Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Happy Bill of Rights Day – 225 Years Old

bill-of-rights-hero-lg-1
 

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791, which makes today the 225th anniversary of being signed into law. The Bill of Rights protects the interests of minorities from oppression by tyrannical majorities. This is why we are not really a democracy, but a constitutional republic.

If a majority decides that a minority should not be entitled to the same rights as the majority, or promotes some rationalization of the difference as not being a valid difference, that minority can appeal to the courts for relief. On the other hand, there are no absolute rights, which would invalidate all other rights.

You can be executed for a crime you did not commit, even if you can prove that you are innocent. You have to appeal to the governor or president for intervention. As the Supreme Court decided –
 

Held: Herrera’s claim of actual innocence does not entitle him to federal habeas relief. Pp. 6-28.[1]

 

Due process of law does not require that the innocent be set free. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are not to be found in the American Constitution. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are not to be found in the Bill of Rights.

Rights also come with responsibilities. We need to respect the rights of others, no matter how much we might think that others cannot be trusted to make those decisions, while we claim to be able to make these same decisions, not just for ourselves, but for others.

If people of different races want to marry, the state governments are not permitted to use their authority to sanction marriages to deprive citizens of their right to marry based on tradition. States rights have limitations, just as individual rights have limitations.

Discriminating against citizens of a politically incorrect group for decades, or even centuries, is not a justification for continuing to deprive them of equal treatment under the law.

Others may use their freedom, which always comes with responsibilities, in ways we do not like, but that is part of the price of freedom.

Even though slavery was legal at the time of ratification of the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, and is still endorsed by the Bible, we have recognized that slavery is bad. Our Constitution caught up with a lot of the rest of the world.

The Bible still endorses slavery and says that I can sell my daughter as a sex slave.

What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books. – Sigmund Freud

The Bill of Rights is much better than the Bible. Go blaspheme in celebration of the Bill of Rights, which protects us from those who would burn us, or our writing, or otherwise punish us for being honest.

Footnotes:

[1] Herrera v. Collins (91-7328), 506 U.S. 390 (1993)
Argued October 7, 1992
Decided January 25, 1993
US Supreme Court
Decision

 

In criminal cases, thetrial is the paramount event for determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Where, as here, a defendant has been afforded a fair trial and convicted of the offense for which he was charged, the constitutional presumption of innocence disappears. Federal habeas courts do not sit to correct errors of fact, but to ensure that individuals are not imprisoned in violation of the Constitution. See, e.g., Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86, 87-88. Thus, claims of actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence have never been held to state a ground for federal habeas relief absent an independent constitutional violation occurring in the course of the underlying state criminal proceedings.

 

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Flag burning, patriotism, and reality

flagburningtrump2a

Tweet by President-elect Donald Trump on flag burning
 

Is appearance more important than reality?
 

Why do people burn the American flag?

There may be many reasons, but the essence appears to be an attempt to shock people to recognize what the flag burners see as hypocrisy.

What is the purpose of prohibiting burning of the American flag?

Some people place more value in this symbol of America (the flag), than they do in what makes America great (the Constitutional protections of the rights of Americans).

Is President-elect Trump an opponent of the American Constitution? Is President-elect Trump just engaging in a politically correct theatrical display for people who do not seem to understand that the American Constitution doesn’t care if their feelings get hurt?
 


 

In 1798, Congress passed, and President John Adams signed, the Alien and Sedition Acts.[1] These restricted eligibility to vote, restricted immigration, allowed for increased deportation of aliens considered dangerous, and made criticism of the federal government illegal. This is one example of Founding Fathers acting in a way that is contrary to what many consider their original intent.

Recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia voted in the majority to protect flag burning in 1989.[2] Did Justice Scalia hate America, hate the American flag, or is it more complex than an early morning tweet can express?

In 1943, during World War II, the Supreme Court decided on a variation of this concept. Is it Constitutional to force people to demonstrate patriotism?
 

To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.[3]

 

Real patriotism is not a politically correct compulsory display.
 

But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.[3]

 

The American Constitution does not authorize thought crimes.
 

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.[3]

 

What about those who claim that Americans have risked their lives, and even died, to protect the sanctity of the American flag? Does service in any branch of the American military contain any oath to protect the American flag?
 

(a) Enlistment Oath .-Each person enlisting in an armed force shall take the following oath:
“I, ____________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
[4]

 

The So help me God is optional, since there is no truth to the myth that there are no atheists in foxholes and the American Constitution prohibits all religious requirements for service.

