Category Archives: Legal/Constitutional

Mile Markers of Tyranny

You can map the nearly 20-year journey from the 9/11 attacks to the COVID-19 pandemic by the freedoms we’ve lost along the way.

The road we have been traveling has been littered with the wreckage of our once-vaunted liberties, especially those enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.

The assaults on our freedoms that began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act laid the groundwork for the eradication of every vital constitutional safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse. The COVID-19 pandemic with its lockdowns, mask mandates, surveillance, snitch lines for Americans to report their fellow citizens for engaging in risky behavior, and veiled threats of forced vaccinations has merely provided the architects of the American police state with an opportunity to flex their muscles.

These have become mile markers on the road to tyranny.

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution, post-9/11 and in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault.

The Second Amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government, yet Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against government agents armed with military weapons better suited to the battlefield.

With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces, it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil—in violation of the Third Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise) and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.

The government conveniently manages to disregard the Fifth and the Sixth Amendments’ assurances of due process, a fair trial, and property rights in its so-called war on crime.

Not surprisingly, the government continues to attempt to undermine the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—under the Seventh Amendment.

The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment provides little protection from a government that condones torture tactics and the death penalty.

The Ninth Amendment’s affirmation of the people’s rights has been turned on its head by a federal government that sees itself and its powers as supreme.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite.

If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to the Deep State—the corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that has set itself beyond the reach of the law and is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country and calling the shots in Washington DC, no matter who sits in the White House.

This is a government that, in conjunction with its corporate partners, views the citizenry as consumers and bits of data to be bought, sold and traded.

This is a government that spies on its citizens.

This is a government that is laying the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data.

This is a government that uses free speech zones, roving bubble zones and trespass laws to silence, censor and marginalize Americans and restrict their First Amendment right to speak truth to power.

This is a government that allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely.

This is a government that saddled us with the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.

This is a government that has established a standing army made up of militarized domestic police.

This is a government that has allowed private corporations to get rich at taxpayer expense by locking people up in private prisons for non-violent crimes, while providing Corporate America with a source of cheap labor.

This is a government whose gun violence poses a greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass shooter.

This is a government that has allowed the presidency to become a dictatorship operating above and beyond the law, regardless of which party is in power.

This is a government that speaks in a language of force.

This is a government that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security, national crises and national emergencies.

This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation, the Constitution be damned.

In sum, this is a government that routinely undermines the Constitution and rides roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.

This is not a government that believes in, let alone upholds, freedom.

So where does that leave us?

As always, the first step begins with “we the people.”

Those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them. Our power as a citizenry comes from our ability to agree and stand united on certain freedom principles that should be non-negotiable.

It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” “We the people” have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.

Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, some argue that we need to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.

The post Mile Markers of Tyranny first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Great Election Fraud: Will Our Freedoms Survive Another Election?

Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.

― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism,  1951

And so it begins again, the never-ending, semi-delusional, train-wreck of an election cycle in which the American people allow themselves to get worked up into a frenzy over the misguided belief that the future of this nation—nay, our very lives—depends on who we elect as president.

For the next three months, Americans will be dope-fed billions of dollars’ worth of political propaganda aimed at keeping them glued to their television sets and persuading them that 1) their votes count and 2) electing the right candidate will fix everything that is wrong with this country.

Incredible, isn’t it, that in a country of more than 330 million people, we are given only two choices for president? How is it that in a country teeming with creative, intelligent, productive, responsible, moral people, our vote too often comes down to pulling the lever for the lesser of two evils?

The system is rigged, of course.

It is a heavily scripted, tightly choreographed, star-studded, ratings-driven, mass-marketed, costly exercise in how to sell a product—in this case, a presidential candidate—to dazzled consumers who will choose image over substance almost every time.

As author Noam Chomsky rightly observed, “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.”

In other words, we’re being sold a carefully crafted product by a monied elite who are masters in the art of making the public believe that they need exactly what is being sold to them, whether it’s the latest high-tech gadget, the hottest toy, or the most charismatic politician.

This year’s presidential election, much like every other election in recent years, is what historian Daniel Boorstin referred to as a “pseudo-event”: manufactured, contrived, confected and devoid of any intrinsic value save the value of being advertised.

After all, who wants to talk about police shootings, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, school-to-prison pipelines, overcriminalization, censorship or any of the other evils that plague our nation when you can tune into a reality show carefully calibrated to appeal to the public’s need for bread and circuses, diversion and entertainment, and pomp and circumstance.

But make no mistake: Americans only think they’re choosing the next president.

In truth, however, they’re engaging in the illusion of participation culminating in the reassurance ritual of voting. It’s just another Blue Pill, a manufactured reality conjured up by the matrix in order to keep the populace compliant and convinced that their vote counts and that they still have some influence over the political process.

It’s all an illusion.

The nation is drowning in debt, crippled by a slowing economy, overrun by militarized police, swarming with surveillance, besieged by endless wars and a military industrial complex intent on starting new ones, and riddled with corrupt politicians at every level of government.

All the while, we’re arguing over which corporate puppet will be given the honor of stealing our money, invading our privacy, abusing our trust, undermining our freedoms, and shackling us with debt and misery for years to come.

Nothing taking place on Election Day will alleviate the suffering of the American people.

Unless we do something more than vote, the government as we have come to know it—corrupt, bloated and controlled by big-money corporations, lobbyists and special interest groups—will remain unchanged. And “we the people”—overtaxed, overpoliced, overburdened by big government, underrepresented by those who should speak for us and blissfully ignorant of the prison walls closing in on us—will continue to trudge along a path of misery.

With roughly 22 lobbyists per Congressman, corporate greed will continue to call the shots in the nation’s capital, while our so-called representatives will grow richer and the people poorer. And elections will continue to be driven by war chests and corporate benefactors rather than such values as honesty, integrity and public service.

Just consider: while billions will be spent on the elections this year, not a dime of that money will actually help the average American in their day-to-day struggles to just get by.

Conveniently, politicians only seem to remember their constituents in the months leading up to an election, and yet “we the people” continue to take the abuse, the neglect, the corruption and the lies. We make excuses for the shoddy treatment, we cover up for them when they cheat on us, and we keep hoping that if we just stick with them long enough, eventually they’ll treat us right.

When a country spends billions of dollars to select what is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified homecoming king or queen to occupy the White House, while tens of millions of its people live in poverty, nearly 18 million Americans are out of work, and most of the country and its economy remain in a state of semi-lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions, that’s a country whose priorities are out of step with the needs of its people.

Then again, people get the government they deserve.

No matter who wins the presidential election come November, it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the American people if all we’re prepared to do is vote.

As political science professor Gene Sharp notes in starker terms, “Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones.”

To put it another way, the Establishment—the shadow government and its corporate partners that really run the show, pull the strings and dictate the policies, no matter who occupies the Oval Office—are not going to allow anyone to take office who will unravel their power structures. Those who have attempted to do so in the past have been effectively put out of commission.

So what is the solution to this blatant display of imperial elitism disguising itself as a populist exercise in representative government?

Stop playing the game. Stop supporting the system. Stop defending the insanity. Just stop.

Washington thrives on money, so stop giving them your money. Stop throwing your hard-earned dollars away on politicians and Super PACs who view you as nothing more than a means to an end. There are countless worthy grassroots organizations and nonprofits working in your community to address real needs like injustice, poverty, homelessness, etc. Support them and you’ll see change you really can believe in in your own backyard.

