Constitution suffers major accident; Bill of Rights listed in critical condition

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – Preamble to the US Constitution.

Once revered as the greatest document ever written by a free society, the US Constitution represents the totalality of all that is America. Containedimage-thumb-1152666 within the Constitution are a set of laws called the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights was written solely as a means of guaranteeing liberty and to ward off future tyranny. It was specifically designed to empower citizens and regulate the power of government over our lives.

However, in recent times, the intent and purpose of the Bill of Rights has been craftily and systematically usurped.

The following consists of the 10 rights along with reasons that show the Bill of Rights has essentially ceased to exist:

1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

While the language appears straightforward, ways have been found to completely strip away the entire purpose of the amendment: How about, “Free Speech Zones?”

According to Wikipedia, “The existence of free speech zones is based on US court decisions stipulating that the government may regulate the time, place, and manner—but not content—of expression.”

2. 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.

Obviously, this was incorporated specifically as a means for the population to combat an oppressive government. The Second Amendment has been at the center of controversy for quite some time and despite staunch resistance, laws continue to be passed that further curtail what some call the amendment that gives teeth to the rest of the Bill of Rights. The sheer number of laws passed regarding firearms prevents an analysis of them here but those who wish to find out how much of this right has been whittled away, a simple Google search will show this.

3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

So far there has been no reason to touch this one but as anyone can see, there are all sorts of ways it can be exploited.

4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.

Two words—warrantless searches.

5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Indefinite detention without trial or access to counsel, extraordinary rendition, along with a host of executive orders has gutted this one.

6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

See No. 5.

7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Now why would anyone want to mess with this amendment? Nothing here that could foment unrest and there are no weapons involved so why overthrow this one? The simple answer is money. For those unfamiliar with “Binding Mandatory Arbitration” click here for some interesting information.

8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Indefinite detention takes away the need for bail and fines. Additionally, condemned prisoners have recently been slowly tortured to death using untested methods of lethal injection.

9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This is the one amendment that is so marvelously vague and ambiguous that no one has figured out how to exploit it or kill it off, so its existence is the most closely guarded secret in plain sight.

10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Here’s another the powers-that-be wish would go away. There is not much talk about this amendment and most likely because it delegates power to the individual states and to the people. Obviously, there is no place in a neo-feudalistic serfdom for this one, now is there?

So there you have it. Our Bill of Rights has effectively been reduced to a list of suggestions that can arbitrarily be ignored, depending on the circumstances. How could something like this happen, you ask? The answer is quite simple. The things that are most important to us are often the things we take for granted and pay the least attention to—until something goes wrong.

We often stand, secure in our belief that our freedom is a thing that can never be stripped from us as long as we abide by the law. However, most of us never count on those laws changing in such a way as to criminalize our normal behaviors and actions.

One of the hallmarks of a nation that is slipping into tyranny is the subtle and constant abridgment of rights.

Only through vigilance and efforts to create a well-informed and educated public can this society hope to stave off the loss of its liberty.

Perhaps John Adams summed it up best when he warned, “The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”

Let us never lose our freedom to think, speak, or write. To do so will certainly spell the end for our country.

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To report or not to report: Is the media encouraging acts of violence?

Recent media coverage of several horrifying and shocking crimes has sparked debate over whether some of these reports could possibly be encouraging copycat crimes.

Police investigate a stabbing at a retail clothing store in Colorado Springs, CO Photo: TJ Larson
Police investigate a stabbing at a clothing store in Colorado Springs, CO
Photo: TJ Larson

There has been much discussion in chat forums and other social media about how much attention should be given to incidents like the shootings of unarmed black men by police and reports on militant black organizations such as the New Black Panther Party who are calling for retaliation against law enforcement in their wake.

Some say that the publicity given to these groups have led to a string of incidents where police have been ambushed and sometimes killed, the most recent being the execution-style murder of Texas officer, Darren Goforth. Goforth was killed in uniform while pumping gas into his patrol vehicle.

Among the topics discussed is the way the media presents these incidents. Some have said that the media often portray the perpetrators of major crimes as celebrities. Many have also expressed displeasure with continuous coverage given to these incidents, while others focus on the detail given to how they took place.

Obviously, an article giving a detailed description of how a bomb used in a terror attack was assembled, would not be appropriate but how much information should the media provide to the public? How much coverage and how long should it address a given incident? How can the media strike a balance between public need to know without offending some people or compromising public safety?

Most importantly, who should decide how much information should be disseminated to the public?

Most media outlets have “gatekeepers” who ultimately decide what is published and what is not. There is much debate on this practice. Detractors correctly point out that gatekeeping is simply a form of censorship.

Very little news reaches the public from media outlets completely raw and untouched. Editors review and sometimes alter reports for various reasons and there are other processes that decide what is newsworthy.

So we see that most news already has to pass a filtration process before it is made publicly available.

Conversely, a 1999 study from The JAMA Network, formerly the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine determined that there is a relationship between copycat crimes and the amount of media coverage the initial incident receives. The study concluded that there was a spike in copycat crimes when there was continuing coverage of a major crime.

Based on this study, researchers recommended that the media “downplay” coverage of shootings, not to portray the killers as “countercultural heroes” and not to describe in detail how the crime was committed.

