Category Archives: Legal/Constitutional

The Power of Self-Pardon: Trump’s Novel View

If a president was dumb enough to pardon himself that would be such an arrogant statement of power that the House would probably impeach him in a week and the Senate would convict him.

Newt Gingrich, Jun 5, 2018

It is a view that Charles I would have been proud of: The means by which one can forgive and exculpate oneself for purported wrongs. Admittedly, that out of sorts Stuart king only believed that one source was worthy of pardoning him: God and God alone.  It was the divine who had vested him with legitimacy; accordingly, it was only the divine that might judge him or remove his crown.  Oliver Cromwell proved otherwise and sneaked off his head.

Trump does not believe in Sky Creatures, and remains very terrestrial in his lusts and ambitions. He seems to be constantly jockeying for the next position, embracing less issues of policy as matters of expedient stance.  Those stances, written in water, alter with whirling consistency, leaving the pundit to lurch after the next novel interpretation.

Axiomatic to the Trumpland playbook are questionable interpretations of the US constitution.  The president finds the whole notion of checks and balances more than inconvenient: he finds them risible.

To that end, he is testing the water, largely as a means to banish Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to the outer reaches of the political system. This forms a strategy of neutralisation that lies at the core of Trump’s legal approach, one that seeks to cut Mueller’s wings and limit his own exposure.  “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars,” tweeted Trump, “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

Such an expansive reading was bound to poke the Twittersphere, with one response to his observation being curt and tangy in rebuke. “No person is above the law, not even the president,” came an irate respondent.  “The president – the executive branch of our government is co-equal to the other two branches of government.”

Former federal prosecutor and White House counsel Nelson Cunningham relevantly noted that no one was “going to indict the president while he is sitting. So whether he can pardon himself for a crime for which he won’t be charged – is a moot point.” The art of the television president is mastering the moot point and delivering it as a matter of pre-emption.

Former White House counsel to President Barack Obama Bob Bauer also draws upon those who suggest that a prosecution for obstruction would not take place while Trump was in office.  “The case for immunity has its adherents, but they based their position largely on the consideration that a president subject to prosecution would be unable to perform the duties of the office, a result that they see as constitutionally intolerable.”

Reference should, instead, be made to the Pardons clause within the US constitution: “The President… shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in cases of Impeachment” (Article II, section 2).

A thorny issue for the president to negotiate, given the glaring parallel offered by Richard Nixon.  The president who desperately dragged the US national security state into its imperial form was confronted with the damning words of the Articles of Impeachment that he “obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice”.

While there is a certain tyrannophobic tendency in assessing elements of the current president’s misrule, such signature moves as enunciating the power of self-pardon by their very definition suggests authoritarian sensibilities.  New York University professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat smells something going off in the US. “It’s in the tradition of the trial balloons he’s been launching since his campaign, which warn the public and his GOP allies that he feels he’s above the law.”

Charlie Sykes sees a president in a state of permanent, and dangerous experimentation.  “This is the president who has taken the unthinkable and made it thinkable,” he claimed with some exasperation. “Why go there?  Unless you are floating it to see what would be considered acceptable in Congress and to the public.”

Trump’s own advisers have done their best to tell their employer what he wants to hear, notably over whether he could ever be guilty of obstructing justice.  Attorney John Dowd, by way of example, did come up with the potentially dangerous hypothesis that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case”.

And here we again return to the notion of the immune sovereign who can technically commit no wrong.  Rudy Giuliani, who now spends time advising Trump, has been even more unequivocal on the power of self-pardon.  “The constitution gave the president the right to pardon himself”.  There would be no need to avail himself of that, as he had not done “anything wrong”.

US constitutional history flies in the face of such a rosy reading, though it is undeniable that the executive branch, as one presiding over the Justice Department, does have latitude on prosecutions and terminations.  Issues of impeachment, linked as they are to obstruction, remain key. Can the nation’s chief law enforcement officer obstruct an investigation he has the power to terminate? White house counsel past and present cannot agree, but none can ignore the context of politics.

Whose Country Is This? Is the Constitution Even Welcome Here Anymore?

The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out ‘stop!’ When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

― Bertolt Brecht, Selected Poems, March 24, 1971

There are days I wake up, and I’m not sure what country I live in anymore.

There are days I wake up and want to go right back to sleep in the hopes that this surreal landscape of government-sanctioned injustice, corruption and brutality is just a really bad dream.

There are days I am so battered by the never-ending wave of bad news that I have little outrage left in me: I am numb.

And then I get hold of myself, shake myself out of the doldrums, and remind myself that it’s not yet time to give up: America needs our outrage and our alertness and our tenacity and our fierce determination to remain a free people in a land where justice matters.

This is still our country.

Don’t just sit there.

Do something.

When you hear that the U.S. government “lost” 1,475 migrant children within its care over a three-month period, in some cases handing them off to human traffickers, don’t just chalk it up to incompetent bureaucrats. The Trump Administration’s plan to separate immigrant children from their parents at the border should outrage anyone with a moral conscience, especially in light of the government’s latest revelation that it is unable to account for the whereabouts of 1500 of those children.

Mind you, this is not just a Trump problem. A recent report indicates that under President Obama’s watch, migrant children were allegedly beaten, threatened with sexual violence and repeatedly assaulted while under the care of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. According to Newsweek, “Border authorities were accused of kicking a child in the ribs and forcing a 16-year-old girl to ‘spread her legs’ for an aggressive body search. Other children accused officers of punching a child in the head three times, running over a 17-year-old boy and denying medical care to a pregnant teen, who later had a stillbirth.”

ACT. It doesn’t matter what your politics are or where you stand on immigration issues. There are some lines that should never be crossed—some government actions that should never be tolerated or justified—no matter what the end goal might be, and this is one of them. Demand that Congress stop playing politics and endangering children’s lives.

When you read that Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants police to use stop and frisk tactics randomly against Americans without even the need for reasonable suspicion, don’t just shake your head disapprovingly.

ACT: Call the Justice Department (202-353-1555) and read them the Fourth Amendment: “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.”

After you watch the video of how the Transportation Security Administration, unfailingly tone deaf to the spirit of the Fourth Amendment, subjected a 96-year-old World War II veteran in a wheelchair to a patdown that left no part of her body untouched, don’t just seethe in silence.

ACT: Contact your representative in Congress and file a complaint on the TSA’s egregious practices. When old women and little children are being groped by government agents, things have gone too far. In light of revelations that the TSA “has created a new secret watch list to monitor people who may be targeted as potential threats at airport checkpoints simply because they have swatted away security screeners’ hands or otherwise appeared unruly,” you can expect even more headache-inducing behavior in the near future.

When you find out that Amazon is selling police real time facial recognition software that can scan hundreds of thousands of faces, identify them, track them, and then report them to police, don’t just shrug helplessly.

ACT: Harness the power of your wallet to urge Amazon to favor freedom principles over profit motives. It’s only a matter of time before these programs are used widely here in the U.S. They are already being used and abused abroad. For instance, Amazon’s Rekognition software was used by broadcasters to identify attendees at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Chinese police have used similar facial recognition tools to scan crowds at rock concerts, malls and gas stations in order to catch alleged lawbreakers. Just recently, Chinese police used the technology to capture a suspect who had been living under a pseudonym after he failed to pay for $17,000 worth of potatoes. Chinese schools are even employing the facial recognition cameras in classrooms to alert teachers to students who aren’t paying attention.

When you hear Sessions bragging about how much he loves civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government to seize Americans’ personal property—money, cars, homes and other valuables—without having to first prove that any criminal conduct has taken place, don’t just take his word for it.

ACT: Do your own research. You’ll soon discover that because of the corruption that surrounds this abusive program, countless innocent Americans have been robbed blind by government agents out to get rich at their expense. Billions of dollars have been taken without probable cause. Anthonia Nwaorie, a Texas nurse who had saved up $41,377 to start a medical clinic for women and children in Nigeria, had her life savings seized by Customs Agents who refused to return the money unless she agreed to pay their “expenses.” Six months later, even though Nwaorie was never charged with a crime, she’s still waiting to get her money back.

When you hear about armed Denver police pulling a gun on a school official and conducting a classroom-to-classroom search for a missing student at an area high school, don’t just thank your lucky stars your childhood was more idyllic. Likewise, when you hear that the lieutenant governor of Texas thinks the solution to school shootings is fewer school doors (entrances and exits), don’t just marvel at the short-sightedness of government officials.

ACT: Say “enough is enough” to government-sponsored violence. The systemic violence being perpetrated by agents of the government has done more collective harm to the American people and our liberties than any single act of terror or mass shooting. Violence has become the government’s calling card, starting at the top and trickling down, from the more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by heavily armed, black-garbed commandos and the increasingly rapid militarization of local police forces across the country to the surveillance drones that are already crisscrossing American skies.

When you read about how 28-year-old Andrew Finch of Kansas answered a 5 pm knock on his front door only to be shot in the head and killed ten seconds later by a police sniper because a SWAT team responded to a prank “swatting” phone call with full force, don’t just tsk-tsk over the senseless tragedies arising from militarized and police and overzealous SWAT teams. Not only did police refuse to identify the officer who pulled the trigger, but he was also never charged with Andrew’s death.

ACT: Demand accountability. If any hope for police reform is to be realized, especially as it relates to how SWAT teams are deployed locally and holding police accountable for their actions, it must begin at the community level, with local police departments and governing bodies, where citizens can still, with sufficient reinforcements, make their voices heard.

The rise of SWAT teams and militarization of American police—blowback effects of the military empire—have unfortunately become entrenched parts of American life. SWAT teams originated as specialized units dedicated to defusing extremely sensitive, dangerous situations. As the role of paramilitary forces has expanded, however, to include involvement in nondescript police work targeting nonviolent suspects, the mere presence of SWAT units has actually injected a level of danger and violence into police-citizen interactions that was not present as long as these interactions were handled by traditional civilian officers. Nationwide, SWAT teams have been employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activity or mere community nuisances: angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession, to give a brief sampling. In some instances, SWAT teams are even employed, in full armament, to perform routine patrols. All too often, botched SWAT team raids have resulted in one tragedy after another for American citizens with little consequences for law enforcement.