Politicians depend on votes, so stop giving them your vote unless they have a proven track record of listening to their constituents, abiding by their wishes and working hard to earn and keep their trust.

It’s comforting to believe that your vote matters, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right: “Presidents are selected, not elected.”

Despite what is taught in school and the propaganda that is peddled by the media, a presidential election is not a populist election for a representative. Rather, it’s a gathering of shareholders to select the next CEO, a fact reinforced by the nation’s archaic electoral college system. In other words, your vote doesn’t elect a president. Despite the fact that there are 218 million eligible voters in this country (only half of whom actually vote), it is the electoral college, made up of 538 individuals handpicked by the candidates’ respective parties, that actually selects the next president.

The only thing you’re accomplishing by taking part in the “reassurance ritual” of voting is sustaining the illusion that we have a democratic republic.

In actuality, we are suffering from what political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page more accurately term an “economic élite domination” in which the economic elite (lobbyists, corporations, monied special interest groups) dominate and dictate national policy.

No surprise there.

As an in-depth Princeton University study confirms, democracy has been replaced by oligarchy, a system of government in which elected officials represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average citizen.

We did it to ourselves.

We said nothing while our elections were turned into popularity contests populated by individuals better suited to be talk-show hosts rather than intelligent, reasoned debates on issues of domestic and foreign policy by individuals with solid experience, proven track records and tested integrity.

We turned our backs on things like wisdom, sound judgment, morality and truth, shrugging them off as old-fashioned, only to find ourselves saddled with lying politicians incapable of making fair and impartial decisions.

We let ourselves be persuaded that those yokels in Washington could do a better job of running this country than we could. It’s not a new problem. As former Senator Joseph S. Clark Jr. acknowledged in a 1955 article titled, “Wanted: Better Politicians”:

[W]e have too much mediocrity in the business of running the government of the country, and it troubles me that this should be so at a time of such complexity and crisis… Government by amateurs, semi-pros, and minor-leaguers will not meet the challenge of our times. We must realize that it takes great competence to run a country which, in spite of itself, has succeeded to world leadership in a time of deadly peril.

We indulged our craving for entertainment news at the expense of our need for balanced reporting by a news media committed to asking the hard questions of government officials. The result, as former congressman Jim Leach points out, leaves us at a grave disadvantage:

At a time when in-depth analysis of the issues of the day has never been more important, quality journalism has been jeopardized by financial considerations and undercut by purveyors of ideology who facilely design news, like clothes, to appeal to a market segment.

We bought into the fairytale that politicians are saviors, capable of fixing what’s wrong with our communities and our lives when, in fact, most politicians lead such sheltered lives that they have no clue about what their constituents must do to make ends meet. As political scientists Morris Fiorina and Samuel Abrams conclude:

In America today, there is a disconnect between an unrepresentative political class and the citizenry it purports to represent. The political process today not only is less representative than it was a generation ago and less supported by the citizenry, but the outcomes of that process are at a minimum no better.

We let ourselves be saddled with a two-party system and fooled into believing that there’s a difference between the Republicans and Democrats when, in fact, the two parties are exactly the same. As one commentator noted, both parties support endless war, engage in out-of-control spending, ignore the citizenry’s basic rights, have no respect for the rule of law, are bought and paid for by the corporate elite, care most about their own power, and have a long record of expanding government and shrinking liberty.

Then, when faced with the prospect of voting for the lesser of two evils, many simply compromise their principles and overlook the fact that the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Perhaps worst of all, we allowed the cynicism of our age and the cronyism and corruption of Washington, DC, to discourage us from believing that there was any hope for the American experiment in liberty.

Granted, it’s easy to become discouraged about the state of our nation. We’re drowning under the weight of too much debt, too many wars, too much power in the hands of a centralized government, too many militarized police, too many laws, too many lobbyists, and generally too much bad news.

It’s harder to believe that change is possible, that the system can be reformed, that politicians can be principled, that courts can be just, that good can overcome evil, and that freedom will prevail.

Yet I truly believe that change is possible, that the system can be reformed, that politicians can be principled, that courts can be just, that good can overcome evil, and that freedom can prevail but it will take each and every one of us committed to doing the hard work of citizenship that extends beyond the act of voting.

A healthy, representative government is hard work. It takes a citizenry that is informed about the issues, educated about how the government operates, and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stay involved.

Most of all, it takes a citizenry willing to do more than grouse and complain.

The powers-that-be want us to believe that our job as citizens begins and ends on Election Day. They want us to believe that we have no right to complain about the state of the nation unless we’ve cast our vote one way or the other. They want us to remain divided over politics, hostile to those with whom we disagree politically, and intolerant of anyone or anything whose solutions to what ails this country differ from our own.

What they don’t want us doing is presenting a united front in order to reject the pathetic excuse for government that is being fobbed off on us.

So where does that leave us?

We’d better stop hanging our hopes on a political savior to rescue us from the clutches of an imperial president.

It’s possible that the next president might be better, but then again, he or she could be far worse.

Remember, presidential elections merely serve to maintain the status quo. Once elected president, that person becomes part of the dictatorial continuum that is the American imperial presidency today.

If we are to return to a constitutional presidency, “we the people” must recalibrate the balance of power.

The first step is to start locally—in your own communities, in your schools, at your city council meetings, in newspaper editorials, at protests—by pushing back against laws that are unjust, police departments that overreach, politicians that don’t listen to their constituents, and a system of government that grows more tyrannical by the day.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only thing that will save us now is a concerted, collective commitment to the Constitution’s principles of limited government, a system of checks and balances, and a recognition that they—the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the police, the technocrats and plutocrats and bureaucrats—answer to and are accountable to “we the people.”

This will mean that Americans will have to stop letting their personal politics and party allegiances blind them to government misconduct and power grabs. It will mean holding all three branches of government accountable to the Constitution (i.e., vote them out of office if they abuse their powers). And it will mean calling on Congress to put an end to the use of presidential executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements as a means of getting around Congress and the courts.

As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. concludes:

I would argue that what the country needs today is a little serious disrespect for the office of the presidency; a refusal to give any more weight to a President’s words than the intelligence of the utterance, if spoken by anyone else, would command… If the nation wants to work its way back to a constitutional presidency, there is only one way to begin. That is by showing Presidents that, when their closest associates place themselves above the law and the Constitution, such transgressions will be not forgiven or forgotten for the sake of the presidency but exposed and punished for the sake of the presidency.

In other words, we’ve got to stop treating the president like a god and start making both the office of the president and the occupant play by the rules of the Constitution.

Popular Movements Can Overcome Authoritarian Policing

Portland protests say Go Home Feds as protests grow (by Noah Berger, AP)

Today is the 60th day of protests since the murder of George Floyd. This weekend, people marched in cities across the country in solidarity with Portland and in opposition to the US becoming a police state.

President Trump sending troops to cities added fuel to the nationwide uprising against racist police violence. Protests have grown not only in Portland but in Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Omaha, Austin, Oakland, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC, among other cities.

Trump is not a ‘law and order’ president, he is a chaos and disorder president. He is mistaken to think that increasing conflict in cities throughout the country will save his failing 2020 campaign. Just as his hyped attack on Central American caravans backfired before the 2018 mid-term elections, this escalation is also backfiring as people are mobilized to stand against Trump’s authoritarianism.

While Trump’s actions are the focus of current protests, Portland demonstrates there is a long history of police violence that preceded Trump. Mayors have allowed police violence and Joe Biden, when he was Chair of the Judiciary Committee, authored legislation that led to over-policing and encouraged police militarization. While Trump sending in militarized troops to cities needs to be opposed, police violence is bigger than Trump.

