Archive for category Unconstitutional
This article was written by Pamella Geller and originally published at Freedom Outpost
Obama’s war on our fundamental rights is devastating. The enemedia performs like state-run media and covers for this incredible rout. It is shocking. And in all of these grotesque anti-American maneuvers, Obama and his thugs are always using Orwellian language. ‘Operation Vigilant Eagle’ criminalizes free speech and targets our nation’s best — our vets.
Veterans are being singled out and arrested and labelled as mentally sick for criticizing Obama. Obama created this to stop criticism of him and his administration.
Operation Vigilant Eagle: Is This Really How We Honor Our Nation’s Veterans?
OpEd News (thanks to Laura)
Despite the fact that the U.S. boasts more than 23 million veterans who have served in World War II through Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the plight of veterans today, while often overlooked, is common knowledge: impoverished, unemployed, lacking any decent health benefits, homeless, traumatized mentally and physically, struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, marital stress.
Making matters worse, thanks to Operation Vigilant Eagle, a program launched by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are also being characterized as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.” As a result, these servicemen and women–many of whom are decorated–are finding themselves under surveillance, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, or arrested, all for daring to voice their concerns about the alarming state of our union and the erosion of our freedoms.
“Jailed for Facebook comments, Marine sues” WND.com
‘Case exposes government system that is targeting military veterans’
It happens in China routinely. It frequently happened in the old Soviet Union. Undoubtedly in North Korea, although generally there’s no one around to witness it. But in the United States? It happens here, too, apparently.
A lawsuit has been filed by officials with the Rutherford Institute on behalf of a Marine who was jailed and held for the comments he made on Facebook – comments that expressed a dissatisfaction with the present direction of the U.S. government.
According to officials at Rutherford, the civil rights action names as defendants members of law enforcement and the government who were involved in last year’s episode where Marine veteran Brandon Raub, 27, was arrested by a swarm of FBI and Secret Service and forcibly detained in a psychiatric ward for a week.
His crime was posting controversial song lyrics and political views on Facebook, the institute reported.
In one of his postings, he cited the evil in the world.
“The United States was meant to lead the charge against injustice, but through our example not our force. People do not respond to having liberty and freedom forced on them,” he wrote.
He was released later when a judge stepped in and concluded the prosecution’s case against Raub was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”
The lawsuit asks for damages for Raub for the attack he endured. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., and claims Raub’s seizure and detention were part of a plan executed by the Obama administration called “Operation Vigilant Eagle.”
That, the institute explains, was a federal program to do surveillance on military veterans who express views critical of the government.
Institute attorneys claim the attempt to label Raub as “mentally ill” and authorities’ efforts to involuntarily commit him into custody was intended to silence his criticism of the government. However, they explain the strategy also violated Raub’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.
“Since coming to Raub’s defense, The Rutherford Institute has been contacted by military veterans across the country recounting similar incidents. In filing a civil suit against government officials, Rutherford Institute attorneys plan to take issue with the manner in which Virginia’s civil commitment statutes are being used to silence individuals engaged in lawfully exercising their free speech rights,” the organization said.
“Brandon Raub’s case exposed the seedy underbelly of a governmental system that is targeting military veterans for expressing their discontent over America’s rapid transition to a police state,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.
“Brandon Raub is not the first veteran to be targeted for speaking out against the government. Hopefully, by holding officials accountable, we can ensure that Brandon is the last to suffer in this way.”
It was last Aug, 16 when Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home and asked to talk with him about his Facebook posts.
“Like many Facebook users, Raub, a Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions. Without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will,” the Institute reported.
“In a hearing on Aug. 20, government officials pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the reason for his incarceration. While Raub stated that the Facebook posts were being read out of context, a Special Justice ordered Raub be held up to 30 more days for psychological evaluation and treatment.”
When Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett, however, found out about the case, he ordered it dismissed and Raub released, because there was no evidence of a case.
This article was written by Ron Paul and originally published at Lew Rockwell
In addition to shredding civil liberties, launching a utopian global war for democracy, and going on a spending spree that would make LBJ blush, the so-called “conservative” Bush administration dramatically increased federal control over education via the “No Child Left Behind” act. During my time in Congress I heard nothing but complaints about this law from teachers, administrators, and, most importantly, students and parents. Most of the complaints concerned No Child Left Behind’s testing requirements, which encouraged educators to “teach to the test.”