When you find out that police and other law enforcement agencies are accessing the DNA shared with genealogical websites and using it to identify possible suspects, don’t offer up your DNA without some assurance of privacy protections.

ACT: Protect your privacy. It’s not just yourself you have to worry about, either. It’s also anyone related to you who can be connected by DNA. These genetic fingerprints, as they’re called, do more than just single out a person. They also show who you’re related to and how. As the Associated Press reports, “DNA samples that can help solve robberies and murders could also, in theory, be used to track down our relatives, scan us for susceptibility to disease, or monitor our movements.”

By accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc. Capitalizing on this, police in California, Colorado, Virginia and Texas use DNA found at crime scenes to identify and target family members for possible clues to a suspect’s whereabouts. Who will protect your family from being singled out for “special treatment” simply because they’re related to you? As biomedical researcher Yaniv Erlich warns, “If it’s not regulated and the police can do whatever they want … they can use your DNA to infer things about your health, your ancestry, whether your kids are your kids.”

In the face of DNA evidence that places us at the scene of a crime, behavior sensing technology that interprets our body temperature and facial tics as suspicious, and government surveillance devices that cross-check our biometricslicense plates and DNA against a growing database of unsolved crimes and potential criminals, we are no longer “innocent until proven guilty.”

Finally, when you hear someone talking about how two American citizens in Montana were detained by a Border Patrol agent because he overheard them speaking Spanish at a gas station, don’t just shake your head in disgust.

ACT: Remind yourself (and those around you) that despite the polarizing, racially-charged rhetoric being tossed about by President Trump, this is still a nation whose strength derives from the diversity of its people and from the immigrants who have been seeking shelter on our shores since the earliest days of our Republic. As President Ronald Reagan recognized in one of his last speeches before leaving office:

We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people—our strength—from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation… Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost… Those who become American citizens love this country even more. And that’s why the Statue of Liberty lifts her lamp to welcome them to the golden door. It is bold men and women, yearning for freedom and opportunity, who leave their homelands and come to a new country to start their lives over. They believe in the American dream. And over and over, they make it come true for themselves, for their children, and for others. They give more than they receive. They labor and succeed. And often they are entrepreneurs. But their greatest contribution is more than economic, because they understand in a special way how glorious it is to be an American. They renew our pride and gratitude in the United States of America, the greatest, freest nation in the world—the last, best hope of man on Earth.

As I  make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, are to mean anything anymore—if they are to stand for anything ever again—then “we the people” have to stand up for them.

We cannot allow ourselves to be divided and distracted and turned into warring factions.

We cannot sell out our birthright for empty promises of false security.

We cannot remain silent in the face of ugliness, pettiness, meanness, brutality, corruption and injustice.

We cannot allow politicians, corporations, profiteers and war hawks to whittle our freedoms away until they are little more than empty campaign slogans.

We must stand strong for freedom.

We must give voice to moral outrage.

We must do something—anything—everything in our power to make America free again.

As Reagan recognized, “If we lose this way of freedom, history will record with the great astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.”

The Dispossession of Canada’s First Nations and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline

Imagine that a group of bandits entered your house without permission and booted you and your family members out. Afterwards the bandits continue to occupy the house, but they graciously allow you and your family to stay in the cellar. Would you accept such a state of affairs? Would you not want your house back in its entirety? And would you not want the usurpers evicted?

Now imagine that the usurpers had some dubious code of honor whereby if they made any alterations to the stolen abode that they must consult with the original home occupants. Moreover, if the displaced first occupants sought to legally challenge their dispossession or alterations to their former domicile, the usurpers would graciously cover the legal expenses of the dispossessed original occupants from the largess of the goods befallen the usurpers through acts of dispossessing others. Of course, the legal proceeding is controlled by the usurpers and ruled according to usurpers’ law with judges appointed by the usurpers.

No intelligent person denies that the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (North America) were the original inhabitants. In fact, they precede the coming of Norsemen, Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and conquistadors by several millennia. Yet the Catholic Church of later seafarers decreed (in the papal bull Inter Caetera, 1493) that non-believers were savages and that their territory would belong to European monarchs. This was largely overturned by the papal bull Sublimis Deus in 1537.

One might have thought that humankind would have evolved morally such that the egregious crimes of centuries ago would not be perpetuated in the 21st century. Nonetheless, at the very least, human morality wouldn’t devolve, would it?

*****

In Canada, the American pipeline conglomerate Kinder Morgan desires to multiply the amount of fossil fuel carried from the province of Alberta to the British Columbia harbor city of Vancouver. Many First Nations and a multitude of British Columbians are opposed to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project.

While the NDP-Green Party coalition in BC is opposed to the pipeline project, the federal government has approved it. However, chicanery has been unveiled in the process that led to federal approval.

Investigative reporting by the National Observer, revealed documents that the federal government had “instructed public servants to find a way to approve the project, even though the government was supposed to be consulting and accommodating First Nations at that time.” Consultation with First Nations is required by the constitution in Canada.

This filliped the Tseil-Waututh Nation, supported by at least four other First Nations (the Coldwater Indian Band, the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc (SSN), the Squamish Nation, and the Upper Nicola Band), to file an extraordinary motion asking the Federal Court of Appeal to force the government to order the release of uncensored copies of federal documents cited in the National Observer investigation.

The federal government and Kinder Morgan reacted by asking the Tseil-Waututh Nation to pay for their legal fees for the delayed pipeline project.

BC is unceded territory.1 First Nation oral histories tell of a colonial-settler control over the landmass of the province that was wrought by genocide.2 Canadian courts have evaded the question of who has legal jurisdiction over the land.3 As for the treaties, Andrea Bear Nicholas – a Maliseet from Nekotkok (Tobique First Nation) in New Brunswick, and a professor emeritus at St. Thomas University – points out that in the Maritime Provinces, most treaties were nation-to-nation agreements – peace agreements between the encroaching settlers and Original Peoples – not land treaties.

“When you add it all up, for about 90 per cent of Canada, even under the best possible scenario, there is no legal transfer of title from the Aboriginal inhabitants to the Crown,” said Dr. Roland Chrisjohn, an Onyota’a:ka (Oneida) and former Director of Native Studies at St. Thomas University in the audio documentary Hoping Against Hope? The Struggle Against Colonialism in Canada.4

Now the federal government which finances itself through the dispossession of First Nations is requiring the First Nations to pay for a legal determination in the court of the usurpers.

Informed people should not be surprised. One brave lawyer, a specialist in Indigenous sovereignty matters, Dr. Bruce Clark charges that the situation is so dire that the Canadian legal profession and the judiciary are complicit in misprision of treason, fraud, and genocide.3

  • First published at Global Research.
    1. Kerry Coast, The Colonial Present: The Rule of Ignorance and the Role of Law in British Columbia (Clarity Press and International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, 2013). See review.
    2. Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). See review.
    3. Bruce Clark, from his soon to be published book, Aboriginal Rights and Genocide (Theytus Books).
    4. The link is now dead for the audio series. See review.

    Dial T for Tyranny: While America Feuds, the Police State Shifts Into High Gear

    Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.

    — Professor Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Show Business

    What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

    Played out on the national stage and eagerly broadcast to a captive audience by media sponsors, this farcical exercise in political theater can, at times, seem riveting, life-changing and suspenseful, even for those who know better.

    Week after week, the script changes—Donald Trump’s Tweets, Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Michael Cohen’s legal troubles, porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit over an alleged past affair with Trump, Michelle Wolf’s tasteless stand-up routine at the White House correspondents’ dinner, North and South Korea’s détente, the ongoing staff shakeups within the Trump administration—with each new script following on the heels of the last, never any let-up, never any relief from the constant melodrama.

    The players come and go, the protagonists and antagonists trade places, and the audience members are forgiving to a fault, quick to forget past mistakes and move on to the next spectacle.

    All the while, a different kind of drama is unfolding in the dark backstage, hidden from view by the heavy curtain, the elaborate stage sets, colored lights and parading actors.

    Such that it is, the realm of political theater with all of its drama, vitriol and scripted theatrics is what passes for “transparent” government today, with elected officials, entrusted to act in the best interests of their constituents, routinely performing for their audiences and playing up to the cameras, while doing very little to move the country forward.

    Yet behind the footlights, those who really run the show are putting into place policies which erode our freedoms and undermine our attempts at contributing to the workings of our government, leaving us none the wiser and bereft of any opportunity to voice our discontent or engage in any kind of discourse until it’s too late.

    It’s the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

    Indeed, while mainstream America has been fixated on the drama-filled reality show being televised from the White House, the American Police State has moved steadily forward.

    Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, over-criminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, roving VIPR raids and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

    Our losses are mounting with every passing day.

    Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people.

    All the while, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.

    None of these dangers have dissipated.

    They have merely disappeared from our televised news streams.

    The new boss has proven to be the same as the old boss, and the American people, the permanent underclass in America, has allowed itself to be so distracted and divided that they have failed to notice the building blocks of tyranny being laid down right under their noses by the architects of the Deep State.

    Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what you call the old/new boss—the Deep State, the Controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that no matter who occupies the White House, it is a profit-driven, an unelected bureaucracy that is actually calling the shots.

    In the interest of liberty and truth, here’s an A-to-Z primer to spell out the grim realities of life in the American Police State that no one is talking about anymore.

    A is for the AMERICAN POLICE STATE. A police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

    B is for our battered BILL OF RIGHTS. In the cop culture that is America today, where you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is rarely held accountable for violating your rights, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much.

