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Rights Promised us at our Nations Founding But Not Yet Delivered

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 05:12 PM
Original message
The U.S. Declaration of Independence provides the whole rationale for the existence of the United States of America as a sovereign nation. Central to that rationale are the inalienable rights that all U.S. citizens (and other people as well) should have, as well as the simple fact that it is the purpose of government to secure those rights. The whole core of the rationale of the existence of our nation is laid out in the first part of the second paragraph of the Declaration:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Yet the rights enumerated in the above paragraph, as well as the means of securing them have proven to be elusive since the founding of our nation 234 years ago. One major reason that these rights have proven to be elusive is that most Americans either arent aware of those rights, arent aware that they were supposedly granted to them at the founding of our nation, are unaware that they lack those rights, or are unaware that the major purpose of our government is to secure those rights. Being unaware of these things, Americans are unlikely to complain about lacking the rights that supposedly provide the basis for our founding as a nation. Therefore, we would do well to consider them, as well as our progress or lack thereof towards obtaining them:

The necessities of life

The status of the American people with respect to the necessities of life
Life is the first inalienable right mentioned in the Declaration. Prerequisites of life include nutritious food, clean water, shelter, and medical care for the sick.

A recent report, titled Hunger in America 2010, showed that in 2010, 49 million Americans were food insecure, defined as lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members; limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. And food insecurity in our country has risen steeply since 2008.

A 2007 report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty indicated that approximately 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness in a given year. A study of 50 cities by the same organization in 2004 indicated that in virtually every city, the city's official estimated number of homeless people greatly exceeded the number of emergency shelter and transitional housing spaces.

There were an estimated 49 million Americans without health care insurance in 2010. The uninsured face a 50% greater risk of dying than insured Americans. The health care reform legislation passed earlier this year will undoubtedly decrease the number of uninsured Americans. Yet, since the legislation was passed, health care insurance companies have greatly increased their premiums. So how does that fact jive with the presumption that the new legislation was supposed to make health care more affordable for us, as intimated even by the title of the legislation? What if in the process of mandating that Americans purchase health insurance from private health insurance companies, many Americans have to pour such a large percentage of their monthly income into health insurance that they are barely able to live on what they have left?

The necessities of life with respect to American law
Despite the promise of our Declaration of Independence, neither our original Constitution nor any of its amendments mandated that our government be responsible for securing the necessities of life for its citizens. It had a lot to say about political rights, but almost nothing about economic or social rights. It wasnt until the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) that the subject was first broached by a U.S. president.

FDR first began speaking about our countrys need for economic and social rights to compliment the political rights granted to us in our original Constitution and Bill of Rights during his first campaign for President, in 1932. Though his whole twelve year Presidency and four presidential campaigns centered largely on advocating for and implementing those rights, it wasnt until his January 11th, 1944, State of the Union address to Congress that he fully enumerated his conception of those rights in what he referred to as a Second Bill of Rights. The elements of that conception fall into two major categories opportunity and security. The security category dwelt on the necessities of life. Here are some relevant passages from FDRs 1944 State of the Union address:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are
 The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident.
 The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
 The right of every family to a decent home.
 The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing

Though FDRs New Deal represented a good start towards the establishment of economic rights for Americans, especially with the Social Security Act of 1935, it fell far short of ensuring that the necessities of life would be available for all Americans. Democratic presidents from FDR to the present have all made varying degrees of attempts to ensure adequate health care for all Americans. John F. Kennedy was assassinated before his health care ideas got off the ground. His Successor, Lyndon Johnson, with the help of a Democratic Congress, pushed through the landmark Medicare and Medicaid legislation, which provided for health care for the elderly and assisted the states in facilitating health care for the poor. But Republicans have consistently fought against universal health care every time Democrats introduce it, and we still have a long way to go.

International acceptance of economic and social rights
Following FDRs death in 1945, his wife, Eleanor, led the effort towards international acceptance of numerous elements of FDRs Second Bill of Rights, incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. These rights were then expanded further by The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which was ratified by 142 nations as of 2003. Paradoxically, the United States, where the Second Bill of Rights originated, has not yet signed that Covenant.

