READER’S EDITORIAL: PEOPLE’S LIVES TRUMP THE DOW JONES DURING PANDEMIC

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By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, retired epidemiologist
 
April 23, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- So Senator Jones claims America exceptionalism because our Constitution begins with “We the People,” in his recent editorial on restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nice sentiments, but what is the reality? 
 
According to Senator Jones, “‘We the People’ established a Constitution with a Bill of Rights that enshrines the liberties that cannot be permanently taken from us. Just because we’re in an emergency doesn’t mean we hand over our freedoms to the government absolutely and indefinitely.” 
 
First, no one is talking about handing over our freedoms indefinitely. However, if we rely on our “intuitive genius” President and people like Senator Jones rather than experts on infectious diseases we may actually hand over more than our freedoms--threatening our health and our lives.

Having studied infectious diseases, including their histories, for over 40 years, just one example is the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 which killed more than 675,000 Americans when our population was only around 120 million, about a third what it is today. The Pandemic came in three waves, the first killing like most flu; but the second wave came back with a vengeance. 
 
If we lift social distancing too soon to get our economy moving again, it may actually cause more harm to our economy. If COVID-19 flares up, we could have far more people hospitalized, basically crashing our health care system, and, though the vast majority of younger people will survive, many will take longer times to recuperate, thus hurting our economy even more. This pandemic has been mishandled from the beginning.
 
Our Bill of Rights to some extent is a joke. During World War I, people went to prison for saying something as simple as, “This war is just to make profits for the corporations” and the Supreme Court supported this. 
 
Our 5th Amendment says we can’t be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law and the 8th Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishments; yet when an elderly couple’s grandson, visiting them, was caught selling a little marijuana, their home was forfeited. Not only were they not involved in the sale of drugs, but the value of their home far exceeded the little the grandson made on sales of marijuana. That’s just one example of our asset forfeiture laws which despite the clear language of the 5th and 8th Amendment, our Supreme Court has upheld. No charges, no trial, no conviction, and, yet, totally innocent and you can lose your home. Check out the Don Scott case where his small ranch was targeted for growing marijuana and he was shot dead in his pajamas early in the morning, yet no drugs were found. 
 
It has been documented how over the past few decades SWAT teams, originally armed and trained for dealing with violent situations, in many communities are used for collection of unpaid tickets, etc. barging into people’s homes, terrifying them.
 
Today, we have gerrymandering, voter suppression, elections influenced by funding from corporations and billionaires, a Congress, at least many members, bought and paid for by lobbyists with revolving doors between industry, Congress, and/or Cabinet members, etc. The Electoral College (originally created partly to protect the Slave States) gave Trump the Presidency when he lost by three million votes.
 
Having lived in both Sweden and Canada, both nations have vibrant democracies and both have higher voter turnout than the U.S.
 
How can we claim we are a free people when we have 5% of world’s population, yet almost 25% of those imprisoned, including an estimated 100,000 who are TOTALLY innocent? Anyone who has followed the various Innocence Projects will know how our system is biased against admitting errors, fighting tooth and nail against admitting someone was wrongly convicted; yet, at the same time, allowing the guilty to go free. And compared to other nations, we are the only one with for-profit prisons, even worse than State run prisons which are overcrowded and often brutalize the incarcerated. 
 
The Constitution says “We the People”; yet our Supreme Court in Citizens United ruled that artificially created entities called Corporations are protected as if they were living breathing flesh and blood human beings. So much for our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
 
Currently the Republicans are using COVID-19 to funnel monies to companies that were on the verge of bankruptcy prior to the pandemic, to weaken environmental laws endangering everyone’s health, and on and on it goes.
 
As for deficits, keep in mind that our Congress approved tanks and planes that our military made absolutely clear it neither needed nor wanted; but why spend monies on the American people when one can enrich a few corporations? Yep, created jobs; but the same monies could have been dispersed to repair infrastructure, bridges, roads, keep rural hospitals that have been closing in record numbers, creating far more jobs and actually benefiting the American people; but these don’t have lobbyists. I am all for a strong military for defense; but our military has been mostly used to further the interests of corporations.
 