    C is for CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE. This governmental scheme to deprive Americans of their liberties—namely, the right to property—is being carried out under the guise of civil asset forfeiture, a government practice wherein government agents (usually the police) seize private property they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property.

    D is for DRONES. It is estimated that at least 30,000 drones will be airborne in American airspace by 2020, part of an $80 billion industry. Although some drones will be used for benevolent purposes, many will also be equipped with lasers, tasers and scanning devices, among other weapons—all aimed at “we the people.”

    E is for ELECTRONIC CONCENTRATION CAMP. In the electronic concentration camp, as I have dubbed the surveillance state, all aspects of a person’s life are policed by government agents and all citizens are suspects, their activities monitored and regulated, their movements tracked, their communications spied upon, and their lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness dependent on the government’s say-so.

    F is for FUSION CENTERS. Fusion centers, data collecting agencies spread throughout the country and aided by the National Security Agency, serve as a clearinghouse for information shared between state, local and federal agencies. These fusion centers constantly monitor our communications, everything from our internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails. This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected: the CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police.

    G is for GRENADE LAUNCHERS and GLOBAL POLICE. The federal government has distributed more than $18 billion worth of battlefield-appropriate military weapons, vehicles and equipment such as drones, tanks, and grenade launchers to domestic police departments across the country. As a result, most small-town police forces now have enough firepower to render any citizen resistance futile. Now take those small-town police forces, train them to look and act like the military, and then enlist them to be part of the United Nations’ Strong Cities Network program, and you not only have a standing army that operates beyond the reach of the Constitution but one that is part of a global police force.

    H is for HOLLOW-POINT BULLETS. The government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration stockpiling millions of lethal hollow-point bullets, which violate international law. Ironically, while the government continues to push for stricter gun laws for the general populace, the U.S. military’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy.

    I is for the INTERNET OF THINGS, in which internet-connected “things” will monitor your home, your health and your habits in order to keep your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life under control and relatively worry-free. The key word here, however, is control. This “connected” industry propels us closer to a future where police agencies apprehend virtually anyone if the government “thinks” they may commit a crime, driverless cars populate the highways, and a person’s biometrics are constantly scanned and used to track their movements, target them for advertising, and keep them under perpetual surveillance.

    J is for JAILING FOR PROFIT. Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by private corporations, this profit-driven form of mass punishment has given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep their privately run prisons full by jailing large numbers of Americans for inane crimes.

    K is for KENTUCKY V. KING. In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers can break into homes, without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home as long as they think they have a reason to do so. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by law enforcement officials.

    L is for LICENSE PLATE READERS, which enable law enforcement and private agencies to track the whereabouts of vehicles, and their occupants, all across the country. This data collected on tens of thousands of innocent people is also being shared between police agencies, as well as with fusion centers and private companies. This puts Big Brother in the driver’s seat.

    M is for MAIN CORE. Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has acquired and maintained, without warrant or court order, a database of names and information on Americans considered to be threats to the nation. As Salon reports, this database, reportedly dubbed “Main Core,” is to be used by the Army and FEMA in times of national emergency or under martial law to locate and round up Americans seen as threats to national security. As of 2008, there were some 8 million Americans in the Main Core database.

    N is for NO-KNOCK RAIDS. Owing to the militarization of the nation’s police forces, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for routine police matters. In fact, more than 80,000 of these paramilitary raids are carried out every year. That translates to more than 200 SWAT team raids every day in which police crash through doors, damage private property, terrorize adults and children alike, kill family pets, assault or shoot anyone that is perceived as threatening—and all in the pursuit of someone merely suspected of a crime, usually possession of some small amount of drugs.

    O is for OVERCRIMINALIZATION and OVERREGULATION.  Thanks to an overabundance of 4,500-plus federal crimes and 400,000 plus rules and regulations, it is estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. As a result of this overcriminalization, we’re seeing an uptick in Americans being arrested and jailed for such absurd “violations” as letting their kids play at a park unsupervised, collecting rainwater and snow runoff on their own property, growing vegetables in their yard, and holding Bible studies in their living room.

    P is for PATHOCRACY and PRECRIME. When our own government treats us as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police, mistreated, and then jailed in profit-driven private prisons if we dare step out of line, we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic. Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government, which “operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups.” Couple that with the government’s burgeoning pre-crime programs, which will use fusion centers, data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics in order to identify and deter so-called potential “extremists,” dissidents or rabble-rousers. Bear in mind that anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—is now viewed as an extremist.

    Q is for QUALIFIED IMMUNITY. Qualified immunity allows officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing. Conveniently, those deciding whether a police officer should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all cronies with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

    R is for ROADSIDE STRIP SEARCHES and BLOOD DRAWS. The courts have increasingly erred on the side of giving government officials—especially the police—vast discretion in carrying out strip searches, blood draws and even anal probes for a broad range of violations, no matter how minor the offense. In the past, strip searches were resorted to only in exceptional circumstances where police were confident that a serious crime was in progress. In recent years, however, strip searches have become routine operating procedures in which everyone is rendered a suspect and, as such, is subjected to treatment once reserved for only the most serious of criminals.

    S is for the SURVEILLANCE STATE. On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

    T is for TASERS. Nonlethal weapons such as tasers, stun guns, rubber pellets and the like have been used by police as weapons of compliance more often and with less restraint—even against women and children—and in some instances, even causing death. These “nonlethal” weapons also enable police to aggress with the push of a button, making the potential for overblown confrontations over minor incidents that much more likely. A Taser Shockwave, for instance, can electrocute a crowd of people at the touch of a button.

    U is for UNARMED CITIZENS SHOT BY POLICE. No longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, often attributed to a fear for their safety. Yet the fatality rate of on-duty patrol officers is reportedly far lower than many other professions, including construction, logging, fishing, truck driving, and even trash collection.

    V is for VIPR SQUADS. So-called “soft target” security inspections, carried out by roving VIPR task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams, are taking place whenever and wherever the government deems appropriate, at random times and places, and without needing the justification of a particular threat.

    W is for WHOLE-BODY SCANNERS. Using either x-ray radiation or radio waves, scanning devices and government mobile units are being used not only to “see” through your clothes but to spy on you within the privacy of your home. While these mobile scanners are being sold to the American public as necessary security and safety measures, we can ill afford to forget that such systems are rife with the potential for abuse, not only by government bureaucrats but by the technicians employed to operate them.

    X is for X-KEYSCORE, one of the many spying programs carried out by the National Security Agency that targets every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. This top-secret program “allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

    Y is for YOU-NESS. Using your face, mannerisms, social media and “you-ness” against you, you can now be tracked based on what you buy, where you go, what you do in public, and how you do what you do. Facial recognition software promises to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for government agents to be able to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of the individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in states all across the country.

    Z is for ZERO TOLERANCE. We have moved into a new paradigm in which young people are increasingly viewed as suspects and treated as criminals by school officials and law enforcement alike, often for engaging in little more than childish behavior. In some jurisdictions, students have also been penalized under school zero tolerance policies for such inane “crimes” as carrying cough drops, wearing black lipstick, bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades. The lesson being taught to our youngest—and most impressionable—citizens is this: in the American police state, you’re either a prisoner (shackled, controlled, monitored, ordered about, limited in what you can do and say, your life not your own) or a prison bureaucrat (politician, police officer, judge, jailer, spy, profiteer, etc.).

    As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the post-9/11 America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

    We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age.

    You can call it the age of authoritarianism. Or fascism. Or oligarchy. Or the American police state.

    Whatever label you want to put on it, the end result is the same: tyranny.

    Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work

    Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?

    — James Russell Lowell, 19th century American poet/critic/editor/diplomat, in a 1876 letter to Joel Benton.

    Let us not mince words.

    We are living in an age of war profiteers.

    We are living in an age of scoundrels, liars, brutes and thugs. Many of them work for the U.S. government.

    We are living in an age of monsters.

    Ask Donald Trump. He knows all about monsters.

    Any government that leaves “mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air” is evil and despicable, said President Trump, justifying his blatantly unconstitutional decision (in the absence of congressional approval or a declaration of war) to launch airstrikes against Syria based on dubious allegations that it had carried out chemical weapons attacks on its own people. “They are crimes of a monster.”

    If the Syrian government is a monster for killing innocent civilians, including women and children, the U.S. government must be a monster, too.

    In Afghanistan, ten civilians were killed—including three children, one an infant in his mother’s arms—when U.S. warplanes targeted a truck in broad daylight on an open road with women and children riding in the exposed truck bed. They had been fleeing airstrikes on their village.

    In Syria, at least 80 civilians, including 30 children, were killed when U.S.-led air strikes bombed a school and a packed marketplace.

    In Yemen, a U.S. drone bombed a caravan of vehicles on their way to or from a wedding, leaving “scorched vehicles and body parts … scattered on the road.” As investigative journalist Tom Engelhart documents, that 2013 bombing was actually the eighth wedding party (almost 300 civilians dead) wiped out by the U.S. military, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began in 2001. “Keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven’t been the only rites hit,” notes Engelhart. “US air power has struck gatherings ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.”

    Then there was a Doctors without Borders hospital in Kunduz that had 12 of its medical staff and 10 of its patients, including three children, killed when a U.S. AC-130 gunship fired on it repeatedly. Some of the patients were burned alive in their hospital beds.

    Yes, on this point, President Trump is exactly right: these are, indeed, the crimes of a monster.

    Unfortunately, this monster—this hundred-headed gorgon that is the U.S. government and its long line of political puppets (Donald Trump and before him Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.), who dance to the tune of the military industrial complex—is being funded by you and me.

    The blood of innocent civilians is on our hands whether we choose to recognize it or not.

    It is our tax dollars at work here, after all.

    Unfortunately, we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used.

    We have no real say, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow, for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

    The only alternative to paying one’s taxes is jail, and there are few people willing to go to jail for a principle anymore.

