Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Can We Hear the N-Word One Day and Not Get Upset?"

I start this post by admitting that I will never know what it is like to be a black person. I was born white, I am white, and I will always be white. If that admission causes you to not want to read any further, that is on you. I do, however, know what it's like to be a human being, to be a part of the economy, of society. My skin color does not define who I am anymore than it defines the person to my left or to my right. A person is defined by his beliefs, by the way he lives and interacts with the world around him.

But growing up, I have often wondered why the word nigger is so taboo. It is, after all, just a word. While other words (e.g., fuck, kike, cunt, Jap) are considered--shall we say--less than ideal in the public forum, they are never met with the same amount of vitriol as when someone utters the word nigger.

The word is not off limits to everyone; those within a group tend use it freely, or it's derivation nigga, as a term of endearment, while those without are immediately condemned for using said word, often regardless of the context. That's not to say that every time the word is used by a non-group member it is completely neutral, as Michael Richards and countless others have proven in the past. Still, we do not see a mass movement by all Buddhists to prevent non-Buddhists from saying nirvana. Perhaps an odd example, but it does illustrate that there is a group of insiders who have a better understanding of a word than those on the outside.

There is a history of oppression with the word nigger, so it does make sense that there will be some who remain sensitive to hearing it said. But the outrage generated by the use of this one word has grown so great over the last 15 or 20 years that even similar sounding words with long-standing usage are becoming more or less taboo. In 1999, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was offended by her professor's use of the word niggardly (meaning extremely stingy or reluctant to give or spend) while discussing Chaucer. Chaucer, as in the author of The Canterbury Tales, who lived in the 14th century and used that and other words in their original meaning (I recall at least one classmate in English class who would involuntarily gag when reading across the word cunt) regularly.

We are told that it is racist for a white person to say nigger. And yet it seems far more racist to automatically assume an entire group of people will be offended by a word's usage (and thereby banning it, censoring it, or casting out all who use it), then to actually just say or write nigger. In the former example, you are treating hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of individuals as a uniform block who can only feel one way when they hear a word, and in the latter you--an individual--are interacting with other individuals and do not know how they will react. Much like a declaration that someone is renouncing their religion, or coming out of the closet, or starting a new career, there will be those who are shocked or bewildered by such news, those who are indifferent, and those who are pleased, among any number of additional reactions.

Ultimately, the use of the word nigger boils down to whether one's right to free speech (highly valued in this country) overpowers one's perceived right to not be offended. The latter simply does not exist; for if it did, there would be no shortage of harassment lawsuits claiming so-and-so had offended such-and-such. Unfortunately, while the lawsuits are kept more or less in check, that does not mean that people are completely free to say what they would like. Some people still like to believe that their feelings are more important than open discussion or freedom of speech. Going back to the example of the use of the word niggardly at UW-Madison, that was the brunt of the argument made by the Amelia Rideau, the offended student. From Reason Magazine:
"I was in tears, shaking," [Rideau] told the faculty. "It's not up to the rest of the class to decide whether my feelings are valid." Rideau's plea was a reality check. If the proper use of a Chaucerian term while teaching The Canterbury Tales could be construed as harassment of a student who did not know the word's spelling or meaning, then the code was teaching some interesting expectations indeed. Many "abolitionists," as they now were called, believe that Rideau's speech, widely reported, was the turning point, setting the stage both for greater attendance at the March meeting and for the final vote. John Sharpless, a history professor, asked, "What other words are to be purged from our language? Thespian?"
Free speech is one of the foundations of liberty. This does not mean one is totally free from judgment, but it should mean that if we truly value free speech then we will not allow someone's thoughts or ideas to be suppressed just because they contain offensive language or words. Punishing someone for something they said is no different than punishing someone for the way they look, and isn't that the mentality that we have been trying to break away from as a country for the last 50 years?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Small Government Conservatism is Not Possible from Today's GOP

The Republican Party has some problems. For a political party that claims to be the party of smaller government, they sure have a funny way of showing it. First, they shut out the eventual Libertarian Party candidate from the GOP primary debates, even though he had two terms' experience governing in a Democrat state where he balanced the budget without raising taxes. Then, Dr. No himself, the stalwart of Constitutional conservatism, is largely ignored by the media during his primary run. Finally, they nominate for the presidential campaign the man who laid the groundwork for Obamacare.