Sadly, but not surprisingly, instead of improving education by repealing No Child Left Behind’s testing and other mandates, the Obama administration is increasing national control over schools via the “Common Core” initiative. Common Core is a new curriculum developed by a panel of so-called education experts. The administration is trying to turn Common Core into a national curriculum by offering states increased federal education funding if they impose Common Core’s curriculum on their public schools. This is yet another example of the government using money stolen from the people to bribe states into obeying federal dictates.
Critics of Common Core say it “dumbs down” education by replacing traditional English literature with “informational texts”. So students will read such inspiring materials as studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the EPA’s “Recommended Levels of Insulation,” and “Invasive Plant Inventory” by California’s Invasive Plant Council. It is doubtful that reading federal reports will teach students the habits of critical thinking and skepticism of government that the Founders considered essential to maintaining a free republic.
Like Obamacare, Common Core (now dubbed “ObamaCore” by some) has sparked a backlash in the states, leading some to propose legislation forbidding state participation in the scheme. I hope these efforts lead to states not just opting out of Common Core, but out of No Child Left Behind and all other federal education programs as well.
Parents can also effectively “opt out” of programs like Common Core by seeking alternatives to government education. It is no coincidence that, as federal control over education increases, the quality of public education has declined and more parents have chosen to homeschool.
To support these parents, I have established my own homeschool curriculum. Unlike Common Core, we do not dumb down any of our offerings. Instead, the goal is to provide students with a rigorous education in history, math, English, foreign languages, and other core subjects necessary to a well-rounded education. Unlike the top-down model of nationalized education, the homeschool curriculum is deigned to encourage maximum input from parents and students. While the curriculum will reflect my belief, and interest, in Austrian economics, libertarian political theory, and the history of the struggle against state power, the curriculum is being carefully designed to not show bias toward any one religion. I hope all parents of any faith – or no religious belief at all – will feel comfortable using the curriculum.
I believe it is important for those of us concerned with education and liberty to fight our battles locally. We must oppose further encroachment on the autonomy of local public schools and work to roll-back existing interference, while encouraging and supporting the growth of homeschooling and other alternative education movements. The key to restoring quality education is to replace the bureaucratic control of education with a free-market in education. Parents should have the freedom to select the type of education that best suits their child’s unique needs.
In the war for the continued existence of our Nation’s Constitutional principles, I had long wondered whether statists were simply confounded by the Bill of Rights and ignorant of its function or whether they were maliciously inclined, knowing exactly what it means but seeking its destruction anyway. In recent years, I have decided it is a combination of both faults.
Statists are people who view every aspect of society through the lens of government power. If you want to know the primary difference between Constitutionalists and anti-Constitutionalists, you have to understand that some people in this world only want control over their own lives, while other people desperately clamor for control over other people’s lives. Why do they do this? Usually, it’s fear. Fear of the persistent unknowns in life. Fear that they do not have the intelligence or the will to take responsibility for their own futures. Fear that they will be forced to take care of themselves. Fear that their ideologies will be found lacking. Fear that if others are allowed freedom, they will one day indirectly suffer for it.
This fear makes statists easy to manipulate by the establishment and easy to use as a tool for the expansion of government dominance. Because statists are so weak-minded and fainthearted, they become very comfortable with the idea of other people making their decisions for them; and they will always attempt to answer every perceived problem with more government control.
When confronted with a proponent of liberty, the statist typically reels in horror. He has so invested himself in bureaucracy that he sees himself as a part of it. To attack the bureaucracy is to attack him. To deny the validity of the bureaucracy is to deny the validity of his existence. His very personality and ego are tied to the machine, so he will spit and rage against anyone who refuses to conform. This is why it is not uncommon at all to find a wild collection of logical fallacies within the tirades of the average statist. Statists act as though they are driven by reason; but in reality, they are driven by seething bias.
A perfect example of this insanity is the article “There Are No Absolute Rights,” published by The Daily Beast.