    Still, while we may not have much choice in the matter of how our taxes are used, we still have a voice and a vote, and it’s time the American people made their voices—and their votes—heard about the way our taxes are used and misused by this government of wolves and thieves and liars.

    Consider: we get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die.

    Indeed, if there is an absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off.

    This is true whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.

    Not only are American taxpayers forced to “spend more on state, municipal, and federal taxes than the annual financial burdens of food, clothing, and housing combined,” but we’re also being played as easy marks by hustlers bearing the imprimatur of the government.

    With every new tax, fine, fee and law adopted by our so-called representatives, the yoke around the neck of the average American seems to tighten just a little bit more.

    Everywhere you go, everything you do, and every which way you look, we’re getting swindled, cheated, conned, robbed, raided, pick-pocketed, mugged, deceived, defrauded, double-crossed and fleeced by governmental and corporate shareholders of the American police state out to make a profit at taxpayer expense.

    Yet as Ron Paul observed, “The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.”

    The overt and costly signs of the despotism exercised by the increasingly authoritarian regime that passes itself off as the United States government are all around us: warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private phone and email conversations by the NSA; SWAT team raids of Americans’ homes; shootings of unarmed citizens by police; harsh punishments meted out to schoolchildren in the name of zero tolerance; drones taking to the skies domestically; endless wars; out-of-control spending; militarized police; roadside strip searches; roving TSA sweeps; privatized prisons with a profit incentive for jailing Americans; fusion centers that collect and disseminate data on Americans’ private transactions; and militarized agencies with stockpiles of ammunition, to name some of the most appalling.

    Meanwhile, the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) and the agencies under their command—Defense, Commerce, Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, etc.—have switched their allegiance to the Corporate State with its unassailable pursuit of profit at all costs and by any means possible.

    As a result, we are now ruled by a government consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population and seemingly unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

    As with most things, if you want to know the real motives behind any government program, follow the money trail. When you dig down far enough, you quickly find that those who profit from Americans being surveilled, fined, scanned, searched, probed, tasered, arrested and imprisoned are none other than the police who arrest them, the courts which try them, the prisons which incarcerate them, and the corporations, which manufacture the weapons, equipment and prisons used by the American police state.

    It gets worse.

    Because the government’s voracious appetite for money, power and control has grown out of control, its agents have devised other means of funding its excesses and adding to its largesse through taxes disguised as fines, taxes disguised as fees, and taxes disguised as tolls, tickets and penalties.

    The government’s schemes to swindle, cheat, scam, and generally defraud Americans have run the gamut from wasteful pork barrel legislation, cronyism and graft to asset forfeiture schemes, the modern-day equivalent of highway robbery, astronomical health care “reform,” and costly stimulus packages.

    Americans have also been made to pay through the nose for the government’s endless wars, subsidization of foreign nations, military empire, welfare state, roads to nowhere, bloated workforce, secret agencies, fusion centers, private prisons, biometric databases, invasive technologies, arsenal of weapons, and every other budgetary line item that is contributing to the fast-growing wealth of the corporate elite at the expense of those who are barely making ends meet—that is, we the taxpayers.

    Those football stadiums that charge exorbitant sums for nosebleed seats? Our taxpayer dollars subsidize them.

    Those blockbuster war films? Yep, we were the silent investors on those, too.

    Same goes for the military equipment being peddled to local police agencies and the surveillance cameras being “donated” to local governments.

    In other words, in the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than indentured servants.

    We’re slaves.

    If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.

    You’re not free if the government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes.

    You’re not free if government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing.

    And you’re certainly not free if the IRS gets the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.

    It wasn’t always this way, of course.

    Early Americans went to war over the inalienable rights described by philosopher John Locke as the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

    It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”

    Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.

    On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.

    It’s all gone downhill from there.

    Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.

    All the while the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly, wage endless wars that make no one safer but fatten the bank accounts of the defense contractors—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

    Somewhere over the course of the past 240-plus years, democracy has given way to kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves), and representative government has been rejected in favor of a kakistocracy (a government run by the most unprincipled citizens that panders to the worst vices in our nature: greed, violence, hatred, prejudice and war) ruled by career politicians, corporations and thieves—individuals and entities with little regard for the rights of American citizens.

    The American kleptocracy continues to suck the American people down a rabbit hole into a parallel universe in which the Constitution is meaningless, the government is all-powerful, and the citizenry is powerless to defend itself against government agents who steal, spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in their sphere.

    This dissolution of that sacred covenant between the citizenry and the government—establishing “we the people” as the masters and the government as the servant—didn’t happen overnight.

    It didn’t happen because of one particular incident or one particular president.

    It has been a process, one that began long ago and continues in the present day, aided and abetted by politicians who have mastered the polarizing art of how to “divide and conquer.”

    By playing on our prejudices about those who differ from us, capitalizing on our fears for our safety, and deepening our distrust of those fellow citizens whose opinions run counter to our own, the powers-that-be have effectively divided us into polarized, warring camps incapable of finding consensus on the one true menace that is an immediate threat to all of our freedoms: the U.S. government.

    We are now the subjects of a militarized, corporate empire in which the vast majority of the citizenry work their hands to the bone for the benefit of a privileged few.

    Adding injury to the ongoing insult of having our tax dollars misused and our so-called representatives bought and paid for by the moneyed elite, the government then turns around and uses the money we earn with our blood, sweat and tears to target, imprison and entrap us, in the form of militarized police, surveillance cameras, private prisons, license plate readers, drones, and cell phone tracking technology.

    All of those nefarious government deeds that you read about in the paper every day: those are your tax dollars at work. It’s your money that allows for government agents to spy on your emails, your phone calls, your text messages, and your movements. It’s your money that allows out-of-control police officers to burst into innocent people’s homes, or probe and strip search motorists on the side of the road, or shoot an unarmed person. And it’s your money that leads to innocent Americans across the country being prosecuted for innocuous activities such as raising chickens at home, growing vegetable gardens, and trying to live off the grid.

    Just remember the next time you see a news story that makes your blood boil, whether it’s a child being kicked out of school for shooting an imaginary arrow, or a homeowner being threatened with fines for building a pond in his backyard, remember that it is your tax dollars that are paying for these injustices.

    So what are you going to do about it?

    There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying their taxes to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

    Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let bankers, turncoats and number-crunching bureaucrats muddy the waters and pilfer the accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started.

    Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as they please.

    Once again, we’ve got a judicial system insisting we have no rights under a government which demands that the people march in lockstep with its dictates.

    And once again, we’ve got to decide whether we’ll keep marching or break stride and make a turn toward freedom.

    But what if we didn’t just pull out our pocketbooks and pony up to the federal government’s outrageous demands for more money?

    What if we didn’t just dutifully line up to drop our hard-earned dollars into the collection bucket, no questions asked about how it will be spent?

    What if, instead of quietly sending in our checks, hoping vainly for some meager return, we did a little calculating of our own and started deducting from our taxes those programs that we refuse to support?

    If we don’t have the right to decide what happens to our hard-earned cash, then we don’t have very many rights at all.

    If the government can just take from you what they want, when they want, and then use it however they want, you can’t claim to be anything more than a serf in a land they think of as theirs.

    This was the case in the colonial era, and it’s the case once again.

    The Slippery Slope to a Constitution-Free America

    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

    — Benjamin Franklin

    The ease with which Americans are prepared to welcome boots on the ground, regional lockdowns, routine invasions of their privacy, and the dismantling of every constitutional right intended to serve as a bulwark against government abuses is beyond unnerving.

    I am referring at this particular moment in time to President Trump’s decision to deploy military forces to the border in a supposed bid to protect the country from invading bands of illegal immigrants.

    This latest attempt to bamboozle the citizenry into relinquishing even more of their rights is commonly referred to as letting the wolves guard the hen house.

    Never mind that using the U.S. military as a police force constitutes a direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. Never mind that America’s police have already been transformed into a standing army. Never mind that the borders have always been porous—a fact that the government and its corporate partners profit from greatly when convenient. Never mind that Trump’s infatuation with heavy-handed military and police power could pave the way for far greater threats to our liberties than a few underfed, unemployed migrants entering the country.

    We are long past the stage where the government—at any level—abides by restrictions on its powers.

    What we are dealing with is a run-away government hyped up on its own power, whose policies are dictated more by paranoia than need.

    Watching the state of our nation unravel, I can’t help but think of Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering’s remarks during the Nuremberg trials. As Goering noted:

    It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.

    It works the same in every country.

    The same propaganda and police state tactics that worked for Adolf Hitler 80 years ago continue to be employed with great success in a post-9/11 America.

    We keep returning to the same sticking point, forced to make the same choice over and over again: essential liberty or temporary safety.

    Time and again, we keep sacrificing our liberties for phantom promises of safety.

    Whatever the threat to so-called security—whether it’s rumored weapons of mass destruction, school shootings, or alleged acts of terrorism—it doesn’t take much for the American people to march in lockstep with the government’s dictates, even if it means submitting to martial law, having their homes searched, and being stripped of one’s constitutional rights at a moment’s notice.

    Moreover, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.

    The lesson is this: once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny.

    This is fast becoming a government that has no respect for the freedom or lives of its citizenry.

    Yet there are warning signs we cannot afford to ignore.

    First off, there is no such thing as a “border” in the eyes of these military patrols. The entire United States of America has become a constitution-free zone.

    According to journalist Todd Miller, the “once thin borderline of the American past” is “an ever-thickening band, now extending 100 miles inland around the United States—along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border and both coasts… This ‘border’ region now covers places where two-thirds of the US population (197.4 million people) live… The ‘border’ has by now devoured the full states of Maine and Florida and much of Michigan.”

    As part of its so-called efforts to keep the nation safe from a host of threats, the U.S. government has declared that ever-expanding border region a Constitution-free zone.

