be able to restrict guns in densely populated areas because that’s inherently dangerous, arguing:

Has that happened in those states? I mean, can you make a comparative judgment? Because it seems like before you impose more restrictions on individual citizens and infringe their constitutional rights based on this theory, you should have to show, well, in those other states that have shall issue regimes, actually, there is a lot more accidents, crime.

And I don’t see any real evidence of that.

~Justice Kavanaugh

He clearly felt her justification was based on dubious, if not an entirely fabricated premise. While she responded with generalities that she seemed to thing we should just accept as true, no data was provided.

The United States (The Biden Administration and their merry band of assholes) had an amici also argue, but again, Justice Roberts wasn’t having any of his bullshit. He fired this salvo:

John G. Roberts, Jr.

I mean, what is the appropriate analysis? I mean, you sort of — we — we, I think, generally don’t reinvent the wheel.

I mean, the first thing I would look to in answering this question is not the Statute of Northampton, it’s Heller, and Heller has gone through all this stuff and, obviously, in a somewhat different context, although that’s part of the debate, self-defense at home.

You know, this is different. But I still think that you have to begin with — with Heller and its recognition that the Second Amendment, you know, it — it has its own limitations, but it is to be interpreted the same way you’d interpret other provisions of the Constitution. And I wonder what your best answer is to the point that Mr. Clement makes in his brief, which is that, for example, if you’re asserting a claim to confront the witnesses against you under the Constitution, you don’t have to say I’ve got a special reason, this is why I think it’s important to my — my defense. The Constitution gives you that right. And if someone’s going to take it away from you, they have to justify it.

You don’t have to say when you’re looking for a permit to speak on a street corner or whatever that, you know, your speech is particularly important. So why do you have to show in this case, convince somebody, that you’re entitled to exercise your Second Amendment right?

Brian H. Fletcher

So let me start with the general question and then get to that specific point for Mr. Clement. As to the general question about Heller, we agree completely that the Court ought to apply the method from Heller, which we, like I think all the parties, take to be look to the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment right, and we’re applying that now to a somewhat different issue with the benefit of somewhat broader materials. Now, as to the question about why you have to have a showing of need, I think the problem with Mr. Clement’s formulation is that it assumes the conclusion. If you had a right, the Second Amendment conferred a right to carry around a weapon for possible self-defense just because an individual wants to have one available, then, obviously, you couldn’t take away that right or make it contingent upon a discretionary determination. But the whole question is whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms confers that right to have a pistol with you for self-defense even absent a showing of demonstrated need.

John G. Roberts, Jr.

Well, I’m not sure that’s right.

I mean, you would — regardless of what the right is, it would be surprising to have it depend upon a permit system.

You can say that the right is limited in a particular way, just as First Amendment rights are limited, but the idea that you need a license to exercise the right, I think, is unusual in the context of the Bill of Rights.

A district court and the Second Circuit in New York, being sympathetic to New York’s tyrannical scheme dismissed NYSRA’s claims, but luckily for New Yorkers, SCOTUS think those courts are basically idiots.

In a 6:3 split partisan decision, where Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor dissented, arguing that states should have the necessary powers to reduce gun violence, even if it involves violating fundamental rights, Justice Thomas laid down the law. New York State’s law violates the 14th amendment (the one that guarantees equal protection and shit), denying some people their second amendment rights. He rightly points out, as was argued, no other right has this burden, so why is the second amendment special? Justice Alito added that a right is a right, whether you intend to lower murders by gun is fucking irrelevant.

Roberts and Kavanaugh agreed, but pointed out that background checks, mental health checks, and other checks to make sure someone is the type of person we agree shouldn’t carry are fine, but that has a foundation in that it’s a right until you prove you’re not someone who should be allowed to exercise that right, where as what NY did, was say you don’t have the right, until you prove you need it, and this shit just ain’t OK.

Hear oral arguments and/or read about the case here.

Average Joe SCOTUS: FNU Tanzin v. Tanvir

A trio of Muslims, Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah and Naveed Shinwari, are here in the U.S. legally, but not natural born citizens, so they’re either citizens or green card holders.

The FBI in their campaign on the war on terror, sought to have Tanvir and company inform for them against other Muslims who may be involved in terrorist activities. Tanvir and company told the FBI to go fuck themselves, and as a result, were put on a No-Fly List by the FBI.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) basically prevents government from harassing people based on their religion, unless the government can show that there’s a compelling government interest in doing so, such as preventing a terrorist attack. RFRA also allows people to sue federal agents if they violate those religious freedoms wrongly.

So Tanvir and his merry band of Muslims are suing the federal government officials who put them on the list for doing so, after they refused to rat out their fellow Muslims. But the government is arguing that the RFRA doesn’t allow these guys to sue individual agents, it only says they can seek appropriate relief.

So now SCOTUS must decide if the RFRA allows individual federal agents to be sued under the law.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS decided that the FBI assholes were completely out of line, and can be sued for damages by the three Muslim men, paving the way for future suits against other lawless pricks operating in law enforcement.

A Skeptical Look at Kneeling During the National Anthem

By now, unless you live under a rock, you’ve no doubt seen the backlash of these tweets from Donald Trump.

But how did we get here?