It's more than fair to say that Republicans care about reducing the size and scope of government about as much as a hoarder cares about a single dirty sock on the floor. So why do people who claim they want government to be smaller continue to vote for candidates that show no loyalty to those same ends? A case of battered wife syndrome? or simply a fear that the "other party" is that much worse? As I have said before, a vote for the "lesser of two evils" is still a vote for evil.

The major source of the problem as I see it stems from the belief that the GOP is the party for Christians. And it's easy to see why that is the perception. When your biggest social issue is abortion you kind of paint yourself into a corner. Now, abortion is a difficult issue to tackle (as a libertarian I find myself constantly falling on either side of the aisle due to the question of when life begins) that unfortunately tries to devolve into a simple black-and-white argument. But by no means should it come to define a political party's entire platform.

Another huge pet cause of the modern GOP is American imperialism. While officially called "nation building" and "spreading democracy", America's current foreign policy amounts to nothing more than the Philippine-American War circa the age of aircraft carriers and drones.

So we have the Christian moralists and the hawkish neo-conservatives trying to find common ground in a candidate. Unfortunately, neither of those things fit with a small-government mentality. It is impossible to force morality on people through legislation, and it is even more impossible to run a global war machine and keep a small budget.

Over the coming years, so-called conservatives need to make a choice: will they be sincere in their pledge of wanting smaller government, will they continue to make decisions in the lives of others, or will they perpetuate a culture of war-making? I know what I will choose, and I have a few reasons why a lot more people should embrace the same.

A lot of people like to say they have no interest in politics or government. (That's too bad, since the government takes a lot of interest in us.) Even so, interests seem to be piqued during election cycles. Going back the last few presidential elections, though, there hasn't been a lot of difference between the winning candidate and the other major party's platform. George Bush was the Republican candidate in 2000 and 2004, but he also brought us an education boondoggle and the biggest healthcare spending increase since the 1960's. Barack Obama wanted to end the War in Iraq but began conflicts in numerous other countries. He also has continued a policy of spying on American citizens. Neither had a record that is worthy of defending, which is why our election cycles of late have focused on negative campaigning against the opposing candidates.

It has always struck me as strange that people who proclaim the love of Christ would follow it up with bombing runs against foreigners and campaigns to make everyone righteous via government fiat. In my mind, Jesus would prefer people to follow him willingly. So it makes as little sense for the religious right to force people to live a certain way as it makes for progressives to force people to live a certain way.*

The other thing about the GOP attempting to have a large social agenda is that it grows the size of government. If you try to make abortion illegal, every time someone would try to have one there would be a circus of bureaucracy trying to implement it. Was she raped? Fill out this form and take a test. Oh, she wasn't raped? You're under arrest and we're going to trial. Every step in the process amounts to more paperwork and more tax dollars being spent than are already in Planned Parenthood's coffers.

If the religious right wants to make an impact in people's lives, they should lead by example. Preach smaller government while practicing private charity. Change people's lives through individual action, not threat of punishment. As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with governor (*or vinegar, even). We need to show that greater individual liberty is the way to bring about more positive changes in American lives.

Many of the religious right like to say that this country was founded on Christian morals. I used to count myself among the group that believed that. But Christian morals no more belong to America than to England. One of the founding principles of this country is, however, freedom of religion.  It is beneficial to society for people to live a moralistic life. But the highest moral we, as a country of dozens if not hundreds of religions, can live by is respecting everyone's God-given rights to life, liberty, and property.

