Justice or Just Us

A record 149 people were exonerated in 2015 bringing the total to 1730 exonerated since 1989.

I came across this article last week, and I think it’s something that should be front and center for this presidential election campaign season.  Unfortunately, it’s not.

Exonerations hit record in U.S. as wrongful convictions become a ‘regular’ problem via Yahoo News Digest

https://www.yahoo.com/digest/20160203/exonerations-hit-record-wrongful-convictions-become-regular-problem-00106496

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I know the justice system isn’t perfect, and it hasn’t been applied perfectly in the past.  Sometimes, I wonder if these “few” exonerations are simply just the ones that are easy to prove.  No innocent person should be forced to serve time for a crime they didn’t commit.  At the same time, a guilty person shouldn’t be free to roam the streets.

I’ve long thought that the justice system is not the arbiter of innocence or guilt.  It’s simply the arbiter of who can best prove their case.  There are times when it’s quite easy to prove innocence in today’s time.  You can use DNA, video evidence, or other things to prove a person didn’t commit a crime.  Things were not always that easy.  Those things that can prove innocence can also easily prove guilt.

I’m sure people wonder why minorities have distrust for law enforcement and the legal system, and when you can average exonerating a person every 2.5 days within a year, it’s not hard to understand.  It’s not just minorities that get screwed over by the system either.  If you can’t afford a good lawyer, your chances are not going to be good of defending yourself in court.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re Black or White when you don’t have the green to help your case.

The “Making a Murderer” documentary has put this back in the spotlight for a minute.  I haven’t followed the case of Steven Avery or watched the documentary, but I see nothing wrong with reviewing cases where there may be evidence to prove someone’s innocence.  Given that some of the exonerated from last year were on death row, it may be a lifesaver to some people if their cases are reviewed.

The one thing I would like to see happen on top of the exonerations is a review of those responsible for locking up innocent people.  If it’s found that the prosecutors, or even law enforcement, have broken the law or knowingly set up a person they knew was innocent, they should have to face some type of review of their work themselves.  If they have a pattern of abuse like that, then they should face the repercussions of their actions and be punished accordingly.

The veracity of our justice system depends on the honesty and integrity of the entire process.  If the honesty and integrity is in question, then so is the system of justice.  Without the honesty and integrity, there is no justice.

How about a nice warm cup…

Now, I love nothing more than being American.  As Americans, we can freely express our views and opinions without fear of government reprisal.  At the same time, we are not free from the criticism or repercussions of enjoying that right to free speech.  Today, I’m going to enjoy that right by inviting Stacey Dash to enjoy a nice warm cup of STFU!.

From the UK Daily Mail:

Stacey Dash criticized those who have come out against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the complete absence of non-white acting nominees at this year’s Oscars – and called for the elimination of Black History Month and the cable channel BET.

Dash called Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee’s plan to boycott the Oscars ‘ludicrous,’ and then took things a step further.

‘We have to make up our minds,’ Dash said during an appearance on Fox & Friends.

‘Either we want to have segregation or integration. And if we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET [Black Entertainment Television] and the BET Awards and the Image Awards where you’re only awarded if you’re black.’

She then added: ‘If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms. It’s a double standard.’

First of all, Black History Month grew out of Negro History Week.  If you really want to get rid of Black History Month, then integrate the telling of Black American history into the everyday history teaching.  Get beyond teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks.  There are numerous Black Americans that contributed to the fabric of this country to make it what it is today.  Also, quit treating slavery as something that shouldn’t be discussed.  Until we decide to learn, teach, and pass on ALL our history, we’ll continue to need months designated to teach about individual groups and their contributions to this country.

Next, BET (Black Entertainment Television) is owned by Viacom.  The very same Viacom that owns MTV and other media outlets.  Not only does Viacom own BET and MTV, they also own numerous other channels as well.  BET came about because of the lack of Black artists being promoted or played by MTV long ago.  Even David Bowie recognized that in the early days of MTV and called them out about it.

Had MTV decided in its early days to seek out and highlight the true diversity of American music instead of “narrowcasting”, BET might not exist today.

Finally, let’s discuss the differing award shows, which is the basis for the entire debate.  I didn’t realize it until seeing an old Eddie Murphy Oscars presentation video from the 1988 Oscars that, at that point, Blacks were averaging one Oscar win every 20 years.  I’m certain there were quite a few movies made over that time that were worthy of recognition although the Academy begs to differ.  He calculated that the next Black win would be around 2004 and Whoopi Goldberg won in 1990.

Anyway, back to the awards shows.  If the major award shows recognized great achievements without bias, there would be no NAACP Image, BET, or any other awards show to highlight minority achievement in the arts.  It’s all about the free market.  If you do not provide the necessary service, someone else will come along and provide it for you.  I don’t fault Will Smith and others for being upset over the slights they perceive.  At the same time, I don’t really get into the award shows because I noticed that trend long ago.