Let’s first be clear about the kind of rag we are dealing with. The Daily Beast was launched by Tina Brown, a former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker who was also a British citizen until 2005. I would say she’s a kind of female Piers Morgan. For anyone who might take that as a compliment, trust me; it isn’t. Brown and Morgan are European collectivists who immigrated to America just to tell us how our Constitutionally conservative heritage of independence is outdated; meanwhile, the EU is in the shambles of failed socialism. We used to drive such people into the ocean, and now they breathe our oxygen while telling us what is politically “fashionable.”
In 2010, The Daily Beast merged with Newsweek, a magazine notorious for its statist crush on the Federal government (and now out of print). To say that The Daily Beast is a socialist platform and a mouthpiece for the Administration of President Barack Obama is an understatement, but I would point out that the website also tends to agree with politicians and judges on the right that also promote a “living document” interpretation of the Constitution. Whether right or left, if you believe that the Bill of Rights is up for constant interpretation and revision or outright destruction, then you are the bee’s knees in the eyes of The Beast.
The article focuses on gun rights and how silly conservatives foolishly cling to the idea that some lines in the sand should never be crossed in terms of personal freedom. In a rather mediocre and rambling analysis, The Beast uses two primary arguments to qualify this stance, essentially asserting that:
1) Compromises have already been made to the Bill of Rights; therefore, nothing is sacred.
2) Even some Republicans agree with compromises to the Bill of Rights when it comes to other Amendments, so why are we being so childish about “reinterpreting” the 2nd Amendment?
First, the revisionist methodology of the Bill of Rights consistently ignores the history of its writing. The colonists and Founding Fathers of our Nation, having successfully triumphed in a bloody revolution against what many then considered the most advanced elitist military empire on Earth, had absolutely no trust whatsoever in the concept of centralized government. Many of the colonials were anti-Federalists who believed that an overly powerful central government was a threat to future liberty. They felt that an immovable and unchangeable legal shield had to be created in order to ensure that a tyrannical system never prevailed again.
Thomas Jefferson said:
“[A] bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse.”
This statement includes modern governments as well. Technological advancement does not change the rules surrounding timeless inherent moral principles, as much as statists would like to argue otherwise.
The colonials demanded the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution as a prerequisite for the establishment of the Federal government. This means that the Federal government owes its entire existence to a very strict agreement made on the Bill of Rights. By extension, if the Bill of Rights is politically diluted or denied, then the legitimacy of the Federal government must also be denied, for it has violated the very charter that gave it life.
The writer of the article, Michael Tomasky, lists numerous transgressions against our Constitutional protections; but he does not do so in the spirit of activism. Rather, he lists them as examples of how “compromise” on our freedoms is necessary (or somehow inevitable) in the name of the collective good. He claims Republicans are perfectly willing to sacrifice certain liberties, like freedom of speech, privacy or even Miranda rights, in the name of political expediency.
I wholeheartedly agree that our civil liberties have been whittled away by the establishment. I also agree that many so-called Republicans have betrayed the founding values of our culture and even voted to diminish or destroy the 2nd Amendment. But let’s think hard about the faulty logic behind Tomansky’s position. Do two wrongs or hundreds of wrongs really make a right? Tomansky is saying that because we have failed as a society to fully protect our freedoms and because our government has been successful in criminally neglecting them, we should simply give in and relinquish all freedom.
He would respond to this accusation by claiming that he is not calling for the relinquishment of all liberties, only the liberties he thinks are dangerous to society. The problem is, that is not how the Constitution was designed. Amendments can be made, yes. But amendments contrary to the Bill of Rights are not Constitutional as per the original agreement made after the revolution. The Bill of Rights was meant to be sacrosanct, untouchable — period. No Federal law, no State law and no Amendment can be enforced that violates those protections. The Bill of Rights was not created as a rule book for what the people can do; it was created as a rule book for what government cannot do. Once you remove hard fast restrictions like the Bill of Rights from the picture, you give the government license to make its own rules. That is how tyranny is born.