Most know it started with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who decided during the 2016 NFL preseason to kneel for the following reasons, as cited here on the NFL website.

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

Colin Kaepernick

If you are reasonably familiar with the situation, and on social media, you’ve no doubt noticed most people have an opinion on one side or the other, and it’s nearly as heated and divided as religion and politics infamously are.

Since most opinions I’ve read are pretty passionate instead of objective, I felt it was worth exploring the subject from a skeptic’s point of view. As an issue, between Trump’s position and Kaepernick’s, it’s pretty complicated with a lot of facets worth considering individually.

If we start from the beginning, Kaepernick opted to do this in the wake of a number of police involved shootings of young “black” men, some of which, were unarmed. It appeared to be excessive force by many, and potentially even manslaughter or murder. Yet no charges against said officers were filed in the immediate aftermath. (I’m not aware of whether charges were filed later.)

I’ve written several times about police behaving poorly, and that this issue needs to be addressed far better than it is currently. I’ve also stated in my post “Analysis of Race and Perspectives of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement” (post also explains why I use white and black with quotations), that we as a nation have a lot of room to educate ourselves, and revise our long-held beliefs on racism.

While I believe the deliberately hateful racists, whether they be white-on-black or vice versa, are an incredibly small minority; many more biases are simply ingrained, and a product of conditioning versus a deliberate intention to demean someone.

Respectful discussions between the two sides can help overcome both, if we’re willing to have them. So I encourage all people, no matter what their skin tone may be, to be open to such discussions. It’s surely the only way tensions will improve.

But moving on from whether Colin has a point or not, let’s discuss his tactics, since they’ve now overshadowed his initial concern he was trying to bring awareness to, which for him, is almost assuredly a tragedy.

Is Kneeling Effective Towards His Goal?

SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 02: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels on the sideline during the anthem prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Since this started over a year ago, can we honestly say that racism has gotten any better?

It should be noted that it’s virtually impossible to quantify racism, but it is possible to quantify how many police shootings of unarmed black men who weren’t directly witnessed to have committed a crime.

Nonetheless, those parameters aren’t part of any FBI data I’ve seen. So there’s little way to determine if he’s been effective in reducing them.

As such, no claims one way or the other, can be considered anything other than speculation until that data is available. But I will say that it does seem like there have been fewer of these in the news since these protests began.

I think it’s also safe to say that racism is part of many discussions in a meaningful way at a number that’s probably as high as it has been since the civil rights movement.

The media’s coverage of Colin’s actions and their coverage of the police shootings which instigated his actions are largely to blame for this. So it is fair to say that he’s at least helped start the discussions that needed to happen, and are hopefully helping to achieve his end goal.

Are His Actions Congruent With His Goal

On this issue, I have to say I feel Colin missed his mark.

The U.S. flag is generally something that’s attributed to represent our nation, and also the men and women who served our military to defend it. But Colin never insinuated he was mad at those people.

He directed his anger at what he felt were several corrupt law enforcement officers, and the system that seemed to defend that.

So yes, he created awareness, but the people he offended doing it, were largely not the people he was mad at in the first place.

Is Colin Kaepernick a Racist

I cringe when anyone tries to make claims about what’s in someone’s heart. You just can’t know that. So you often have to take people at their word or their actions.

Colin Kaepernick with adoptive parents Rick and Teresa Kaepernick

I don’t recall seeing one instance where Colin said anything negative about Caucasians. It’s also important to note that Colin has a biological mother who is “white,” presumably a “black” father, and adoptive “white” parents who took him in and raised him.

The idea that he’s racist, seems pretty far-fetched, and not supported by any evidence I saw. But feel free to comment below, citing sources, if you’ve seen any statements he uttered against Caucasians in general.

Could He Have Chosen a Better Tactic?

Because Colin is famous, I believe he’d have done far more to improve these relations between the police and young urban minorities by doing community outreach with police. Maybe trying to start  a ride-along program with NFL stars, for instance.

Urging NFL players, especially those who were once urban minorities themselves, to go out with officers and start dialogues with them based on mutual respect between the police and many of the NFL players who were former at-risk kids themselves, would certainly help achieve his goal.

If police hear these stories from some of the NFL’s best, maybe it would make the officers see the young men in their community as potential greatness instead of potential criminal young men.

Community Outreach: Dajuan Howze, 13, battles for the ball against Pittsburgh Police officer Gino Perry while Zone 5 police commander Jason Lando waches. The officers played a pick up basketball game with local youth during the Homewood Community Day celebration.

I also believe that if a cop car rolls up in a bad neighborhood with a superstar like Colin riding along with them, it might incite those kids to get to know their local police; building better relationships in the process.

If you’re one of those kids, you’d love to meet an NFL star. And if you meet one thanks to a police officer who brought him to you, all of a sudden that police officer is more likely to be seen as a friend instead of a foe.

Is Colin Trying To Create Unity

On the face of it, a peaceful protest is certainly what Martin Luther King is famous for. And his kneeling is not that different from Rosa Parks sitting on a front bus seat.

Yet once Colin knelt, many took offense, and sadly didn’t see it that way, if that’s how he meant it.

Colin KaepernickIf he intended to be unifying however, wearing socks depicting police as pigs, all but ruined his message.