Furthermore, the commitment to economic and social rights throughout the world is manifested by their inclusion in the constitutions of numerous countries. And the European Social Charter, signed by 24 European countries, establishes such rights as the right to work for fair remuneration, health care and social security.

The U.S. Supreme Court was well on its way to recognizing a large number of economic and social rights until Richard Nixons election in 1968, with his subsequent appointment of four conservative Supreme Court justices, who sharply reversed that trend. Sentiment in favor of securing the necessities of life for American citizens has not returned to the U.S. Supreme Court since then.

Opportunity to pursue happiness

It is well known that a good education is a prerequisite for a reasonable opportunity for a decent life. Yet in the first three quarters of a century of our nations history education was available only to the wealthy. Education reformers then began pushing for public education, so that by the end of the 19th century free public education was available to all children at the elementary and high school level. During the 20th Century, enrollment in college increased from about 2% to 60%, associated with increasing federal and state funds for higher education.

FDR included public education in his proposed Second Bill of Rights. In accordance with that, he pushed through the GI bill of rights, which made an affordable college education available to millions more Americans.

But during Reagan-Bush years (1981-1993), college graduation rates (percent of college students who graduate) at public colleges decreased substantially undoubtedly the result of the skyrocketing costs of a college education, coupled with the declining amount of federal aid available for education. The result is that as of January 2008, 56% of parents believe that college is unaffordable for their children. What all these data suggest is that, as a college education becomes more and more important to our childrens economic futures, fewer can afford to pay for it. Many low income teenagers begin college, only to ultimately find that the economic requirements dont allow them to finish it. Furthermore, those who manage to squeak by graduate with huge debts, the repayment of which substantially cuts into their future income. Thus, a widening income gap in the United States is both a cause and a consequence of the inability of many with low income parents to finish college. The end result is a vicious cycle of income inequality and educational inequality.

The situation is becoming worse under the Obama administration, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushes a privatization agenda that diverts money from public to private schools (while demonizing public teachers), thus making a decent public education more and more unaffordable for those with low or moderate family incomes.

The right to a decent job
The right to a useful and remunerative job was a part of FDRs proposed Second Bill of Rights. FDR made a good start towards that goal with the creation of several agencies that produced greatly needed jobs, labor protection laws that created the right for workers to organize into unions and a federal minimum wage.

Labor unions are a great means for reducing income inequality because they empower ordinary workers with the means of negotiating fair wages and benefits in relation to their more wealthy and powerful employers. They also tend to increase the political awareness of their members, thereby facilitating greater citizen participation in the electoral process. Furthermore, they not only raise wages and benefits for their members, but do the same for non-members as well, since they provide all employers with incentives for offering fair wages, lest their members be tempted to join unions.

Table 1 in this article shows that prior to FDRs presidency the highest percentage of nonagricultural U.S. workers who were members of labor unions was about 10%. That percent rose precipitously during FDRs presidency and remained at close to 30% for several decades thereafter. However, with the anti-labor policies of the Reagan administration, the percent of workers in unions declined precipitously. And today only 13% of American workers belong to labor unions one of the lowest if not the lowest rates of union membership among the industrialized nations of the world.

In a nation such as ours that has so many needs, there is no good reason why our government couldnt create useful jobs for the many millions of Americans who need them. But that would infuriate the corporatocracy, because without a pool of desperate workers to choose from they would have to settle for workers who would have the option of quitting their employ when working conditions and pay are not satisfactory. That would reduce profits for the corporatocracy and their investors. So to avoid that scenario they lobby and lavish money upon our legislators and they scream and whine, complaining that government creation of jobs for unemployed families would interfere with the workings of the so-called free market and constitute Socialism! They ought to read our Declaration of Independence, which clearly says that one of the major purposes of government is to secure the opportunity of its citizens to pursue happiness.

Freedom from discrimination
To the extent that it is legal to discriminate against vulnerable groups of people whether based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else those groups will lack the opportunity to pursue a life of meaning and happiness.