    Miller explains:

    In these vast domains, Homeland Security authorities can institute roving patrols with broad, extra constitutional powers backed by national security, immigration enforcement and drug interdiction mandates. There, the Border Patrol can set up traffic checkpoints and fly surveillance drones overhead with high-powered cameras and radar that can track your movements. Within twenty-five miles of the international boundary, CBP agents can enter a person’s private property without a warrant.

    To recap: 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, 197.4 million people) now live within this 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

    That’s a lot of ground to declare off limits to the Constitution.

    The result, as Miller notes, “is a permanent, low-intensity state of exception that makes the expanding borderlands a ripe place to experiment with   tearing apart the Constitution, a place where not just undocumented border-crossers, but millions of borderland residents have become the targets of continual surveillance.”

    Be warned: government agents continue to roam further afield of the so-called border as part of their so-called crackdown on illegal immigration, drugs and trafficking. Consequently, greater numbers of Americans are being subject to warrantless searches, ID checkpoints, transportation checks, and even surveillance on private property.

    Second, this de facto standing army that has been imposed on the American people is in clear violation of the spirit—if not the letter of the law—of the Posse Comitatus Act, which restricts the government’s ability to use the U.S. military as a police force.

    America’s police forces—which look like, dress like, and act like the military—have undeniably become a “standing” or permanent army, one composed of full-time professional soldiers who do not disband, which is exactly what the Founders feared. With the police increasingly posing as pseudo-military forces—complete with weapons, uniforms, assault vehicles, etc.—a good case could be made for the fact that SWAT team raids, which break down the barrier between public and private property, have done away with this critical safeguard.

    Unfortunately, the increasing militarization of the police, the use of sophisticated weaponry against Americans and the government’s increasing tendency to employ military personnel domestically have all but eviscerated historic prohibitions such as the Posse Comitatus Act.

    Indeed, there are a growing number of exceptions to which Posse Comitatus does not apply. These exceptions serve to further acclimate the nation to the sight and sounds of military personnel on American soil and the imposition of martial law.

    This begs the question: if the borders constitute a Constitution-free zone, who will police those policing our borders and hold them accountable for misconduct and wrongdoing?

    We’ve seen what happens to domestic police charged with wrongdoing: they get little more than a slap on the wrist. Just recently, in fact, the U.S. Supreme Court shielded a police officer who shot a woman four times in her driveway as she stood talking to a friend while holding a kitchen knife. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor acknowledged in her dissent in Kisela v. Hughes, “It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.”

    Third, there’s the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security made up of more than 60,000 Customs and Border Protection employees, and supplemented by the National Guard and the U.S. military.

    A national police force imbued with all the brutality, ineptitude and corruption such a role implies, the DHS—aptly described as a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast”—has been ruthlessly efficient when it comes to establishing what the Founders feared most: a standing army on American soil.

    The third largest federal agency behind the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, the DHS—with its 240,000 full-time workers, $40 billion budget and sub-agencies that include the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—extends its tentacles into every aspect of American life.

    In fact, just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to police agencies in the form of grants to transform them into extensions of the military: militarizing police, incentivizing SWAT teams, spying on protesters, stockpiling ammunition, distributing license plate readers to police agencies, contracting to build detention camps, tracking cell-phones with Stingray devices, carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities, using the TSA to carry out soft target checkpoints, directing government workers to spy on Americans, conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers, utilizing drones and other spybots, funding city-wide surveillance cameras, and carrying out Constitution-free border control searches.

    Finally, there’s this whole question of martial law.

    Technically, a good case can be made that the Constitution-free border regions within the United States are already under martial law carried out by a standing army comprised of militarized police and the U.S. military.

    Then again, for all intents and perhaps, the American police state is already governed by martial law, is it not? Battlefield tactics. Militarized police. Riot and camouflage gear. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Drones. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Concussion grenades. Intimidation tactics. Brute force. Laws conveniently discarded when it suits the government’s purpose.

    This is what martial law looks like, when a government disregards constitutional freedoms and imposes its will through military force, only this is martial law without any government body having to declare it. This is martial law packaged as law and order and sold to the public as necessary for keeping the peace.

    It doesn’t matter whether the so-called threats to national security posed by terrorists, extremists or immigrant armies ever became a reality. Once the government acquires—and uses—additional powers, it does not voluntarily relinquish them.

    The damage has been done.

    For those who can read the writing on the wall, it’s all starting to make sense: the military drills carried out in major American cities, the VIPR inspections at train depots and bus stations, the SWAT team raids on unsuspecting homeowners, the Black Hawk helicopters patrolling American skies, the massive ammunition purchases by various federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education, the IRS and the Social Security Administration.

    Viewed in conjunction with the government’s increasing use of involuntary commitment laws to declare individuals mentally ill and lock them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time, the NDAA’s provision allowing the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, only codifies this unraveling of our constitutional framework.

    Throw in the profit-driven corporate incentive to jail Americans in private prisons, as well as the criminalizing of such relatively innocent activities as holding Bible studies in one’s home or sharing unpasteurized goat cheese with members of one’s community, and it becomes clear that “we the people” are the real enemies of the state.

    We’re the ones in the government’s crosshairs.

    That wall being built at the border won’t be just for keeping illegal immigrants out—it’s to keep us trapped within the punishing confines of the American police state.

    Our freedoms—willingly relinquished in response to endless scare tactics—have been breached, undermined, and eroded time and time again. We’re being conditioned to this life in a police state.

    As for this latest maneuver, it’s just another means of poking a hole in the already-tattered fabric of the Constitution.

    In other words, it’s a test to see how hard we will fight to hold on to what remains of our freedoms.

    If this is a test, we’re failing abysmally.

    Face it: we are sliding fast down a slippery slope to a Constitution-free America.

    We’ve been heading in this direction for some time now, but this downward trajectory has picked up speed since Donald Trump became president.

    This state of near-lockdown has been helped along by government policies and court rulings that have made it easier for the police to shoot unarmed citizens, for law enforcement agencies to seize cash and other valuable private property under the guise of asset forfeiture, for military weapons and tactics to be deployed on American soil, for government agencies to carry out round-the-clock surveillance, for profit-driven private prisons to lock up greater numbers of Americans, for homes to be raided and searched under the pretext of national security, for American citizens to be labeled terrorists and stripped of their rights merely on the say-so of a government bureaucrat, and for pre-crime tactics to be adopted nationwide that strip Americans of the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty and creates a suspect society in which we are all guilty until proven otherwise.

    All of these assaults on the constitutional framework of the nation have been sold to the public as necessary for national security.

    Time and again, the public has fallen for the ploy hook, line and sinker.

    We’re being reeled in, folks, and you know what happens when we get to the end of that line? We’ll be cleaned, gutted and strung up.

    Incredibly, no matter how many times Americans are lied to, cheated, swindled, robbed, manipulated, and double-crossed, they still keep falling for the government’s tired, thinly disguised ploys to amass more power at the expense of the citizenry.

    Remember when George W. Bush claimed the country was being invaded by terrorists post-9/11 and insisted the only way to keep America safe was to give the government and its gun-toting agents greater powers to spy, search, detain and arrest?

    The terrorist invasion never really happened, but the government kept its newly acquired police powers made possible by the USA Patriot Act.

    Remember when Barack Obama claimed the country was being invaded by domestic terrorists and insisted the only way to keep America safe was to give the military the power to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, label them extremists, and detain them indefinitely without trial?

    The invasion never really happened, but the government kept its newly acquired detention powers made possible by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

    Now you have Donald Trump claiming the country is being invaded by immigrants and insisting that the only way to keep America safe is to empower the military to “assist” with border control.

    Mind you, Trump is not the first president to deploy military forces to the border.

    Nevertheless, you can rest assured that this latest call for boots on the ground (whether those boots belong to the National Guard or the armed forces is mere semantics) to police the American border is yet another Trojan Horse that will inflict all manner of nasty police state surprises on an unsuspecting populace.

    As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the menace of a national police force—a.k.a. a standing army—vested with the power to completely disregard the Constitution, cannot be overstated, nor can its danger be ignored.

    America’s Descent Into Despotism: Finding Our Source of Power Within

    The United States is in a major upheaval. Trump’s cabinet shake-up moves the country into an alarming direction. From the nomination of torturer Gina Haspel as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director and a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran as new secretary of state, his selection exposes the White House’s dangerous kill instincts.

    An ultimatum came with the president’s appointment of John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations as his 3rd national security advisor. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration is notorious for his hawkishness, with a great zeal for military action against Iran and North Korea. This rearranging of the deck chairs in the sinking empire signals the great calamity of foreign policy ahead with potential threats of war.

    In this seeming free-fall toward despotism, what can ordinary people do? Tackling corruption of our political system and averting a doomed future requires us to truly understand the problems we are facing. The crisis of representation didn’t just arise with Trump, the new commander in chief. A glimpse of it was shown during the 2008 financial meltdown, which was covered up swiftly by bank bailouts and politics of ‘hope and change’. The truth is that seeds for dystopia have been inside this country all along. The roots of the issues that are now emerging in Trump’s America go back to the very beginning of this nation.

    In its modern formation, the United States inspired the world with its torch of liberty and equality. At the same time, this beacon of light had its darkness within. From the onset, America contained internal contradictions manifested as the founder’s hypocrisy and the violation of its own ideals with genocide of natives, slavery of blacks and suppression of women. The Founding Fathers of the United States brought a victory of rejecting the power of the King’s monarchy and pioneered a path for one’s own self-determination. The concept of “a government of laws, not of men” was groundbreaking at that time. Yet without reconciling its own shadow, this nation of law failed to fully shield the republic from the tyranny of the Old World.

    Supremacy of reason

    The unredeemed darkness found in America’s troubled past was a force inside Western civilization that tries to define history, subjugating other perspectives to its single vision. Europe, with its ethos of separation and objectivity set out to conquer the world, spreading its influence across many continents. This domineering power of reason found its new front of exploration in the New World.