As far as Republican attacks on the Constitution are concerned, Tomasky has obviously never heard of the false left/right paradigm. He finds solace in the totalitarian actions of neocons because neocons are not conservative; they are statists, just like him. Ultimately, there is no right or left. Only freedom and decentralization, or slavery and collectivism. There are those who revel in control, and those who rebel against control. The rest of the debate is nonsense and distraction.
Tomsky opines: “Imagine what conservatives would think of a group of liberals who insisted, while threatening an insurrection, on a pure and absolute interpretation of the Fourth or Sixth Amendment–and imagine how ridiculous they would look to average Americans.”
Actually, any true conservative would be standing right beside those liberals, as many of us in the liberty movement have done in the past in activism against the transgressions of fake conservatives like George W. Bush or Mitt Romney, with his dismal anti-Constitution voting record. Frankly, who cares what “average Americans” think about our battle for what is right? Does Tomasky base all of his personal convictions on what happens to be popular at the moment? I think so.
What statists also don’t seem to comprehend is that there is a factor in the fight over Constitutional law that goes far beyond the Constitution itself.
The Constitution, as a document, is not what we as Americans and human beings obtain our rights from. The Constitution is only a written representation of the inborn freedoms derived from natural law and inherent conscience. We are born with a sense of liberty and that includes a right to self-defense from any enemy, foreign or domestic. No amount of political gaming, twisted rationalizations or intellectual idiocy is ever going to change these pre-existing rights.
Tomasky insists that: “[T]he idea that any right is unrestricted is totally at odds with history, the law, and reality.”
He uses the tired argument that some restrictions on personal liberty, including restrictions on gun rights, are “reasonable” given the circumstances of the times. And, it only follows that he and other statists should be the ones to decide what is reasonable.
I disagree, along with millions of other Americans; and believe me, this is a serious problem for statists. If Tomasky and The Daily Beast want to impose their collective worldview on the rest of us and dismantle our individual freedoms guaranteed in natural law and the Bill of Rights, then I’m afraid they’ll have to fight us for them. In the end, legal precedence is irrelevant. Political precedence is irrelevant. Political party is irrelevant. Historical precedence is irrelevant. The theater of words is irrelevant. Statists need to understand that there is no alternative. There is no “silver bullet” argument that will make us forget what is fundamentally true. There is no juxtaposition of logic that will muddle our resolve or confuse our principles. Some rights are indeed absolute; and we will not yield them, ever. The statist “reality” is a far cry from what actually is; and soon, I’m afraid, they will learn this lesson the hard way.
…Two of the most vocal critics were law enforcement, Sheriff Dean Wilson of Del Norte County and Sheriff John D’Agostini of El Dorado County. Both sheriffs slammed the measures, claiming that they’d be utterly ineffective at reducing violent crime or preventing future mass shootings.
“These types of actions that we’re recommending today do nothing to take action against the things we’re trying to fight,” Wilson told the committee. “You are making criminals out of decent citizens, hard-working people. As sheriff, these are laws that I will not enforce, will never enforce.”
Sheriff D’Agostini doubled down on Wilson’s remarks.
“It’s going to do absolutely nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, to curb violent crime with firearms,” said Sheriff D’Agostini.
The fact that California law enforcement is at odds with the senate Democrats on gun control actually mirrors a nationwide trend. In other states that have enacted tougher gun laws in recent months – Colorado and New York – police unions have openly stated their frustration and unease with the new legislation.
Aside from the sheriffs, Rob Young, a school-shooting survivor from the 1989 mass shooting at Stockton that left five people dead also argued that the proposals would only hurt law-abiding gun owners.
“Criminals do not play by the rules,” said Young. “They can care less about restrictions, assault weapons bans or current gun laws.”…
This comes from the folks at The Daily Sheeple. Just another way to deprive us of guns and to control us. – Shorty Dawkins, Associate Editor
by Eric Peters
It took “conservative” Republicans to trot out mandatory and market-based health insurance in the same mouthful. Don’t ever forget to thank them for this.
Well, it’s time for the next step: Mandatory gun insurance – also “market based” and “incentivized,” of course.