When Senator Jones writes: “Other countries’ leaders have few obstacles to putting extremely restrictive measures in place. Thankfully, this is not so in America,” he is just repeating American mythology. Having lived in Canada and Sweden and keeping in touch with friends, regularly reading newspapers online, I assure you that they are freer than we are, they don’t have asset forfeiture laws, grossly overused SWAT teams, voter suppression, gerrymandering, corporations considered equally protected as people, masses of innocent people in prison, etc. Moreover, as opposed to this nation, they can have recall elections. 
 
So, let’s let our “intuitive genius” President and people like Senator Jones decide when the social distancing ends. Maybe we’ll get lucky; but maybe not. I prefer to listen to the experts and err on the side of caution.
 
Economies can be rebuilt. Dead people can’t be brought back to life and people who survive with 30% reduced lung capacity and damage to other organs can’t be restored to full health. 
 
For me, the Dow Jones doesn't TRUMP people. 
 
 
References:
 
Alfred W. Blumrosen & Ruth G. Blumrosen (2005). “Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies & Sparked the American Revolution.” Barnes & Noble
 
Alexander Keyssar  (2000). “The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. Basic Books.
 
Geoffrey R. Stone (2004). “Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime.” Norton
 
Michael Waldman (2016). “The F(R)ight to Vote”  Simon & Schuster.
 
John W. Whitehead (2015). “Battlefield America: The War on the American People” Select Books. 
 
Wikipedia. Death of Don Scott.
 
U.S. Military - Our Government Lies Used for Defense when, in reality, used to further Corporate Interests
 
William Blum (2003). Killing Hope: US Military & CIA Interventions since World War II. Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/abbottabad-compound/13/130AEF1531746AAD6AC03... [also for purchase on amazon.com
 
Major General Smedley Butler   War Is A Racket. Available at: https://ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.pdf  [Butler is the most decorated marine in American history]
 
Mason Gaffney (March 2018). Corporate Power and Expansive U.S. Military Policy. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 77, No. 2. Pages 331 - 417. Available at: https://www.globalresearch.ca/corporate-power-and-expansive-u-s-military
 
Stephen C. Schlesinger (1983). Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. Inexpensive copies available on Amazon.com  Also available San Diego Public Library
 
 
Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a native San Diegan, is a retired epidemiologist. He has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. He is currently active in supporting the adoption of a single-payer health care system in the U.S. For more information on single-payer go to Physicians for a National Health Program’s website at www.pnhp.org. His undergraduate degree was a duel major, Political Science and Social Psychology.
 
 
Author's Addendum
 
So Senator Jones claims America exceptionalism because our Constitution begins with “We the People.” Nice sentiments; but what is the reality? “We the People” didn’t apply to Afro-Americans, didn’t apply to women, and mainly recognized property white men as having the right to vote (the various states had different requirements for voting; but only for white males). And there is NO indication that the framers had any intent to expand the “We”. In fact, if one studies early American history, most of the Framers considered Democracy “rule of the mob.” Perhaps, it should have been reworded to “We the White Males”. And, yes, our Constitution can be amended and it only took to 1920 to give women the right to vote (133 years), though some Western States did give the vote to women as far back as the late 1800s. And, though freed by the Civil War, followed by the 15th and 15th Amendments, Amendments brought about at the cost of 650,000 lives and many more permanently disabled, until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, discrimination continued, and now, given that the overwhelming majority of our imprisoned population is Blacks, our Constitution still doesn’t encompass “We the People.” Many states deny voting rights even after one has served their time. Yes, the Civil Rights movement resulted in middle class Blacks, in judges, university professors, etc.; but every study continues to show that the majority of Blacks have poor access to health care,to education, to jobs, to decent lives, that poverty rates among Blacks is much much higher than among Whites. They are PEOPLE; but, apparently, not really included in the protections of "We the People."
 
