SICARIO

Emily Blunt is an FBI Agent who volunteers to join a task force to take down drug kingpins along the Mexican/United States border. Emily is initially portrayed as a seasoned agent, but the movie makes her a fun-loving, innocent, naive, stupid twit who is also vulnerable. If the task force does not do things following FBI protocols and methods, she is glum, disillusioned and uncooperative. This characterization makes Emily a mannequin for American purity and goodness. Benecio Del Toro informs her at the movie’s end (something the audience already knows): This is a country of wolves. You need to leave and go to a small town somewhere, not along the border.

Other than Emily’s weak character (which is played as written), Sicario is an excellent, violent, gritty film of the border law enforcement arising from drugs, crime and smuggling. Bencio Del Toro and Josh Brolin (balls to the wind) play the leads in the task force. If the scenes filmed have happened or may happen one day, Sicario is a deeply disturbing movie. [It was written and filmed during the Obama Administration; nothing Trump did helped produce or promote this movie.] Most Americans are not ready to face the reality – there will be actions and occurrences that must be overlooked.

Emily Blunt’s character should have been written differently. Allow her to learn from the experiences that character has in the movie. She does not like what the task force is doing; she makes mistakes. At the end she must have some fight (dignity, integrity and honesty) in her. In the confrontation Bencio Del Toro begins. She says, “I didn’t do very well.” He tells her she is too innocent and naive and he uses a line (carelessly disclosed earlier in the script) “You are too much like my daughter.” Emily already knows his daughter was killed by drug overlords. Del Toro gives his country of wolves comments. She is defiant. He says, “If you want to tell your FBI superiors about everything and about all your mistakes, it is up to you.” He leaves. Emily stews; she has decisions to make about the reality she has experienced and the reality Americans believe is true. In essence Emily can represent all Americans going forward.

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SUPREME COURT FOLLY – THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY

SUPREME COURT FOLLY – The Right to Privacy

A criminal defendant has claimed his cell phone, indicating the approximate location where he is, should be protected under his right to privacy pursuant to the United States Constitution. 
Despite the dubiousness of this claim of privacy, the Supreme Court luggards might approach this claim and case in their traditional way, citing off-point cases to interpret the Fourth Amendment and relying on antiquated sources from the Ivy League – the Brandeis/Warren Law Review, 4 Harvard Law Review 184 (1890).

The Fourth Amendment reads,

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or Affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment suggests guidelines, if the information sought is not public, or is using a public conveyance or utility. Once activities, thoughts, or actions come within the public’s scrutiny or knowledge, a citizen loses many protections of the Fourth Amendment. When in public there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. If public, what is an “unreasonable search and seizure” becomes a much larger group of behaviors, acts and manifestations.

A proper analysis of the Right to Privacy is not found in the Fourth Amendment. It is found in the Ninth Amendment of the United States Constitution:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The Ninth Amendment infers the proper relationship between the American people and the national government. The Constitution is a grant of powers to the national government from the American people. Enumerated rights are listed, but it is an incomplete list. The First Congress and the writers of the Constitution did not want to construe, identify and enumerate all rights they could conceive. Thereafter, a right not listed could not be used by individuals against the national government. [This point was made clear in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, circa June 20, 1788, and related correspondence of James Madison, Edmund Pendleton and other delegates.)

What is the Right to Privacy? It was unknown during the country’s founding. However today, all Americans rely on it but have vague ideas of what it means, what it covers and its full extent. The right to privacy, or something like it, appears in Constitutions and in statutes of other countries. Those sources can help define and describe, but any constructed right of the American people must be interpreted and consistent with all other sections and amendments of the Constitution, plus state and federal statutes.

In 1776 James Madison and George Mason, the primary writer of the Virginia State Constitution, made Freedom of Religion a basic right in the Virginia document. However, the state government taxed Virginians to pay the salaries and other expenses of church personnel and of churches. Madison and his constituents believed this government involvement favored certain sects over newer sects. In 1785 in the House of Burgesses Madison proposed passing an Establishment Clause for Virginia. Madison desired Freedom of Conscious – believe and think what you want. Do not expect Virginia to favor and support your beliefs. Madison set forth America criteria. His efforts were successful by 1786. Thereafter, churches (Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Quakerism, Judaism ), on one hand, and Virginia, on the other hand, were separate.

In Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (commonly known as Remonstrance) Madison construed the argument for the Establishment Clause in Virginia and for the first Right listed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” The Remonstrance is the only writing where Madison, a Constitutional master unique in all of history of this country or other countries, demonstrates in a flush of pure reason how to construct a Constitutional liberty or right. Madison sufficiently separates the Establishment of Religion from the Free Exercise of Religion.

No American has defined and demarcated any other individual or civic right so clearly and fully as Madison. The Remonstrance presents guidelines, arguments and analyses that Americans should follow regarding any right not enumerated under the Constitution i.e. the Ninth Amendment. The Right to Privacy, as an unenumerated Right under the Ninth Amendment, should require the justices of the Supreme Court begin the construction of that liberty.

What is privacy? What is public? What is semi-private? What is available to the public for a price? What is semi-public? The Fourth Amendment provides narrow guidelines – security in homes and of persons when there is no warrant. But when an individual is abroad – out-of-doors – everything changes. When making a telephone call on a network, the cops cannot listen without a warrants, but indivuduals sometimes listen in. With a cell phone every American can be located, approximately. Is an individual’s location private when he is out in public?  Perhaps in a public restroom although he can be arrested from that location.

The First Amendment – the right to free speech and the right to a free press – have greatly limited the right to privacy torts in civil law. There are dozens of exceptions and excuses from the tort. Again, the Brandeis/Warren article, cited above, urges strict guidelines, which no longer fit the modern society America finds itself in.