Great advances were made in our country with the Constitutional amendments that ended slavery, provided civil rights for all U.S. citizens, and banned the abrogation of voting rights based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. In 1954 a U.S. Supreme Court Decision banned segregation in public schools. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided the means for making the 14th and 15th amendments to our Constitution a reality for many more millions of our citizens. It wasnt until 2003 that our Supreme Court deemed laws that criminalize homosexual acts to be unconstitutional. Yet homosexuals are still widely discriminated against in our country, as are many other minority groups based on race, religion, gender, national origin, or other factors.


Fair trials
Our justice system is filled with injustice. Since 1973, when the death penalty was reinstituted in the United States, more than 130 people have been released from death row on the basis of new evidence showing that they were wrongly convicted. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. A large number of those overturned convictions involved DNA evidence and were therefore the consequence of new technology. But only a small fraction of capital cases have the potential of being overturned by DNA evidence.

A report of a study titled: A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995, sheds a lot of light on the problem. It found that appeals courts discovered serious errors requiring a judicial remedy in 68% of cases. The most common were:

(1) egregiously incompetent defense lawyers who didnt even look for and demonstrably missed important evidence that the defendant was innocent or did not deserve to die; and (2) police or prosecutors who did discover that kind of evidence but suppressed it, again keeping it from the jury.

Justice David Souter, joined by three other Supreme Court Justices, stated the gist of the problem in a 2006 minority opinion, noting:

evidence of the hazards of capital prosecution, (including) repeated exonerations of convicts under death sentences, in numbers never imagined before the development of DNA tests Most of these wrongful convictions and sentences resulted from eyewitness misidentification, false confession, and (most frequently) perjury, and the total shows that among all prosecutions homicide cases suffer an unusually high incidence of false conviction probably owing to intense pressure to get convictions

It is well known that racial prejudice plays a prominent role in the injustices perpetrated in our judicial system especially in the south. A January 2003 study by the University of Maryland concluded that:

race and geography are major factors in death penalty decisions. Specifically, prosecutors are more likely to seek a death sentence when the race of the victim is white and are less likely to seek a death sentence when the victim is African-American.

Particularly glaring is the finding that the likelihood of a death sentence is 11 times higher in cases in which blacks killed whites than for cases where whites killed blacks

Perhaps the underlying injustice of our whole justice system is unequal access to legal representation, based on wealth. Everyone knows that the quality of legal representation in any criminal or civil case plays a major role in determining which side wins. Yet the rich always obtain far higher quality legal representation than the poor. How can anyone have a fair trial when the odds are stacked against him before the trial even starts? Any country that allows such an imbalance in its criminal justice system is being hypocritical when it calls itself free.

Victimless crimes
The presence of victimless crimes such as drug possession in the United States is largely responsible for the outrageously high imprisonment rate in our country. International statistics from 2006 show that the United States has an incarceration rate of 738 per 100,000 population, the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The incarceration rate for victimless crimes comes to only about one third of the total incarceration rate in our country. But the toxic effects are not confined to them. The hundreds of thousands of individuals incarcerated for victimless crimes have helped to fuel a private, for-profit prison industry, which has successfully lobbied for more frequent and longer prison sentences for all crimes.

When there are no victims to complain about a criminal act, police and prosecutors have great discretion in deciding whom to arrest and prosecute. Consequently, that discretion can be used as a means of wielding political power over selected portions of our population. Consider the War on Drugs, for example. The racial and class disparity in the United States for imprisonment for drug offenses is well known. Though the Federal Household Survey (See item # 6) indicated that 72% of illicit drug users are white, compared to 15% who are black, blacks constitute a highly disproportionate percent of the population arrested for (37%) or serving time for (42% of those in federal prisons and 58% of those in state prisons) drug violations. Whenever and wherever victimless crimes are prosecuted and punished, the opportunity for arbitrary enforcement of the law based on racism or other nefarious factors is magnified tremendously.