And, as an example of just how fraudulent and undemocratic our electoral process is:
 
In 2000 George Bush was “elected” President. He won the electoral college by just over 500 votes in the State of Florida. A butterfly ballot was used where many thought they were voting for Al Gore; but their vote went to Pat Buchanan. There were hanging chads. Polling stations were far and in between in Democratic districts, resulting in an over 90 year old woman waiting in line hours to vote, not so in Republican districts. And, for the first time, an outside firm, one involved in the Bush campaign, was used to find and purge ex-cons from the voting lists. A year after the election it was found that about 60,000 people, mostly minorities living in Democratic districts were wrongly purged from the voter roles. In fact, we are one of few nations who don’t restore full citizenship rights once one has served their time. When a vote recount was underway, the Republican party flew in loads of people who stood outside and screamed, making the recount impossible. Police didn’t intervene. The person responsible for all of the above was Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State, who was actively working for the Bush campaign. And finally, in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court ruled 5 - 4 to stop the recount. Two of the justices had family members actively working in the Bush campaign and should have recused themselves. In addition, as far as I have been able to find out, this was the first time in history that a Supreme Court ruling didn’t become the law of the land; but specifically applied to one case. Despite all the above, Gore still got 500,000 more votes.
 
We are NOT a democracy. "We the People" is about as meaningful as prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain East Germany was called the German Democratic Republic. It was neither Democratic nor a Republic. And, as a kid I wrote to Radio Moscow and received a copy of the Soviet Constitution where it clearly states that any of the Republics were free to leave at any time. Anyone believe that?
 
We are more democratic, have more freedom than some of the worst totalitarian nations; but it is a narrative myth that we are a free people with a democracy that truly represents the will of the government, with protections against tyranny of the majority or, currently, of the minority, given well-done polls often indicate that what the voters want, due to gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc. is not what they get.
 
 
The opinions expressed in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

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Comments

Harrison, while you profess

Don Bacon writes in response to me:

"there is NO such thing as liberty" I continue to enjoy mine. Pity you can't, burdened as you are with all that irrelevant history.

First, I clearly stated that there is no such thing as liberty in the abstract, as coming from some natural law. Every society defines what liberty means. Bacon claims he enjoys his liberty. Let him shoot a gun into the air on New Year's Eve. Let him speed down highway 8. Let him travel outside the U.S. and then refuse an antibody test when there is a pandemic. In every society, rights are balanced with responsibilities and, as I've already explained numerous times, both rights and responsiblities are defined by groups of people based on history, culture, religion, etc.. Unfortunately, Bacon lives in a fantasy world of absolutes and refuses to even rationally consider this.

As for his "pity you can't {enjoy your rights], what an utterly STUPID statement. I enjoy the right to drive with the knowledge that the number of drunken drivers is less than if we didn't have laws. I enjoy the right to post my comments without some Gestapo entering my home. I enjoy being able to purchase foods that are reasonably safe because of inspection laws, etc. And I enjoy not being kept awake by someone blasting their music at 3 am in the morning. I enjoy walking my dog, except for the cracked streets and sidewalks. I enjoy being able to purchase books of various political and religious positions. Unfortunately, yep, I can't fully enjoy this because there still exists drunk drivers, despite never smoking, never using drugs, police can break down my door and seize my home because our Supreme Court has ruled that the 5th Amendment isn't worth the paper it is written on, that is "can't be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process or law," except they can take my home without the aforementioned, asset forfeiture laws. And I enjoy knowing that "the right to bear arms" doesn't include surface-to-air missles when I fly and 50 caliber armor piercing bullets. Enjoyment and freedom are relative; but not for people like Don Bacon. In his world of fantasy, he enjoys absolute liberty and I don't. As long as ones choices aren't challenged by law, it may seem they have freedom, so ones choices may actually be conscious or subconscious to avoid breaking rules and laws, even if they disagree with them.. And this is one of the main problems with American democracy, the inability of, at least, some people to understand that things are not extremes of black and white, that reality lies somewhere in between.