Federal troop pushes a mother back during a demonstration against the presence of Trump’s federal enforcement (Reuters)

Trump Sends In Federal Troops, Escalates Violence

While federal officers protect federal buildings across the country that is not what Trump is doing. He is using the excuse of protecting federal buildings as cover for sending in federal troops to dominate cities.

On June 1, President Trump made his plan clear, warning governors that if they did not get control of the cities, he would send in troops. He told governors “You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time.”

June 1 was also the day that National Guard troops in Washington, DC fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets into non-violent protesters in Lafayette Park across from the White House so Trump could walk across the park for a widely denigrated photo-op holding a bible in front of St. John’s church. Trump said last week that he sent personnel to Portland because “the locals couldn’t handle it.”

The presence of federal troops in Portland and being sent to other cities is based on an executive order signed on June 26 to protect “Federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property.” Homeland Security director, Chad Wolf, created a task force made up of Border Patrol, Coast Guard, U.S. Marshals, and other agencies. Three different operations have been announced: Wolf’s “Protecting Americans Communities Task Force”; the Department of Justice’s crime-fighting “Operation Legend” announced on July 8; and “Operation Diligent Valor,” which includes the Portland police mission.

Legal analysts and commentators are debating whether the actions of federal troops in Portland are legal. The government argues they are merely protecting buildings and when they go blocks away they are investigating who damaged buildings. The Oregonian questions that writing, “Even if the federal agencies have legitimate license to defend the courthouse, ‘The real question is: Is it being used as a pretext?’”

It is evident from federal troop actions in Portland that this generalized federal policing is beyond federal authority.

Reports and videos of unidentified Border Patrol agents in camouflage grabbing people off the street, stuffing them into unmarked vehicles, and driving off are unconstitutional, illegal actions.

Oregon officials including the governor and Portland mayor have asked Homeland Security to keep its troops off of Portland’s streets but Chad Wolf has refused. Oregon’s senators have also opposed Trump sending paramilitary squads to Portland.

Some, including the District Attorney of Philadelphia Larry Krassner, say federal troops should be prosecuted when they violate the law. The Oregonian reported that Steven Wax, a former Federal Public Defender, called on Oregon’s US attorney and the Multnomah County district attorney to convene grand juries with subpoena powers to investigate alleged criminal acts by federal officers. Potential charges could include kidnapping, assault, and racketeering conspiracy, he said. The district attorney and attorney general are conducting a criminal investigation focused on the injury of a protester, 26 year old Donovan La Bella, on July 11 who was shot in the head with an impact munition near the federal courthouse and subsequently needed surgery.

Oregon’s attorney general, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, state legislators, and others have filed at least four lawsuits against federal agencies. US District Judge Michael H. Simon issued a 14-day order barring federal officers from targeting journalists or legal observers and said in court that he was disturbed by several images of federal officers using force against non-aggressive demonstrators. He noted the July  18 baton-beating of 53-year-old Navy veteran Chris David who tried to talk with federal officers outside the courthouse and the injury of La Bella.

As our guest on Clearing The FOG, constitutional lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard makes the point that courts need to protect the rights of all people to protest and not make journalists and legal observers a separate category with greater rights than others.

The Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) carries weaponry of the sort usually used in Afghanistan or Iraq (John Rudoff)

Paramilitaries Instead of the Military

We describe these federal agents as “troops” because that is what they are. President Trump threatened to use the Insurrection Act to deploy armed services to states but people in the military and legal scholars opposed him. Instead, Trump has sent militarized troops from civilian agencies into the cities.

The Department of Homeland Security sent Border Patrol Tactical Units (BORTAC) from Customs to Portland. BORTAC is an elite paramilitary unit that includes snipers and other highly trained troops who often operate outside of the US and are based along the Mexican border.  These “Specialized Response Teams” wear the US Army’s camouflage and use military gear. BORTAC units have been deployed to war environments, including Iraq and Afghanistan. While not a violation of Posse Comitatus, which forbids the use of the military in domestic law enforcement, they subvert the intent of the Act.

An internal Homeland Security memo found the federal troops were not trained in riot control or mass demonstrations. It also stated this kind of federal action was “going to be the norm” so training was needed. Trump has promised to send troops to “Democrat” cities in an election year spectacle.

In addition to on-the-ground troops, the US is using the US Air Force ‘Cougar’ surveillance plane over Portland.  The Intercept reports the flight data shows tight, circular surveillance flights over Portland. Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Government Secrecy Project, asks “What is their mission? Under what authority are they operating, and who authorized them?”

Trump is using police as a prop in the 2020 election with Portland as a campaign stage. The campaign seeks to win votes in the suburbs, which he won by 4 percent in 2016 but is now losing by double digits. Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $983 million in 2020, more than the $878 million spent in his entire 2016 campaign. Despite this spending, he is behind Biden by landslide margins in all of the battleground states. He fired his campaign manager and is obviously getting desperate.

Trump is mimicking the ‘law and order’ campaign of Richard Nixon but this is a different era when police violence and racism are on video for all to see. Protests after police murdered George Floyd took place in cities of all sizes and in many suburbs. A national consensus is developing that racist police violence exists and it must end. Images of militarized police shooting and tear-gassing unarmed protesters is likely to backfire against Trump.

Portland protester enveloped in tear gas waves US flag (Nathan Howard for Getty Images)

Police Violence is Bigger Than Trump

Before the federal troops arrived, Portland police were using extreme violence and chemical weapons against protesters. The Portland Police Bureau already had a temporary restraining order for its violation of protesters’ free speech rights and another for arresting journalists and legal observers. Another court ruling largely prohibited local police from using tear gas, but that has not stopped federal troops from doing so. When Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as the police commissioner, came to the courthouse protests people jeered him and signs called him ‘Tear Gas Ted.’ Wheeler was teargassed himself by the federal troops.

The Intercept describes how the Portland Police Association has dominated elected officials for decades. In meetings with the mayor, one police union president would put his gun on the table. The union contract protects racist cops making it hard to fire those who’ve used deadly force. When the new contract was being considered in 2016, people protested at City Hall and the police rioted forcing protesters outside where police in riot gear then surrounded the building as city officials approved their union contract.

The NY Times reports that of the 35 cities in the United States with populations larger than 500,000, Portland is the whitest with 71 percent of residents categorized as non-Latino whites and only 6% are Black. This stems from the state being founded as a state for white people. A 19th-century law called for whipping any Black person found in the state. In the early part of the 20th century, Oregon’s Legislature was dominated by members of the Ku Klux Klan. As the destination of Lewis and Clark, Oregon symbolized the conquest of the American West and the subjugation of Native peoples.

Police violence in Portland is disproportionately against Black people including being stopped by police and targeted with the use of force. Slate reports, “When the police chief banned chokeholds in 1985 after officers killed a Black man with the hold, officers made T-shirts that said, ‘Don’t Choke ’Em. Smoke ’Em.’ In 2012, the Justice Department reported that the PPB had an unconstitutional ‘pattern or practice’ of using excessive force against people with mental illnesses.”  The Portland police have also been sympathetic to right-wing, white supremacist organizations when they demonstrated in the city.

With this history of white domination, some would think racist policing would not be a political issue but the evidence of racist police brutality has struck a chord not only in Portland but across the country. Portland has had a strong protest movement over inequality, neoliberalism, wars, and more. The police have a long history of using violence against protests resulting in court settlements for victims. Now, opposition to racism, capitalism, and fascism has led to a unified movement.

