D.B. 13 – Justine Lazdina

According to MLK, how can we tell the difference between just and unjust laws? Understanding this question is the most important part of this module, and I will ask it again during our second exam.

  • According to MLK, we can tell the difference between just and unjust laws by seeing if they uplift or degrade the individual. A law that uplifts, is a law that is morally sound and does not impede on the rights of others. A law that degrades is a law that is morally corrupt and does impede on the rights of others.

In your view, is this an important distinction (between just and unjust laws), do you think it makes a difference in the way someone (as an individual, or our society as a whole) lives their lives? Can it affect our politics?

  •  In my view, this is a very important distinction between just and unjust laws. Just because something is an accepted law does not make it right, does not make it morally sound, and therefore should not be followed. I think that it does make a difference in the way a person lives their lives AND how a society as a whole functions. Following unjust laws makes for an unjust society. If a law unfairly targets one group, but not another, the group it targets will be forced to act different for fear of reprisal.  Not surprisingly, this can create animosity between individuals and groups in a society, which in turn can have an affect on our politics.

Based on our discussion of Question 1, give an example each, of an unjust and just law, in the US today. Explain what makes it unjust or just (using MLK’s definition of those two types of laws).

  • An example of an unjust law in the US today would be the criminalization of marijuana. Marijuana has not only shown to be safer to use than alcohol, but it has also shown to have therapeutic properties. It is morally wrong to imprison marijuana users for choosing to use a substance that is not harming them nor others around them, but could in fact be helping with anxiety, eating disorders, and pain.
  • And example of a just law in the US today would be The Civil Rights Law. This is a moral law that protects the right of all individuals to be treated equally. It does not impede on the rights of others, it only lifts individuals and society up.

D.B 12.1 – Justine Lazdina

What did the Supreme Court decide in the Wal-Mart case? And more importantly, how did it justify its decision? (HINT: the key word here is “commonality” (and how it related to “class-action lawsuit”). Try to understand what this legal terms means, as it is key to the court’s decision).

  • The Supreme Court decided in the Wal-Mart case to rule against the plaintiffs.
  • The type of relief that classes can seek, in class action lawsuits, falls under Rule 23 of Civil Procedure. The class action lawsuits where the plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief (injunctions restrain a party from doing certain acts and requires them to act a certain way, and declarations state the rights of a party without any action or award for damages required) fall under b(2), and ones where the plaintiff seeks monetary relief fall under b(3). Since Dukes vs Wal-Mart was a civil rights case and was filed under b(2) and not b(3), the court ruled against their demand for backpay.
  • This decision against the plaintiff was further justified by questioning if women can justify their gender as a class and prove the “commonality” of their group, as required by Rule 23’s commonality requirement. Anthony Scalia, one of the Supreme Court judges that ruled against the plaintiff, argued that for the plaintiff to be able to claim commonality they need to share a common problem AND a common solution. Since these women were not discriminated by Wal-Mart in the same exact way, they were not considered to have the same problem, and therefore it would be illegitimate to provide them with the same solution, i.e., a large sum payment that would compensate all members equally. He stated, due to there being no “glue” to hold the reasons for these women’s unfavorable experiences together -as in there might have been different reasons as to why they were discriminated against as individuals- there can be no ruling that will produce the same answer for all.
  • This ruling tells us that women are not considered a class of their own, they are not a minority group therefore their experiences can differ too greatly to be considered an oppressed class. In other words, an individual woman cannot be discriminated against for her gender, but women as a group -as per this ruling- can.

Introduction – Justine Lazdina

Hello everyone!

This is my second time posting an introduction. The first time I posted it I did not put it in Discussion Board 1.

My name is Justine Lazdina. I reside in Brooklyn, NY. I work full time and go to BMCC where I am majoring in Computer Science. My hobbies are playing with my cat, reading books, watching movies and trying to get back to regular life during the Covid Pandemic.

I wish everyone luck in this semester!

D.B 11.1 – Justine Lazdina

#1. The court system is better suited to protect the individual than the elected branches of the government is for multiple reasons:

  1. It not only allows for the individual to sue other individuals, but also government entities if the individual feels they have been wronged in some way.
  2. If the individual chooses to use a jury trial, they will be judges by a jury of their peers rather then elected/appointed officials.
  3. The courts have to follow a precedent made by other similar cases, sans providing a valid reason not to. This makes discrimination within the court system less likely; harder to justify different rulings for similar cases where individual’s creed/race/gender might differ.
  4. Since there are multiple tiers of the judicial system, an individual can appeal the ruling of a lower court and move onto a higher one. Thought his does not mean that the initial ruling will change, still it might allow for the clearing of any rights violations suffered by the individual.

A good example of this is Miranda vs Arizona; a man named Earnest Miranda was found guilty of kidnapping and rape, the court used a written and signed confession by Miranda -obtained while in police custody- in their ruling. He appealed this decision and the Supreme Court ruled that his 5th and 6th Amendment rights -the right to remain silent and the right to counsel- were violated and he was allowed another trial with the exclusion of his confession letter. He was still found guilty the second time around, but this time due to the testimony of witnesses.

