Saturday, December 17, 2011

Today Marks Anniversary of Jewish Expulsion Order . . . And, It Happened in America by Military Decree

Speaking of anniversaries, today marks 149 years since Ulysses S. Grant ordered the expulsion of Jews from his military district in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky.

That surely ranks as one of the low points for civil rights in American history. And, ironically, General Order 11, as it was known as, came during the Civil War, the war being arguably the greatest effort in our nation's history to provide equal civil rights --  and, it came from one who was leading the charge, as Grant was the U.S. Army's major-general for the Tennessee-Mississippi-Kentucky area.

Low point? Can you imagine, that, in America, there would be an expulsion order against Jews -- and that it would come in the form of a military decree, at that? I had never heard about this dark moment till I learned of it while reading Wikipedia.

Well, the outcry against the expulsion order was swift and hard. Before the order could be enforced much (only a few deportations actually took place), President Lincoln directed Grant to revoke his order, and he did. Grant worked hard to regain the confidence of the Jews, and when elected president even drew the majority of their votes.

Grant achieved a sterling record on civil rights while in the White House. He signed the Fifteenth Amendment, giving those freed in the war the right to vote. He became the first president to sign a congressional civil rights act, he signed legislation for the prosecution of Ku Klux Klan members. There was a reduction in the number of battles against American Indians. "Wars of extermination . . . are demoralizing and wicked," he said of the Indian wars. (I got this quote from Wikipedia, which credited "Michno (2003), 362)" in the footnotes.)

And, he became the first president to attend a Jewish synagogue service.

For more on General Order 11, signed Dec. 17, 1862 by U.S. Grant, turn to your local Wikipedia encyclopedia

Thursday, December 15, 2011

SLC Airport Immigration Raid Great Achievement in War on Terrorism? Sunday's 10th Anniversary Went Unnoticed

The beginning of one of the greatest achievements in the war on terrorism (at least one of the great achievements according to then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft) took place right here in Salt Lake City, Dec. 11, 2001.

The 10th anniversary this past Sunday passed us with scarcely a notice. If it caught a plug in the media, I didn't notice. I learned of it when immigration attorney Mark Alvarez made mention of it while we were, ironically, at a vigil Monday marking the fifth anniversary of another immigration raid (the Swift raid).
Hail back to the 2001 raid, to consider what it achieved in the war on terror. The pall of 9-11 hung freshly over the land. The fear of where terrorists might strike next clawed into the nation's psychic. And, with Olympics having been a past targets, and with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City looming, there was fear for the Salt Lake City Games.

So, federal agents swept into town, making Salt Lake City the initial raid in a series that would eventually include about a half dozen other airports.

The raid came three months to the day after 9-11.

Our enemy in the War on Terror has largely been from the Middle East, operatives in such groups as al-Qaeda. The people hit in the Great Raid of Salt Lake International -- if I may call it that -- were largely from Mexico, and Central and South America. Have any of the terrorists in our war on terror originated from these places?

And, rather than fitting the profile of secret operatives away from their families, those apprehended in Salt Lake City were family men, workers all, laboring to carve out a living for themselves and their families.

Any ties to terrorism? U.S. Attorney Paul Warner said none of those caught had attempted any type of terrorism. So, not only did they not fit the profile of terrorists, there was no evidence any of them were going to commit terrorism.

No less than 271 were fired from their jobs in Salt Lake City, many for falsifying their applications. A good number used Social Security numbers issued them in a state program to provide them drivers licenses, but that were not intended -- or valid -- for obtaining work.

The fired lost jobs ranging from being fuelers, to being food service workers, to being -- ah, yes -- security screeners. Sixty-nine people were indicted. Of the 69, two-thirds of the cases were later dismissed or ended up in nothing more serious than probation, with the probations ranging from a single day to 36 months. I do not know how many deportations there were, nor do I know what the most serious crime was.

A great raid? A great achievement? Those who assail people coming from south of the border to take jobs illegally certainly would hail it as a great achievement, regardless whether it affected the War on Terror.

But, I think not. These people did make the mistake of using Social Security numbers in a way they should not have. And, they did falsify applications.But -- you be the judge -- are these offenses of the sort to suppose we are making a great mark in our War on Terror if we round up the offenders?

I will grant you it is hard to judge what didn't happen during the Olympics, since these people were removed from their jobs and no longer in line to commit terrorism.

But, perhaps you will grant me, in turn, that these were hardly hardened criminals, nor potential terrorists. Being from south of the border -- though lacking proper work papers -- does not a terrorist make.

Would that we had not treated these people this way. Fire them for falsifying their applications, if you will, but do not dub them possible terrorists. Do not suppose that removing them was a great act in the War on Terror, and a great thing for our national defense.