The Wall of Moms, followed by a Wall of Dads, combating tear gas with leaf blowers, has been joined by a wall of veterans. Veterans are challenging the federal troops, telling them they are following illegal orders. Other affinity groups forming “walls” include grandparents, chefs and lawyers. People have made shields and are wearing helmets and gas masks to protect themselves against federal violence. Some are using hockey sticks to hit tear gas containers back toward federal troops.

Most local officials have opposed Trump’s threats to send troops to their cities and have threatened litigation. Lori Lightfoot, a neoliberal Democratic mayor, initially opposed federal troops coming to Chicago but, after a phone call with Trump and a promise that troops would work under the control of the US Attorney with a very limited role, she changed her mind. Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, has faced protests at her home for this.

Alliances with federal police can be problematic. Separate from the current controversy, Albuquerque, Atlanta, St. Paul, San Francisco, and Portland all pulled out of federal-local task forces because federal agents have violated local rules regarding racial profilinguse-of-force policies, and requirements to wear body cameras.

While Trump is putting himself at the center of current police violence, the reality is police violence is bigger than Trump. The system-wide challenges with policing are deeply entrenched. Police defend the status quo including racial injustice and class inequality. Whenever political movements develop to respond to racial and class unfairness, the police have undermined their politically-protected constitutional rights. Now that the conflict has heightened, it is time for the people to resolve it.

Retired US Army major intelligence officer Jenine Betschart (center) protests outside the Multnomah County Justice Center along with the ‘Wall of Moms’ as night fell on the city (Daily Mail)

People Can Protect the Right to Protest and Limit Police Powers

Militarized police violence is the wars abroad coming home. Strategic tactics like the Wall of Moms and veterans in broad opposition to militarized federal police demonstrate how movements can stop Trump’s authoritarianism, limit the actions of police and protect the right to protest.

At the beginning of this century, mass protests in Washington, DC against corporate trade agreements led to violent responses by DC and federal police. Litigation by the Partnership for Civil Justice followed. The result was large monetary awards to protesters but also agreements between the parties that put in place “best practices” to protect the right to protest in Washington, DC. Now both local police and federal police are bound by these agreements.

We interview Mara Verhayden-Hilliard on this week’s Clearing the FOG Radio (available Monday night) about whether the current protests could also lead to the protection of our rights. The overreach of President Trump and the violent reaction of local police is an opportunity for change. To succeed requires smart litigation that protects all protest, not a hierarchy protecting media or legal observers, and the litigation must act in synergy with the people.

People cannot give up the streets but must oppose violent police with strategic tactics that continue to pull people to support the movement and oppose police violence. Our goal is to transform the concept of public safety to mean programs that meet people’s basic needs and build a national consensus for policing that is defundeddemilitarized and democratically controlled. Already the movement has changed the opinions of people in the US.  We must build on that success, and continue the pressure for change no matter who is elected president.

Privacy, Auricular Confession and Computer Viruses

The original business with personal secrets

The unilateral declaration of independence adopted by the slave traders and slaveholders in congress assembled, otherwise known as the American Declaration of Independence, is one of the most successful psychological warfare instruments of modern history. Alone it did not win the fight of the colonial elite against its cousins in Great Britain. However, once the British regime was forced to cut its losses after the defeat at Yorktown, this propaganda document became the source of the most powerful delusion since the inception of Christendom based on the myth of an obscure crucifixion.

This instrument, for white supremacy the equivalent of the ten commandments attributed to Moses, has formed the basis of the religion in whose thrall millions of people for whom Christianity is perhaps meaningless or trivial have been held for over a century. That is not much time seen from the entirety of human history. However, given its global proliferation, penetrating areas where even Christianity could not win, it is remarkable to say the least. The brilliance with which an ideal whose fulfillment has been denied to more than the majority of the world’s population is still preserved is an expression of the insidiousness of the system of white supremacy. As James Baldwin told Cambridge students in 1964, he was raised “rooting for the cowboys” in American Western films — until he realised that he was, in fact, one of the “Indians”.

Most of the world consists of “Indians” — it is “Indian Country” as the US Cavalry called it whether in Dakota, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.

We find that we are being told to root for those whose entire social model is based on our subjugation or, if need be, extermination. Since we all learned to be “cowboys” we think that those who rule us are the Cavalry who will save us from the “Indians” — if we follow their orders and stay in the wagon train, wear our masks, keep our distance — and keep our mouths shut, only to prevent the dispersion of particulate infectious material, of course.

Let us be clear about one thing. The US Empire cannot collapse as long as its citizens at home are willing to travel throughout the world terrorising other countries. However, this capacity is rapidly being exhausted. Hence the cannon fodder at home is superfluous. At the same time if everyone is policing herself or himself for fear of infection or some other invisible fate, then there simply is less need to have troops around terrorising the world. Instead the terror can be performed more compactly with pharmaceutical teams operating in geographically quarantined territories, isolated by the collapse of international transport — except for the select.

As I have written in the past the actions implemented by the coordinated intelligence and policing forces worldwide aim at retraining masses of people to live with less work, less money and less social contact (such contact subject to constant surveillance — aka “tracing”). This is simply policing and population control without any health advantage whatsoever. Of course, there are various opinions — like other exit points on the human body — as to whether masks, gloves, and distance restrain disease proliferation. Yet this plurality of opinions is deliberately maintained because the more opinions in circulation the less chance that common sense will prevail. This is also a factor in deniability. People waste their time trying to decide which priest to believe, while their jobs disappear and their homes are confiscated.

But to come to the point, the principal objection raised to many of the incipient measures — contact tracing, health monitoring or the Gates ID2020 concept in its various forms — is that it would intrude on the privacy of individuals. However, there is no privacy in the West. Rather there is a religious belief in privacy (the individual equivalent of secrecy). Where does this belief originate? Western privacy is a reaction but actually a compliment to the Roman Catholic practice of auricular confession. The confessional defined the “private” as the scope of potential deviance from conformity to the Catholic universal doctrine which was defined as “sin” or “heresy”. Sin could be forgiven by confession to a priest. Heresy could only be punished — it was left to god to deal with the heretic once he was executed by the secular arm.

Privacy is really only the general privilege of the ruling class to conceal its wealth, methods of theft and murder, evade taxes, and prevent you from knowing how and why you can work yourself to death and still not own your home or the food on your plate. It immediately disappears — privacy that is — once you make a claim on the regime. To get a pittance for your family as an unemployed person you have to confess everything. The owners of the world can print four trillion dollars a day and no one has to answer a single question.

The “virus” is the contemporary manifestation of “sin”. We are all sinful and therefore the ridiculous number of infections reported. Many will die — that is the purpose of “sin” to rationalise the murder of our fellow human beings by priests/doctors/soldiers/police. Not to believe in the “virus” is heresy. You wondered why, since you linked your first PC to the internet, you are constantly plagued by viruses. Did it ever occur to you that the company that made the software also owns the viruses? You could dismiss this “planned obsolescence”; e.g., the fact that there are no more original spare parts for your three year old computer or car, by claiming that a new product was “progress”, another step on the stairway to heaven.

But now the producer of the most virus-laden software in the world tells you on TV that you will never be free of the virus his friends developed that can kill your grandmother or your child with cancer (from some other industrial poison).

And you are happy now. If you were a white man, you might have been created equal. If not, well, tough luck. You have a secret, not for long. If you aren’t infected yet, just check your computer…

Are We Up Against the Wall Yet, Alma Mater?

