What Many Americans Get Wrong About States’ Rights

This weekend’s Ku Klux Klan rally outside the South Carolina capitol building highlights the poignancy and divisiveness inherent in flying the Confederate battle flag, a symbol often associated with racial intolerance. Predictably, Confederate apologists have trotted out the “states’ rights” explanation for the Civil War as the race-neutral reason for the South’s rebellion—thus the flag represents something other than racism. Indeed, a recent Pew Research Center poll found that, 150 years after the Civil War, 48 percent of Americans (a plurality) still assert it was mainly about states’ rights.

This justification is inaccurate. When it came to slavery, the Union, not the Confederacy, was the true guardian of state autonomy in the antebellum era. After all, how is it that concerns over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a federal law enforced by federal agents (or compelled state agents), could possibly be a states’ rights issue? It is long past time to put the contrary myth to rest, especially when the true doctrine of states’ rights is an important, laudable ideal enshrined in the federal Constitution.

Read the rest on The Federalist here.

Packing Illinois prisons tears families apart

On Thursday, President Barack Obama became the first sitting American president to visit a federal prison. His visit, intended to raise awareness of the need for criminal justice reform, was preceded earlier this week by a speech he delivered at NAACP’s annual convention echoing that same message.

In his remarks, Obama cited a saddening statistic: “The U.S. is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.” The incarceration rate in the U.S. is four times higher than authoritarian, anti-democratic nations like China.

Too many people behind bars is a problem we know all too well in Illinois. The state has one of the top-ten largest correctional populations in the country, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And it’s tearing apart families; 62 percent of prison inmates in Illinois have one or more children. These kids grow up in broken homes, scarred for life by an absent parent. They’re usually less successful in adulthood, as a result.

These facts beg the question: Does each person in prison really belong there?

Read the rest on the Chicago Sun-Times here.

Canada Day versus Canada Reality

The advertisement produces such positive emotion and evokes sentiments of pride, inclusion, and patriotism. It also represents a cultural paradigm the government of Canada no longer supports.

The scene is an indiscernible Canadian city. Strangers work together to open a locked refrigerator full of beer. The catch? It will only open after a certain utterance has been said in six different languages.

The phrase that unlocks it all? “I am Canadian.”

The advert, which Canadian-founded beer company Molson Coors released in the days leading up to Canada Day, begins with a simple question: what makes someone Canadian? For the demographics represented in the remainder of the segment and many more across the nation, the answer is no longer simple.

Read the rest on the PanAm Post here.