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Do as I Say, Not as I Do

May 21, 2012 1 comment

Recently in our government class, we did a project in which we looked at some hypothetical court cases and determined whether or not they were legal under the Constitution. I remember thinking that this was kind of cool but when would I ever use this? It wasn’t until I began reading a recent article about the Justice Department suing an Arizona Sheriff that I actually began to think of whether what was happening was legal. In this article, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is being sued by the Justice Department on the grounds that his methods and reasons for seeking out illegal immigrants are infringing on the rights of the citizens living in the area. In this blog post I will explain why this is a legal lawsuit through the judicial system, as well as explore several reasons for why Sheriff Arpaio is guilty in the lawsuit.

 To begin, it is important to understand who is in the judicial branch and what do they do? The judicial branch of our government consists of three levels of courts: the district courts, the court of appeals, and the Supreme Court. The district courts are essentially the courts where everything happens first. Most of the time a case will begin and end here as they are not of national issue. The 2nd level of courts is the court of appeals. In the appeals courts, cases are appealed to a higher authority than the district court when one party is unsatisfied with the job done by the district courts. The final and highest level of courts is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is responsible for determining if a bill or act is unconstitutional. In this specific instance where Sheriff Joe Arpaio is being sued, the case will begin in the district courts just as all the others do, but I would not be surprised if this is eventually taken to the Supreme Court as both sides feel that they are doing right by the Constitution and protecting rights held by the people.

To analysis this case we must understand that the U.S. Constitution was written long ago without these specific instances in mind, but that it still holds true today. First off, the lawsuit is not a criminal one that you often see on TV, but rather a civil case where the defendants are accused of creating a “pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination” against Latinos, as stated in a recent New York Times Article by Fernanda Santos. The Constitution states in the 7th Amendment in the Bill of Rights that, “the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” This basically means that the accusations against Sheriff Arpaio will be presented in front of a jury of his peers in which he will be able to plead his case.

 Now that the basics of the situation have been covered, I am going to give you a couple Constitutional points as to why Sheriff Arpaio is in fact guilty. To begin, it states in the same New York Times article that many Latinos were “five to nine times more likely than their non-Latino counterparts to be stopped or searched… for appearing disheveled or dirty or if it was deemed that too many people were in the back seat.” This in itself is unconstitutional because it violates the 4th amendment in that these citizens were unjustly searched and then later detained merely for their appearance which they cannot control. Next, in the same case investigation it is said that, “suspicion and grounds for arrest have been heavily influenced by ethnicity or poor English skills.” This fact clearly goes against everything the founding fathers stood for when they were writing the Constitution. They spoke of establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the Blessings of Liberty to every man, woman, and child without prejudice as stated in the Preamble of the Constitution.

I believe that through the general knowledge of the judicial system and the U.S. Constitution, it is clear to see that Sheriff Arpaio has committed an unconstitutional act and should be punished accordingly. I hope that through my posting, you have learned a little more about your court system and how it runs in a real world situation that was interesting. I encourage you to do more research on your own and formulate your own opinion on Sheriff Arpaio’s case. Is he guilty or not?

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Persuading the Public

April 24, 2012 3 comments

This past trimester in our Government class, we have been focusing on the political aspects of Parties, Elections, Congress, and even the Constitution. While all of these topics are interesting in their own way, I was most intrigued by the influence that a simple thirty-second campaign ad had on me. I caught myself thinking “Wow this makes perfect sense” or even “I hate that guy. Why would he throw someone under the bus like that?” I then realized that all of the people in the ads were our past presidents and legislators who have run our country in a respectable way. We spent a day learning about what made these ads the most gut wrenching and persuasive, and what we found was that we could separate a solid ad into four topics: Emotion, Persuasion, Factual Claims, and Cinematic Style.

The first key to creating a strong campaign ad is to have good emotion. This means that you want to make your viewer really feel something, often times this is called using pathos. You want to make sure that you can toy with your viewer’s heart without them knowing what you’re doing. Many times the objective is to make the viewer feel good about the ad and have a sense of enjoyment so that this will remain in their head and continue to remind them of your point. How do commercials accomplish this? Several common devices used in ads are things such as music and images to provoke typical emotions, but ads will also use devices that we don’t even notice. Many ads will intentionally change the color scheme and the light contrast so as to affect the mood of the viewer in ways which they want.  For instance, studies have shown that the color red actually increases heart rate and breathing giving the sensation of anger to the viewer.

The next factor to consider is Persuasion; this is often completed through reasoning (ethos) or by exploiting the typical wants of individuals. The goal of these types of commercials is as simple as it seems, they are trying to persuade the viewer to take a side. This does not simply mean to pick one candidate over the other, but rather to choose their side regarding a topic portrayed in the ad. Persuasive ads will often times use simple reasoning to convince the viewer, but sometimes custom fitted ads are used for a region in which certain issues are more prominent than in other regions, this is known as a filter bubble. There are also times when an ad will persuade individuals by simply making a promise, “I promise to lower taxes”, and many times these simple and strait forward tactics are the most effective but alone have no real pull on the viewer.

Another key element to creating a solid campaign commercial is the factual claims which are put into the commercial. As the name suggests, this is strictly about the facts (logos) in which the commercial is appealing to the logic which all people possess. Now you may believe that you can trust everything said in a commercial, its part of the FCC’s rules which allow for these commercials to air, right? No, the truth is that these commercial are allowed to stretch the truth as long as “most people” know what is really true. Commercials shouldn’t be taken as fact, but rather as a source to spark interest in the political process. This will in turn allow for individuals to do research and better understand the real issues going on.

The final key to a successful campaign commercial is the cinematic appeal of the commercial, or how well it is made. Be honest with yourself, would you rather watch a commercial with shaky camera work and poor lighting, or one that looks like Steven Spielberg made it? Cinematic appeal breaks down into four basic categories: lighting, camera work, sound quality, and the wow factor (special effects). The lighting aspect is very simple, if you can see the commercial while understanding the mood which the commercial is trying to make you feel just by the lighting, then this has good lighting. If the camera is clear and doesn’t make you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster, then the commercial has accomplished this as well. Sound quality is also very simple; if you can hear everything clearly then this is achieved. The special effects is tougher to do because this is often times based on budget of the commercial, so it is not necessary, but definitely helps when done right.

In conclusion, a solid campaign commercial is one which makes you feel something, convinces you, is truthful, and has good quality. There are not many top notch commercials but I have some commercials which incorporate some or all of the four factors well. So the next time you see a campaign commercial, ask yourself, is this a good one?

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