Even if he justifies it by saying that it was only directed at bad cops, I’ve heard multiple racist “white” people justify hateful speech by saying, “There’s black people, and then there’s n*****s”?

They assume because I’m white, I want to hear that nonsense. I assure you, I really REALLY don’t appreciate it. And I usually tell them so if I’m not in a position where I think I’ll be physically attacked for doing it. And Colin’s excuse for wearing those socks is pretty similar, in my opinion.

If rational people like me were apt to side with his peaceful protests, assuming he had nothing but the best intentions in his heart for all parties involved, this went a long way to burn that.

But nonetheless, I try to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was just angry, and did something ill-advised in his enraged state. Haven’t we all, in a moment of anger, said or done things we regret later?


Now let’s discuss Donald Trump’s actions.

Donald Trump Official Portrait

Love him or hate him, I think it’s fair to admit that Trump is open and honest about his opinions. His Twitter feed is laden with unrehearsed, unpolished, and uncensored opinions that clearly seem to be what he actually feels.

So let’s take a skeptical look at those.

Were Trump’s Tweets Divisive When We All Tend To Agree Unity is Needed?

Yes Trump’s comments were divisive. I frankly wish he’d just stop. But so were the people opting to kneel.

You cannot fairly condemn Trump for being divisive, if you won’t equally condemn the players who know it’s upsetting a very large portion of the country, without being hypocritical.

Should Trump Have Said What He Said and Tweeted What He Tweeted?

Trump is effectively two people. He’s a president, and an American citizen.

As president, I want him to be involved in Colin’s (and the NFL’s) actions absolutely zero.

Instead, I’d want to see him order the FBI to investigate police shootings to make sure local police aren’t effectively protecting their own during the investigations of officer shootings. Clearly, letting the San Francisco PD investigate one of their own is as big of a conflict of interest as one could imagine.

I’d also want federal prosecutors to handle any disciplinary actions, up to and including criminal trials.

As for Trump tweeting an official position on the kneeling, he should simply say it’s a private matter for the free market to sort out.

If it kills NFL ratings, then they’ll react accordingly. This is not the business of a government who’s first amendment guarantees free speech.

As an American citizen, he has a right to an opinion on anything, including this. In my opinion, he should have two different Twitter accounts: one for “the president” and one for “the citizen,” which he does (@POTUS and @realDonaldTrump). Then, keep his official positions on one, and his personal opinions on the other.

On this issue, he largely did exactly that. His @POTUS account retweeted the personal account’s tweet below, and that’s all I’ve found. The rest were on his personal account.

In general, I don’t feel Donald Trump has done a remotely admiral job at unifying a divided nation—quite the contrary. His business acumen is about winning, which means he’s often competitive by nature. That aggressiveness comes out in his behavior often, and I suspect it’s not likely to change.

He’s arguably the most divisive president in history, but it’s not like we didn’t know this prior to the election, and yet he still won. So this isn’t exactly an overpromise/underdeliver situation; no bait-and-switch transpired here.

But as much as I disagree with him on significant policy issues, I at least prefer his unfiltered nature. I find it far better than people who are polished and rehearsed yet come off as obviously fake. I’d just prefer to know instead of wonder where you stand, and whether you’re a person I wouldn’t like in real life or not.

Should The NFL/Team Owners Fire Players?


Well, the players work for the teams (franchises), not the NFL. The only people firing them will be the team owners.

The NFL has code-of-conduct policies, which they seem to strictly enforce. For instance, the Cowboys wanted to have a simple sticker in support of a slain officer, and the NFL specifically forbade it.

One can certainly argue that this is somewhat hypocritical to forbid a helmet like this, while allowing some other form of protest on the field, like kneeling for the national anthem.

But nonetheless, the NFL is a private company, and they have every right to be hypocrites if they so desire, and the free market will sort it out accordingly.

As for the teams, if they want to fire the players for representing their brand in a way that’s inconsistent with their team owner’s values, then they have a right to do so. One caveat though: only if they drafted a code-of-conduct clause is in the contract they have with that player, which specifically forbids such actions.

 


Now that we’ve covered the two actors in this play, let’s discuss the issue in general. Because there’s a lot of hypocritical and/or illogical behavior from the professional media and the John Q Pissed-Offs on social media.

Is This a Free Speech Issue?

This one’s pretty easy:

  • Is government stifling the action? – Free Speech Issue
  • Is private enterprise (NFL or team owners) stifling the action? – Not a Free Speech Issue

Since no one is proposing a law to prevent this, or that government intervene to stifle free speech, it’s not a free speech issue. It’s that simple. When such a law or government action is proposed, only then will it become a free speech issue.

Is It About Disrespecting The Flag

Many argue that it’s just a flag, and we shouldn’t get so worked up about it. But here’s the rub with that argument. 

Colin and his fellow kneelers aren’t attacking the idea that there’s too many stars and stripes on it, nor are they complaining the colors clash. They’re mad at a country that seems to allow racism and permit cops to kill “black” kids without recourse. The flag is just a representative icon of the country this occurs in, from their perspective.

Coincidentally, the people who are mad at disrespecting the flag aren’t really passionate about “the flag” either.

They’re passionate about all that the flag represents to them.