    America, driven by the monotheistic goal of Manifest Destiny, expanded its territory with brutality. It swallowed what is edible, assimilating immigrants one by one to its conception of what is civil, while spitting out those that it considered impalatable, relegating them into three-fifths of a person or exterminating them from the earth altogether as savages.

    This maddened head centricity was manifested in the structure of a new government. Sheldon Wolin, author of Democracy Inc noted how the framers of the Constitution created a so-called managed democracy, a system that favored elite rule and that “the American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy” (2008, p. 228).

    The intellectual elites regarded the democratic majority rule as an irrational force and they feared the tyranny of popular majorities. While the faculty of reason positioned itself as a supreme force, a potential to account its autocratic power was found inside America.

    The sovereign power of We the People

    Expressed in the preamble of the Constitution “We the People” was faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. This was an intention to shift from the model of government that acts as authority of their lives to one that places power in the hands of ordinary people. In this government established under the rule of the people, the source of legitimacy was not derived from a god or king, but was meant to come from people themselves.

    This arrangement of governance was not granted from above. It was first demanded by those who opposed the ratification of the 1787 Constitution that lacked the guarantee of individual liberties. The proponents of the Bill of Rights articulated essential parts of the sovereign power of We the People as a freedom of expression; freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. By building upon First Amendment rights, further efforts emerged from below. From abolitionists’ defiance and the women’s suffrage movement to civil rights and free speech movements, people’s determination for individual autonomy persisted.

    Assault on this power of ordinary people intensified with the rise of corporate power in the ‘60s. Manifest Destiny is now carried out with Nike’s slogan of “just do it”. With limited liability and having no human beings in charge, the abstraction of the head inside transnational corporations took flight from the communal ground, plundering their way into the globe, without ever having to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Giant corporations became a sponsor for this managed democracy, gaining control over media to manipulate public perception, keeping American voters in hostage with the lesser of the two evils charade politics.

    WikiLeaks, the rise of cryptographic direct action

    In the political winter of the post-911 war on terror, as fear and apathy spread around the globe, a new civic force surfaced online. The waves of whistleblowers began shedding light on the collaborative secrecy of elites that deceive and manipulate the public behind a façade of democracy.

    WikiLeaks, with its motto of “privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful”, opened a floodgate of a free flow of information. This world’s first global Fourth Estate embodies the philosophy of cypherpunks– a loosely tied group of online privacy advocates who saw the potential of cryptography to shift the balance of power between individuals and the state. With the idea that cryptography is the “ultimate form of non-violent direct action” (2012, p. 5), WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange built the system of scientific journalism that would give everyday people around the world tools to combat military might and confront the madness of fallen reason that censors free speech.

    The invention of the anonymous drop box was truly revolutionary. It enabled anyone to send information securely without a trace of his or her identity. Through the robust decentralized infrastructure built around this game changing technology, WikiLeaks was able to provide unprecedented source protection in the history of journalism. Here, the organization that derived its source of inspiration in American founding ideas, freed the First Amendment that had been captured through a corporate monopoly and co-optation of the media, making it available to people all around the world.

    It is through WikiLeaks’ adamant commitment to the principle of free press that former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to exercise uncompromising free speech and engage in the American tradition of civil disobedience. Manning, whom the late attorney and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner described as the “conscience of our nation”, let the American public see the US imperialism in action in the Middle East.

    In her request for a presidential pardon, Manning stated her commitment to the ideal of America, saying how she was willing to pay the price if it would make this country be “truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.” Through her non-violent cryptographic direct action, she helped America find its conscience.

    One individual’s act of courage brought another. Inspired by Manning, Edward Snowden came forward to inform people about the NSA’s mass surveillance. In one of the addresses he made, Snowden also described his act as a public service and connected it with Dr. King’s non-violent civil disobedience. Through his whistleblowing, the former NSA contractor defended individual privacy as fundamental civil rights for all people and tried to preserve the world where people can share creativity, love and friendship freely without every conversation and interaction being monitored and recorded.

    Whistleblowers and their faith in ordinary people

    From WikiLeaks disruptions to Snowden revelations, courageous act of truth-tellers renewed the faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. Both Manning and Snowden believed in the public’s right to know and held a view that when people are informed, they can make changes and determine their own destiny.

    Faith is different than mere belief. It is not about one blindly trusting or passively accepting something. Faith is an active will that requires one to choose out of themselves to believe in something. When established media and trusted institutions failed, Manning chose to put her trust in the journalistic organization that was little known at that time. When the government’s internal mechanisms of accountability were broken, combined with the betrayal of Obama’s campaign promises and his war on whistleblowers, Snowden turned to American journalists whom he could trust by his own judgment of the integrity of their work. They placed faith not in political leaders or authority but in fellow men and women.

    It is to this faith in the ability for the wise and knowledgeable public to govern themselves that fearless journalism responded. WikiLeaks, the publisher of last resort, kept its promise to the source by publishing full archives with maximum political impact and bringing information back to the historical record. By doing so, it has become an enemy of the most powerful government in the world, being subjected to legal and extra-legal pressure. Through honoring Snowden’s wishes, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman broke the story of NSA surveillance and led the Guardian’s independent journalism, making the established media fulfill its duty. In the aftermath of Snowden’s disclosures, when this young whistleblower was stranded in Hong Kong, WikiLeaks demonstrated its extraordinary source protection with journalist Sarah Harrison risking her own liberty to help Snowden attain asylum.

    With this faith given by peers, citizens around the world who have been distrusted by their own governments and made powerless began to claim their own power. By recognizing that someone believed in them and sacrificed their lives so that they can be free, they were able to believe in their own ability to protect those they love and preserve rights that they cherish. The will to respond to this faith in one another made it possible for ordinary people to carry out extraordinary acts.

    Bitcoin, Innovation without Permission

    Contagious courage lit by people’s faith created a fellowship that can withstand the state violence. It began to shift the balance of power, replacing the source of legitimacy from trusted institutions to ordinary people’s trust in one another. As the network of resistance grew, new attacks emerged. Following the release of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, WikiLeaks faced the unlawful financial blockade imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. When this economic sanction starved the whistleblowing site, destroying 95% of their revenue, the flow of autonomy that helped the organization circumvent economic censorship came from fellow cypherpunks.

    Bitcoin, as a peer-to-peer electronic cash was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With its defining feature of censorship resistance and permissionlessness, Bitcoin makes free speech an app that can be distributed across borders and used by anyone regardless of nationality, religion, race, gender or economic status. Here, imagination from computer science redeemed the reason that lost its connection to the heart, by synthesizing bits of isolated knowledge that had created separation and injustice, transforming them into a higher order of unification.

    Networks of equal peers emerging around this invention opened up a new avenue of dissent in a form of decentralization. Adam Back, notable cryptographer whose work was cited in the Bitcoin white paper, described cypherpunks as “a state of mind” and explained its philosophy of “writing code” as a “proactive approach to societal change by doing: building and deploying tech – rather than by lobbying politicians or asking permission.”

    This path toward decentralization was first taken by the creator of this technology. The anonymity of Satoshi Nakamoto represents the power of ordinary people. Through an act of publishing the white paper under a pseudonymous name and making the protocol open source, the mysterious author gave up ownership and simultaneously gave users control of the software, making it possible for each individual to use it as a tool to govern themselves.

    What is enshrined in a piece of mathematics is wisdom of ordinary people that understands that man is corruptible, as well as perfectible and recognizes the security holes inherent in the existing model of governance that requires trust in third parties. It is the wisdom of history that teaches us how the best way to secure the system is not to have levers of control in the first place through which power concentrates, leading to despotism. With a consensus algorithm placed as a foundation, laws can be built that is more immune to man’s fallen nature. With this, idea of a government of laws, not of men can be truly realized. Governance of We the People now becomes possible, where rules of law are validated by consensus of ordinary people as opposed to elected officials having power over them.

    Andreas Antonopoulos, a technologist and one of the respected figures in Bitcoin, in his talk titled “Courage to Innovate”, captured new enthusiasm and passion ignited around this technology in a phrase “innovation without permission” and connected it with civil disobedience. He reminded the audience how “almost every important innovation in history starts out being illegal or unregulated” and interesting technology started out with people who forgot to ask permission. Describing technology’s core invention as a platform to scale trust, Antonopoulos described how this is a system that makes it possible for people to make social decisions without hierarchy, whether it is government bureaucracy, corporations or any other institution. This system Antonopoulos characterized as “rules without rulers” is being built by people around the world without central coordination.

    Claiming our revolutionary spirit

    Our Founding Fathers, no matter how imperfect they were, brought us ideas conceived in a revolutionary spirit. The genius of the Constitution is that it makes fundamental laws and principles of government amendable. The highest law of the land preserved space for people to not accept authority imposed on them and even to revolt against it when it is necessary, by giving ordinary people means to change rules. America indeed was founded on rebelliousness and distrust of their own government, demonstrated in the Declaration that reads “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and institute a new Government…”

    The government brought by our forebears not only allowed dissent, but depended on our rebellion. The realization of the Constitution as the fulfillment of ideals in the Declaration required individuals with a strong and independent mind. It demanded people to develop moral courage to defend these ideals against special interests of single groups or nations and any adversarial forces that try to deny them.

    From the civil rights movement to whistleblowers at the frontier of digital liberation, we have seen the awakening of revolutionary spirit in people’s courageous civic action upholding the ideals of this country. The networks from below expands, converging together to build a new global civil society. Bitcoin developers around the world put their knowledge and skills together, making improvement proposals and fixing bugs, striving to meet the demands of all users.

    Innovation without permission is enlivening entrepreneurship. Instead of waiting for problems to be solved by politicians or corporate CEOs, working class began to have faith in their ability to make changes, finding strength and resources within themselves. Around this currency, a new economy is now being bootstrapped, with startups and new businesses hiring people and providing them with skills and knowledge, while many other industries are stagnating.