This specific court case, Miranda vs Arizona, was especially impactful in the precedent it created. From now individuals confessing to a crime, in the presence of police, first need to sign away their Miranda rights before confessing, otherwise the confession will not be admissible in court.

#2. Since federal judges do not get elected by the people, this technically does make the Federal Court System anti-democratic, or at least, undemocratic.

Federal judges get appointed by first being nominated by the president of the US, and then the senate holds a hearing before deciding if they approve of the nominee, and if they do, they vote to confirm the nominee who then becomes a judge.

This process excludes the general public from a decision that will impact not only their own lives, but possibly the lives of their descendants, since some federal judges serve for life. This leaves the decision making to those with enough money to run for office. It takes millions for individuals to run for state or local electoral office, never mind the amount of money it takes to run for US Presidency. The average citizen simply does not have this type of wealth, and eve if they are able to get it through funding, this leaves them susceptible to the influence of their donors’ interests.

In other words, the system was created by the wealthy for the wealthy in such a way as to ensure the power remains with the wealthy. So that, at the end of the day, their interests, as opposed to the interests of the general public, always remain top priority.

D.B 9.2 – Justine Lazdina

  1. P. Williams writes in her essay, that the war on terror is a new type of a war. What’s new about it, how is it different from traditional wars?
  • The War on Terror is a new type of war, because it is not a war with a distinct target, land or resources. Unlike that of a traditional war that has two or more armies fighting each other, this type of a war is fighting an idea, it is a “war of the mind” as the author put it. The War on Terror is a “preventative” war, but in its attempt to prevent the actions of “terrorists” it diminishes/tramples on the rights of its citizens.
  1. In what ways does the “Roving Wiretaps” of the Patriot Act seem to violate the Bill of Rights? Which amendment(s) does it seem to violate and why?
  • “Roving Wiretaps” allow for one wiretap authorization to cover multiple devices without the need for new/additional court authorizations. This violates The Fourth Amendment which protects an individual against unreasonable searches and seizures. Not only does it violate the rights of the suspect, but also the privacy of anyone the suspect comes into contact with regardless how casual said contact.
  1. What about “Sneak and Peek” Warrants?
  • “Sneak and Peek” warrants, also, violate The Fourth Amendment by bypassing informing the individual whose property is going to be searched PRIOR to said search. This makes the warrants/law unconstitutional.

D.B 9.1 – Justine Lazdina

  1. Describe how you understand the “Establishment Clause” and the related “Lemon Test”.
  • The “Establishment Clause”, as I understand it, is the first portion of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. It deals with religious freedom by protecting people from the government imposing a religion on them or preventing them from practicing their religion.
  • The “Lemon Test” was established by the Supreme Court to help with deciding if a law or other government action that might promote a religious practice should be allowed under the First Amendment. It has to pass 3 criteria to be found constitutional and allowed to remain in effect: 1. The action or law must not lead to excessive government entanglement. 2. The action or law should be neutral in its effects on religion. 3. The action or law must have some secular purpose.
  1. Is burning the US flag protected by the First Amendment? Explain by referring to the relevant court case discussed in the reading.
  • As controversial as the burning of the US flag might be, it IS protected as symbolic-speech under the First Amendment.
  • The Supreme Court made this ruling during Texas v Johnson, where Gregory Lee Johnson had burned a US flag as an anti-war protest. He was initially arrested and sentenced for the crime of “desecration of a venerated object”, but later freed once the Supreme Court found that the desecration of a flag fit under the symbolic-speech protected by The First Amendment.
  1. What does it mean when someone says “I’m taking the Fifth”?
  • When someone says “I’m taking the Fifth” they mean they are going to remain silent when faced with criminal charges.
  • This is a provision of The Fifth Amendment that protects an individuals rights against self-incrimination: the right to not speak with or give evidence to the police, the right to not testify in court in his/her defense. Neither can be taken as admissions of guilt.

D.B 7.1 – Justine Lazdina

  1. Describe the primary differences in the role of citizens in government, among the federal, confederation, and unitary systems.

-The role of citizens differs between different forms of government;

In a Federal Government the system divides power between state and central government. This allows the citizens to vote in representatives.

In a Confederation, since most of the power rests within the States and it’s local governments, the citizen has the most power within this system.

In a Unitary System the citizen has the least amount of say, since all of the power is given to the Central Government.

2. Briefly explain how you understand the system of division of power.

-The system of division of power refers to the divide of government powers, by the Constitution using federalism, between the Federal government and individual States. Essentially, whatever powers are not granted to the Federal Government are reserved for the State.

3. How does the federal government shape the actions of state and local governments? Write your answer based on doing a bit of research on how the federal government has influenced the actions of NY state and local governments, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

-The Federal government shapes the actions of the State and Local governments by providing them with grants and mandates.

-During the Covid 19 Pandemic, NYC was one of the first and worst hit places in the world. Since a pandemic of this level is a rare occurrence, there definitely was some confusion between the Federal and State governments in how to handle it. The CDC came out with contradicting information, like recommending against wearing masks to then requiring a mask mandate, and allowing States to decide which protection measures to implement. The Federal government did provide States, along with NY, grants and allowed them to decide on how to spend them. Also, it provided the people with stimulus checks to help ease the blow of this pandemic.