  • A country founded on liberty
  • A soldier who fought and died to protect them
  • A country they fought for if they are a soldier
  • The freedom it represents that they don’t have in other countries

That list goes on and on.

No different from you not caring about a piece of celluloid until there’s a picture of someone you love on it, the flag, as a piece of fabric, was never what anyone really cared about.

So when you make an argument that it’s “just a flag” to defend such actions, know that this argument isn’t relevant to this issue, since it wasn’t “just a flag” to either party. All sides would do well to understand that.

As a libertarian, I’m also fervent on the idea that thought-policing has absolutely no place in a free country. If it did, let’s be honest, Colin would be in jail, or worse, murdered by the state. Just ask many Iraqis who lived under the Hussein regime, North Koreans under the Kim Jong regime, or other dictator-run nations, who lost loved ones due to a government that didn’t take kindly to a lack of respect from its citizenry.

So to me, Colin should love America for the freedom it gives him to do these protests, and instead, direct his ire at the individual officers that commit heinous acts, a legal system that doesn’t seem to effectively prosecute them, and the racists who think it’s OK for officers to avoid prosecution for manslaughter of an innocent young man. Not the flag, and all the things that the flag represents to most Americans.

The Peaceful Protest

One of the most shining examples of hypocrisy in this is the people who lashed out at all the rioters after some of these controversial shootings (rightly so), and called for people to peacefully protest, then got mad at Colin and his peers for peacefully protesting.

They did what you asked, and they did it in a forum where they’d get the most attention for doing it. If the NFL allows it, you don’t have to agree with it, but you should at least give them credit for being peaceful, even if you agree with me that it’s misguided and ill-advised.

Again, we have to stop with all the hypocrisy.

Summary

All parties in this have good intentions, even if their tactics are poor. Throughout all of it, most people are calling for unity and peace. So let’s do the things that have a proven record of achieving those goals.

I’m willing to have a respectful discussion, give benefit of the doubt to those with good intentions, even if they aren’t acting like it, and show respect to those I disagree with.

I’d also suggest instead of standing with Trump or Kaepernick, you form your own opinions, while being your own worst critic. Come to a conclusion that you think is fair to both sides, and be honest when it’s obvious you’re being hypocritical. You have no right to demand others be better if you refuse to be better yourself.

 

Exploring the Hyperbole, Myths, and Inaccuracies of Gun Legislation Politics and Discourse

Gun laws are a pretty sensitive subject in America, regardless of which side of the issue you’re on. But it shouldn’t be.

Indeed they are our constitutional right, and I support that right whole-heartedly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be fair, and debate respectfully on the subject with those who may hold a different view. After this last election, I hope we can all agree civility in political discourse has a lot of room for improvement.

People who argue with logic and reason, are far more likely to encourage more to side with them than people who insult, lie, yell, and behave anything but adult-like.

So with that being said, let’s break down a few of the common myths often bandied about regarding guns.

MYTH #1: They’re trying to take our guns

Any time Democrats propose new gun legislation, Republicans immediately go on the defensive and rile up the base by insinuating their opponents are trying to entirely disarm the populace.

Armalite AR-15
Armalite AR-15 Semi-Automatic Rifle

But the base is already on their side, there’s no need to get them riled up. Not to mention, it’s entirely dishonest, and most who do it already know that.

Not a single law was proposed in recent history to remove all guns from private citizens, nor did anyone propose repealing the second amendment. If you feel the need to lie about your opponent’s argument to defeat them, think about what that says about you. It says you’re incapable of winning your argument on its merits. When you do this, you’ve already lost the moral and logical high-ground.

The effort should be focused not on the straw man argument that “they’re trying to take our guns,” but instead on the specific regulation being proposed.

A large majority of Americans have a pretty shallow opinion of Congress. In April 2016, this Gallup poll shows that only 17% thought they were doing a good job, 79% however thought they were doing anything but.

President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This less than favorable opinion is often due to the constant infighting between the two parties, that is largely full of myths, hyperbole, misdirection, and occasionally bold-faced lies. Neither come off looking like professionals, or even reasonable people.

So the party that strives to be amenable to finding common ground, and deemed as the most civil and honest will win this fight.

The Republicans owned Congress at the time, so a 17% approval rating should be a clear message they’re missing their mark.

Most Democrat-proposed ideas are around more stringent background checks, or limiting certain types of weapons, the latter of which, I think is misguided, but I’ll save that for another time.

Both parties agree that guns shouldn’t be in the hands of violent felons, or those with a diagnosed mental disorder.Firearm sale

But the problem for Republicans often arrives when Democrats propose what might be reasonable background checks, the bill is only one page of such reasonable checks Republicans might be open to agreeing to, but then a myriad of other pages of pork-like special favors for their district or other provisions that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Republicans are just as guilty of doing the same on other issues, so no one party is innocent of this. But if both just stuck to passing simple single-item bills on the issues where they agree, they’d be far more effective and win over the American people.

The best tactic for Republicans would be to first loudly proclaim that they’re willing to look at effective background check legislation and pass the background check attributes both agree on. Propose counter legislation that includes those, and only those, and let the Democrats justify why they won’t vote for it.