@ Don Bacon

Don Bacon writes: "including myself, words on paper have standing irregardless of the personal characteristics of the person who wrote them. When any of us is charged with breaking a law, one can't fight those charges with "the author of the law was a . . .whatever." So you only confuse yourself by saying that "liberty", in a historical document, is not liberty because of the private life of the person who wrote it."

Let me remind him that written law existed in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Ancient Rome, etc. And whether a law is written by one man, a dictator, or by some group of people, perhaps, an aristocrisy, is beside the fact AND though Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, many of the signers were slave owners and none were women. And, by the way, he didn't write it alone, some of the key phrases were Ben Franklin's, e.g. "self-evident." The fact that law is written and we have to obey it or else doesn't in any shape, or form prove it stems from some mythical natural law. And, not to disavow you, in the United States our so-called written laws don't apply in some abstract blind manner. Studies show that White Middle Class suburbanites use drugs as often as inner city minorities; but guess who goes to jail? When bankers create fake mortgages to earn commissions and almost bring our economy to its knees in 2008, they kept their jobs and even collected bonuses, paid for by the taxes of the victims. Justice isn't now, nor has it ever been blind in the United States. The fact that a law is written doesn't validate it, only shows that it can be applied, not that it is just, not that it stems from some mythical natural law.

For Most People

Just how dense are you? If the words on a paper were written by one person, yep, so what; but the law is based on a consensus at a particular time, place, culture, historical experience. The Declaration of Independence had many signers, The Constitution was not only written at the Convention; but had to be approved by each state; but that doesn't change the fact that it was not some natural law discovered, then written down. The point I keep trying to make and you don't seem to understand is not my disagreeing with any particular document or law; but where they come from. So, keep showing your lack of understanding! And yelling "Liberty" from a soap box suits you. Yell all you want, there is NO such thing as liberty, it is a word that some group of people define at some point in time. As I wrote, some believe that capital punishment is the right of the people for certain crimes, whereas others disagree, myself included. And, you continue to miss the point that our Constitution doesn't prohibit abortion; but allegedly protects us against one group imposing their religion on others and it does state what is not specifically allowed or prohibited belongs to the people, so it certainly doesn't prohibit abortion; but it does claim a separation of church and state. As I wrote, believe what you choose to believe; but it is a belief, nothing more, nothing less.

And more on liberty. Do I have the liberty to marry several women as some religions allow? Do I have the liberty to sunbathe in my backyard in the raw? Do I have the liberty to blast my stereo in the middle of the night? Do I have the liberty to drink and drive? Do I have the liberty to refuse to pay my taxes? There is no such thing as "liberty" in a vacuum, its definition exists in a society and different societies differ. Do women have the right/freedom  to go outside without a covered head? Well, not just Moslem society, but Amish, Mennonites, certain Jewish groups, and many Christian groups in U.S. in 19th Century. So what is liberty???? For you, it is what you want it to be. 

Harrison, while you profess

"there is NO such thing as liberty" I continue to enjoy mine. Pity you can't, burdened as you are with all that irrelevant history.

Might doesn't make right.

Don Bacon, you are incredible. First, the Declaration of Independence, as I already wrote, was written by a slave holder and women had NO rights at the time. Second, the rights it expounds are what some people, at the time and place, believed applied to them. Lofty language aside, any study of the historical context makes it clear. As for abortion, nope not covered in Declaration of Independence; but 1st Amendment, as Jefferson wrote: "a wall of separation between church and state." Maybe I missed the exception; but every time the news has covered pro-life demonstrations, they are praying to Jesus; yet other Christian denominations accept abortions, though, of course, not encouraging them. So, certain branches of Christianity are trying to impose their religious values on others. See my previous  READER’S EDITORIAL: ABORTION IS A 1ST AMENDMENT ISSUE (2020 Feb 24). Available at: https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/reader’s-editorial-abortion-1st-amendment-issue

Believe what you chose to believe; but there are no natural rights to be found outside what a people, a place, a culture, etc. chose. Of course, since first discussion of "natural rights" among the Greeks, people try to figure out what they are, what meets their values, hopes, and expectations. And I remind you that different religious denominations believe it is our right to execute people AND others don't. So much for rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It was one of my all-time heros, Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was instrumental in persuading universal approval, despite misgivings from various nations.