Economic liberty against monopoly
FDR noticed a correlation between the obscene wealth of the few and the suffering of the many. He called the ruling financial elite Economic Royalists. At the 1936 Democratic nominating convention he said this about them:

Out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service. The privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set aside for old age other people's money these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

FDR addressed the problem by establishing regulations and pushing for legislation (such as the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933) to limit the power of the Economic Royalists.

Barry Lynn explains in his new book, Cornered The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction, the economic dynamics of what FDR called industrial dictatorship. Specifically, he explains how the monopolization of so much industry in the United States, which began under the Reagan Presidency, has led us towards a corporatist state that has vastly limited the freedom of so many Americans:

The structural monopolization of so many systems has resulted in a set of political arrangements similar to what we used to call corporatism. This means that our political economy is run by a compact elite that is able to fuse the power of our public government with the power of private corporate governments in ways that enable members of the elite not merely to offload their risk onto us but also to determine with almost complete freedom who wins, who loses, and who pays. Then suddenly there was Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson using our tax money to fix his bank and the banks of all his friends

The Bush and Obama administrations and Congress all responded to the collapse of our financial system in most instances by accelerating consolidation The effects are clear the derangement not merely of our financial systems but also of our industrial systems and political systems. Most terrifying of all is that this consolidation of power and the political actions taken to achieve it appears to have impaired our ability to comprehend the dangers we face and to react in an organized and coherent manner.

The bottom line: Too much freedom for the powerful impinges greatly upon the freedom of everyone else.

Political rights

In contrast to the lack of economic and social rights provided for us in our constitution, political rights were provided for us. The underlying principle for our political rights is contained in our Declaration of Independence, with the phrase Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. The theory is that we vote for men and women to represent us in our government, and that the men and women who are thus voted into office represent our interests through the passage (our Legislative Branch) and enforcement (our Executive Branch) of legislation and regulations.

Voting rights
For the first third of a century after our nations birth, only white males who owned property had the legal right to vote. Weve made a great deal of progress since that time. From 1812 to 1856, property qualifications for voting were abandoned; passage of the 15th Amendment to our Constitution in 1970 provided voting rights to our former slaves; passage of our 19th Amendment in 1920 prohibited the restriction of the right to vote on the basis of sex; and our 24th amendment in 1964 prohibited the use of poll taxes to restrict a persons right to vote.

Yet, the legal right of Americans to vote today is on shaky grounds. In the months prior to the 2000 presidential election, tens of thousands of black voters who had no criminal history at all were removed from the Florida voter rolls simply on the basis that they were a close computer match to a black person in Florida with a criminal record. That ploy enabled George W. Bush to overcome what would otherwise have been a deficit of tens of thousands of votes in Florida, to make the 2000 Florida election close enough to enable our Supreme Court to hand him a victory in Florida and thereby the presidency. In 2004 similar activities in Ohio enabled Bush to win re-election to the presidency.

Another major problem with voting in the United States today is what is commonly referred to as black box voting. In many jurisdictions throughout our country today, our votes are electronically counted by computer programs designed and owned by private corporations. Once the votes are counted by those computer programs there is no way for anyone to ascertain whether they were counted accurately or whether a computer glitch resulted in an error accidental or intentional. Those who manufacture and own the machines often have a major stake in the outcomes of the elections whose votes their machines count. We are at the mercy of those machines for the outcomes of our elections.

Perhaps worst of all, our Supreme Court pointed out in 2000 that Americans have no fundamental right to vote under our constitution. Whatever happened to the idea promised in our Declaration that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed? If we have no fundamental right to vote, then how are we to express our consent or non-consent for those who govern us?

Legalized bribery
Legalized bribery is so prevalent in American politics today that many or most of our elected representatives routinely support legislation and policies that favor big moneyed interests over the majority of ordinary people knowing that they can rely on the corporatocracy to shower them with money and other favors that allows them spin their actions so as to deceive voters into voting for them.

It is a pernicious system that perpetuates itself. Big moneyed interests donate (actually invest would be a more accurate term) large amounts of money to politicians, and in return those politicians enact legislation that helps those interests to get more money, at the expense of the public, thereby enhancing their wealth and power and enabling them to continue to feed the beast.