If all values are system values, what do we make of trending lawsuits filed by students against their college campuses? Is it something like the demand of an air traveler who gets downgraded from first class to coach? The analogy seems to have merit. At least it reminds us of flying.

Campuses have about five categories of bills they send to students: tuition, student activity fees, parking, meal plans, and housing. Tuition goes to the academic budget. Student activity fees go into the infrastructure of extracurricular life, student organizations, counseling, libraries, health services, etc. In public debate, the term tuition often collapses all five categories into one.

On the more obvious side, meal plans and housing should be refunded if students are ordered to leave campus. But this means that funding for food service workers and housekeeping staff suddenly goes to zero. Bundled with any refund of this type–however obvious–will be a question of layoffs.

Parking also seems like an obvious refundable claim. But again, parking services are self-funded through fees, and any refund is going to delete money that was budgeted for payroll.

Student activity fees get complicated, but the general theme is applicable. Wherever a campus is collecting fees, they are funding staff workers, and wherever fees are refunded, budgets for salaries begin to disappear.

Activity fees are complicated, because many services remain open to students, particularly counseling and emergency services, even if staff are working at a distance.

Which brings us to the difficult question of tuition itself, the money paid for academic, um, tuition. Students are correct to argue that online education is not the full experience of in-person education. For some fields of study, the difference can be a wide one. Drama, fine art, chemistry lab, etc., involve experiences that may be impossible to simulate online.

Students complain on the internet that moving their math classes online was especially difficult, which is an interesting thing to think about. Here we see the value of real-time personal attention to student questions and posture. The teacher can see everyone slumping down and make adjustments on the spot. Eye contact, unmediated by Zoom, is a wonderful teaching tool, and we can thank the pandemic for the crash course in the embodiment of it all. Teaching math is a deeply embodied transaction. Is that why my high school math teachers were coaches, too?

Literature was also mentioned by students on the internet. They missed the spontaneous discussion of the assigned materials, even if they were perfectly suitable for online delivery. Stanley Fish once asked, “is there a text in this class?” It all sounded so postmodern at the time, but here comes the pandemic, and we more plainly see how the text may be a kind of occasion for higher education, but never the education itself. There is a good reason why we continued to hold classes for several centuries, long after the printing press made it possible for everyone to read the books on their own.

As students were abruptly shifted from classroom to laptop, the feel of shock was widely confirmed. It was like being downgraded from first class.

However, we should not let the structure of our rant obscure the value of online education for those who need it most. Think of the soldier overseas, the working mother of three, or the 19-year-old who already has classes on campus plus a job as night clerk at your local hotel. Or perhaps the unemployed worker who wants an educational upgrade right away. Students such as these have competing pressures to consider, and online education is their preferred vehicle.

Two questions are important to ask about the difference between online and in-person instruction. Is there any difference in delivery cost? Did your online literature class leave your professor behind when it moved from class to laptop? Did the academic sector of campus find itself doing less work? Were teachers fired on the spot so that online classes could be lumped together into even more mind-numbing aggregations of distance packages? If the cost of delivering semester credits remained the same, how is it fair to demand refunds of tuition–when tuition is defined as the academic portion of the bill?

The second question is, what choice did the schools have? There are several related questions: If the pandemic made the move to online education necessary, and if online instruction involved the same payroll, and if other students were receiving online instruction by choice prior to the pandemic, just how much money do we think the school should pay back? Should the schools have simply refunded tuition to all classroom enrolled students and stopped trying to help them complete their semester credits?

And if schools have to re-budget their credit-delivery tuition to a lower amount, how do you expect them to make up the difference? Larger class sizes? Fewer instructors? Surely you are not expecting across-the-board cuts to administrative salaries? Do you really think that’s how things work?

At any rate, I think students will likely benefit from the recent right-wing shift in our national courts. There was already a culture war on liberal sentiment, the liberal arts, and liberal education prior to the pandemic. Lawsuits that demand refunds for the academic emergency seem to play into a picture of colleges as elite liberal leeches who probably deserve a whipping of some kind.

Recalling our thesis of system values, the student lawsuits also represent a dialectical moment when higher education in America is viewed increasingly as the student’s problem to finance. The state has been shaving its share of commitment for many decades now–at least since Reaganomics–transforming a system of public finance into a system of student debt, a.k.a neoliberalismo. In this social moment, student lawsuits are social expressions of pushback against this system of values, where Alma Mater, or nurturing mother, is dragged into court for a sad family feud.

Meanwhile, all the student energy directed against local campus administrations has had the effect of deflecting pressure from the national stage just as several trillions of dollars have been allocated for COVID-19 relief. And according to the usual calendar of campus politics, the game is over. Once finals are done and grades are in for the Spring, college student activism usually goes into hibernation for at least several months.

We have seen no evidence that widespread student discontent was ever effectively delivered to the doors of Congress in the form of an appeal for direct federal relief. This may be a failure of media coverage or research on our part. Instead, we have seen Congress allocate modest relief funds for college students and campuses. In an election year, Congress would, in theory, be most susceptible to students organized to advocate and vote. But the pressure was never brought to bear at the Congressional level, where the real money is.

Forbes reporter Adam S. Minsky, Esq., reports that progressive Democrats wanted to award $30,000 in student loan relief across the board. As the final package of the HEROES Act was being negotiated prior to the House vote of May 15, the dollar amount of student loan relief was cut to $10,000, and the scope of relief was restricted to borrowers who demonstrated some defined forms of hardship.

There is money in the House-passed HEROES Act that can flow to public campuses, but the amounts are less than what organized higher ed interests groups had asked for. And this is another sign that the higher education community was unable to mount much of an organized voice at the national level during March, April, or May, preoccupied as they were with the day-to-day work of getting semester credits completed, slashing budgets for the next academic year, and generally contemplating the lifeboat ethics of who gets shoved off.

Meanwhile, back in the nation’s capital, the majority leader of the Senate and the President of the United States both promise that none of this modest HEROES money, in support of the public sector or higher ed, is going to see the light of day. If students are able to claw back funds through lawsuits, and if the HEROES Act dies in the Senate, the legacy of 2020 will be what?

The American tragedy here is that Mencius was correct. The personality of the ruler flows down through the kingdom. We have become a flock of bickering grackles. Above us, we fail to notice if that sky remains devoid of any farsighted, graceful eagle. If all values are system values, what system will we reach for after final grades are in?

Police State Uses Crises to Expand Its Lockdown Powers

You can always count on the government to take advantage of a crisis, legitimate or manufactured.

This coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

Not only are the federal and state governments unraveling the constitutional fabric of the nation with lockdown mandates that are sending the economy into a tailspin and wreaking havoc with our liberties, but they are also rendering the citizenry fully dependent on the government for financial handouts, medical intervention, protection and sustenance.

Unless we find some way to rein in the government’s power grabs, the fall-out will be epic.

Everything I have warned about for years—government overreach, invasive surveillance, martial law, abuse of powers, militarized police, weaponized technology used to track and control the citizenry, and so on—has coalesced into this present moment.

The government’s shameless exploitation of past national emergencies for its own nefarious purposes pales in comparison to what is presently unfolding.

It’s downright Machiavellian.

Deploying the same strategy it used with 9/11 to acquire greater powers under the USA Patriot Act, the police state—a.k.a. the shadow government, a.k.a. the Deep State—has been anticipating this moment for years, quietly assembling a wish list of lockdown powers that could be trotted out and approved at a moment’s notice.