Show that you’re willing to find common ground publicly, and emphatically, leaving the Democrats looking like the only ones not willing to work towards progress. If Democrats argue, “these provisions don’t go far enough,” Republicans can simply put it back on them by saying, “This is what we already agree on. So let’s pass this first, and if it doesn’t help, we can discuss further measures later.”

Myth #2: The Gun Show Exemption for Background Checks

Democrats often cite the gun show exemption to background checks as a big problem, and frankly, they’re partly right, even if they’re disingenuous in their presentation of the issue.

The fact is that gun dealers at gun shows do in-fact do background checks. However, if you’re a private person who has a .22 caliber pistol for instance, and you’d like to upgrade to a 9mm pistol, you can take it to the show with you, and if some other private person like you who’s there (not a dealer or vendor) has a 9mm but wants a .22, then you can legally make a private citizen trade. This is just like you would do if your neighbor decided they wanted to sell or trade with you, it just happens on the premises of a gun show.Gun Show

Instead of just shooting down every idea Democrats have, Republicans could admit that maybe there are things that could be done, that aren’t an undue burden on law abiding citizens, to help clean up this “loophole.”

It could be something as simple as having people fill out a background check upon entering the show, if they’re considering buying or trading, and let them shop to their heart’s content from there. If they don’t pass the test, there’s really no reason for them to enter the premises of a gun show in the first place.

While I’m not saying that’s the answer, things like that can certainly be deemed a reasonable measure to prevent guns getting into the wrong hands, and are at least worth discussing in earnest.

Myth #3: Guns are the biggest problem

This well put together bit of data, and rather insightful graphic from the math geniuses at 538 points out that there are approximately 33,000 gun deaths in America each year, and this number is often used to denounce guns in general. But let’s put that in perspective as well as break those numbers down.

As this image from the CDC document found here shows, in 2014, there were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States that year, making 33,000 just above 1.2% of the reasons for death attributable to guns.CDC Cause of Death info from 2014

By comparison, more than double died from diabetes, nearly three times as many from Alzheimer’s (which took my father last month), and nearly twenty times more died from heart disease.

As the 538 article also shows, nearly two-thirds of those gun deaths were suicides, and a small percentage were self defense, or police shootings of criminal suspects.

While I think we all agree suicides are tragic, as a libertarian, I believe that you own your own body, and have the right to end it whenever you like.

My own grandfather was quite ill when he shot himself, and having already lost my grandmother years earlier, he didn’t want to burn through what little he had saved for his kids by chasing a terminal disease. While you may not agree with it, that was his choice and you should respect it.

But no matter what side of suicide you are on, it cannot be fairly called an act of violence, nor the fault of a gun. So those acts should not be considered when discussing gun violence, and I think those with an anti-gun position should be fair when presenting such arguments, no not cite 33,000 number, but instead, the 10,000 or so that were potential murders or manslaughter, versus suicides and justifiable homicides.

All that being said, 10,000 wrongful deaths is still a large number of people, and is incredibly tragic. It is a small percentage, but certainly statistically significant, and Democrats have fair cause to want to do something to lessen that number. Even if we disagree on their proposed methodology, their altruistic intentions should be evident and respected.

Conclusion

These are three of many arguments from both sides that are the first that came to mind to me. But I’m sure you can think of many more.

The bottom line is that Democrats should know most Republicans don’t want to put guns in the hands of bad people. They just don’t want law-abiding citizens to have their rights violated and disagree on how to go about preventing it.

Republicans should know that most Democrats don’t want to disarm America, they want to prevent wrongful deaths, and they think less guns will achieve said goal.

Until both parties in congress, and the party-faithful voters who make their voices heard on social media learn to understand, then be understood, these immature and dishonest tactics will continue to ensure that America doesn’t advance in any meaningful and constructive way.

We’re all smart enough to know better, it’s time we acted like it.

Analysis of Race and Perspectives of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

As police shootings of black men under dubious circumstances continue to make headlines, along with peaceful protests among several professional athletes, opinions on racism and the  #BlackLivesMatter movement abound.

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem prior to the 49ers' season opener.(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images)
Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem prior to the 49ers’ season opener.(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images)

I do not have any affiliation with the group, and being Caucasian, cannot genuinely identify with their specific plight.

But I can apply some pretty basic critical thinking to understand their message, instead of dismissing it outright as divisive.

But before we get into the opinion portion, let’s take a look at the science and psychology of race and racism in general.

Genetics

First we must understand that there is no black or white gene. I think we all understand we’re not literally black and white. But moving past that, the term “black and white” supposes there is a binary system with only two options. But with the multitude of skin colors around the globe, this clearly isn’t the case.

As the Anthropology Department from the University of Alabama explains here, skin gets its color from three different molecules referred to as pigments.

  • Carotene: which is rather uncommon, and is typically only a factor if people overeat things with carotene in it—like carrots. It causes the skin to take on a yellowish shade.

    Carotene
    Carotene
  • Hemoglobin: This molecule is contained in our blood for facilitation of oxygenation of the blood. It takes on a reddish hue, unless you’re oxygen-deficient, in which case it will be purplish.

    hemoglobin
    Hemoglobin
  • Melanin: The component responsible for the “black” and “white” we refer to, is a severely dark brown color typically. The higher the concentration of this molecule in your skin, the darker your skin tone will be.