    Solutions to the crisis of representation are within us. Ordinary people, through freely associating with one another, can now give birth to the rule of a real democracy, securing Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.

    The Children’s Crusade (Against Early Death by School-Shootings)

    Everyone except the NRA and Donald Jr. thinks it’s a beautiful sight. These high school students, so many of them (have you noticed?) extraordinarily articulate, marching to demand changes in gun laws and mental health care so that they don’t have to fear for their lives in math class.

    It’s natural to refer to this movement poetically as a Children’s Crusade (although that episode in the thirteen century did not end well). I think of random Bible verses. “And a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6) and Jesus’s comment that you have to become like a child to enter heaven (Matthew 18:3). There’s lots of poetry in this moment.

    I’ve been a college professor for over thirty years. I have been surrounded weekly by 18 to 22-year-olds. I see how they change. Used to be that half the guys in my classes had earrings. This is rare now. Used to be one or two nerds would bring a laptop to class. Now they all have them. Used to be they were much less tense about their futures and more prone to take courses for intellectual pleasure than job market concerns. I am more than the average 62-year-old man aware of the conditions faced by modern youth, even if my students comprise a highly privileged sampling. And I fear for their futures, for many reasons.

    To see so many high school students who could be my students soon throwing their hearts into this movement moves me. Like Occupy Wall Street did. Like the Sanders campaign did. Like Black Lives Matter does. Like #MeToo does. The excruciating element is this: these kids are not demanding some concept of economic justice, or engaging in “identity politics” other than the identity politics of wanting to survive puberty and become adults eventually. This would seem to be the very minimal human demand from a decent society.

    Children are saying, very eloquently and indignantly: it should not be legal for psychos to buy assault guns to kill us. But legislators cling to the Second Amendment, the Constitution, rights, freedom. (You know how free high schools feel today?)

    One of my favorite journalistic pieces by Marx involves a Hyde Park demonstration in 1855 in which about 200,000 of London’s proletariat turned out to protest new laws about pub hours. This issue involved the power of the Anglican church over public morals, and wasn’t directly connected to the struggle between worker and employer. But Marx suggested that even something so seemingly marginal could be the spark to provoke a revolution. You never know. There is no linear inevitable pattern. High school students’ outrage could spark Mao’s proverbial prairie fire. Oh god may it be so.

    Full of blood and energy, these teens rage against the stupidity of the gun culture that’s been at the center of U.S. life since the first Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth with their muskets and shot their first Wampanoags, praising God. The movement’s identity is life itself, the right to grow up. It’s beautiful in that.

    When I was in college, a member of a New Left communist group, we opposed gun control on the grounds that the people will need to be armed to confront the state, eventually. At that time the idea that a youth-driven movement towards some form of gun control was inconceivable. The insanity of gun culture already clear in the early ’70’s has much deepened since, and now the freedom not to be shot is coming to supersede the freedom to shoot.

    So fitting that high school students are fired up on this cause and that many seem to understand the corporate causes of mass shootings. May their raging hormones drive ongoing activism in all causes for peace and justice.

    Ending Public Access to Military Style Weapons

    When troubled youth Nikolas Cruz picked a fight with a classmate who was dating his ex-girlfriend he was expelled from high school. Three days later he bought an AR-15. The gun dealer reportedly suggested an accessory to make the rifle fully automatic. Anger prompted Cruz to show up at the Parkland, FL school on Valentine’s Day and fire 160 rounds, slaying 17. For doing little to launch follow-up intervention, let’s blame the school administration.

    Police reportedly responded 39 times to circumstances at the home where Nikolas lived after the deaths of both his parents. Let’s blame the local authorities for not considering this behavioral pattern worthy of greater attention.

    Let’s blame Donald Trump for undoing even the minor preventive measures three previous presidential administrations had put in place. Note NRA support for Trump’s election was $30.3 million.

    The FBI learned a person with this name had used social media to announce intention to become a school shooter. Though they had little power to apprehend Cruz and receive millions of such alerts, let’s blame the FBI for inaction.

    The school maintained an armed security guard who didn’t challenge Cruz. We could blame him for not intervening.

    Cruz was a member of his high school’s junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps that promotes young persons’ interest in weapons. Let’s blame the ROTC.

    Cruz evolved as a racist. We need to confront this country’s slave owning Founder’s constitutional justification of chattel slavery and argument that – as they held dominion they must be racially superior. We need to confront the legacy and posture of every holder of public office since that time that has not taken a public stance to correct this historic falsehood. It was the assassination of President Lincoln – the peacemaker who sought to bind up the nation’s Civil War’s psychological wounds – that allowed a fateful shift to punishment of the South for the Civil War. This, in turn, launched the South’s resentment measures, Jim Crow and the deep racism that has, ever since, held this country in its grip.

    It may surprise the reader to learn that in the first 45 days of 2018 there have been 18 gun incidents in our schools, 8 of them involving wounding or death. The United States is unique at generating such statistics. We can no longer assume it is safe to send children to school in the morning.

    There is a raging debate whether the nation’s 3-million teachers should be armed with handguns. What have we come to? In our watch, national pride has become national shame.

    The response to this most recent mass killing has been predictably outrageous. House Speaker Paul Ryan defensively referenced the 2nd Amendment, asserting this was not the time to threaten citizens’ constitutional rights. Donald Trump declared sympathy for the victims and their families but avoided mentioning guns.

    Hillary Clinton favored improved gun controls but that only funneled campaign money to opponents. With few exceptions, for decades the response to these tragic events by the makers of our laws has been what I must characterize as, “Blah, blah, blah.” The lobbying and contributions from gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association corrupt our officeholders.

    In its 2008 landmark decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Washington, DC ban on hand guns – implemented to reduce city gun deaths – violated Dick Heller’s 2nd Amendment right to keep a gun in his home for self defense.

    But we know Supreme Court decisions are invariably political-party-based interpretations of the Constitution. The majority five in this decision were all Republican appointees – loyalists to the party most resistant to stricter gun laws.

    Embedded in the decision are these positive notes. “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever for whatever purpose.” Protected weapons are those “in common use” while those not protected are those which are “dangerous or unusual.”

    The Court’s political bias ignores history. Lacking a national army during both the American Revolution and the Civil War, George Washington, then Abraham Lincoln, summoned state militias to serve. Southern colonies had demanded the 2nd Amendment in order to bear arms against potential rebellion by their slaves.

    All these “blamings” are intended distractions favoring the greedy gun industry and immoral NRA. Despite a history of instability, Nikolas encountered no difficulty in purchasing an automatic rifle and sufficient ammunition for multiple murders. Let’s level the blame on Congress for decades of failure to pass legislation confronting the national proliferation of military-style weapons that are repeatedly used to kill the innocent, particularly our children.

    There are more guns than people in this country. A substantial number of these are designed for the sole purpose of killing people. It is time to not only confiscate all military-style weapons but to make their possession a serious felony.

    Tolerance Cuts Both Ways: Freedom for the Speech We Hate

    Those who created this country chose freedom. With all of its dangers. And do you know the riskiest part of that choice they made? They actually believed that we could be trusted to make up our own minds in the whirl of differing ideas. That we could be trusted to remain free, even when there were very, very seductive voices – taking advantage of our freedom of speech – who were trying to turn this country into the kind of place where the government could tell you what you can and cannot do.

    — Nat Hentoff, The Day They Came to Arrest the Book, 1983.

    Tolerance cuts both ways.

    This isn’t an easy pill to swallow, I know, but that’s the way free speech works, especially when it comes to tolerating speech that we hate.

    The most controversial issues of our day—gay rights, abortion, race, religion, sexuality, political correctness, police brutality, et al—have become battlegrounds for those who claim to believe in freedom of speech but only when it favors the views and positions they support.

    Free speech for me but not for thee” is how my good friend and free speech purist Nat Hentoff used to sum up this double standard.

    This haphazard approach to the First Amendment has so muddied the waters that even First Amendment scholars are finding it hard to navigate at times.

    It’s really not that hard.

    The First Amendment affirms the right of the people to speak freely, worship freely, peaceably assemble, petition the government for a redress of grievances, and have a free press.

    Nowhere in the First Amendment does it permit the government to limit speech in order to avoid causing offense, hurting someone’s feelings, safeguarding government secrets, protecting government officials, insulating judges from undue influence, discouraging bullying, penalizing hateful ideas and actions, eliminating terrorism, combating prejudice and intolerance, and the like.

    Unfortunately, in the war being waged between free speech purists who believe that free speech is an inalienable right and those who believe that free speech is a mere privilege to be granted only under certain conditions, the censors are winning.

    We have entered into an egotistical, insulated, narcissistic era in which free speech has become regulated speech: to be celebrated when it reflects the values of the majority and tolerated otherwise, unless it moves so far beyond our political, religious and socio-economic comfort zones as to be rendered dangerous and unacceptable.

    Indeed, President Trump—who has been accused of using his very public platform to belittle and mock his critics and enemies while attempting to muzzle those who might speak out against him—may be the perfect poster child for this age of intolerance.

    Even so, Trump is not to blame for America’s growing intolerance for free speech.

    The country started down that sorry road long ago.

    Protest laws, free speech zones, bubble zones, trespass zones, anti-bullying legislation, zero tolerance policies, hate crime laws and a host of other legalistic maladies dreamed up by politicians and prosecutors (and championed by those who want to suppress speech with which they might disagree) have conspired to corrode our core freedoms, purportedly for our own good.

    On paper—at least according to the U.S. Constitution—we are technically free to speak.

    In reality, however, we are only as free to speak as a government official—or corporate entities such as Facebook, Google or YouTube—may allow.

    Emboldened by phrases such as “hate crimes,” “bullying,” “extremism” and “microaggressions,” the nation has been whittling away at free speech, confining it to carefully constructed “free speech zones,” criminalizing it when it skates too close to challenging the status quo, shaming it when it butts up against politically correct ideals, and muzzling it when it appears dangerous.