However, the report also stated that another study by criminologist Ray Surette cautioned that there have not been enough copycat events studied to support APAM’s findings.

Although the news media is specifically named and protected in the Bill of Rights by the First Amendment, this does not mean that it has carte blanche to do whatever it chooses to. Media can and has been barred from court proceedings and does not have the express right to be privy to state secrets or other information deemed vital to national security. This is an ongoing issue being fiercely challenged because it argues that the government often uses the umbrella of national security to shield itself from information that the media contends should fall under the purview of the people’s right to know.

Should the media exercise more restraint when reporting news regardless of how relevant it is to the public? Would downplaying terrible crimes discourage copycats? How would doing so affect important stories? Should it choose not to report on or downplay horrific events similar to the 9/11 attacks or the Sandy Hook massacre for fear deranged individuals will be inspired to commit equally horrible crimes or worse?

Is this controversy a classic example of ignore the message, then blame the messenger? This approach has never served any purpose other than assuage those who prefer not to face the reality of what is being reported to them—as if ignoring something will make it disappear.

In truth, ignoring or downplaying incidents only serves to allow them to propagate. Some of the most atrocious acts in history could have, at the least, been minimized had they not been marginalized and neatly presented to the public.

It is the duty of the media to report the news. It must be free of libelous, defamatory accusations and sensationalism. Above all, it must be accurate and truthful.

So should the media compromise itself by sacrificing its integrity and credibility by holding back important information? Some say that it already has. Is it really inciting psychopaths to take innocent lives in copycat crimes because of what it reports? It is doubtful; especially when there is no shortage of examples to follow from television and other so-called forms of “entertainment” if they are looking for an inspiration to kill.

How did Zachary Hammond really die and why is no one concerned?

What do Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and Zachary Hammond have in common? They all died or were killed under questionable circumstances after run-ins with police. However, for Zachary Hammond this is where the similarity stops because Hammond is the only one on this short list of deceased American citizens who was white.
While the recent deaths of these and other African-American men and women have led to nationwide outcries and demonstrations over police use of excessive force, the death of this young white man has scarcely earned a few paragraphs in local newspapers and warranted barely a peep from large media outlets yet the story surrounding the death of 19-year-old Hammond is even more questionable than the official narratives on how these others died.
Hammond was shot and killed in Seneca, South Carolina on July 26 by police who were reportedly conducting a drug bust on Hammond’s new girlfriend. According to official accounts, Hammond allegedly attempted to accelerate the vehicle he was driving toward police as officers approached to make the arrest causing one officer, Lt. Mark Tiller, to fire two shots into him.
Authorities are investigating but have tentatively ruled the shooting as justified. Additionally, the official autopsy report said his wounds were consistent with the police account of how the shooting occurred. However, a second independent autopsy disputes the official findings, stating that the youth’s injuries, including what is believed to be the fatal wound were inflicted from the side and behind–a direct contradiction of the official story.
This revelation alone should have at least raised eyebrows as to how a young man who was apparently not even the target of the botched drug bust, which allegedly netted only a small amount of marijuana from the passenger, ended up shot to death by police. So far, there has not been much continuing media coverage and public protests as we saw with previous police shootings involving African-Americans. But why? Wasn’t Zachary Hammond someone’s loved one? Why does it seem like no one cares about his death?
To add insult to injury, authorities refuse to release dashcam footage of the encounter. Even this lack of police transparency has not spurred even the slightest thing resembling the mass demonstrations following the deaths of those such as Michael Brown who was also a youth of only 18 years when he was killed in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014. The officer, Darren Wilson was subsequently cleared of wrongdoing.
While we see movements like #BlackLivesMatter rallying people to the cause of police brutality among African-Americans, where are those who will speak for Zachary Hammond? Indeed, where are the mass demonstrations and outrage?
There is no lengthy criminal history for the media to outline on Hammond or anything that can be used to smear his name or justify what happened to him as there was in several of the high-profile African-American incidents other than possibly Hammond might have exercised better judgment over his choice of dates, so what is the response to this possible miscarriage of justice? Silence; a deafening, nearly all-encompassing silence.
Had this been the era of “Jim Crow” and Hammond were black, the silence surrounding his death would be understandable as this was most certainly a time when black lives did not matter. But Hammond was a white teen who lived in modern times yet his obviously questionable death has had virtually zero effect on the national stage.
How strange it is to see such a shift in public opinion over the death of an apparent innocent and a white one at that. Why doesn’t this life seem to be worth as much as those of the others? Is it possible that African-Americans, with their long history of mistreatment at the hands of crooked police, have gathered the fortitude to call out the corruption and wanton violence visited upon them whereas their white counterparts lack the will to do the same? Or is it something else altogether?
Perhaps white America is having difficulty coming to grips with the fact that we are all now in the grip of a system that produces increasingly aggressive, militarized police, some of whom target anyone they deem as a “soft” target. Maybe white America is in denial that what was once “those people’s” problem has now become theirs as well.
Another question is where are all the black Americans right now? Why haven’t they come together in unity on behalf of this lost life? Or does the death of this white kid mean as little to them as the lives of blacks did to whites in eras gone by?
This in itself is very telling about the schism that exists between races in America today. But why does everything have to equate with race? Have we not already been down this well-traversed road too many times before?

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