    Melanin
    Melanin

These three variables to one’s skin color have a default value they would inherit from their parents. But as you might expect, there are environmental factors that can change them such as the aforementioned carrot eating or tanning which increases melanin production. Since we’re talking about genetics, we’ll ignore the environmental factors for this post.

How the differences came about

As with most genetic traits, nature has selected for different skin tones too. This natural selection is almost entirely based on geographical location of our recent ancestors. And I say recent, because we’re all African in decent if we go back far enough.

Because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis, seasons are reversed depending on which side of the equator you’re on. For instance, winter in the northern hemisphere coincides with summer in the southern.motionsofsunandmoon2-axistilt1

But also, Earth’s path around the sun is elliptical—not a perfect circle. Therefore, those of us in the northern hemisphere are actually closest to the sun (perihelion) in January, and furthest from the sun (aphelion) in July—the difference being about 3%.

As a result, the Southern hemisphere being tilted towards the sun when they’re closer to it means the southern hemisphere’s summers will receive slightly more solar radiation than their northern counterparts.

In theory, this would mean the climate variation in the northern hemisphere would be less severe than in the southern hemisphere, but the increased water-surface to land-surface ratio of the southern hemisphere mitigates the variance for them, as explained in the video below.

These variances in solar radiation are the reason that skin tones lighten “about 8% per 10° of latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, and about 4% per 10° of latitude in the Southern Hemisphere” as you move further from the equator, because until quite recently in the history of mankind, thanks to the invention of boats, cars, and airplanes, traveling from one climate to another was quite the monumental task, and therefore rarely occurred.

Why nature selected for different skin tones

The excess melanin in one’s skin helps absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation, protecting the skin from potential harm such as skin cancer. So people living closer to the equator, being exposed to more solar radiation, have better survived due to the protection melanin provides their skin.

However, solar radiation is the only natural way your body gets the vitamin D it needs, and that UV blocking melanin inhibits vitamin D’s production in the process. So those further from the equator would naturally select for lighter skin to maximize the vitamin D production from the lesser amount of solar radiation they receive.

This is why darker skinned people who live further from the equator can have an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, and lighter skinned people located closer to the equator may suffer increased risk of skin cancer.

The reason this is important when discussing race, is to make the simple point that variances in our skin color, through natural selection from our ancestor’s environments, have dictated how dark our skin tone is based on how far our recent ancestors were from the equator. And any other reasoning one might attribute to our different skin tones is largely ignorant and false.

Mislabeling

While race is identified by skin color, it’s typically understood to be more about someone’s ancestry, than the actual color of their skin. But our desire to stick to a binary system of black and white, is entirely unfair to a large group of people who have mixed ancestry.

For instance, someone with a medium skin tone of mixed heritage is often just as closely related to someone referred to as black as they are to someone who is thought of as white, or any other different race. Therefore, referring to them as a light-skinned black person, wrongly puts them in one racial bucket when they really belong to both; or more correctly, a third bucket in between.

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 21: Kultida Woods and Tiger Woods at the dedication of the statue honoring his father Earl Woods at the Tiger Woods Learning Center on January 21, 2008 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
ANAHEIM, CA – JANUARY 21: Kultida Woods and Tiger Woods at the dedication of the statue honoring his father Earl Woods at the Tiger Woods Learning Center on January 21, 2008 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Tiger Woods for instance, is often referred to as being black, when his mother Kutilda Woods is actually Asian.

President Obama, also often referred to as black, has a Caucasian mother, Ann Dunham.

Ann Dunham - Barack Obama's mother
Ann Dunham – Barack Obama’s mother

The whole concept of race in general is simply a man-made construct held over from our ignorant past. We used it to differentiate ourselves from one another, long before we understood genetics or biological species.

As this Nature.com report shows, “approximately 85−90% of genetic variation is found within these continental groups,” referring to Africa, Asia, and Europe, “and only an additional 10−15% of variation is found between them.” This illustrates that our fundamental differences lie in things other than our skin color.

The Psychology

As you hopefully already know, humans are typically social in nature, sociopaths, also known as people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, make up a mere 4% of the population. This means the desire to bond with other people is ingrained in about 96% of us as a result.

One way people bond is by finding commonalities with each other.

Imagine the person next to you, talking to a friend, says they just “pahked the kah.” If you’re a Bostonian in Boston, this won’t even get your attention. But if you were a Bostonian in the UK for instance, you’ll almost assuredly at least say, “Hey, I’m from Boston too.”

This is because the two of you have something unique for the location you’re in, that you share, and therefore can bond over.

In that example, you had to overhear the person say it though. With race, you can plainly see that you share that trait with another from across the room, and therefore immediately make an instinctive connection with that person. This is fairly natural, and not an inherently hateful form of racism.

The Good, the Bad, and the UglyNAACP-Logo[1]

Racism can be good if it’s simply a way to bond with others as illustrated above. But also with cases like the NAACP, where segregating by race is simply a way to focus your efforts on helping those who are discriminated against, such as “colored” people (the C in NAACP) certainly were at the time the NAACP was founded.

But while individuals use racism to create strong bonds, it sadly has a more heinous side that’s often rooted in hate. Because just as we bond over our commonalities, an us-against-them mentality can kick in when two or more people are like each other and another party in the area is not.

