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What Ever Happened to Equality Under Law?

I just came across this story that I feel compelled to share. This is a story of privilege in a Texas court, where money and connections are not supposed to count, where we find one judge and two men from very different sides of the tracks who appear to get anything but equal justice.

On the one side is Alex Wood, son of religious royalty Reverend John Wood and brother-in-law to eight-term US Congressmen Chet Edwards. On the other side is Tyrone Brown, a poor African American boy with no connections and no political clout.

In 1990, Brown pleaded guilty to armed robbery in which he stole $2 and was sentenced to ten years probation. In 1995, Wood pleaded guilty to shooting a killing a prostitute and he too was sentenced to ten years probation. While it is bad enough that Wood did not receive harsher punishment for his crime, it’s what happens during the two men’s probation that makes this story so outraging.

After only a few months into his probation, Judge Dean sentenced Brown to life in prison for smoking marijuana. Wood on the other hand remained a free man even though he was caught twice with possession of cocaine during his probation, a much more serious crime.

After nearly 17 years of a life sentence spent in jail, Tyrone Brown was released from prison on March 16, 2007 due to the good will and persistence of University of Florida law school graduate Charlie Douglas.

After ABC’s 20/20 showcased this story, many people began asking the question, “Are we really equal under the law?”

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The Shadow of FISA

I know I’m a tad bit late with this article on the FISA bill, but later is better than never…I hope.

You know, I was under the impression that the Democrats were elected to Congress to keep Bush in check. Of course, you can’t count on Democrats to do anything right. Before you all call me a conservative pig, I believe the same about the Republicans. I keep saying that both parties have a lot more in common than they’re willing to admit. What has the Democratic majority done to stop all this non-sense going on at the Capitol? Nothing at all.

It doesn’t matter if you vote for Barrack Obama or John McCain, nothing is going to change. They too are more alike than they’re willing to admit. Barrack had one thing going for him from my point of view; he was against the FISA Bill. Yet, when the day came for him to filibuster the bill or vote against it like he said he would, what did he do? He voted in favor of it. McCain has been for the bill all along, so of course he supported it, though he didn’t attend the session to cast his vote. Am I the only one that’s noticing how Obama seems to be changing opinions a lot lately, aligning them more with the opinions of McCain?

So here we are, living in what could possibly be one of the darkest days in American history. They passed the FISA Bill. The government is free to spy on who ever they choose, not just internationally, but DOMESTICALLY. They’re free to not only check on people who they think are a threat to national security, but they can spy on you. They might use the power to find out if you’re downloading songs illegally. Better think twice next time you open Kazaa or click on that torrent file. A joint FBI, CIA, NSA, and ATF taskforce might be waiting around the corner to bust your door down. That may be an exaggeration now, but the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens in the near future.

Warrants don’t have to be issued, there is no government oversight, and no one can be held liable. The bill is also retroactive, so all those cases that are in the system right now against phone companies and the government are going to be dismissed. What good can possibly come out of this bill?

The unconstitutionality of the laws being passed on the Hill amazes me. I don’t feel any safer than I did before 9/11. Everyone knows that we knew something was going to happen, but the lack of inter-agency collaboration as well as other factors prevented us from preventing the attacks. We don’t have to spy on our citizens to be safe.

What amazes me even more is the lack of concern by the people. There’s a quote that I throw around a lot and it’s become quite popular recently:“Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin

Americans gave up their lives in 1776 to re-gain freedoms that the English were infringing upon. The Forefathers would balk at the idea of giving up privacy or any other right for safety. Yet, here we stand…I should say sit, allowing the government to strip away our liberties, and they’re doing so in the name safety. Look back through history and you’ll find that dictatorships are created when leaders take advantage of the fears of the people.

The constitution was created to prevent bills like FISA from being passed. It was created to protect the people and restrict government. Yet, government is growing faster than it ever has, and the rights of the people are slowly being chiseled away. We should be up in arms over what’s going on in Washington. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it is, and it will only get worse unless we do something to stop it. My only hope is that the law will be overturned by the Supreme Court. If that doesn’t happen…the light at the end of the tunnel may not come for a long time.

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