It should surprise no one, then, that the Trump Administration has asked Congress to allow it to suspend parts of the Constitution whenever it deems it necessary during this coronavirus pandemic and “other” emergencies.

It’s that “other” emergencies part that should particularly give you pause, if not spur you to immediate action (by action, I mean a loud and vocal, apolitical, nonpartisan outcry and sustained, apolitical, nonpartisan resistance).

In fact, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been quietly trotting out and testing a long laundry list of terrifying powers that override the Constitution.

We’re talking about lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level): the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, “stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease,” reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die…

You’re getting the picture now, right?

These are powers the police state would desperately like to make permanent.

Bear in mind, however, that these powers the Trump Administration, acting on orders from the police state, are officially asking Congress to recognize and authorize barely scratch the surface of the far-reaching powers the government has already unilaterally claimed for itself.

Unofficially, the police state has been riding roughshod over the rule of law for years now without any pretense of being reined in or restricted in its power grabs by Congress, the courts or the citizenry.

The seeds of this present madness were sown several decades ago when George W. Bush stealthily issued two presidential directives that granted the president the power to unilaterally declare a national emergency, which is loosely defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”

Comprising the country’s Continuity of Government (COG) plan, these directives, which do not need congressional approval, provide a skeletal outline of the actions the president will take in the event of a “national emergency.”

Mind you, that national emergency can take any form, can be manipulated for any purpose and can be used to justify any end goal—all on the say so of the president. Indeed, the U.S. military has reportedly already been given standby orders under COG for this present coronavirus pandemic.

So what is the bottom line here?

We are, for all intents and purposes, one crisis away from having a full-fledged authoritarian state emerge from the shadows, at which time democratic government will be dissolved and the country will be ruled by an unelected bureaucracy.

Thus far, we have at least pretended that the government abides by the Constitution.

The attempts by each successive presidential administration to rule by fiat merely plays into the hands of those who would distort the government’s system of checks and balances and its constitutional separation of powers beyond all recognition.

Remember, these powers do not expire at the end of a president’s term. They remain on the books, just waiting to be used or abused by the next political demagogue.

So, too, every action taken by Trump and his predecessors to weaken the system of checks and balances, sidestep the rule of law, and expand the power of the executive branch of government has made us that much more vulnerable to those who would abuse those powers in the future.

Think on this: the presidential election is right around the corner.

Suddenly, the improbable possibility of any incumbent president attempting to extend the police state’s stranglehold on power by using current events to justify postponing or doing away with an election—forfeiting the people’s rights to govern altogether—and establishing a totalitarian regime seems less far-fetched than it did even a few years ago.

The emergency state is now out in the open for all to see. Unfortunately, “we the people” refuse to see what’s before us. Most Americans, fearful and easily controlled, would sooner rouse themselves to fight for that last roll of toilet paper than they would their own freedoms.

This is how freedom dies.

We erect our own prison walls, and as our rights dwindle away, we forge our own chains of servitude to the police state.

Be warned, however: once you surrender your freedoms to the government—no matter how compelling the reason might be for doing so—you can never get them back.

If we continue down this road, there can be no surprise about what awaits us at the end.

The America metamorphosing before our eyes is almost unrecognizable from the country I grew up in, and that’s not just tragic—it’s downright terrifying.

Democracy – Not!!

As I listened to some Trump Administration crony recently drone on about “American democracy” I recalled with sarcastic irony President Obama in Cuba lecturing Raul Castro on democracy. At the same time Republican officials in the State of Arizona and several other states were working to block as much citizen access to the voting booth as possible. There is nothing new here. When it comes to promoting “democracy” around the world the United States Government has a pretty dreadful record. Our role in assisting the overthrow of elected governments is on-going. Be it Iran in 1953 to Honduras under Obama and Clinton. As usual not a whisper from the corporate media. As pointed out by political theorists “media” is simply the propaganda vehicle for the dominant ideology.

The democratic republic established by our constitution in 1789 muddles along as a shadow of what it aspired to be. We are not a democracy. We have become an oligarchy (i.e., rule by the rich). Many Americans blame “Citizens United”, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing bribery in our political system. The court has blessed a corrupt system making a mockery of democracy and gave the green light to the rich to buy politicians at every level of government. In a real democracy money does not count as freedom of speech.

Take a look at how we “elect” the President of the United States. We know from the 2000 election the people don’t elect the president. Something called the “electoral college” does — using the total number of Representatives and Senators from each state and at times the perverted legal logic of the U.S. Supreme Court! Clinton received three million more votes than Trump in 2016 but Trump is “elected” under a system designed to give slave holders more power when the constitution was ratified in 1789.

How about Congress? For starters take the United States Senate. Consider Wyoming has fewer than a million people while California has nearly 40 million. Both states have two Senators – would anyone in their right mind call that equal representation or democracy? I think not! Additionally California has one of the ten largest economies in the world while Wyoming ranks down there with the third world.

Twenty-five million more citizens voted for Democratic Senate candidates in the last election yet the Republicans have more U.S. Senators and legislative control. Thanks to Senate rules and the filibuster Senators coming from states making up only 27 percent of the total population of the country can kill any legislation. And do the math on how low population state U.S. Senators effect the electoral vote. One hundred of those votes for president are totally unrepresentative of the people. This is how it works out when low population states vote one way and a majority of the population goes another. California senators represent people and Wyoming – cattle! How does a majority prevail in such an undemocratic system? The answer is that it doesn’t and it is getting worse by the day.

Consider the House of “Representatives” — so called! Thanks to Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts in 2010, millions more Americans voted for Democratic candidates as their congress person only to have the Republicans take control of the House! Now good old Democratic Party incompetence can be blamed for some of this problem. The National Democratic Party was asleep at the switch in 2011 when the Republicans redrew districts guaranteeing their candidate would win. Take the State of Pennsylvania – Congressional Democratic candidates won over 100,000 more votes than Republican candidates statewide but fewer than one-third of the congressional seats.

And this was repeated all over the country. The Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2018 only because they increased their popular vote by almost 10 percent over the Republicans and they need to do better in 2020 to keep the House and retake the Senate. Trump and Republicans don’t care about majority voting. That is why they put all their effort into their right-wing base in the states that gave them a minority victory in 2016.

Take a moment to review our “democracy”, shall we? A congress that does not even begin to represent a majority of the people; a campaign “contribution” system that operates on bribery; a media owned by a half dozen corporations only concerned with profits and a professional military (opposed by the founding fathers) has replaced a citizen army. We have more people in prison than any other western country — we torture suspects. Election laws are written so only two parties have a chance at being elected. The constitutional right of the working class to join a union (First Amendment Freedom of Association and industrial democracy) is gone.

I am not a Journalist

I did not complete a journalism degree at university. I do not work for a professional news outlet, whether electronic, acoustic or print in format. I have always understood myself as a curious person, interested in public affairs or what ought to be public, and with a desire and some ability to write both to my friends and to the public at large.

However, I have written and edited periodical publications. I attended workshops and seminars designated as journalism courses. I was briefly recorded as a journalism major at my university. But I do not hesitate to say that was because there was a vacant student senate seat in that college and I was interested in election to the student senate. I wrote for the college paper, co-edited the high school paper and even recorded radio broadcasts on school and educational policy. All of that is ancient history, which in journalism’s terms means it happened yesterday or the day before yesterday.