The heinousness of hateful racism is so well-known and understood, that I really don’t care to go into that any further here. It’s an unpleasant topic, and there’s probably little I can say that would add anything new to the conversation anyway.

But it’s important to understand that some level of racism is instinctual and what an instinct actually is in the first place.ailmentangermanagement1

Instincts are things we do subconsciously and uncontrollably without thinking about them. For instance, imagine someone were yelling hateful and vile insults at you—you will have no control over your instinct to punch them. But because you’re a responsible adult,  and know violence should be avoided if possible, many of you will suppress that instinct.

Racism is not that different, and can only be suppressed through knowledge and understand of why we do it, and then a genuine desire to avoid acting on it maliciously.

Who’s A Racist?

Now moving on to the op-ed portion of this post. While I explained above why we are not in fact black or white, I will use the terms “black” and “white” going forward since the word black is in #BlackLivesMatter, and the terms are for the most part the social norm. It will help make this next part a little easier to read than using “light-skinned” or “dark-skinned.”

Let’s first state unequivocally, that racism isn’t exclusive to any one race. So while the discussion of people being racist is often assumed to be white-on-black, it can just as easily be black-on-white. It can oddly even be white-on-white (when white people attack others like them for their “white privilege” for instance), or black-on-black (when black people assume the worst from other black people but tend to be more trusting of whites).

I should also point out that it’s not just skin tone. I’ve met Japanese people who don’t like the Chinese, Brits who hate the French, Colombians who don’t like Mexicans…the list of racial animosity goes on endlessly.

So this problem isn’t uniquely black and white, and it certainly isn’t even uniquely American. It existed long before America did and will likely endure for as long as vastly different skin tones exist.

So when I talk about racism, I’m referring to all of it, not just white-on-black.

#BlackLivesMatter

Now  let’s get back to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Once the #BLM movement started, it launched a lot of counter movements like #PoliceLivesMatter or the more generic #AllLivesMatter. At first, you can understand the opposition’s concern that #BlackLivesMatter seems to be segregating in nature, but I believe that entirely overlooks their underlying point.blm

As troubling as it is, when a news story airs about a police shooting of a suspect, there seems to be an improperly common sentiment among the media and the people. That if the victim is a black man, it is more likely to be justifiable homicide by the police than if the person who was shot were white. They are assuming the black man must have been engaged in criminal activity, where a white shooting victim more often gets the benefit of doubt.

While all people officially have equal rights under the law; these days, this perceptive double-standard on the presumed innocent of two people, solely based on the color of their skin, is the darker side of racism that still remains in the hearts and minds of far too many, despite many of them feeling they’re not racist in any way.

(Credit - Blavity.com)
(Credit – Blavity.com)

While I don’t believe most people, black or white, make a conscious effort to be racist, almost everyone will have some instinctual racial bias based on the psychology aspect mentioned above, and their own life experiences with people of a different race. The better those experience were, the less likely they are to be hatefully racist.

Honest Assessment

The next few times you see a police shooting of black and white civilians, see if your initial reactions to those shootings are the same; regardless of skin color.

Also, do the media portray both incidents equally? Do the public seem to have the same concerns or outrage on social media or around the office? Sadly, if I’m truly being honest with myself, I have to say they’re often not.

Where the #BLM Opposition Goes Wrong

So why do I think people are misguided when they think the #BLM movement are arguing other lives don’t matter? Because they didn’t specifically say that. It’s a straw man argument—one of the most common logical fallacies.

The opposition’s argument is that by saying #BlackLivesMatter, the #BLM people are arguing that white lives, police lives, et al., do not. But the #BLM movement is made up of three simple words and a hashtag. It says nothing about anyone else. So if you assume they’re saying non-black lives don’t matter, that’s a assumption you added yourself.

The predominance of people supporting the #BLM movement acknowledge wholeheartedly that all lives matter. Their argument is that the rest of the public don’t seem to value black lives. If the #BLM movement has any fundamental flaw, it’s poor phrasing. The simple addition of the word “Too” at the end of #BlackLivesMatter could have went a long way.

The Protests

While I don’t like the tactic of lashing out at our country, our flag, or our military as some professional athletes have chosen to do (I think community outreach programs, focusing on positive interaction, would better achieve their goal), we should also recognize that a peaceful and non-violent protest is exactly what most of us encouraged people to do when riots, vandalism, and looting by outraged people have broken out, and this is genuinely what those athlete’s are doing.

It’s easy to be mad at each other, but it’s better to be empathetic, and honest with ourselves that their concerns are often legitimate. Instead of getting angry, and pushing back, it’s not too much to ask to be skeptical of police who shoot someone.

Be A Skeptic, Even Of The Police

While the police by and large do a great job, and should always be given the utmost respect, on some occasions they exercise bad judgement, and in incredibly rare incidents, are would-be-felons willingly committing crimes.

If this weren’t true, there would be no Internal Affairs Bureau. So it is important to remember they’re not perfect, and may actually be the person in the wrong when they use their firearm against a civilian.