This same idea goes for our country abroad. Do we really think we are going to convert Muslims to democracy or even Christianity by bombing them, their parents, their children, their cousins at a wedding? Our mission abroad, if anything, should be to protect only those American interests that are directly in danger. And long, drawn-out wars do nothing to protect American interests; in fact, they make us more vulnerable over the long term by spreading our forces thin. The United States are supposed to be the greatest military might in the world, but we sure don't act like it when we can't even "win" a war after ten years.

Where does this entire post take us then? Only by pushing for candidates who truly believe in small government will we be able to roll back the government interventions into everyone's lives and start to make differences in individual lives. We cannot succumb to desires to control or manipulate the lives of others, for that is neither what Christ taught nor is it the foundation of this great nation.

Before you move on from the 2012 presidential election and go the next three and a half to four years largely ignoring politics, let me leave you with two quotes:
"Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government."
- Thomas Jefferson

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
- George Washington
Christians and small government conservatives have a decision to make moving forward. They can continue policies that limit the freedom of others, or they can practice what they preach. I choose the latter.

*updated on 11/12/12.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ballot Reasoning, 2012

What does it mean to vote? A vote is your voice in the democratic system of government. It may not be a very loud voice in the grand scheme of things, but you show your opinion of government by voting a certain way. Do you approve of Candidate A? Vote for Candidate A. Do you disapprove of Candidate B? Vote for anybody but Candidate B.

However, it is very disheartening this election cycle to see how many people are confused by the act of voting. This year, we have been assaulted by they news media telling us that there are no other candidates. According to them, only Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are running for the office of president.

They want you to think that your vote belongs to either the Democrat candidate or the Republican candidate. Whether it was Ron Paul's efforts to claim the Republican nominations, or the general candidacies of Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Virgil Goode, Rocky Anderson, or a handful of other candidates, including former TV mom Roseanne Barr, the majority of news sites have done everything within their power to control the narrative that this race comes down to just two people.

"But a vote for a third party is a wasted vote," say millions of people. But that is the quintessential definition of begging the question.

Person A: "If you vote 3rd party you are wasting your vote."
Person B: "Why are you wasting your vote?"
Person A: "Because a 3rd party candidate will never win."
Person B: "Why will a 3rd party candidate never win?"
Person A: "Because if you vote for one you are wasting your vote."

Millions of voters are trapped every year in this circular logic that there are only two people to choose between, and they often summarize their choice by saying they are voting for the "lesser of two evils." I say, "Why vote for evil at all?" Even in the few elections where there are only two candidates on the ballot (or even one unopposed candidate) you have the choice to choose no one and say "Piss off!" to a screwed up system. I encourage everyone who is fed up with elections full of perennially bad candidates to stand up and make a choice:
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose freewill

All right, on to the ballot picks! Here are the ballots that I have for district 43: 1 2 3

PRESIDENT
Gary Johnson/James Gray (Libertarian party)

This campaign did not get a lot of love from the media, although they admittedly did get a little more notice than the Justice Party, Constitution Party, or Objectivist Party. There are a few things that I don't like from this campaign, namely the idea of a Fair Tax, like a national sales tax. The biggest problem with a Fair Tax at the moment is that the 16th Amendment still allows Congress to take a direct income tax from the citizens. Unless the 16th Amendment is constitutionally repealed there would be too much taxation power available to the federal government.

Fortunately, I think the Fair Tax is more of a party platform, and not necessarily something that he would push for in office. It is great to have a candidate who has actual leadership experience to look to when evaluating them for president, and Johnson's two successful terms as governor of New Mexico were amazing from a small government standpoint. He vetoed over 700 bills and left office with a budget surplus, all while cutting taxes as well. Like I said, it's nice to have an actual record to look at, something 2008's Barack Obama didn't have and 2012's Obama wished he didn't.

The two major party candidates are basically clones of each other. Everything has been pretty awful under Obama: the war on drugs continues with no improvements; the economy is still struggling and shows little signs of getting much better; we still have a ton of troops in the middle east and our citizens are being killed by enemy forces and this administration. All of that being said, Romney may only improve the economy a little, and even that is up for major debate. None of the other areas are in Romney's favor, and on some his rhetoric is making him sound worse (foreign policy).