Since at an early age I considered the possibility of the law as a profession — one I did not follow. = I also took an interest in the development of case law pertaining to what in Anglo-Saxon context is called “freedom of the press”. Freedom of the Press is often thought together as complementary to freedom of speech. However, they are distinct. The case law establishing the “freedom of the Press” actually emerged and can only be understood in the context of the Press as a commercial enterprise, as property and the use of such property, to print for profit material or immaterial. In the US and subsequently in the minds of those who imagine that the specific conditions of the US constitute universals this freedom emerged from libel litigation, specifically the inherited doctrines of British law pertaining to criminal/ seditious libel against the sovereign and his or her officers.

US law underwent a significant divergence from the still draconian British libel law by holding that it was the burden of the plaintiff to show that he was libelled by the utterance of false or defamatory statements. Under British law it was and is generally held that the defendant had the burden of proving that the utterances were true and/ or not defamatory. Hence there was a presumption against the defendant, especially in offenses like seditious libel or libel against the sovereign (lese majeste). By reversing the burden of proof, the principle was established that even an erroneous report could not be held libellous without showing additionally intent or malice in propagation of the utterance. This led to the doctrine that freedom of the Press was to be protected from the so-called “chilling effect” that government actions at libel would have on free and open debate of public policy.

This did not prevent the introduction and enforcement of laws like the Alien and Sedition Acts against opposition press in the early years of US independence. What all good students of journalism, US history and law learn is that the landmark decision ending the potential for actions alleging seditious libel or libel against the sovereign was New York Times v. Sullivan. In this case the US Supreme Court denied relief to a government officer who had sued the newspaper for libel of his person. The decision is understood as requiring a higher standard of proof by a government officer to prevail in a libel action pertaining to his acts or functions as a public official. That higher standard permitted even a falsehood, inaccuracy, or lie to be published which would satisfy the criteria for libel in an ordinary civil action — if the plaintiff could not prove that the false or defamatory utterance was not published with full knowledge of its libelous character and/ or reckless disregard for the libelous character of the utterance. In short, a published utterance about — or pertaining to — a government official could not be made subject of a personal action at libel in lieu of an inadmissible action such as seditious libel or libel against the sovereign. This became the foundation of at least a theoretical freedom of the Press in the US far beyond what British or Continental European law permitted.

However, it is essential when interpreting the scope of any “freedom” in the US to see it in the context of who was vested with that freedom. Just as another notorious US Supreme Court ruling, the so-called Dred Scott decision, enshrined for decades (if not, in fact, to this day) the principle that “a black man possesses no rights which a white man is bound to respect”. The jurisprudence of the US includes elements which are striking in the scope of freedom it ostensibly upholds until viewed, including the legal subjects entitled to assert or enforce such freedom. There, despite the eventual removal of property bars in matters like suffrage, the overwhelming majority of legal freedoms acknowledged by the US courts are vested in those who hold property. In fact, a corporation under US law enjoys legal personality and “human rights” because it is a holder of property.

The development of the freedom of the Press in the US was the development of the doctrine that private property was vested with rights and immunities, even if such rights, privileges and immunities could only be exercised by owners of such property, directly or through agents. At the same time persons without property retained theoretical liberties but these could only be effectively enforced when property was sufficient. Corporations, for instance, have a legal right to immortality; something natural persons cannot exercise — even as a claim against capital punishment in the US.

The freedom of the Press about which so much has been said and written is not so simple or straightforward as, especially its Left/ liberal advocates, would have us believe (or believe themselves). Just as the freedom of the Press evolved as a property right, the extension of that right or its privileges to professional journalists derives essentially from the delegation of duties by masters to their servants. It is not an original right. Even US jurisprudence is very ambivalent as to the scope to which a journalist enjoys “professional privilege” — equivalent to that recognised for lawyers, physicians and accountants. There is, for instance, a great legal confusion among those who assert that the persecution of Mr Julian Assange is a violation of the freedom of the press.

While it may be desirable to assert and have such a freedom, there is no consistent jurisprudence upon which to base such a claim in the case of Mr Assange or for that matter even one of his staunchest public defenders, the respected journalist and filmmaker Mr John Pilger, also of Australia. Professional privilege is exactly that, a privilege and not a right. The notion of professional privilege derives from the idea that an individual has certain rights that he or she can exercise through specialised agents who thereby become protected by the rights of the principal. A lawyer cannot be compelled to testify against his client since his very function is to act for or as an extension of his client. If the client has the right to remain silent, then his legal counsel is privileged to remain silent on his behalf. The same applies to physicians analogously. An agent, however, cannot have more privileges than the underlying rights of his principal. A journalist to the extent he is an agent or servant of a publisher enjoys the privileges necessary for his principal to exercise his rights through his servant. The question is then whether in any given case the privilege claimed could be traced to the master-servant condition or whether it is a personal act by the agent/ servant in his or her own capacity as natural person.

The State’s case against Mr Assange, seen from this viewpoint, is to deny that he enjoys professional privilege since his alleged acts constitute those which would not be protected for the principal — were it a property holder/ corporate citizen and also are not protected as free speech. This free speech principle is far more important to the case and it is therefore very curious that it is not the focus of defence by Mr Assange’s supporters. Perhaps this argument is not asserted because there is, in fact, no freedom of speech that can be defended here — within the Anglo-American legal environment. Mr Assange cannot claim he is a US citizen publishing freely information of legitimate interest to his fellow citizens. He is an Australian and at best he could claim to expose Australian information to his fellow Australians. Perhaps I have missed something, but I believe that acts by a foreigner exposing or publishing information from a foreign state, however obtained, is not privileged in any country. It is closely linked to the crime of espionage. In fact, that is the charge levied against Mr Assange.

In the preface to his book The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of the American Political Intelligence System (1980), Frank Donner makes a very strong criticism against the civil liberties approach to political conflict in the US. He says outright that the courts are inappropriate and ineffective means to resolve political conflicts. The fact that conflicts arise which individually must be fought through the courts should not be confused with the underlying political issues which courts cannot and will not resolve.

The gravest problem with the defence of Mr Assange is that the political conflict upon which it is ultimately based cannot be reduced to a judicial question. It cannot be won as a judicial question also because the doctrines asserted in his defence, no matter how desirable, simply do not constitute the law. It is therefore a testimony — and a painful one — that the political forces are not strong enough or sufficiently concentrated to articulate the real conflicts; e.g., the evil of US Empire and its acts either directly or through NATO or its other vassals and agents. This is the kind of information, which released through Mr Assange’s efforts, which presents the material evidence against the mythology sustaining support for the US regime in much of the world. However, this information itself cannot crystallise the conflicts — i.e., give shape to strong parties able to contest the power of the US. The US regime knows this and therefore can make the light if absurd assertion that the only way such information could be directed against the US is in the interest of another power; e.g., Russia. A personal conflict with the US cannot be recognised by the State, except in criminal or civil law, not as political conflict since Mr Assange is not a State, nor is he a US citizen.

Still if there is any meaning to the notion of world citizenship as the subject claiming such rights as to peace or sustenance or human rights under the UN Charter, then it must be clear that Mr Assange is exercising rights that are, in fact, universal human rights under the Charter. Perhaps the best of these is the inherent right to self-defence and against the international crime of aggression. From these comes the general jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity, which permit anyone to complain and file charges. However, as yet an enforceable universal freedom of speech and press, especially given that the legal principles from which such freedom might be derived are inevitably Anglo-American, is far from being recognized, let alone deemed justiciable.

