Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Menagerie of Naturalist Ideas

Bigotry by the Opressed Against the Oppressed

"[T]here is something particularly galling and repugnant about people who have felt the sting of discrimination, turn around and step on another minority. What happened at the ballot box feels like a personal betrayal and the hijacking of history.

"To the Mormons who bankrolled the bigotry, religious discrimination is awful, as long as it is happening to them. For the black people who voted for Proposition 8, the civil rights movement was about emancipating black people - and no one else seems to matter. These solipsistic individuals and their prejudiced pastors appear to lack an ember of empathy and have turned freedom into a private fiefdom.

"The civil rights movement was much larger than the plight of black people, just as the fight for religious freedom is bigger than Mormons. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that all people are equal under the law and should be judged by the content of their character. Barack Obama largely embodied this universally appealing message and this is why he made history.

"There is a lot of blame to go around for the failure of Proposition 8 and the first step to healing and moving forward is honesty. Let's not pretend that the repudiation of Martin Luther King Jr's dream by African American voters did not hurt more than, say, rejection by white evangelicals. It did." Wayne Besen - Daily Commentary

The Purpose of Judges, and the Constitution

"The most fundamental question a Supreme Court justice must answer is what in fact do the individual’s rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness include? Only then can he determine if a certain law or government action is securing or violating those rights. But no justice asks this question anymore because none believes it objectively answerable.

"Instead, and broadly speaking, judicial conservatives ask what privileges did American society at the time of ratification grant the individual. So when modern legislators make criminal offenses out of abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and other acts said to be frowned upon centuries ago, conservative judges feel duty-bound to stand aside and do nothing. To conservatives, it’s meaningless to ask whether the right to liberty in fact includes the right to use contraception (a question 18th-century Americans may have answered incorrectly). The only question is whether society at that time meant to permit this action.

"John McCain [ ] pledged to appoint judges in this conservative mold.

"Judicial liberals reject this worship of bygone days. Instead, liberals see constitutional values evolving like a motion picture, constantly updating to reflect current social mores. So when Congress declares federal dominion over every nut, bolt, and button of American industry, liberal judges feel duty-bound to stand aside and do nothing--not because earlier Americans intended to allow such controls, but because modern Americans want them. To liberals, it’s meaningless to ask whether the right to liberty in fact includes freedom of trade and contract (a question that a majority of Americans may be answering incorrectly today). The only question is whether the “will” of today’s society favors permitting such actions.

"Barack Obama has pledged to appoint judges in this liberal mold.

"But conservatives and liberals are both wrong about rights. It cannot be true that rights come from society. The very concept of a right identifies the actions you can take without anyone’s permission. Rights are not social privileges but objective facts, identifying the freedoms we need to live our lives--whether a majority in society agree or not. This is why the Founding Fathers dedicated their new government to the protection of each individual’s already-existing rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"Thus, the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments forbid the government to deprive you of “life, liberty, or property” (except when you have violated someone else’s rights, and even here the government must follow due process, such as holding a trial). The Ninth Amendment safeguards all “rights” not listed elsewhere. These principles encompass all the innumerable actions required for your survival and happiness over a lifetime--the right to make a contract, earn a profit, build a house, make a friend, speak your mind, and so on.

"Because the Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land,” judges are duty-bound to strike down statutes that violate rights. This is not improper “judicial activism” but the robust, constitutional power of judicial review." Copyright © 2008 Ayn Rand® Center for Individual Rights. All rights reserved.

An 8-Year Old Murderer is Not an Adult

"An 8-year-old Arizona boy charged with murdering his father and another man appeared in court on Monday. Police say the boy confessed to shooting the two men with a .22-caliber gun, but his defense attorneys told reporters that "there could have been improper interview techniques done." What's the "proper" way to interrogate a kid?

"With kid gloves. Based on the principle that juvenile suspects may not fully comprehend a Miranda warning, most states mandate some form of added protection for children under the age of 16. In at least 20 states, police must notify the child's guardian before questioning; and in at least 13 states, either a parent or an attorney must be present.

"Under Arizona law, the state carries the "burden of proof" in juvenile interrogation cases. That is, there's a presumption that the child's statements were made involuntarily unless a preponderance of evidence indicates otherwise. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled in State v. Jimenez that in determining whether a confession was voluntary (and therefore admissible), a court should evaluate the child's age, education, background, and intelligence, plus whether the child's parents were present, whether he was in good mental and physical health during the interrogations, and whether he has a mental illness.

"There's evidence to suggest that juvenile suspects are more likely than adults to make a false confession. A 2004 study of 326 exoneration cases found that 13 percent of adults had falsely confessed, compared with 44 percent of suspects under 18 years old.

"Law-enforcement officers are often trained to conduct interrogations using the Reid Technique, which involves direct confrontation, physical gestures to appear concerned, and preventing the accused from denying the crime outright. Practitioners are encouraged to use the same methods for children as for adults. This helps explain why children are more likely to offer up false confessions." Slate.Com

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