UNITED STATES SENATOR
Bill Gaylor (no party affiliation)

I have been lambasted by advertisements in the central Florida area for both Connie Mack and Bill Nelson, the Republican and Democrat candidates, respectively. Bill Nelson wants to save Medicare and  Social Security for grandma and grandpa. Connie Mack wants to save Social Security and Medicare for grandpa and grandma. Neither wants to admit that both programs are unsustainable as is, and have been declared as nothing more than another tax by the Supreme Court. So that means there is nothing owed to people who have been paying into it their whole lives; the money just goes into the general coffers as soon as it is deducted from our paychecks. In addition to that, Social Security is actual a terrible rate of return even if you want to be of the mindset that you are getting back what you put in. It is a direct "Rob Peter to pay Paul" tax.

Gaylor looked like the candidate most in line with what I believe in, and I especially like the line about establishing a rule that a constitutional basis for a bill must be cited before it is considered. Chris Borgia kind of turned me off with his "Score Voting" idea, although I have said that a single negative vote (with the person the closest to zero votes winning) would bet better than a single positive vote.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT 9, STATE SENATOR DISTRICT 14, STATE REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT 50, PROPERTY APPRAISER, TAX COLLECTOR, SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS
No vote made for any candidate.

For the first three races, there are only a two candidates running in each race: a Republican and a Democrat. For the three races concerning actual representation for government, I think it is wrong that there are no other candidates on the ballot. Not necessarily wrong as in "not right", but wrong as in "more candidates from more parties should be gunning for these positions". So it is a vote to abstain from endorsing either of these candidates and the parties that they represent.

For the latter three categories, I think it is wrong (as in "not right") that these are even elected positions, and they certainly should not be positions held by partisan politics. So again I will choose not to endorse party affiliated candidates for posts that shouldn't even be subject to elections (and an argument could even be made that they should not be public offices in the case of property appraiser).

CLERK OF COURTS, SHERIFF
Write-in Aaron Brand

See the explanation for the last set of things, but I disagree with the notion of non-representation positions being subject to public election, as well as races being influenced by party affiliation. Therefore I am writing in my own name as I am confident that I could do a better job than any of those bozos. Plus, Lydia Gardner is running unopposed for Clerk of Courts which is baloney.

SUPREME COURT JUDGES
Vote "NO" to retain

Judges should not get comfortable with the idea of tenure or a permanent position.

CIRCUIT JUDGE 9 in DISTRICT 7
Letty Marques

FLORIDA STATE CONSTITUTION AMENDMENTS, CHARTER AMENDMENTS
"YES" on 1, "NO" on everything else

Amendment 1 is basically just the state of Florida's swipe at Obamacare, but even so, I will take it. The amendment says that a person or company cannot be compelled by law to purchase, obtain, or offer medical coverage. This could actually end up being a step towards eliminating employer-based health insurance plans, which may in the end result in better policy options through increased competition in the insurance market.

The NO vote on all other amendments comes from the idea that most actions will likely raise taxes. An exemption for veterans on their property taxes or a homestead exemption for non-homesteaded houses will likely just raise the amount of taxes other people have to pay. I do like that Amendment 4 attempts to keep property assessments valued at the just value and not an inflated value, but there are still ways for them to increase taxes and they limit the amount that taxes can be decreased.

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER
Ultimately, a vote is a personal act. One's political persuasions can be made public if they choose, as I am doing now. However one votes though, it is not wasted if it is made with conviction. Make sure you are voting for causes and people you believe in, and not just "for evil".

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Does It Mean to Be Free?

I think as a basis for freedom we can agree that both life and liberty constitute the foundation. For one cannot be free if he is enslaved to death or another man. Therefore self-ownership--to be the master of one's own domain--is essential to freedom. It is important to note that self-ownership means that the results of one's labor are his to do with as he wishes. So individual property is an equal tenet to the foundation of freedom.