Currently we operate under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold bill, which accomplished some laudable goals. However, because of various loopholes and court decisions, we continue to operate under a political system of legalized bribery. Activities which may accomplish the purposes of bribery under the current system include the provision of fully paid for luxury outings (sometimes called conferences), contributions to political action committees (PACs), and the bundling of huge amounts of money for campaign contributions by powerful interests.

To the extent that this happens, government derives its powers not from the consent of the governed but from the consent of the wealthy.

There can be no consent of the governed to the extent that we lack the information necessary to know what we should consent to. Recognizing that fact, our Founding Fathers gave us the free speech and free press clauses of our First Amendment. The major purpose of those clauses is to enable us to obtain the information that an informed citizenry requires to make the decisions that they need to make to remain free.

But several factors in American life threaten that process today. Monopolization of our media by our corporatocracy, enabled largely by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, means that the information that most Americans obtain is highly censored, filtered, and spun in a way that persuades them to support the interests and goals of the corporatocracy.

Whenever our government wishes to withhold information from us, all they have to do is utter the words national security to scare us away from trying to obtain the information. The reality is that national security is rarely the real issue. The real issue is the keeping of embarrassing or incriminating information away from the American public. The real issue is that our government often feels the need to operate in the dark.

Worse yet, for much of our history our government has been actively engaged in developing and spewing out propaganda meant to deceive us the purpose of which is to convince us to passively accept their agenda, be it war, torture, the secret overthrow of democratically elected foreign governments, or favors for the rich at the expense of the rest of us.

A one hundred minute film titled Psywar discusses the use of U.S. government propaganda throughout its history. The film ends with some observations on how the American people might break free of the government propaganda that has to a large extent kept us under control for so long:

The best way to stop propaganda is for people to understand what it is and how it works Propaganda loses its effectiveness when people understand what is going on. The best way to make it lose its effectiveness is to force the players to the surface For a democracy to function and thrive, what we need is more information, including on who is manipulating public opinion. What we need is a lot more education and exposure of how public opinion is manipulated The ultimate battlefield really is in the mind.


The U.S. Declaration of Independence, which founded our nation and at the same time rationalized its existence, is one of the most radical documents in the history of the world. I mean that in a good way, as I believe that it is a great concise blueprint for an ideal nation. Though in some ways our nation has progressed since 1776 towards fulfilling the promises of its founding document, in other ways it has regressed. At this point in history the promise is very far from fulfilled. More Americans need to understand that, because problems cant be solved until their existence is recognized and understood.
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Sherman A1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 05:23 PM
Response to Original message
1. Excellent!
Thanks for posting.
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tony51 Donating Member (4 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-01-10 04:29 PM
Response to Reply #1
12. rights?
There's not a lot of sense in debating this matter until the term "right" is both very clearly defined and the definition broadly accepted. What is called a a "right" by some often is simply a "want" or "wish" to many others.

Likewise vague terms such as "social justice". What does that really mean?

And why should someone else agree with your definition?

Without clarity about what is being discussed, a discussion is no more than an exercise. (Of course, exercises are useful for those who are willing to learn from them.)
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 05:45 PM
Response to Original message
2. Our nation was founded in 1790

Ummm... it was a joint declaration of the colonies, concluding with:

"That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States"

Where "states" in that context doesn't mean departments of a federal system.

Going further:

"as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do"

So, among your "unfulfilled promises", count the ability of the states to "levy War" which, indeed many people apparently believed right up to the 1860's.

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MsPithy Donating Member (325 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 06:39 PM
Response to Original message
3. Extraordinary piece of work!
Thanks for this! I am not so certain that exposing something like, "Sharia Law is replacing the Constitution," as propaganda will work. The folks who believe this are too far gone. No matter what you say they will twist themselves into a logical knot with rationalizations to protect their belief.