Pastor Terence Crutcher
Pastor Terence Crutcher

The shooting of pastor Terence Crutcher is one example of several, where many in the media and on social media initially assumed he had potentially done something to cause the officer to shoot him. That officer has since however been charged with first degree manslaughter, and Pastor Crutcher deserved the respect and outrage he sadly didn’t get from far too many people.

At the same time, it’s also important that the #BLM supporters wait for all the facts to come out when a black person is shot by police, because he may have indeed been engaged in a crime and was endangering others.

We should all let the facts come out, let the court system do it’s job, and if we’re not on the jury ourselves, try to accept the idea that the jury was given more evidence that’s credible and scientific, and therefore made a more educated decision than we could have.

Where the media often purposefully distort the facts for ratings, our legal system has safeguards to prevent such unfair biases in a court of law by excluding prejudicial evidence, and ensuring all witnesses can be cross-examined.

Synopsis

While you may not agree with the tactics of the #BLM movement and the peaceful protests of several black athletes, no fair person can argue there isn’t occasionally a double standard in TV and print media, social media, and public opinion as to how tragic the death of a black person is compared to anyone else.

If we want this racial divide to stop, we have to understand it, make an effort to change it, and more important than anything, exercise a little empathy and understanding for those on the other side of the issue.

Embrace that which makes us different—it makes us interesting to one another, it helps provide alternate perspectives, and most importantly from a science perspective, our diversity actually preserves our species (think of purebred animals which have much higher incidents of disease and genetic defect).

But know that the difference between any two of us, is basically the same, no matter what color we are, and therefore we should all have equal rights under the law, and equal rights to the presumption of innocence.

 

 

 

Justice Sotomayor: The Libertarian?

In December 2014, The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Heien v. North Carolina. You can click on the link to read the entirety of the case if interested, but I’ll give you fairly brief synopsis here.

In 2010, a man named Maynor Vasquez was pulled over by police for having one of his two brake lights inoperative. Police observed his friend, Nicholas Heien sleeping in the back seat of the car. Thinking this behavior seemed a little odd, police fairly asked if they could search the car, and were given permission to do so.

Official Portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Click for Biography
Official Portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Click for Biography

Upon the search, they discovered 54 grams of cocaine in the vehicle, then arrested and convicted Heien of two counts of trafficking, presumably due to the amount larger than one person’s normal usage.

Heien’s lawyer challenged the traffic stop as North Carolina law only requires you have a working brake light, not both of them. As such, council argued the police stopping Vasquez and Heien constituted an illegal stop, and the search was therefore the proverbial “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and should have been thrown out.

Eventually, certiorari was granted, and SCOTUS heard the case in 2014. The court ruled against Heien in an 8:1 decision—Sotomayor being the only dissenter.SCOTUS8-1

During oral arguments, Sotomayor asked the petitioner:

(You can click below for the entire oral arguments transcript)

“So how many citizens have been stopped for one brake light who are asked to have their car searched? And is that something that we as a society should be encouraging?”

It’s fairly common knowledge, that SCOTUS at that time was comprised of what most considered five right-leaning justices, and four left-leaning. Sotomayor being one of the left—as she was appointed by Obama.

The issue at hand was whether Heien’s Constitutional rights were violated by a search under the Fourth Amendment which reads:

“[t]he 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.”

While it is often believed that the left-leaning justices don’t often seem too concerned with the Constitution, if you listen to oral arguments long enough, you start to see both sides indeed heavily use the constitution for the basis of their arguments.

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 1960-2016
Justice Antonin Scalia 1960-2016

What’s often the case however, is that some are absolutists, and use the constitution strictly as it’s written.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia was among the most supportive of this notion. In an interview he stated that, “The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution. The problem with a living Constitution in a word is that somebody has to decide how it grows and when it is that new rights are – you know — come forth. And that’s an enormous responsibility in a democracy to place upon nine lawyers, or even 30 lawyers.”

However, other justices try to interpret what was intended when the Constitution or its amendments were written, instead of interpreting it solely by its verbiage—referring to the Constitution as a living document. Most notably, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote this piece explaining his ideals.

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist 1924-2005
United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist 1924-2005

This “Living Document” idea also means that they often try to modernize the Constitution in such a way as to essentially say, “If the framers knew what we know today, this is what they’d have written or done.”

Scalia (and I agree wholeheartedly) would argue that it is for congress to rewrite the Constitution through the amendment process, and that the “Living Constitution” concept is nothing less than legislating from the bench—blurring the lines of the separation of powers intended by creating the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches.

But nonetheless, Justice Sotomayor’s lone dissent, was clearly the only decision made with the Constitution in mind as written, almost stunningly not echoed by the late Justice Scalia and other conservative justices.

The United States Constitution
The United States Constitution

In today’s highly politicized society, we often wish to assume that partisan’s, including justices, are always on the side of their party, but every once in a while, you will find an ally in the most unlikely places, and on this particular issue, the only ally to liberty was Justice Sotomayor, recognizing that you cannot allow police to search someone’s car under a false pretense, and then allow prosecution to proceed accordingly.

I’m often pretty outspoken in my disdain for any politician who is consistently on the wrong side of liberty, but I’ve always said I worship ideals, not people. I just give people credit where it’s due, and attack when I believe it’s warranted. On this day, Justice Sotomayor was right, and she should be commended for it.