Here it comes, directly from one of the insurance Mafia’s chief consiglieres, Robert Hartwig. He is president of something called the Insurance Information Institute – which is an outfit funded by the insurance Mafia for the purpose of spewing propaganda favorable to the insurance Mafia and to wheedle for more laws that extort fresh “customers” for the insurance Mafia:
Mandatory gun insurance, he says, would “. . . (cover) individuals whose person or property was in some way injured or damaged as a result of the use of a firearm.”
What Hartwig avoids mentioning is the guns that will be pointed at gun owners who decline to be “covered.”
But why would anyone decline such a valuable “service”?
Perhaps so that they can afford to keep the gun. Or even buy one in the first place.
And here we come to the true object of this enterprise: To make the legal ownership of guns progressively more expensive, so that within a period of years, very few people except the affluent elites (and eventually, perhaps not even they) will be able to legally own guns. No registration – or confiscation (as such) will be needed. The public – most of it – will be disarmed via being priced out of the “market” using “incentives” provided by the insurance Mafia.
Or they will be criminalized – by the government – for not having bought the required insurance. Exactly as has been done already to car owners who fail to purchase the required insurance. And will soon be done to people who fail to purchase the required health insurance.
It’s quite brilliant, really.
The Mafia would “reward” gun owners who own fewer guns – and levy surcharges upon those who own “too many” guns – or guns deemed “too powerful” or “excessive,” such as those of a certain caliber, or which have magazines that hold “too many” bullets. Conceal carry? Higher risk – you pay more.
It will work in exactly in the same way that the insurance Mafia has made owning powerful cars and motorcycles – especially more than one – financially untenable for most average people. Gun owners who do not keep their guns stored unloaded and /or locked up – and therefore, largely useless for home defense – will be surcharged into penury. And just as the insurance Mafia is already pushing hard for in-car monitors for drivers, so also will the insurance Mafia push for random checks or in-home monitoring for gun owners – to “make sure” the guns are “kept safe.” Either accept these terms and conditions – or give up your guns.
Or, become an outlaw – subject to potentially years in prison if they ever find out you failed to comply.
Every gun owner will be strongly “incentivized” to become a good little Clover – to do as he is told.
And most will.
Special Note:Eric Holder once stated that gun owners should be treated like smokers, and though he was talking about “shaming” our culture into compliance with the socialist agenda, it would seem some lawmakers are taking a different route. Like smokers, the idea is to TAX gun enthusiasts into oblivion, making the possession of only a couple firearms difficult, let alone an entire collection. Can a Constitutional Right be taxed? Apparently, some gun grabbers think so. And as they say, the power to tax is the power to destroy…
Brandon Smith, Associate Editor
If you can’t ban ‘em, tax ‘em.
Lawmakers looking to more tightly regulate firearms in the wake of the Newtown school shooting and other massacres are moving at the state and federal levels to introduce new taxes on firearms and ammunition.
The proposals range from the modest — a proposed 5 percent tax in New Jersey — to the steep — a proposed 50 percent ammo tax in Maryland. The bills follow efforts to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and expand background checks, measures that have had mixed success at the state level.
The taxes — much like so-called “sin taxes,” like those on cigarettes — serve a dual purpose. They can deter buyers, while using the extra revenue for favored programs. In this case, the sponsors want to direct the money toward mental health services, police training and victims’ treatment.
But firearms groups say a “sin tax” on firearms wrongly punishes law-abiding gun owners.
“If anything, gun owners ought to be getting a tax rebate for helping reduce crime,” said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
He said the purpose of the taxes is to “frustrate and limit the exercise of the Second Amendment.” While noting some of the revenue from these taxes and fees would go to victims’ services, Keane said those paying the tax are mostly not those responsible for gun crime.
“We’re obviously extremely opposed to try to tax the lawful exercise of the Second Amendment rights by law-abiding Americans,” he told FoxNews.com.
Firearms manufacturers already pay a federal tax, which goes toward wildlife conservation. A tax on sales would make firearms costlier.
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Stewart Rhodes, Chuck Shea, and John Oetken will be gathering with the Oath Keepers in the area to formalize a Northern California Chapter. Please get the word out and spread this information and share the picture.
We will also be fundraising for the Oath Keeper Billboards to put up near Beale AFB California.