    Free speech is no longer free.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has long been the referee in the tug-of-war over the nation’s tolerance for free speech and other expressive activities protected by the First Amendment. Yet the Supreme Court’s role as arbiter of justice in these disputes is undergoing a sea change. Except in cases where it has no vested interest, the Court has begun to advocate for the government’s outsized interests, ruling in favor of the government in matters of war, national security, commerce and speech.

    When asked to choose between the rule of law and government supremacy, the Supreme Court tends to side with the government.

    If we no longer have the right to tell a Census Worker to get off our property, if we no longer have the right to tell a police officer to get a search warrant before they dare to walk through our door, if we no longer have the right to stand in front of the Supreme Court wearing a protest sign or approach an elected representative to share our views, if we no longer have the right to voice our opinions in public—no matter how misogynistic, hateful, prejudiced, intolerant, misguided or politically incorrect they might be—then we do not have free speech.

    What we have instead is regulated, controlled speech, and that’s a whole other ballgame.

    Just as surveillance has been shown to “stifle and smother dissent, keeping a populace cowed by fear,” government censorship gives rise to self-censorship, breeds compliance, makes independent thought all but impossible, and ultimately foments a seething discontent that has no outlet but violence.

    The First Amendment is a steam valve. It allows people to speak their minds, air their grievances and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just world.

    When there is no steam valve—when there is no one to hear what the people have to say—frustration builds, anger grows and people become more volatile and desperate to force a conversation. By bottling up dissent, we have created a pressure cooker of stifled misery and discontent that is now bubbling over and fomenting even more hate, distrust and paranoia among portions of the populace.

    Silencing unpopular viewpoints with which the majority might disagree—whether it’s by shouting them down, censoring them, muzzling them, or criminalizing them—only empowers the controllers of the Deep State.

    Consider some of the kinds of speech being targeted for censorship or outright elimination.

    Offensive, politically incorrect and “unsafe” speech: Disguised as tolerance, civility and love, political correctness has resulted in the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite. Consequently, college campuses have become hotbeds of student-led censorship, trigger warnings, microaggressions, and “red light” speech policies targeting anything that might cause someone to feel uncomfortable, unsafe or offended.

    Bullying, intimidating speech: Warning that “school bullies become tomorrow’s hate crimes defendants,” the Justice Department has led the way in urging schools to curtail bullying, going so far as to classify “teasing” as a form of “bullying,” and “rude” or “hurtful” “text messages” as “cyberbullying.”

    Hateful speech: Hate speech—speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation—is the primary candidate for online censorship. Corporate internet giants Google, Twitter and Facebook are in the process of  determining what kinds of speech will be permitted online and what will be deleted.

    Dangerous, anti-government speech: As part of its ongoing war on “extremism,” the government partnered with the tech industry to establish a task force to counter online “propaganda” by terrorists hoping to recruit support or plan attacks (the program started under President Obama). In this way, anyone who criticizes the government online can be considered an extremist and will have their content reported to government agencies for further investigation or deleted.

    The upshot of all of this editing, parsing, banning and silencing is the emergence of a new language, what George Orwell referred to as Newspeak, which places the power to control language in the hands of the totalitarian state.

    Under such a system, language becomes a weapon to change the way people think by changing the words they use.

    The end result is control.

    In totalitarian regimes—a.k.a. police states—where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used.

    In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind lest they find themselves ostracized or placed under surveillance.

    Even when the motives behind this rigidly calibrated reorientation of societal language appear well-intentioned—discouraging racism, condemning violence, denouncing discrimination and hatred—inevitably, the end result is the same: intolerance, indoctrination and infantilism.

    It’s political correctness disguised as tolerance, civility and love, but what it really amounts to is the chilling of free speech and the demonizing of viewpoints that run counter to the cultural elite.

    The police state could not ask for a better citizenry than one that carries out its own censorship, spying and policing.

    This is how you turn a nation of free people into extensions of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent police state, and in the process turn a citizenry against each other.

    Indeed, the U.S. government has become particularly intolerant of speech that challenges the government’s power, reveals the government’s corruption, exposes the government’s lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices. Indeed, there is a long and growing list of the kinds of speech that the government considers dangerous enough to red flag and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation and prosecution: hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, extremist speech, etc.

    To emphasize: the powers-that-be understand that if the government can control speech, it controls thought and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry.

    In fact, some of this past century’s greatest dystopian authors warned of this very danger.

    In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, reading is banned and books are burned in order to suppress dissenting ideas, while televised entertainment is used to anesthetize the populace and render them easily pacified, distracted and controlled.

    In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, serious literature, scientific thinking and experimentation are banned as subversive, while critical thinking is discouraged through the use of conditioning, social taboos and inferior education. Likewise, expressions of individuality, independence and morality are viewed as vulgar and abnormal.

    In George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.”

    And in almost every episode of Twilight Zone, Rod Serling urged viewers to unlock their minds and free themselves of prejudice, hate, violence and fear. “We’re developing a new citizenry,” Serling declared. “One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

    The problem as I see it is that we’ve lost faith in the average citizen to do the right thing. We’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded that we need someone else to think and speak for us. And we’ve allowed ourselves to become so timid in the face of offensive words and ideas that we’ve bought into the idea that we need the government to shield us from that which is ugly or upsetting or mean.

    The result is a society in which we’ve stopped debating among ourselves, stopped thinking for ourselves, and stopped believing that we can fix our own problems and resolve our own differences.

    In short, we have reduced ourselves to a largely silent, passive, polarized populace incapable of working through our own problems and reliant on the government to protect us from our fears.

    In this way, we have become our worst enemy.

    As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once warned, a silent, inert citizenry is the greatest menace to freedom.

    Brandeis provided a well-reasoned argument against government censorship in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California (1927). It’s not a lengthy read, but here it is boiled down to ten basic truths:

    (1) The purpose of government is to make men free to develop their faculties, i.e., THINK;
    (2) The freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are essential to the discovery and spread of political truth;
    (3) Without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile;
    (4) The greatest menace to freedom is a silent people;
    (5) Public discussion is a political duty, and should be a fundamental principle of the American government;
    (6) Order cannot be secured through censorship;
    (7) Fear breeds repression; repression breeds hate; and hate menaces stable government;
    (8) The power of reason as applied through public discussion is always superior to silence coerced by law;
    9) Free speech and assembly were guaranteed in order to guard against the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities; and,
    (10) To justify suppression of free speech, there must be reasonable ground (a clear and present danger) to believe that the danger apprehended is imminent, and that the evil to be prevented is a serious one.

    Perhaps the most important point that Brandeis made is that freedom requires courage.

    “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards,” Brandeis wrote. “They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.” Rather, they were “courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government.”

    In other words, the founders did not fear the power of speech.

    Rather, they embraced it, knowing all too well that a nation without a hearty tolerance for free speech, no matter how provocative, insensitive or dangerous, will be easy prey for a police state where only government speech is allowed.

    What the police state wants is a nation of sheep that will docilely march in lockstep with its dictates. What early Americans envisioned was a nation of individualists who knew exactly when to tell the government to take a hike.

    “If the freedom of speech be taken away,” warned George Washington, “then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

    Either “we the people” believe in free speech or we don’t.

    Either we live in a constitutional republic or a police state.

    Never forget that we have rights.

    As Justice William O. Douglas advised in his dissent in Colten v. Kentucky, “we need not stay docile and quiet” in the face of authority.

    The Constitution does not require Americans to be servile or even civil to government officials. Neither does the Constitution require obedience (although it does insist on nonviolence).

    Then again, if we just cower before government agents and meekly obey, we may find ourselves following in the footsteps of those nations that eventually fell to tyranny.

    The alternative involves standing up and speaking truth to power.

    Jesus Christ walked that road. So did Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless other freedom fighters whose actions changed the course of history.

    Indeed, had Christ merely complied with the Roman police state, there would have been no crucifixion and no Christian religion.

    Had Gandhi meekly fallen in line with the British Empire’s dictates, the Indian people would never have won their independence.

    Had Martin Luther King Jr. obeyed the laws of his day, there would have been no civil rights movement.

    And if the founding fathers had marched in lockstep with royal decrees, there would have been no American Revolution.

    So where do we go from here?

    If Americans don’t learn how to get along—at the very least, agreeing to disagree and respecting each other’s right to subscribe to beliefs and opinions that may be offensive, hateful, intolerant or merely different—then we’re going to soon find that we have no rights whatsoever (to speak, assemble, agree, disagree, protest, opt in, opt out, or forge our own paths as individuals).

    The government will lock down the nation at the slightest provocation.

    It is ready, willing and able to impose martial law within 24 hours.

    Indeed, the government has been anticipating and preparing for civil unrest for years now, as evidenced by the build-up of guns and tanks and militarized police and military training drills and threat assessments and extremism reports and surveillance systems and private prisons and Pentagon training videos predicting the need to impose martial law by 2030.

    Trust me: when the police state cracks down, it will not discriminate.

    We’ll all be muzzled together.

    We’ll all be jailed together.

    We’ll all be viewed as a collective enemy to be catalogued, conquered and caged.

    Indeed, a recent survey concluded that a large bipartisan majority of the American public already recognizes the dangers posed by a government that is not only tracking its citizens but is also being controlled by a “Deep State” of unelected government officials.

    Thus, the last thing we need to do is play into the government’s hands by turning on one another, turning in one another, and giving the government’s standing army an excuse to take over.

    So let’s start with a little more patience, a lot more tolerance and a civics lesson on the First Amendment.

    What this means is opening the door to more speech not less, even if that speech is offensive to some.

    It’s time to start thinking for ourselves again.

    It’s time to start talking to each other, listening more and shouting less.

    Most of all, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s time to make the government hear us—see us—and heed us.

    This is the ultimate power of free speech.