What the Academy seems to think is important movies and roles don’t usually coincide with what I personally believe.  I view their awards and recognitions in the same light as I’d let my dentist repair my car.  So, for Ms. Dash to get upset over what the free market has accomplished rings a bit hollow to me, especially since she’s a self-acknowledged conservative.  If you don’t like what the free market is producing, then work to change the market.  That’s what Robert L. Johnson did when he founded BET and what others did when they established the things they did when the markets excluded them.  And as far as you saying that these things need to be gotten rid of…  Here’s a drink to you.  Enjoy.

Wake up call

Flint, Michigan public water

 

When we turn on our faucets, we don’t stop to think that what’s coming out could harm us.  We expect our water supply to be fit for consumption.  That’s just 1st world living.

What’s happening in Flint, Michigan is a travesty and one that could have easily been avoided.  It started because of a desire to save a few dollars in a financially strapped city, and now the decision to swap water sources and not treat the water properly is going to cost multiples more than what was going to be saved.  That’s not even considering the costs to people suffering from lead poisoning and other medical issues.

Image from water testing done on the Flint River water and Detroit water. Click the photo for more info.

Government seriously failed Flint.  Not only did the government fail them, but the private sector did as well.  Flint’s issues started when manufacturers took jobs away from the area.  With fewer jobs available, the tax rolls suffer.  Many people are playing the blame game, but the blame game doesn’t solve the problem at hand.  There’s plenty of blame to pass around though.

The top of the pyramid is the governor of Michigan himself.  It was his decision to put a manager in charge of Flint, overriding the wishes of the local voters.  That financial manager made the decision to switch water systems to save a few dollars.  The people responsible for ensuring the safety of the water failed the residents of Flint by not adding the necessary precautions to the water to avoid corrosion to the pipes.  From what I’ve read, people noticed the difference almost immediately after the water source was switched in 2014, but this hasn’t become a major issue until late 2015 early 2016.  In that time, how many lives have been permanently changed by the consumption and use of that tainted water?

If you think this is an isolated issue, then think again.  I recall Atlanta having an issue with their water infrastructure because of old terra-cotta pipes still in use that were installed probably in the 18th century.  When the stimulus plan was passed in 2009, there was lots of talk about repairing infrastructure.  People focused on roads and bridges, but how many people mentioned the water and power grids?  These systems have been in place for decades and likely at least a century in some places without upgrading.

It’s not the fault of one person but every single office holder that has decided to gamble with our lives.  Nobody likes paying taxes.  I get that.  What happened in Flint is the result of trying to live in a Neiman Marcus country while paying Wal Mart prices to keep it up.  At the rate we’re going, there will be many more Flints happening before something is done.  I hope I’m wrong, but given the current desire to cut government spending, don’t look for some private company to take a major revenue loss to build newer and safer utility systems.

Congratulations!!!

Congrats to the Alabama Crimson Tide football team for winning the CFP Championship last night.  A tip of the hat to Coach Swinney and the Clemson Tigers for a great game as well.  For all the lackluster bowl games that college football fans were subjected to, the bowl season ended on a high note.

As a big college football fan, I watched most of the games as it seems like my schedule gave me off days at the right moments to allow it.  Other than the Oregon/TCU game, last night’s game was the best out of all the bowl games.

While everyone starts to recruit for next year, we’ll begin the “Process” of reloading.

ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!!

Let’s talk Constitution

Let’s talk about our founding document for a minute, you know, that four page, 7,591 word document that some like to claim to defend under certain circumstances.

We currently have a group of armed individuals occupying a federal building in Oregon under that claim of defending the Constitutional rights of people.  Whether it is armed individuals, Oath Keepers, or Three Percenters, there have been numerous people and/or groups trying to claim the mantle of being the “Defender of the Constitution”.  The problem with that in my view is that the Constitution does not need defending.  These groups actually prove the Constitution is working perfectly fine as it stands.

There’s no government conspiracy to confiscate guns or squelch free speech.  If that were the case, then the Oregon occupation would have already been squashed with extreme prejudice to avoid any copycats.  Instead, the government basically let them do as they wish and only now is the FBI working with local authorities to find an end to the situation.

If these groups or individuals were serious about protecting the Constitution, where were they when John Crawford III was shot and killed by the police while holding an airsoft rifle in an open carry state?  When are they going to put out a statement on the killing of Tamir Rice in that same open carry state?

See, that’s the thing about protecting the Constitution.  If you’re going to do for one, then do for all.  If you can’t do for all, then let someone else handle the workload.  America isn’t just White and male.  America isn’t just Christian either.  The protected rights of one is the protected rights of all.  If you can’t see or agree to that, then the problem with the Constitution lies between your two ears and not with the government.

Just something to ponder while we see how things play out in Oregon…

Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code--FBI

Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code–FBI

This could be considered an act of domestic terrorism as it is defined in U.S. Code.  I seriously doubt we’ll ever see it classified as such, and I wouldn’t argue if it were not.  We do have the protected right to free speech and to petition the government.  I’d suggest that people watch themselves to avoid crossing the line of free speech and getting into threatening or intimidating behavior.  The latter is not protected by the Constitution.