Branding a common laborer a terrorist? It is a little much, to me. Perhaps we should have marked the 10th anniversary of the raid as an example of how fear can drive us to persecute people in a way they shouldn't be persecuted. (And, I refer to the branding of them as would-be terrorists as a form of persecution.)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dec. 6 Dark Day for Liberty in Our Land

File this one under the "While You Were Sleeping" listing.

You know, While you were sleeping, government did this or that, or society did this or that. And, before you even knew what was happening, a cherished freedom was lost or tarnished.

Dec 6, 2011 -- that puts the latest "While You Were Sleeping" just days ago, Tuesday, to be exact. While you were sleeping, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment against what is called "corporate personhood."

Clever wording, that is. Right off, most would agree corporations are not people.

Turn to the organization's webpage. Read, and you will likely find yourself agreeing with this movement to amend our freedoms and to amend our Constitution. Read, then, read:

"We the People, Not We the Corporations

"On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.

"We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

"The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend."

Well, then, having read that, do you agree? I certainly do. That is, I agree with much of it. I love the way they phrase it, "Money is not speech." For too long, lobbyists have rushed to the courts, decrying any move against lobbying as a move against free speech. Almost as if they were saying, "What, take away our right to spend money to influence politicians and office holders? That would be a violation of our free speech."

I, too, would to end a system where those who have the ear of our government are those who have money, a system in which the money that elects is the money that buys what happens.

Read on. Read a little more on the Move to Amend webpage. Learn of what is next on the horizon for this movement. Read:

"January 20, 2012: Move to Amend Occupies the Courts!

"Inspired by our friends at Occupy Wall Street, and Dr. Cornel West, Move To Amend is planning bold action to mark the second anniversary of the infamous Citizens United v. FEC decision!

"Occupy the Courts will be a one day occupation of Federal courthouses across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday January 20, 2012.

"Move to Amend volunteers across the USA will lead the charge on the judiciary which created — and continues to expand — corporate personhood rights.

"Americans across the country are on the march, and they are marching OUR way. They carry signs that say, “Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT Speech!” And they are chanting those truths at the top of their lungs! The time has come to make these truths evident to the courts."

Clever wording, there: "Corporations are NOT people! Money is NOT Speech!" I imagine a lot of people will be proud to carry those signs, and they may make a hit on the evening news.

But, somewhere in all this, you might be thinking, Yes, but there is not a corporation out there that is not made up of people. A corporation is nothing but a group of people.

And, therein lies the rub. You can't take rights away from corporations without taking rights away from people, because, yes, corporations certainly are people. You can paint it differently. But, if you do, your painting will only recolor and cover over the truth.

Since a corporation is nothing more than a collection of people, you cannot take away the rights of the whole without diminishing the rights of its parts, and that means taking away the rights of -- uhh, well -- people.

They will tell you that this is all to reclaim our own rights, to tear our government, our society, away from the claws of  the corporations. Those things, I might not be opposed to. I certainly do not oppose a move to disenfranchise lobbyists. Why is it ever that while we can see they are a bad influence, instead of outlawing them, we license them? In essence, we make them more legal than the rest of us, in that we give them special access to our lawmakers, access that the rest of us do not have.

A constitutional amendment against that? No, I wouldn't oppose such an amendment. I would welcome it.

But, strip public entities of their civil rights? That's overkill. It reminds me of those, who in the argument over illegal immigrants, say those caught crossing the border should be shot. Yes, that's one way to stop the problem, shoot them all, as if to say, "There. that should do it. Now you won't be coming over here anymore."

So, shall we disenfranchise corporations of not just their ability to run our country, but all their rights? Shall we chop of their civil rights and tear them away from any rights spelled out in the Constitution?

Don't those rights belong to everyone, including corporations, and . . . religious organizations? This amendment would strip constitutional rights away from any entity established by government. Under that umbrella, any organization that receives government incorporation -- and I think that would include churches -- would lose their civil rights.

So, imagine that: The people, themselves, would still be free to worship the way they please, but the churches would not.

Even before we took churches into consideration, this was a dangerous amendment. Now you see it as even more dangerous.

Maybe it's time to read what the amendment actually says:

"Section 1 [A corporation is not a person and can be regulated]

"The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

"Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

"The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

"Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]

"Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

"Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

"The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment."

"Section 3

"Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press."

Note the last part of section one, that inherent and inalienable rights would no longer be considered inherent or inalienable where public entities are concerned. While the very meaning of "inherent" and "inalienable" indicates these rights cannot be removed, this constitutional amendment would endeavor to do exactly that, remove them.

An assault on our liberties? One of the more dangerous assaults we have ever seen? I would say so. To think that one of the largest cities in our land endorsed it -- unanimously -- is shocking. Could a movement against our liberties gain such traction?

Almost makes me tremble.