Editor’s note: This was originally found in 2008. The link is no longer functional.
“Continuity of Government” – A Threat to the Constitution
by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul
The COGC Proposal
The “Continuity of Government Commission” (COGC), spearheaded by the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, recently issued proposals for the operation of Congress following a catastrophic terrorist attack. Specifically, COGC advocates a constitutional amendment calling for the appointment of individuals to the House of Representatives to fill the seats of dead or incapacitated members, a first in American history. An examination of the proposal reveals that it is both unnecessary and dangerous.
Note that COGC is “self-commissioned,” its members being neither elected nor appointed by any government body. The biographies of the commissioners demonstrate that COGC is made up mostly of professional lobbyists. Of course COGC is well-intentioned, but the nation should know exactly who is trying to substitute their wisdom for that of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and other framers of the Constitution. I think most Americans would prefer that proposals to amend the Constitution come from elected lawmakers or grassroots efforts, not from think tanks and lobbyists.
One reading the COGC proposal cannot help but sense the familiar Washington conceit at work, a conceit that sees America as totally dependent on the workings of Capitol Hill. It is simply unthinkable to many in Washington that the American people might survive a period in which Congress did not pass any new laws. But the truth is that the federal state is not America. The American people have always been remarkably resilient in the face of emergencies, and individual states are far more equipped to deal with emergencies and fill congressional vacancies than COGC imagines.
COGC is Unnecessary
Every generation seems to labor under the delusion that it lives in the most dangerous and turbulent time in human history. COGC certainly proves this point. Its proposal provides doomsday scenarios designed to make us believe that the threat of modern terrorism poses a much greater risk to our government institutions than ever existed in the past. Yet is Congress really more vulnerable than it was at the height of the Cold War, when a single Soviet missile could have destroyed Washington? Surely Congress faced greater danger in 1814, when the British army actually invaded Washington, routed the city, and burned down the White House! Somehow the republic survived those much more perilous times without a constitutional amendment calling for the emergency appointment of Representatives.
The scenarios offered by the commission, while theoretically possible, are highly unlikely to disable Congress. Remember, a majority of members assemble together in one place only rarely; even during votes most members are not on the floor together at the same time Inauguration ceremonies and State of the Union addresses often bring together a majority of members in the same place, but simple precautions could be taken to keep a sufficient number away from such events. Even a direct terrorist attack on the Pentagon failed to disrupt the operation of the Department of Defense. The COGC proposal exaggerates the likelihood that a terrorist strike on Washington would incapacitate the House of Representatives, and exaggeration is a bad reason to amend the Constitution.
Existing Constitutional Provisions are Adequate
It is important to understand that the Constitution already provides the framework for Congress to function after a catastrophic event. Article I section 2 grants the governors of the various states authority to hold special elections to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives. Article I section 4 gives Congress the authority to designate the time, manner, and place of such special elections if states should fail to act expeditiously following a national emergency. As Hamilton explains in Federalist 59, the “time, place, and manner” clause was specifically designed to address the kind of extraordinary circumstances imagined by COGC. Hamilton characterized authority over federal elections as shared between the states and Congress, with neither being able to control the process entirely.
COGC posits that states could not hold special elections quickly enough after a terrorist act to guarantee the functioning of Congress. But even COGC reports that the average length of House vacancies, following the death of a member until the swearing in of a successor after a special election, is only 126 days. Certainly this period could be shortened given the urgency created by a terrorist attack. We should not amend the Constitution simply to avoid having a reduced congressional body for a month or two.
In fact, Congress often goes months without passing significant legislation, and takes long breaks in August and December. If anything, legislation passed in the aftermath of a terrorist event is likely to be based on emotion, not reason. The terrible Patriot Act, passed only one month after September 11th by a credulous Congress, is evidence of this.
Also, advances in technology can be used to reduce the risk of a disruption in congressional continuity following an emergency. Members already carry Blackberry devices to maintain communications even if cut off from their offices. Similar technology can be used to allow remote electronic voting by members. Congress should focus on contingency plans that utilize technology, not a constitutional amendment.