Brandeis and Warren like Madison in the Remonstrance noted changes in society and use the current state of American society to define and delineate a liberty. Likewise, privacy today should discuss the commercial realities, benefits and demerits. Today’s case law reflects the move toward greater freedom of speech and the press; it disfavors privacy. Criminal law investigations, specially when documents, objects or speech is public, eliminates privacy.

Today, the collection of phone and cell tower data is not confined to law enforcement. Cell phone traffic and analyses allows providers to improve phone service. It lets cell phone makers improve phones and make their products more capable. And the gross data may let marketers provide goods and services where they are currently unavailable. Note when Samsung had issues of burning phones, it was imperative to contact and locate each of their phones and their owners, easily done because there was a customer list.

Most Americans believe this collection reasonable and beneficial to their society. Most information is available to non-government corporations and entities, businesses and enterprises without warrants, probable cause or reasonable suspicion. The investigation, investment and commerce flowing from data analyses makes life in America better.

If the data are misused, there may be violations of statutes. There are alternatives. If an American does not want to be located, approximately, turn off the phone designated to his name, and buy and use a burn phone. Note that phone purchase usually is monitored by cameras and memorialized by receipts – that investigation is not limited by an individual’s privacy rights. Note further an individual does to have to use credit cards or retail membership cards, where data including locations are made. Get off the grid; Americans can use cash which is anonymous.

Attempting to weave the Right to Privacy around a semi-public instrumenting like a cell phone use requires detailed analysis which is convoluted, complicated and cannot not be part of a Constitutional Right. Note the length of the two Amendments, cited above, no longer than 75 words apiece. Principles and exceptions for the right of privacy for criminals in cell phone use would be prolix, unreasonable and unworkable. There would be no precedents, only singular exceptions.

It is noteworthy that third party claims to a Right to Privacy on behalf of customers can be affected by the ruling of cellphone location privacy rights. The secondary rights of a third party to claim privacy on behalf of customers who are usually criminal suspects is flimsy. Law enforcement officials usually have the suspect’s cell phone and a warrant meeting all the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

Corporate behaviors become more egregious when one realizes these corporations readily cooperate with foreign governments and provide access, information and account data accumulated from the customers in those countries. Yet they refuse to cooperate with the National government in criminal investigations.

CALIFORNIA’S WILDFIRES

Despite the ranting and ravings of Governor Moonbeam, climate change has nothing to do with the latest series of California wildfire. The Governor’s claims reveal an antiquated state of mind from the 1960s – blame someone or something that nobody has any control over. A fact known to everyone in the California naturalist community is the prevailing climate condition in the state is drought. The Twentieth Century was the third wettest century of the last forty centuries i.e. (4,000 years). During the twentieth Century California’s population rose six times, approaching 40,000,000 human beings, yet going forward the state may face a century of drought.

No one knows the complete climate history of California e.g. if there is no rain over those Thirty-seven (37) centuries, is there wind? Wind is the primary cause for the spread of wildfires and the biggest threat to human habitation.

Wind and face combine with a nature policy (influenced by fire policies in national Parks). This policy has been endorsed by environmentalists and city-ecology-dwellers (true Monday morning quarterbacks). Let forests grow and when fire comes it can burn, just like nature intended. That policy might be acceptable when there were ten million people in California, but the let it-burn-policy needs reevaluation.

One reason for a change of policy is every National and State Forest is a tinderbox. A figure given out in this decade is four of five trees in California is dead, or dying, from drought, natural causes or infestation. Those trees cannot be removed because the nature policy, previously mentioned, forbids it.

Twice since 2009 the nature policy of letting fires burn in National Forests has been publicly enforced. The Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest burned many square miles of land under very favorable conditions for the fire fighters and most landowners abutting that forest. Not many houses were lost. However in December 2017 the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has become the largest wildfire in California’s recorded history, as it denudes the land known as Los Padres National Forest. It still burns (440 square miles), with a projected snuff date in January 2018.

Another fact makes the National and State Forests tinder boxes, ready to burn whatever the weather. Because they have been left alone, those woods are overgrown with underbrush and trees. About a decade ago a report said there were four times as many trees in forests around Big Bear Lake, California, as the land could bear.

Going forward, California and the National Government need a reevaluation of forest policies other than continuing the let-it-burn policies used in the National Parks. After all the burning, California will be unlikely make its forests great again – what the forests once were and again susceptible to fire in the future. Now is the Twenty-First Century, and there are enough interested people in the state to plan and implement new forest policies. One policy for everyone and every place is likely wrong. There may have to be several or many policies, depending upon local conditions. And in the future California and the National government can make their forests less fire-prone, and welcoming for visitors.

AVOID: A MOST WANTED MAN

An experienced German espionage agent [Philip Seymour Hoffman] trusts his superiors, internal German police and American espionage agents. He tries to conduct a successful espionage operation but in the end everyone he contacts is arrested.

From the beginning a wary German agent [Hoffman] lets his guard down. He is open, revealing everything. The denouement shows Hoffman telling of his plans, including the transfer of money to characters in an office building and how everyone involved with leave. What is annoying is the absence of spyycraft. Most of the people Hoffman meets leave by the front door, together.

More shocking is Hoffman is on the street and does not notice surveillance, or the people ready to make arrests.

If one is a wary spy, supposedly throughout the story, he must be wary at the end. People assembled in the office ought to leave individually by various exits – racing from the garage on a motorcycle, crawling three blocks through air conditioning vents or jumping off the roof and sailing along in a hang glider – that sort of thing, those sorts of thing. None of these happen. Spy Hoffman is surprised and enfeebled. He reveals he is unfit for the espionage business.

Thereupon, other than seeing Hoffman in his last movie, this is a film to avoid.