They can somehow reconcile the opposite ideas that Obama must agree with Reverend Wright because he stayed in Wright's church for decades, and of course, Obama is a Muslim.
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Land Shark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 07:12 PM
Response to Original message
4. Good to focus on Declaration, BUT rights are most certainly NOT "granted" to people
What the government giveth, the government can take away, that's why inalienable rights are something we are 'endowed by our creator' with. They come from a source that is BEYOND GOVERNEMTN CONTROL which is absolutely critical otherwise we are toast whenever corrupt government arises, since they will just take away whatever rights are inconvenient to them (if we go along by thinking this is possible.) Government can only fail to recognize and violate fundamental rights, but not "Grant" them.

NOte that the 19th amendment (women's suffrage) does not "GRANT" a right to vote to women, but instead says there shall not be discrimination in suffrage based on sex. The right to vote pre-existed the Constitution, created the Constitution, and is most properly seen as an inalienable right, especially since it is the right that protects all other rights.

The biggest reason for failure to secure more of the promise is the attitude of looking to government for the very existence of rights (i.e. thinking govt is "granting" them). Except with regard to minor statutory rights, rights are not "granted" -- they exist because we're born human, and they grow in RECOGNITION by governments because those rights are ASSERTED and demanded.

How to, for example, get a new right recognized? We assert that it already exists in justice and that the government is obliged to recognize it. If the right didn't pre-exist it's recognition, there's no cause for saying it's an injustice for government not to recognize it. People need to own their own freedom and ween themselves from dependence on the affirmation (and rejection) of the government, and the media for that matter as well. Our rights are our rights, and since it is the government's raison d'etre to "secure these rights" under the Declaration (not "grant us" our rights) we judge the government based on its track record in doing what it was created to do in the first place.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-02-10 07:44 AM
Response to Reply #4
13. There is a difference between moral rights and legal rights
When our Declaration of Independence speaks of inalienable rights, it is referring to moral rights. It is correct that our government cannot "grant" us moral rights, since we already have them. But when I use the word "grant" in the OP to note that our government has not granted us certain rights that were promised us in our Declaration, I think it is obvious that I am referring there to legal rights, not moral rights, since government cannot grant us moral rights, but it can grant us legal rights. "Granting" us legal rights would be tantamount to "securing" the moral rights that we already have, as specified in our Declaration.
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Land Shark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-04-10 12:05 AM
Response to Reply #13
18. As long as you define "moral" rights as SUPERIOR to "legal" - then OK
The same "inalienable rights" are now enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified as a treaty by some 161 or so nations. Initially, the UDHR was considered to be a nonbinding statement of the law of fundamental human rights, but it has now clearly entered the realm of customary international law - binding even without a formal treaty ratification. The UDHR similarly calls much more than life liberty and pursuit of happiness as inalienable, i.e. can't be lost even if a person wants to lose them...

My concern is (not knowing your intent) "moral" gets pooh-poohed in an ignorant way by many people, and that's a misunderstanding regarding one's most important and basic rights, none of which are mentioned in the constitution, yet are still broadly accepted as fundamental rights by the people throughout our history, and many of them by the courts (eventually) as well.
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Land Shark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 07:17 PM
Response to Original message
5. What Jefferson meant by "the pursuit of happiness" (and the Cont. Congress as well)
"Happiness" is a poor translation of the Greek word "eudaimonia" referring to pursuit of the good life, the life well lived, and definitely included a justice and ethics component at its very core. I laid this out less than a month ago here:
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Land Shark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 07:26 PM
Response to Original message
6. This OP statement is completely wrong; "Americans have no fundamental right to vote under our Const"
the dead link for that statement refers to a misleading analysis that nevertheless carefully adds the phrase "for President" and references Bush v. Gore. The idea is that the legislatures could choose to allocate electors for the electoral college by method other than popular election. But as worded in the OP it clearly states no right to vote at all. This is not only inaccurate, it's wrongheaded, since our rights don't come from the 1789 Constitution or even from the 1776 declaration of independence. They are human rights.