Therefore to claim Mr Assange’s defence on the basis of journalistic privilege is both obfuscating and self-serving for the profession at best. It is a weak substitute for facing the political conflict that his work has illuminated and moderately catalysed but not yet organized. It is also an implicit submission to judicial remedies for questions that cannot be decided on the basis of the principles asserted — principles that are not internationally recognised nor even consistently enforced in the US itself, let alone UK courts.

This is not intended to detract from the legitimate and strenuous efforts to spare Mr Assange from being sent to hell, aka the US gulag, where even the acknowledged victims of US political justice have been rotting with no hope of parole or pardon, never mind rehabilitation. Mr Assange was kidnapped — in public — yet kidnapped nonetheless in an action like those performed on Vietnamese when the US invaded Vietnam and established through the CIA the so-called Phoenix Program. There is no doubt he would have been assassinated if that had been possible without undue attention. His case is a theatrical case of the vicious system of extraordinary rendition legalised since adoption of the USA Patriot Act, and implemented with public and secret executive orders since then. Mr Julian Assange is the victim of the eternal “war on terror” which is being waged with all the viciousness of the Papal Inquisition founded by Gregory IX. It is no surprise given the biographies of so many of the responsible officers in the responsible US government agencies.

Mr Assange’s counsel and his supporters will have to use every means at their disposal to save him from the auto de fé that awaits him in the US. Whatever arguments and means lead to his release and safe recuperation can be justified in this state of war prevailing where every citizen of the world has an inherent right of self-defence. However, it is also a fact that this war involves us all and we are not yet fully aware of the casus bellum, of the real reason for this war and what is at stake. For this reason it is necessary to articulate Mr Assange’s conflict in comprehensible and comprehensive political terms and not just on the narrow basis of journalistic privilege and the freedoms of property-owning Press.

Mr Julian Assange deserves every protection of life and limb — not because he is a journalist, and his persecution would have a “chilling effect” on journalism. He deserves every protection of life and limb because he is a human being and a legal subject under the UN Charter with the right to peace, freedom from armed aggression and the right to self-defence against violations of the peace and his person by States, just as he would have that right against personal aggression by private persons. His work has been non-violent action to defend all those who are the targets and victims of the greatest war machine the world has ever known. Upon that rock not a church, but human liberty for real human beings should be built.

Assange Hearing Descends from Tragedy to Farce – George Galloway

Attorneys for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange are citing a 20-year-old extradition treaty between the US and UK at day four of the embattled journalist’s extradition hearing. The treaty prohibits extradition for political offenses. Former UK MP and friend of Julian Assange George Galloway discusses the implications.

By What Right Does Canada and Its Gendarmerie Invade Wet’suwet’en Territory?

Over 20 #Wetsuweten and supporter vehicles have amassed at 27km mark, effectively blockading the exit route to RCMP paddy-wagons leaving the territory. They’re holding a ceremony and ensuring the safety of those arrested.
Reports state Hereditary Cheifs at 27 KM are now being surrounded by RCMP.

In the nineteenth century, Gilbert Sproat, a colonial official, wrote an account of his time among the Nuu Chah Nulth people on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He noted that the original inhabitants have “known every inch of the west coast for thousands of years.”1

Despite this acknowledgment of long-term habitation, the mindset of settler-colonialists toward the Original Peoples was condescending. This comes across clearly in a conversation between Sproat and a Tseshaht chief:

Chief: “We see your ships, and hear things that makes our hearts grow faint. They say that more King-George-men will soon be here, and take our land, our firewood, our fishing grounds; that we shall be placed on a little spot, and shall have to do everything according to the fancies of the King-George-men.”

Sproat: “… [I]t is true that more King-George-men (as they call the English) are coming: they will soon be here. But your land will be bought at a fair price.”

Chief: “We do not wish to sell our land nor our water; let your friends stay in their own country.”

Sproat: “My great chief, the high chief of the King-George-men, seeing that you do not work your land, orders that you shall sell it. The land is of no use to you…. The white man will give you work and buy your fish and oil.”

Chief: “Ah, but we don’t care do to as the white men wish.”

Sproat: “Whether or not, … The white men will come. All your people know that they are your superiors…”

Chief: “We do not want the white man. He will steal what we have. We wish to live as we are.”2

Sproat was fine by the outcome. He and other settler-colonialists

often talked about our rights as strangers to take possession of the district [of Alberni]. The right of boná fide purchase we had, for I had bought the land from the Government, and had purchased it a second time from the natives. Nevertheless, as the Indians denied all knowledge of the colonial authorities at Victoria, and had sold the country to us, perhaps, under fear of loaded cannon pointed towards the village, it was evident that we had taken forceful possession of the district.3

In a paean to white supremacism,4 Kleecoot, a large lake on Vancouver Island,5 was renamed in Sproat’s honor.

This colonial past points to widespread racism and an egregious moral mindset of white ancestors. This belongs to the distant past. Or does it?

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

A 7 February email from the Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade headlines with: “RCMP Have raided the Gidemt’en Checkpoint with Helicopters, Snipers, Police Dogs, and Tactical teams.”

The invasion was carried out by heavily armed RCMP despite the Wet’suwet’en having made it clear that they are unarmed and peaceful.

They have also made it clear through the unanimity of the hereditary chiefs that they do not want a Coastal GasLink pipeline going through their unceded territory.

The state and corporate media in Canada do not delve into how it is that Indigenous peoples who have never relinquished their territory or their rights to the territory have, nonetheless, had their territory claimed by settler-colonialists.

If Martians landed on Earth and populated Turtle Island with Martian colonies, and if the Terran resistance succumbed to superior Martian weaponry and epidemics caused by Martian pathogens, would the unsurrendered territories now belong to Martians? What if the Martians had a Doctrine of Discovery that recognized Terrans as uncivilized savages?6 Morally? One would think not. Legally? Depends on whether Martian law now trumps Terran law.

Why then does the Canadian state and corporate media refer to BC court decisions as requiring the Wet’suwet’en to allow Coastal GasLink to lay a pipeline across their unceded territory? Why is Wet’suwet’en law not primary?

Is this what Canada means by reconciliation? Is this what prime minister Justin Trudeau meant when he said,

It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation. [emphasis added]

Resistance

Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade has issued a call for support: “While the actions of the RCMP have been grotesque and unconscionable the power on the frontlines and in the streets has been beautiful! Keep up the pressure!”


People are holding all three entrances to the Port of Vancouver for the third day in a row

  1. Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, The Nootka: Scenes and Studies of Savage Life (Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1987; originally published in 1868): xv.
  2. Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, 4-5.
  3. Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, 7.
  4. As evidenced by Sproat’s own words: “The mind of the savage then appears to rock to and fro out of mere weakness, and he tells lies and talks nonsense. I do not doubt, however, that in the course of time the mental powers of the Indian could be greatly improved by education. The chief difficulty is that the people would vanish from before the white man during the polishing process, as so many tribes of savages have done in other parts of the world.” (p 84-85)
    “In one part of his character the savage resembles the lowest members of civilized community — such as outcasts in large cities. But another part of his character, inherited through the long succession of moral degradation, unchecked by any surrounding counteracting influences, is unlike anything that can be witnessed even in the most brutalized individual in civilized community.” (p 103)
  5. George Vancouver, another imperialist who immodestly named the island after himself, although he magnanimously included the name of a fellow navigator, the Peruvian-Spaniard Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra.
  6. The United States Supreme Court has used the Doctrine of Discovery to support the superiority of white Europeans and their right to dispossess the Original Peoples and to slaughter them. In Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah, Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery (InterVarsity Press, 2019): 104-116. Review.