But with this basic foundation, what creates the walls of Castle Freedom? When colonials were creating the form of government we now know in the United States today, they realized they were giving up part of their freedom voluntarily to "form a more perfect union". But in return, many states required certain protections for the many freedoms (they called them "rights") possessed besides those named within the Constitution. They drew up the Bill of Rights as a list of the rights which we keep and the government may not infringe upon. The ninth amendment is an especially important one for what it states:
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
This means that we may have many more rights than those expressed within the United States Constitution.

But overall, it seems pretty straightforward, right? Freedom of speech means we have the right to speak and believe what we want and cannot be persecuted by the government for what we say. And yet throughout our history the federal government on down to local governments have passed laws infringing upon that right. Currently, hate crimes legislation is nothing more than punishing someone for their beliefs.

Well, what about the right to keep and bear arms, our second amendment? Even leaving out the exception of catastrophic weaponry such as nuclear and chemical weapons, everything from handguns to automatic rifles have been heavily regulated and even outright banned in our country. Fortunately, a few key Supreme Court decisions (District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago) have pushed back against government restrictions in recent years.

At least we can freely associate with whomever we choose, correct? Au contraire, dear reader. Laws  denying individuals the right to marry based on their skin color or sexual orientation have plagued our society, and prostitution--sex between consenting individuals based on the transaction of money--is outlawed in all but a few places in our country.

So why is it that these freedoms and so many more are trampled upon on a daily basis? One possible reason is fear; people are afraid of what unchecked freedom may result in. They worry that if restrictions and regulations are not put in place, then people will abuse their freedoms. But to be free does not mean one is free from responsibility of his actions, but that he is free to take responsibility. A person who infringes on the most inherent rights of another (remember our foundation of life, liberty, and property) is held accountable for such. But my right to swing my arms ends just in front of your face, to paraphrase a common saying. So I am not entitled to use my freedom in such a way that in inhibits the freedoms of another person, and that is the crux of the issue.

Many people assume that with the freedom of speech comes the freedom to not be offended. That, to some extent, is the basis for hate crimes laws--prosecuting individuals more heavily based on their thoughts about the victim's race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. It also seems to be the go-to defense of many people who hear something that they don't agree with, or that upsets them. But just as I have the freedom to speak my mind, you have the freedom to not listen.

With the freedom of religion--the ability to worship who or what we believe in--comes the freedom from religion: no state-sanctioned or sponsored religion. The freedom to associate with whomever one wants does not mean that a person can be forced to associate with an individual with whom they do not want.

Another reason society may be willing to place restrictions on freedom is due to a misplaced sense of justice. They rightly believe that all men (as in humanity) are created equally. However, in our society, some people are born into rich environments and some into poor. It is from there that they feel it is fair, equitable, just to provide assistance to individuals who were born into less-than-favorable circumstances. So they feel that taking the property (most often in the form of money) from wealthy individuals or organizations and giving it to the impoverished is justifiable.

An extension of the freedom of association is the freedom to voluntarily donate one's property (wealth) to an individual or organization of his choosing. The key, though, is that it is voluntary. It goes back to our main tenet of self-ownership. If a man does not have control over himself and his property then he is not free. To stake a claim on another man's property is to exert unjust power over him and ultimately, infringing on his freedoms.

We should strive to create a world and society that expand freedom for all, but not at the expense of taking freedoms from others. Even our forefathers made the mistake of establishing freedoms for some while denying them to others. But that does not negate the principles stated within the Bill of Rights. Freedom from coercion is what we should strive for. We must primarily recognize that our rights are not granted to us by government (for that which is given by man can be taken away), but we are endowed with them upon birth. And it is those freedoms that both make us human and make us equal.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Facebook Post Explained: Why Cops Are Whores

In case you missed my post on Facebook, or are simply not friends with me, I posted in anger on my way to work shortly after receiving a ticket "The police are nothing but whores, and the state is their pimp, telling them who to fuck. My apologies to any actual whores though." I actually thought it was pretty clever, in spite of my incoherent rage at the time.