In any event, every state since just after the civil war has chosen popular election for the electoral college, so this semi-famous statement of the Bush v. Gore opinion is highly misleading as usually quoted, but at least the Supreme Court added, in the sentence after the one usually quoted, that "THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO VOTE attaches to presidential elections as soon as the legislature decides to allocate electors by popular election." (paraphrase)

There is most certainly a fundamental right to vote no matter what, and this fundamental right has been recognized and protected for centuries in case law. The denials of the franchise are all about WHO is part of "the people" -- does it include women? Freed slaves? Can Jim Crow be used to defeat it? The question is now settled in the public mind, despite efforts to the contrary by reactionaries, that "the people" means EVERYBODY. Of course it does.

Everybody has a fundamental right to vote, and it attaches to the presidential election as well as soon as states choose popular election for allocating electors, which they always do.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 08:47 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. I was just quoting the USSC from the Bush v. Gore decision
I wasn't arguing that we have no fundamental right to vote.
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Land Shark Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-01-10 10:54 AM
Response to Reply #8
11. Here's actual quote, FYI (your "quote" omits critical qualifying information like "presidential")
Edited on Wed Sep-01-10 10:55 AM by Land Shark
If a legislature chooses election as the method for its presidential electors, there most certainly is a fundamental right to vote FOR PRESIDENT and there always is on other races. After the Civil War, choosing electors other than by election is virtually unheard of, and is unheard of after 1900. What the Supreme Court is doing here is just explaining how the constitutional electoral college works:

"The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College. U.S. Const., Art. II, 1. This is the source for the statement in McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U.S. 1, 35 (1892), that the State legislatures power to select the manner for appointing electors is plenary; it may, if it so chooses, select the electors itself, which indeed was the manner used by State legislatures in several States for many years after the Framing of our Constitution. Id., at 2833. History has now favored the voter, and in each of the several States the citizens themselves vote for Presidential electors. When the state legislature vests the right to vote for President in its people, the right to vote as the legislature has prescribed is fundamental; and one source of its fundamental nature lies in the equal weight accorded to each vote and the equal dignity owed to each voter. The State, of course, after granting the franchise in the special context of Article II, can take back the power to appoint electors. See id., at 35 (here is no doubt of the right of the legislature to resume the power at any time, for it can neither be taken away nor abdicated) (quoting S. Rep. No. 395, 43d Cong., 1st Sess.)."
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-02-10 07:50 AM
Response to Reply #11
14. Yes
I should have specified "electors for president". The rest of it was not necessary to specify because the fact that the right to vote for president is dependent upon our state legislature means that we have no fundamental right to vote for president according to our Constitution (Or at least that was the Scalia's, as well as his allies on the USSC). And as you know, in 2000 the Florida Republican state legislature was planning to take matters into their own hands to make George W. Bush president had the USSC decision not done their dirty work for them. How that would have turned out, nobody can tell.
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loudsue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 07:43 PM
Response to Original message
7. Great post. K & R
Things aren't looking too good for the ole republic right now, are they? Propaganda, misinformation, and the military industrial corporate complex taking over every aspect of our daily lives is a little too much to deal with for most of us right now.

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-31-10 10:02 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. No, I don't think it looks good at all.
I really hate the idea of my country as an empire -- one that thinks it has the right to intervene in the affairs of other sovereign nations whenever it feels it has something to gain from doing so. But there can be no doubt, with 700+ military bases scattered throughout the world and spending almost as much on our military as the rest of the world combined, that we are an empire -- and not a benign one either.
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Dystopian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-01-10 03:17 AM
Response to Original message
10. KandR.
Thank you ...
Outstanding ...

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txlibdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-02-10 05:23 PM
Response to Original message
15. The only reason why FDR gave us the New Deal and the 2nd New Deal
Was because of the existence of a growing Socialist movement in the USA. After the Socialists were discredited, illegally jailed, or deported the need for reforms went away.

So, any of you who want progressive reforms from the Democratic party now know that we need a very strong and growing Socialist Party in this country.
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Poboy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-02-10 06:41 PM
Response to Original message
16. K&R
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X_Digger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-02-10 06:51 PM
Response to Original message
17. Small quibble.. rights aren't 'granted' at the founding of our nation.
Otherwise, K&R.
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