D.B 6.2 – Justine Lazdina

  1. What concept that we have already discussed does “faction” remind you of?

-The two concepts that remind me of “faction” that we have already discussed in this course is social class and political parties. They are essentially groups of people that find themselves desiring similar things and opposing other groups who desire something different.

Ex: Republicans vs Democrats or Capitalists vs Working-Class.

2. According to Federalist #10 (written by James Madison), what is the source of wealth (private property)? What factor explains why some people get to possess wealth by owning private property, and others don’t (thus remaining poor)? This is a key question, because it shows how the authors of the Constitution thought about the difference between different classes of Americans! HINT: focus on the passage that begins: “The diversity in the faculties (WHAT DOES FACULTIES mean or refer to?) of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not les….”

-According to Federalist #10, by James Madison, the source of wealth/private property is the “faculties” of men. Faculties mainly refers to ones inherent abilities like intellect and behavior. Madison believes that since some people possess a higher intellect they are able to make better decisions for themselves and others, decisions that control their behavior leading them to favorable outcomes, i.e wealth. Essentially, he believes that some people remain poor because they are inferior. This way of thinking sounds a lot like eugenics.

3. Do you agree with this explanation of wealth and poverty?

-Not necessarily, there is some truth in the idea that we are not all equal in our abilities – some of us are smarter, stronger, faster, etc.- but this fails to address the reality of inequality within society. Since most wealth is generational, we should ask exactly how was it accrued in the first place? A lot of it was taken by force from others, not by those with superior faculties, but by those willing to harm for their own gain.

4. What is the core mission (“first object”) of the US government? Does this surprise you, does it sound different from what our society today seems to suggest the core mission of the government is? Explain.

-The core mission or “first object” of the US government is the protection of faculties of men who are deemed superior; the wealthy. It is to protect the interests of the capitalist class, especially from those they are exploiting.

-This does surprise me quite a bit, since our society today suggests that the core mission of the government is the protection of ALL of its citizens. Government is supposed to take care of us which is why we pay taxes.

5. Given the discussion in questions 1-4, are you surprised that Federalist #10 is not in favor of democracy, and supports a Republican (representative) form of government? Why would d the author dislike a (pure) democratic form of government? Hint: think about how this question connects with the social classes…

-I am not surprised that Federalist #10 is not in favor of a democracy, and instead supports representative form of government. Since these representatives are part of the capitalist class, and will fight to protect their interests. Whereas, a pure democratic form of government would allow ALL of its citizen’s voices to be heard, and since the majority of those voices are working class, they would vote in their favor which would be against the capitalists interests.

D.B 6.1 – Justine Lazdina

  1. Based on the arguments presented in Readings 6.1 and 6.2, which social class wrote the Constitution, and which class was excluded and not allowed to participate in this process? In your comment, make sure you clearly specify the difference between the two classes by giving examples from the readings.

The land-owning white males who had very little to no debt -that eras Capitalist class- wrote the Constitution.

The people who were excluded from this process were the working-class people of that era; white men who owned no land or were in large debt, women, people of African descent, Native Americans, and indentured servants.

2. Would say that the social class structure of early United States society, was the same as ours today, or different? Explain.

It would appear that the social class structure of early United States was very similar to the one we have today.

In both eras a very small number of people hold the vast majority of wealth and power.

3. Why were the people who wrote the Constitution so afraid of democracy? Hint: think about how to answer this question by discussing it in terms of social classes.

The writers of the constitution, who were a part of the capitalist class, were afraid of direct democracy because they feared the uprising of the working class. They knew that the working class made up the majority of the population and would vote in their own favor, which was against the capitalist class.

D.B 5.3 – Justine Lazdina

#1. The statistic that made the biggest impression on me, discussed on p. 29, was the fact that only 1% of the population owns between 40-50% of the total wealth in the U.S. What is more shocking is the fact that this wealth is more than the total wealth of 90% of Americans COMBINED.

The reason why this statistic left such an impression on me was due to the sheer amount of wealth that is held by such a tiny percentage of the population, and the implications that this must have on HOW this wealth must have been accrued.

#2. There most certainly are many implications of living in a society with such a huge wealth gap. The biggest one being the very visible sign of inequality within a society.

You can see this dynamic played out in everyday life by comparing the people who have to actually work vs those who can sit back and enjoy their wealth. The working class are unable to do much else BESIDES work, since their lives are made up of trying to sustain themselves and their families, barely able to go on their two weeks per year – if that – vacations. On the other hand, you have the capitalist class whose lives ARE like one big luxurious vacation. You can see this disparity in the neighborhoods we live in; the wealthy have safe, nice clean neighborhoods while the poorest have ghettos. You can see it in the transportation we use; the wealthy have chauffeured cars while the rest of us ride the subway. You can see it in our education system; the wealthy have their expensive public schools while the rest of us have to use underfunded public schools.