Too Far Too Fast

The Warren Court had made a habit… out of rewriting Constitutional law.  Landmark civil rights cases such as Baker vs. Carr and Brown v. Board of Education drastically altered the segregated South, while Engel vs. Vitale and Griswold vs. Connecticut would fuel the culture wars for decades to come.  It was the criminal procedure mandates handed down by Earl Warren that have drawn his court’s legacy into question.  Brady vs. Maryland, Gideon vs. Wainwright, and  Escobedo vs. Illinois radically altered due process and police procedure, some argue to the detriment of law enforcement.  No other case symbolizes the Warren Court’s activism better than Miranda vs. Arizona, handed down on June 13, 1966.

Legislating from the bench

Few cases are as misunderstood…and detested as the ‘Miranda’ ruling.  The basic holding was that due process begins when a suspect is taken into custody, not when they enter legal proceedings.  Warren was not satisfied with a simple procedural question, taking the decision to the Constitutional level-

The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.

“The Court is not a general haven for reform movements”.[

 It was now the responsibility of the state to inform the citizens of their 5th and 6th amendment protections The Warren Court was deeply divided in delivering a 5-4 decision.  Justice John Marshall Harlan did not approve of Warren’s reach, “nothing in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution or in the precedents squares with the heavy-handed and one-sided action that is so precipitously taken by the Court in the name of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities….This Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added.”    

Civil libertarians argue the technical risks of freeing criminals …is worth the protections the opinions offer, but Justice Byron White could not concur, “I have no desire whatsoever to share the responsibility for any such impact on the present criminal process. In some unknown number of cases, the Court’s rule will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets and to the environment which produced him, to repeat his crime whenever it pleases him. As a consequence, there will not be a gain, but a loss, in human dignity.”

 

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Simply Awful History Movies Part 2

Early in 2000, the Smithsonian Museum of American History announcedit would assist in the production of an epic film about the American Revolution starring Mel Gibson.  Historians, history buffs, and living historians were further enticed by the original script detailing the exploits of “Swamp Fox” Francis Marion.  Disappointment with “The Patriot” started early, as producers ordered a substantial rewrite of the script after researching the complex life of Marion.  Apparently, a slave-owning Indian fighter cannot be heroic in a major Hollywood production.  Gibson instead portrays an anachronism- a South Carolina plantation owner who allows free blacks to work his land; a rebel torn between his family and the American cause.

Cute kids mask bad movie

Cute kids mask bad movie

It’s as if a group of impressionable, idealistic college sophomores… sat down and scripted the American Revolution “as it should have been.”  Young women stand up and chastise their elders in town meetings, slaves struggle for freedom in the deepest parts of South Carolina, and the evil imperialist British forces commit mass murder similar to the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre of 1944.  There’s plenty of speechifying, Gibson’s slow boiling, hunky Heath Ledger, and adorable children- but the film is woefully short on history.  Couldn’t the Smithsonian have advised on more than just costuming?  Gibson’s rage is incapable of overwhelming such a careless script  (the same script that compares British soldiers to Nazis.)  The Hollywood community doesn’t have the courage to make a film about the complexities of American history.  We are either preached to with politically correct drivel like “Dances with Wolves,” or insulted with comic-book nonsense like this monstrosity.

1776 or 1944?

1776 or 1944?

 

 

 

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Facts in Five

Jefferson : Foreign Policy edition

  • First War on Terror-  Jefferson never supported large standing armies until he was forced to send a fleet to the Mediterranean and Marines to the shores of Tripoli  in 1801.  Jefferson signed the bill creating the US Military academy at West Point.
  • Deal for the ages-  Always a strict constructionist, Jefferson quickly altered his interpretation of the Constitution when the French government offered the Louisiana territory for three cents an acre.  No nation had ever purchased an empire. 
  • Getting a jump on things-  Before the ink was dry on the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson had commissioned the Lewis and Clark expedition.  The Corps of Discovery were to explore the Northwest Passage and lay claim to land on the Pacific coast.
  • Snake in the Grass-  Frustrated by his rejections in the political circles of Washington and New York, Vice-President Aaron Burr organized a private militia and openly spoke of organizing the Louisiana Territory into an independent state.  Jefferson called out the troops and had Burr arrested for treason. 
Commander-in-Chief when needs be

Commander-in-Chief when needs be

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Happy Birthday Uncle Billy

William T. Sherman was born on this day… in 1820.  Reviled by southerners to this day, nonetheless, Sherman stands as an American military icon.  His doctrine of total war has been tossed aside as an aberration, American military personnel have been paying the steep price for ‘partial war’ ever since.  Sherman realized that fighting a war in enemy territory meant not only facing the rival combatants, but also the hostile populace as well.  Sherman knew an army had to ‘Go Roman’ or go home, ” You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it”   

“My aim then was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us”

 

Sherman also hated politics and never blurred the line… between civilian and military authority,  “The carping and bickering of political factions in the nation’s capital reminds me of two pelicans quarreling over a dead fish.”   Several efforts were made to get Sherman onto a presidential ticket following the war, but he always resisted.  Unlike many of his peers, Sherman accepted his place as a soldier,  “I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve.”   