And the U.S. is one of the nations that least pays any attention to them, killing innocent people in Third World Nations, supporting vicious dictators that do our bidding, incarcerating almost 25% of worlds population, often in overcrowded abominable conditions, even worse having the only for-profit prison system in world, and on and on it goes. As I already wrote, I wholeheartedly support the Universal Declaration of Rights, because I personally value the integrity and dignity of each human life. As opposed to many, as a white male Jew, I would have no problem voting for a half black, half hispanic lesbian moslem if her resume clearly indicated an education, life-experiences and political stands I support. Not one of the aforementioned means anything, each represents a range of people from the most honest compassionate to the most despicable. Having read several biographies of Mohammed and several books on Islam, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban would probably execute Mohammed if he came back today. Aryan Nations certainly doesn't represent Jesus. We often vote on emotions, 30 second soundbites, and prejudices, especially given the limited choices we have. But, again, I would vote for someone, not based on tribal allegiance, etc. but on my personal, from a life-time of thinking, questioning, and studying, set of values, not from some mythical values discovered.

For most people,

including myself, words on paper have standing irregardless of the personal characteristics of the person who wrote them. When any of us is charged with breaking a law, one can't fight those charges with "the author of the law was a . . .whatever." So you only confuse yourself by saying that "liberty", in a historical document, is not liberty because of the private life of the person who wrote it. . .That's baloney. .. .And many people didn't have liberty. .. . .Etc etc etc. . . . It's all a distraction from the simple definition of liberty which we should all enjoy. . . .To get specific, it's that argument which pro-abortion advocates should use, and avoid the fruitless groping through the Constitution (which merely establishes the government) for some reason why the government has no control over female beings. Females are owed their liberty! It should not be removed from them!!. . .Let freedom ring, live free or die, etc. . .I need a soapbox.

Herd Immunity vs Re-Infection

Herd Immunity assumes that once infected and surviving that one has immunity to re-exposure. I was just reminded in an article today that, though is often the case, it isn't always. We don't know if those who survive COVID-19 can be reinfected or not. (There's Still 'No Evidence' People Who've Had COVID-19 Can't Get It Again, Warns WHO. Available at: https://www.sciencealert.com/there-s-still-no-evidence-people-who-ve-had... )

Herd immunity happens when

so many people in a community become immune to an infectious disease that it stops the disease from spreading, it does not stop infections. Many infected people are asymptomatic and not diseased.

@ pteronura

YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! Many Americans seem to think a coin has only one side; but rights are balanced with responsibilities. A recent OpEd in the San Diego Union-Tribune, written by a retired lifeguard suggested to speed up herd immunity (when a high proportion of a population has antibodies to an infectious disease then the train of transmission is broken), he wrote: "If the young and the healthy are allowed to commingle in the parks, the ocean and elsewhere, while those at higher risk are encouraged to shelter in place, the virus will presumably be spread faster among the healthy, but the vast majority of those who contract it in that group will either experience no symptoms or have symptoms that do not require hospitalization. They’ll recover on their own, along with our society and our economy." (Chris Brewster, "Commentary: San Diego should reopen to the young and healthy, and focus more on those at risk for coronavirus" April 23, 2020. Available at: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/opinion/story/2020-04-23/coronaviru... )

First, some of those mingling will get very sick and, perhaps, die, though proabably not a large group; but how can one ensure that those intentionally commingling won't come in contact with those more vulnerable, those at elevated risk; e.g., seniors and/or comorbidities? To ensure they are infected, build up antibodies, and are no longer infected, it could still take a month or more, since just mingling doesn't guarantee exposure over a short time period and antibodies take up to three weeks to build to full strength. The result could be an upsurge of cases, hospitalizatons, and deaths. I wonder how many Brewster is willing to sacrifice, e.g. kids with asthma, parents, grandparents, etc.? But, of course, I'm just a retired epidemiologist, I should defer to the judgment of a retired life-guard.