The reason for the ticket: speeding. Now, if you subscribe to the same line of thinking as most people I know, you are probably saying, "If you weren't speeding, you wouldn't have been pulled over", or perhaps its cousin, "If you didn't do anything wrong, you wouldn't have been ticketed/arrested/beaten to death". Well, we sort of have this idea of presumed innocent until proven guilty in this country, although that can sometimes be misconstrued in today's media-obsessed world.

So before you write me off as some law-breaking, reckless-driving miscreant, at least hear my side of the story. It all started on the typical commute to work. I live off Curry Ford Road, so I usually jump on 417 Northbound and change over to 408 Westbound to head into downtown Orlando.
A terrible glimpse into my everyday life.
As you can see from the picture, the 417-408 exchange is a complete mess right now with construction, so any chance to advance forward looks like water after days in a desert. I merged on to 408 and saw a motorcycle a few vehicles behind me; I was unsure at that time whether it was a police bike or just a motorcyclist.

I always make it a point to know where I am in relation to other drivers around me, and when there are motorcycles I am especially on edge because they can be a bit more unpredictable. So I clearly noted him merging into the right lane and then changing over to the left lane. As he pulled alongside me I finally saw that it was a state trooper's bike, but I did not let that deter me from driving as I was doing nothing wrong. I waited until there was space and changed over to the left lane myself, directly behind the officer.

We continued along in the left lane as a third lane merged into 408 Westbound made up of cars that had been traveling southbound on 417. So now there were three lanes, and I was still behind the cop in the leftmost lane. This is all in the midst of construction and frequent uneven lanes, so as we passed the Goldenrod exit and 408 opens up to four lanes I took the opportunity to get out from behind the motorcycle cop and move to the second lane from the left. I stayed even with him and did not alter my speed in any noticeable way; I chose to move from behind him only because I do not feel comfortable driving behind motorcycles.

We continued on in this fashion for another half-mile or so, and as I looked ahead I could see that my lane and the lane to the right of me were both becoming a bit more congested, but the left lane in which the cop still rode in was moving along at the same pace as us, if not a bit quicker further ahead. I pushed forward slightly so that I had room to change lanes before getting to the traffic in my lane, put on my turn signal, and changed over in front of the police officer.

We go another couple of hundred feet, me in front of the officer, and then the lights come on. While I instantly feared it was for me, I started to look over to the right just to get out of the way. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw that he was indicating it was me who was getting pulled over, and he was telling me to pull off to the left. So maybe a quarter mile before the express toll plaza I was forced to pull over onto the left shoulder of the road. The Google Streetview image on the left is a rough approximation of where I was pulled over, but there was far more traffic due to the rush hour crowd.

He approached from the left hand side and asked for my driver's license. I asked him why I had been pulled over. He said that the speed limit is 55 mph and I had been speeding. I told him that I was going the same speed he had been going. He then said that I had passed him. I stated again that I was going the same speed he had been going, so I don't know how I could have been passing him. He fell back to saying, "the speed limit is 55 mph and you were going 70." There was no possibility of reasoning with this officer. When he asked about my driving record and I responded that I currently have a citation I have to pay (from losing traffic court on a previous speeding infraction hearing), I knew I was sunk.

He was back at his motorcycle for some time, so there was no doubt in my mind that I was being cited yet again. When he came back he gave me the grandiose spiel that it seems all officers do: "You were really going 15 over which is $250 ticket, but I cut you some slack and dropped it to 9 over which is only a $129." I pleaded with him that if he was willing to reduce the citation on the spot, why couldn't he just let me off with a warning. He simply said he couldn't do that.

It was at that moment that it was obvious to me that the police are nothing more than money collectors for the state. That he would pull me over during rush hour when I was going no slower or faster than anyone else on the road; force me on to the left shoulder from where it took me two or three full minutes to safely merge safely back into traffic; and write me up for a ticket that he should very well give himself as well--after all, I was matching his speed from the start--is a clear indication that the only thing that matters to state troopers like him are tickets, quotas, and fees.