This proclamation has been quoted by politicians from Lyndon Johnson to Dick Cheney.

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Conspiracies are Hatched

“There can be no middle ground here. We shall have to take the responsibility for world collaboration, or we shall have to bear the responsibility for another world conflict.”  … Roosevelt’s words ring hollow through history considering what happened after Yalta.  Congress agreed with FDR’s assessment of the Crimean accords, but the next world conflict was already under way.  Historians have tried to connect the dots over the last 69 years- many connections have yet to be convincingly made…conspiracy has filled the voids.  

"Of course I believe in a free Poland...come now, let's smoke"

“Of course I believe in a free Poland…come now, let’s smoke”

Stalin clearly benefited from the agreement… as much of the groundwork for the Eastern Bloc was laid during the negotiations.  How could Roosevelt and Churchill  allow Stalin to have his way on a majority of the issues?  If we believe Churchill’s self-described deference to Roosevelt,  something(or someone) influenced the decision making.  Questions about FDR’s health are at the source of many conspiracies:   Was he too weak to deal with the diplomatic rigors? Did knowledge of his mortality cloud his judgement during negotiations? Was he willing to grant a great deal to Stalin to secure what he considered to be his legacy, the United Nations?    The lack of written evidence, combined with basic deduction has led many an amateur historian down the conspiratorial path.

Liberal hero; Soviet spy- ALES

Liberal hero; Soviet spy- ALES

Most historians now concede that Alger Hiss… was not simply an American Communist, but in fact, a Soviet agent.   Hiss was a member of the US delegation to Yalta.  He arranged some of the papers used during the negotiations.  Conspiracy theorists do not have to leap too far in linking Hiss to the outcome at Yalta.  Records indicate that Hiss had a minor role(at best) during the negotiations.  But, to conspiracy theorists, lack of written evidence is never a deterrent.

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Exit Interview pt. 2

A continuing examination of the Presidency of Barack Obama… partisanship is kept to a minimum, but the issues raised are the opinions of Practically Historical and its staff.

Another lecture

Another lecture

The Bad…

 

The clean energy conundrum:  Obama’s attempts to be the first “Green President” cost the tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus subsidies  and crippled traditional industries(costing thousands of jobs) with an undeclared war on the coal industry.   Considering that the United States accounts for less than 15% of the world’s CO2 emissions, Obama’s policies were decidedly ideological and at odds with the majority of the American people

 

Minding the store:  The 24 hour news cycle brings local stories national attention, completely skewing proper perspectives.  Obama’s seeming need to insert himself in local and state matters often blurred the lines of Federalism and confounded attempts at reforming law enforcement.  The “beer summit” and professed paternal bond with Trayvon Martin did more to divide the public than promote understanding.  Obama’s image evolved into that of lecturer-in-chief, castigating the public for what he considered their ignorance.  on matters of race, religion, and tolerance.

 

Selective Enforcement Syndrome:  Despite being declared “scandal-free” by partisans, Obama’s Justice Department was plagued by insidious ideological application of the law.  The half-hearted investigation of  IRS officials  targeting Conservative groups with audits and denying non-profit status based on ideology concluded without a single indictment; conversely, Attorney General Loretta Lynch promptly responded to Congressional Democrats demanding an investigation into secret videos of Planned Parenthood officials leaked by a pro-life group.  The DOJ refused to pursue any charges in the botched DEA operation called “Fast and Furious.” 

Another round was needed

Another round was needed

 

Next time–  The Ugly

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Uncle Joe’s Big Week

“It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.”   Future Secretary of State James Byrnes commented on the Yalta conference which began on February 4, 1945.

The exhausted three

The exhausted three

Most historians now agree that Yalta… is where Stalin exerted his will upon the European continent.  Theories abound as to how this came to pass- Roosevelt’s illness, Churchill’s weariness, Soviet agents posing as American diplomats (Alger Hiss)- regardless, the Soviet Union came out of the conference a world power.  Byrnes’ observation was optimistic to say the least…

 

What seemed at the time to be reasonable compromise… laid the foundations for the Eastern Bloc.

Iron Curtain descending

Iron Curtain descending

  • Free elections in Poland- clearly stacked in Stalin’s favor, the exiled Polish government in London stood little chance against the Provisional Communist state built by the Red Army in 1945.
  • Red Army occupation of eastern and central Europe was accepted- and despite assurances to Churchill of peaceful intentions, Stalin told Molotov, “Never mind. We’ll do it our own way later.”
  • The Red Army would occupy half of Germany including the entirety of Berlin. The seeds of the Cold War are planted out of what was thought to be military expediency.

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