Fifth Amendment: a Source of Public Danger
by Sam Aurelius Milam III
Like most of the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment isn't particularly useful. For example, the grand jury provision contains huge loop-holes. One of them is that it applies only to capital or infamous crimes. A capital crime is a crime that is punishable by death. An infamous crime is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison or penitentiary.1 This leaves out a lot of offenses and allows for a lot of punishment without the participation of a grand jury. The amendment doesn't apply to offenses punishable only by fines, penalties, deprivation of property, deprivation of some right or privilege, or by confinement somewhere other than in a state prison or penitentiary.
Even for a capital or infamous crime, there are exceptions. The amendment doesn't apply to cases arising in the army or in the navy. However, there's another even more puzzling exception, and that is the militia. The definition of militia varies according to the source and its vintage. Clearly, however, the writers of the Fifth Amendment considered the militia to be distinct from the military forces, since it was mentioned in addition to them. This is completely consistent with the definition given several decades ago by the Encyclopedia Britannica. According to this definition, the militia is distinguished from the draft, from the military, and from the National Guard. It is, rather, based on the "obligation of every man to serve his nation". According to this definition, men (but not women) are excluded from grand jury protection if they are in the militia, and if the militia is in actual service in time of war or public danger. This makes it important to understand the meanings of actual service and public danger.
What is a time of "public danger"? It is a fact that the United States was continuously in a state of national emergency from 1933 to 1976. Thirteen declarations of national emergency occurred between 1976 and 1992.2 That should certainly satisfy the requirement to be legally considered a time of public danger.
Does the so-called "war on drugs" constitute a time of "public danger"? If so, can the government create a time of public danger whenever it wants one, just by making some popular thing illegal? If there are terrorists at large in the world, is that a time of public danger? If it's dangerous to go out at night, if people feel insecure, is that a time of public danger? Look at the definitions. The words must be taken in their comprehensive and common sense. If people in the community generally feel insecure, then it's a time of "public danger".
What does it mean to be in actual service? The amendment doesn't say the militia must be in military service. It says actual service. Remember the Britannica definition of militia. "The true militia system as a legal tradition is based upon the obligation of every man to serve his nation." Does actual service include the civil service? How about people who work for public utilities, police departments, or fire departments? How about Amtrak employees, or postal workers? What about hospitals, and air traffic controllers? If an industry is defined as a "service industry", are workers in that industry in "actual service"? Just what does it mean for the militia (every man not in the military) to be in actual service (serving his nation)?
What this all means is that the grand jury protections might be legitimately denied to any man who is engaged in any kind of service during any time of unrest. If governments were always benign, such an ambiguous provision might provide some protection. However, if governments were always benign, such protection would be unnecessary. I believe the grand jury provision is, more than anything else, a temptation for the government to frighten and confuse people, and then to exploit the fear and confusion. It provides no protection at all and potentially gives enormous power to the government.
|A Pledge for
by Dante DeAmicis
It seems that more and more politicians are trying to get their opponents to sign their pet campaigning pledges. I think we should consider the source. And what about after they are elected? That's when the real problems begin. Oh well, I guess it is up to me, so here it is, my ...
Hootin' For Joy
by Sam Aurelius Milam III
The Equal Employment Opportunitity Commission (EEOC) recently dropped its case against the Hooters restaurant chain. Hooters is the chain that's famous for the luscious babes who flaunt their, uh, attributes as waitresses at the Hooters restaurants. Hooters attracted the attention of the EEOC when it refused to hire men for the jobs. However, not to worry. There will not be a case from the EEOC this time, and the threatened $22,000,000 fine has been dropped. The EEOC "recommends" that men be hired, but it will not take further action in the matter.1
What's the significance of this decision? The EEOC accepts that a restaurant can refuse, based on gender, to hire men for jobs that they could do just as well as women can do them. This is a hypocrisy test for feminists. That is, it's now acceptable for a restaurant to refuse, based on gender, to hire women for jobs that they could do just as well as men can do them. After this, there should be no more feminine squeals of outrage about discrimination based on gender. Of course, it's equally likely that U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein will concede that the Oklahoma City bombing was a legitimate act of retaliation in response to government terrorism, the Russians will acknowledge the sovereignty of Chechnya, the Christian Coalition will open a legal defense fund for pedophiles, and Carl Sagan will propose that the moon is made of green cheese.
The Twilight Koan
by Don Cormier
Imagine, if you will, a planet in a far-off galaxy, inhabited by beings of tremendous egotism, whose main urge is to dominate and control others of their kind, and who will co-operate only when forced to do so. Further imagine, if you will, that after a period of unlimited strife, the social order of the planet developed into a hierarchy, with the most powerful individual dominating all less powerful individuals, with the 2nd most powerful dominating his underlings, and so on. Of course, in such an imaginary society, the youngest members are the least powerful, and the easiest to dominate
So imagine, if you will, a class of children, who are not only controlled by force, but further controlled by a lie. The lie is this: that there exists an invisible, all knowing judge who sees people who disobey, and who will punish such disobedience at some unknown future time. Not immediately, mind you, but in some horrible way at some unknown future date, frequently by engineering some terrible accident or disease.
Further imagine that many generations of beings on this planet have been taught this lie, so that most of the beings do not even know that it is a lie, but spend their lives in cringing fear, not only of those about them who they can see, hear, and touch, but of this mysterious, unknown, twilight judge.
So we have, for your consideration, a planet of terror and domination, where the most terrifying threat of all does not really exist. Of course, none of this really exists — does it?
Aw, come on! You're foolin', right? A place like that couldn't really exist, could it?
— Stephen Hawking, Cambridge University
Buck Hunter Shoots Off His Mouth
What's the main cause of divorce?
Me, Po' Edgar, and The Ravin'
taken from the essay Ravin' Evermore
August 12, 1991, by Sam Aurelius Milam III
Quoth the Raven, "Stop his ravin!"
"No!" objected Mr. Raven!
"You're a bird brain" said po' Edgar
"But you did," the bird insisted,
And the bird just flew away.
Now they're gone, but they inspired me,
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