I will be fighting this ticket. I could have been going 70 miles over the speed limit and I would contest a ticket, because in this country it is still the state's burden to prove without a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed. But even more than that, sometimes you just have to fight for what you believe in, and for me that means pushing back against an overbearing government who sees us as nothing more than pocketbooks for their regulatory schemes and spending fantasies.

If just one person who reads this starts scrutinizing the public officials around us more, then I will consider it a win, no matter what the outcome in the courtroom. You have to care for yourself and your loved ones, because the state couldn't give two shits about you. "All [they] wanna know is: where [their] money at?"


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"I'm Gonna Kill You!"

Are threats permissible under freedom of speech? The law says they are not. Should they be, though?

Here is a quick anecdote to open up the debate. An upset customer calls into work and is extremely unhappy with the service he has received. In the midst of his anger, he threatens to shoot up the whole company. His threat is taken literally, the police are called, and the man is investigated by the authorities. The police find a semi-automatic pistol and a rifle and confiscate both as evidence.

Now, if someone makes a threat--especially against one's life--I think it should be taken seriously. But I don't think one should forfeit other rights they possess because a moment of anger overcame him. In the example above, should the man have to give up any guns he has because the language he used in the threat indicates he will use them? In America, we have the right to keep and bear arms. We also have the right to free speech. Is there a point at which one supersedes the other? If you use a gun to commit murder, that does not take away your right to free speech. So why should the reverse be true?

What if the threat did not involve the use of a weapon? Let's say our exemplar simply screams "I'm gonna kill you!" Is the threat treated the same way? Does the manner in which one threatens make a difference?

Here is another example, and this one is considered protected free speech under the 1st Amendment. A group of anti-war protesters are holding a rally in the capital. The leader of the country continues to fight a war that many feel is unjust. Some of the protesters have pictures of the leader with slashes through them, and others burn effigies of the leader.

The latter example is protected because a leader is considered a symbol of government. But in reality, what is the difference between an angry customer threatening the company he feels did a disservice to him and protesters acting out against a government of which they disapprove? I suppose it all just depends on the party being threatened.

I am more inclined to side with the 1st Amendment, which reads "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech". Call me a traditionalist, but prosecuting threats or the yelling of "FIRE!" in a crowded theater (as the other typically unprotected speech example goes) is an infringement of the 1st Amendment, which clearly states NO LAW. I hope that we never live in the world envisioned in the movie Minority Report, where people are prosecuted for future crimes. Wait until they act, then prosecute the individual.

Speech cannot be a crime.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Defending the Defenseless

It is a case like Casey Anthony's that really makes me want to become a criminal defense attorney. It's not because I get my kicks defending "murderers, rapists, and drug dealers." I want to do it because it's a thankless job that needs to be done.

I count myself among the probably less than 1% of the population following this case since 2008 to believe that Casey was truly not guilty. And you know why that is? Because I still believe in our judicial system and that it is one of the best in the world. A lot of times people seem to take the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" for granted. Maybe you're accused of stealing a candy bar or cheating on your test. Maybe your sibling is crying that you hit them. But you stick to your guns in those instances and say, "Prove it!"

Yet here we are, less than 6 hours after a verdict came back in one of the must publicized stories since at least Scott Peterson—if not OJ Simpson himself—and everyone I know is flipping out that justice hasn't been served. Hey, here's an uncanny thought. Maybe she DIDN'T kill her daughter.

Casey didn't "pull a fast one on the system". She didn't even "get away with murder". Because in the eyes of the law, she is innocent. She always has been. The burden is not on her attorney Jose Baez to prove her innocence. The burden of proof has and always will lie with the state, or specifically in this case the District Attorney's office, to prove her guilt. That is why we a jury of her peers must find her guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt". If even a hint of doubt creeps into a juror's mind, that should be enough to find her NOT GUILTY.

Was Casey Anthony a bad mother? Yes, no arguments from me there. Was she a murderer? Fortunately that isn't our call to make.