Pleading the Fifth

An Amendment Linking Fine
Americans & Notorious Hacks

It all may have started with the number of fingers. To write a full post about a particularly random number between, say 1 to 10, is, of course, a fool’s run. But, as your uncle Bob once said, after having a few at the local water hole, ‘life ain’t worthy without taking chances,’ while tossing you up in the air. We’re taking the fifth and running with it.
Constitutionally, as you may remember, the expression is often associated with tax dodgers, counselor-instructed crime bosses and your garden-variety white-collar crook. Historically, though, it may have had its defining moment during the 1950s, with Senator Joseph McCarthy-led infamous witch hunt of many fine American artists and intellectuals and their supposedly illegal activities.
For those who need a refresher, the Fifth is the amendment of the U.S. Constitution designed to protect the accused of self-incrimination, and of being ‘deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.’ It’s often associated with the Miranda Warning, given by the police to criminal suspects, before they can be interrogated in the presence of an attorney.
Such association is not casual and stems from the 1966 case of Ernesto Miranda, who was arrested for stealing $8, and told the cops he’d also kidnapped and raped a woman a few days earlier. He was neither told that he could have a lawyer present during questioning, nor that he had the right to remain silent.
Miranda was promptly convicted based on his confession and sentenced to twenty years in prison. But, as his lawyers appealed, the Supreme Court eventually ruled that his self-incriminating statement was not admissible in court and that law enforcement officials must establish safeguards to protect this right of the individual being questioned. Thus the Miranda ruling.
As for McCarthy, surprise surprise, he succumbed to its own paranoia, was censured by the Senate in 1954, and died of alcohol-related hepatitis three years later. The damage he caused was already irreversible to many movie professionals, though, as Hollywood slammed its doors to them, helped by secret files that the likes of Ronald Reagan and others compiled on them.

THE RULE & THE ASSUMPTION
The episode, however sad, became emblematic in the way it showed the Constitution as a defense mechanism to protect citizens against a dangerous nut in power such as McCarthy, even when it’s not as swift as needed. The same about the Miranda case, which may serve (more)
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Read Also:
* The Other Fourth
* Bellyache

Continue reading

Full Stop

Le Bastille & Guthrie, 
& Heartbreak in Florida

By the time you read this, Francophiles and revolutionists of all stripes are done marking Bastille Day and Woody Guthrie’s 101th birthday. It’s also been a day to cut off yet another link with the past: someone, somewhere in India, will post the world’s last telegram.
But even for those whose best Sunday plans include a pass on headline news, it was hard to ignore the shock waves that came from Travyon Martin’s murder trial. To a nation that’s beaten to a pulp so many enemies, race has proven once again to be a formidable foe.
Many will be grieving over the not-guilty verdict. But for Pete Seeger, one of Guthrie‘s best friends, the date has a poignancy of its own, as Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger, his wife and collaborator of 70 years, passed away last Tuesday. Now how this mix of milestones, trivia, and personal loss are connected, we could hardly say.
We can only offer that the French Revolution, despite all spilled blood and betrayed expectations, is still closer to the U.S. than even the 10 days separating Le Quatorze from the Fourth of July would lead to believe, as it did serve as a cautionary tale to the young American republic.
Over two centuries later, both nations are in badly need of a refresher on their ideals of equality and freedom for all. In fact, most news about a possible identify of purpose between the two come invariably infected with the pragmatism of shared intel and similar military-driven goals.
As for Guthrie and his friends, it’s startling to realize how much worse it got to be a dissenter and an outcast. Whereas no one disputes Continue reading

Vive Le Crap

Happy Century, Woody Guthrie.
Happy 223rd Anniversary, France.

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

A Bastille Day to make flag-wavers and phone-in idealists proud.
A time to sing La Marseillaise with the fervor of V.I.P. donors and Monday morning quarterbacks.
Go ahead, have the Riccard, the Champagne, the Bordeaux.
Soon enough, we’ll be back to the Budweisers of our discontent.
For now, though, even Fox News will mention
the Dust Bowl Troubadour and that son of a Kenyan,
in the same sentence with the socialism they’re supposed to embody.
After all, if there’s a revolution apace, it’s for the right to party.
This land may be yours, but the ground is for fracking.
The Gulf Stream is still there, but loaded with oil rigs.
Corporations are now people, my friend,
and may text you to ask for your Voter ID.
But let’s give Woody the final word of the day.
For while only a few are bound for glory,
we’ll be all better off once someone does give a damn.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway.
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Pleading the Fifth

An Amendment Linking Fine
Americans & Notorious Hacks

It all may have started with the number of fingers. To write a full post about a particularly random number between, say 1 to 10, is, of course, a fool’s run. But, as your uncle Bob once said, after having a few at the local water hole, ‘life is not worthy living if you’re not willing to take your chances,’ and proceeded to throw you up in the air, we’re taking the fifth and running with it.
Constitutionally, as you may remember, the expression is often associated with tax dodgers, counselor-instructed crime bosses and your garden-variety white-collar crook. Historically, though, it may have had its defining moment during the 1950s, with Senator Joseph McCarthy-led infamous witch hunt of many fine American artists and intellectuals and their supposedly illegal activities.
For those who need a refresher, the Fifth is the amendment of the U.S. Constitution designed to protect the accused of self-incrimination, and of being ‘deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.’ It’s often associated with the Miranda Warning, given by the police to criminal suspects, before they can be interrogated in the presence of an attorney.
Such association is not casual and stems from the 1966 case of Continue reading