Personally, I think it was irresponsible of the San Diego Union-Tribune to even publish the opinion which, of course, will encourage those already challenging the lockdown and additional challengers.

Rights vs. same old Republican rhetoric of selfishness

First, the moment we look to Brian Jones - avid Trump sycophant and supporter of criminal Duncan Hunter - as an expert or leader on anything, especially relevant to logic, science, humanity, or the constitution, we are in trouble. Second, your inalienable rights end where they directly and deliberately disregard and impact my safety, my freedom to not get sick due to your ignorance and selfishness. If someone cares only about me, myself, and mine, and to hell with the common good so that they can go bowling, get a haircut, or sunbathe on the beach when they could infect others with a demonstrably fatal, injurious, and highly contagious disease - while putting health care workers at risk if they do get very sick - they absolutely don't belong in organized society that supposedly values democracy and empathy.

@ Don Bacon

It is rather worthless discussing some things with you. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights has a historical context. The is no such thing as natural rights outside of what human beings in different times, different places, different cultures, different religions chose to believe.  I totally agree with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights because my values agree with it. Believe what you chose to believe.

And, as I mentioned, check out the new PBS series "A History of Christianity". Except for "believing" in Jesus, it documents how various individuals and groups at different times and places interpreted that belief. The wide differences in people claiming to be Christians reminds me that DNA has found that the differences within a so-called race are far greater than between them. So, again, believe what you want. Obviously, rational discussion has no effect on your belief system. And, again, though there is NO evidence for natural rights existing outside of what human beings chose to believe, I wholeheartedly support the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, just as I am 100% against the Death Penalty, while people of some religious groups strongly support it.

Trade in all your books

for a dictionary. The docs refer to our right to liberty. . . also: Live free or die, Statue of Liberty (female figure), etc. . .>>Liberty . . .>the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views. . Similar: independence, freedom, autonomy, sovereignty . . .Opposite: dependence, subjugation. . . .>the power or scope to act as one pleases. . ."individuals should enjoy the liberty to pursue their own interests and preferences" . .Similar: freedom, independence, free rein . .Opposite: constraint

@ Don Bacon

@ Don Bacon

You quote: “shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” You missed the clear point I made, which what was the definition of the “people”. Certainly didn’t apply to slaves and many of those who drafted the Constitution were slave holders. In fact, not only it didn’t outlaw slavery; but allowed the slave trade to continue to 1808. And this wasn’t to reduce slavery; but because slave owners didn’t want competition to lower price of slaves. The people didn’t include women. And it certainly didn’t include indigenous people. And, as mentioned, many of the States included a minimum property requirement. And, as I made clear, what is written doesn’t mean much, e.g. Soviet Constitution that allowed Republics to leave and East Germany names, German Democratic Republic.

In addition, our Federal Courts, especially the Supreme Court, have in the vast majority of their rulings, going back to the beginning, ignored the Constitution and Bill or Rights, ruling in favor of Corporations or the Government against the “people.” I took three courses as undergraduate in Constitutional Law and have continued to read on the subject ever since. Our current Supreme Court is just a tad worse than many others, e.g. Citizens United.

As for natural rights, where? The concept began with the Ancient Greeks; but they owned slaves and treated foreigners often poorly. Slavery, oppression of minorities, women, religious oppression, etc. existed before and has continued to this day. And if one looks at claims of natural rights, each includes or excludes different ones, usually promulgated by those who they would apply to. As for the rights people choose to believe were given by a deity, not even they are consistent, each of the major religions and even the sects/denominations vary.

As for the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a slave-holder, it refers to “Creator”, that is, a belief system (as above different belief/religions define Creator differently and what rights we have). And, besides not including slaves, again didn’t include women, etc.