The oath is to protect the American Constitution, which protects flag burning. The oath is not to protect the American flag.

Even Jesus stated opposition to this kind of political theater.
 

5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners [a]so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.[5]

 

What does it say about America that we reward theatrical patriotism, rather than respect for the Constitution which makes America great?

Or is President-elect Trump taking initial steps to try to get Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission[6] overturned by expressing that not everything is protected expression? Who can tell with someone who expresses himself in such a vague manner?

Is appearance more important than reality?

Footnotes:

[1] Alien and Sedition Acts
1798
Primary Documents in American History
Library of Congress page

[2] Texas v. Johnson, (1989)
No. 88-155
Argued: March 21, 1989
Decided: June 21, 1989
United States Supreme Court
case

[3] West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (No. 591)
Argued: March 11, 1943
Decided: June 14, 1943
case

[4] §502. Enlistment oath: who may administer
Text contains those laws in effect on November 28, 2016
US Code page

Amended in 1962 – inserted “So help me God” in the oath, and “or affirmation” in text.

[5] Matthew 6:5-6
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
You can go to the site and look up all of the other versions of the Bible or just pick up a Bible and read this.
Bible Gateway
Bible

[6] Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
2009
case

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Handguns, Health, and the Second Amendment

Today’s New England Journal of Medicine has an interesting editorial that is not in the editorial section. Handguns, Health, and the Second Amendment. It is also surprising that it is not part of their free content. The NEJM tends to make articles, that they feel are important, available for free.

What did a couple of medical ethicists, From the Department of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, have to write about the District of Columbia v. Heller decision? Well, they spent most of the 6 pages giving their legal opinions.

What did these non-Constitutional scholars not address, or just barely address? Tangentially, they did mention that we have a problem with violence in the United States. What they did not address at all, is the way that gun control might have the effect of decreasing that violence.

Is the problem with handgun crime one of otherwise law abiding people obtaining guns for their personal protection?

Is the problem with handgun crime one of criminals obtaining guns illegally for the purpose of committing even more crimes?

The article seemed to take the approach that is common with gun control efforts. It assumes that by aggressively prosecuting the first individual, there will be a decrease in handgun crime.

This is like the drunk looking for his keys under a streetlight. Where did he lose his keys? Nowhere near the streetlight, but he knows that the light is better under the streetlight, so that is where he will look.

Guns do not have the ability to posses the soul of the gun owner and cause the person to become violent. This is silly. No more than RSI (Rapid Sequence Induction/Intubation) causes people to ignore the use of waveform capnography to confirm placement of the endotracheal tube. No more than any tool will control the will of the person using the tool.

What is never explained is the way that disarming law abiding citizens has any effect on the violent criminals. True, there will be fewer guns available to be stolen and sold/bartered to the violent criminals. Anybody who thinks this will seriously decrease the crime rate is clearly not grasping the concept that these are criminals. They do not need to obtain guns legally. Except for the amateur criminal, they are already well armed. It will only cause the law abiding citizens to not have protection against violent criminals.

OK, there will be some protection, but how many criminal attacks with a handgun are interrupted by the police before the gun wielding criminal has a chance to fire some shots into the unarmed victim?

Ah, but what about crimes of passion? Otherwise law abiding citizens become so irate that they use a handgun to attack the person they are not happy with. While the hand gun is the most expeditious way of accomplishing this, it is far from the only way. In England, where you practically have to be James Bond to get a handgun, there have been a lot of knife laws put into effect. The gun laws do not seem to make people any more agreeable. Knives also kill, so we have to ban those evil knives.

If this didn’t work with guns, why will it work with knives?

As with anything else – the problem is not the tool. The problem is the person misusing the tool. Handgun, laryngoscope blade, medication, automobile, knife, legislative power, . . . . Attacking the tool is not going to fix the problem of misuse. This will only cause the dangerous people to be dangerous with other tools.

The problem of violence is a significant problem. Mistaking it for a problem of guns, is not the way to solve the problem. When the legal guns are all gone, the problem will be knives, then baseball bats, or tire irons, or rocks, or automobiles, or something else. It doesn’t really matter what the tool is. The problem is the hand behind the tool. The hand is following the direction of a faulty brain. That does not mean that the brain will not be resourceful in finding other ways to be violent.

These passionately violent morons just help the Lawmakers of Unintended Consequences to make laws that continue to ignore the violent criminals.

Late entry – 10:40 5/28/09 – for a different take on this NEJM piece, read:

Ah, Yes, the “Guns as Disease Vector” Meme!

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