There is a great phrase that I love: Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Applies to many of our Founding Fathers and many Americans subsequently, that is, lofty phrases; but not realities.

There is a fascinating new series on PBS, “A History of Christianity”. Does great job of showing just how vicious people could be to enforce the, what I consider, trivial differences. Was Jesus part God, part Man, Man with spirit of God in him, etc. etc. They killed, tortured, etc. As if a human being could know the mind of “God” and believe they were doing his bidding.

No, there are NO NATURAL RIGHTS, just rights that people believe we should have; but unfortunately, even those aren’t lived up to.

As for the Supreme Court, I recommend three books to start with:

Erwin Chemerinsky (2015). The Case Against the Supreme Court. Penguin Books.

Peter Irons (1999). A People’s History of the Supreme Court. VIking

Geoffrey R. Stone (2004). Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime. NORTON. [Note it is just in difficult times that free speech is most important]

Might doesn't make right.

My point was that the Constitution restrains the government from taking away some rights, but it shouldn't be considered to be a mandated list of the rights we (should) enjoy, as humans. It is not a bill of our rights, it is a list of some rights they can't mess with. Chief Justice Roberts has stated, correctly, that there is no right to abortion in the Constitution. That's where the Declaration of Independence kicks in, as a reference to the totality of our rights and not just the few that congress by law can't remove. The DOI is the spirit of America, clearly stating our natural rights, the Constitution establishes the government and puts limits on it. Two different documents, with different purposes. Your recap of all the historic failures in recognizing these natural rights doesn't alter their existence, not for me. And not for the United Nations, by the way. . .The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights . .Article 3. . .Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

@ Don Bacon

Yep, we don't really have choices. When I vote, I usually hold my nose and hope I'm at least voting for the lesser of the two "evils".

First, we have few choices. If we had proportional representation, with a minimum % of votes for a party to get elected so we don't have too many parties, we could chose a party based on a clear continuous set of programs, instead we choose personalities based on fortunes spent in ads, etc and only two viable choices. Vote Green or Libertarian and you are throwing away your vote.. Bill Clinton was labeled a liberal despite ending welfare, three-strikes law, don't ask don't tell in military, and repeal of Glass-Steagle Act which kept commercial and investment banks separate. If he had been a Republican, these laws wouldn't have been passed; as Democrats would have fillibustered, did everything to stop (Clinton was one of the best post WWII "Republican" Presidents, he "felt our pain, but didn't do anything to alleviate it); but, as with Republicans today, if President Republican, then most go along, even if against core Republican principles; though today's Republican party is not same as historic post World War II party, Nixon's cloth coat Checker's speech representing Middle Class Americans, not corporations and billionaires.

Second, as already mentioned, we have voter suppression, gerrymandering, the Electoral College (mainly to protect the Slave States), and 30-sec soundbites influencing us, sort of like subliminal persuasion (if hear enough times becomes opinion), etc.

Third, we have a large percentage of electorate that base decisions not on thorough vetting of issue, carefully, for instance Googling and reading all positions, but reacting emotionally based on our national mythology, etc.

It was NOT refugees, not immigrants, documented or undocumented, who were responsible for Savings and Loan crisis in 1980s and they certainly weren't responsible for crash of 2008; but we bailed out the criminals, both Bush and to a lesser extent Obama, so as the rich get richer, billionaires and corporations, they have succeeded in divide and conquer, directing many's ire at immigrants. Not the first time, goes back to 1676, Bacon's Rebellion, indentured white servants and slaves together. Afterwards, those in power began to use racism to turn the oppressed indentured white and other poor whites against blacks. Continued in pre-civil war South where only a few wealthy; but poor whites manipulated into being against poor blacks and slaves, who should have been their natural allies. And it continues today. Divide and conquer, at old, tried and true strategy.

I highly recommend: Ronald Takaki's "A Different Mirror (2nd Ed)" one of the best books ever on American history