States have a wide variety of electronic and telephonic technology at their disposal to speed up the process of special elections. Consider that popular television shows hold votes that poll millions of Americans in a single night! Yet COGC ignores alternatives to standard voting and incorrectly assumes that states will be in disarray and unable to hold elections for months.
COGC is Dangerous because the House Must Be Elected
At its heart, the COGC proposal is fundamentally at odds with the right of the people always to elect their members of the House of Representatives. The House must be elected. Even “temporary” appointees would be unacceptable, because the laws passed would be permanent.
The problems with appointment of “representatives” are obvious. COGC calls for a general constitutional amendment that gives Congress wide power to make rules for filling vacancies “in the event that a substantial number of members are killed or incapacitated.” Such an amendment would be unavoidably vague, open to broad interpretation and abuse. In defining terms like “vacancy,” “substantial,” and “incapacitated,” Congress or the courts would be setting a dangerous precedent for a more elastic constitutional framework. Members of Congress simply cannot appoint their colleagues; the conflict of interest is glaring.
Alternate proposals allowing state governors to appoint representatives from a list of successors nominated by members are no better. The House of Representatives represents the people, not the states. Single states often exhibit wide variations in political makeup even among voters of the same party. Appointment by governors, even though the successors represent the dead member’s party choice, could change the ideological composition of Congress contrary to the will of the people. Furthermore, voters choose an individual candidate, not a panel. They should not be required to consider the qualifications of a candidate’s potential successors.
COGC focuses on government legitimacy, arguing that a House of Representatives with only a handful of surviving members would not be seen as legitimate by the public. In fact the opposite is true: appointed “representatives” will never be seen as legitimate and in fact would not be legitimate. Without exception, every member of the House of Representatives has been elected by voters in the member’s district. Madison states in Federalist 52 that “The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government.” The very legitimacy of the House of Representatives is based on its constitutional status as the most directly accountable federal body.
The House passes numerous laws, often by voice vote, with very few members present. The legitimacy of those laws is not called into question. Even a House made up of only five elected members would have more legitimacy, as the living continuation of the only elected entity in government, than a House composed of five surviving members and 430 appointees. Furthermore, even a decimated House membership would have to pass legislation with the concurrence of the Senate, which could be restored to full strength immediately by state governors.
Consider a scenario COGC forgot to mention. Imagine a terrorist strike kills a majority of members of the House of Representatives. 200 members survive, and 235 are appointed by state governors on a “temporary basis.” This new body considers a bill that drastically increases taxes to pay for emergency measures, while suspending civil liberties and imposing martial law. The bill passes, with 195 elected members opposed and all 235 appointed members in favor. Only 5 elected members support the measure. Would the electorate consider this legislation legitimate? Hardly. Yet this is the type of outcome we must expect under the COGC proposal.
To quote Professor Charles Rice, a distinguished Professor Emeritus at Notre Dame Law School: “When it is not necessary to amend the Constitution, it is necessary not to amend the Constitution.” We must not allow the understandable fears and passions engendered by the events of September 11th to compel a rushed and grievous injury to our system of government. The Constitution is our best ally in times of relative crisis; it is precisely during such times we should hold to it most dearly. Rather than amending the Constitution, Congress should be meeting to discuss how to preserve our existing institutions- including an elected House- in the event of a terrorist attack. The Constitution already provides us with the framework, while technology gives states the ability organize elections quickly. The COGC proposal not only makes a mountain out of a molehill, but also acutely threatens the delicate balance of federal power established in the Constitution.
This article was written by Gregory Patin and originally published at Examiner.com
The U.S. government has spent up to $1.4 billion of taxpayer money since 2003 to create “threat fusion centers” under the guise of fighting terrorism. Yet a two-yearbipartisan report recently released by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found that these “fusion centers,” operating under the control of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in efforts to engage national, state and local intelligence, have not yielded any useful information to support federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts.
Most people who rely on print and TV news probably have never heard of fusion centers. There are as many as 72 of these facilities. 50 state-based and 22 urban centers were set up during the Bush presidency in cooperation between the DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Fusion centers contain large data warehouses that collect information from all 16 US intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, the military, state and local police agencies, as well as privately owned corporations and organizations. That information includes the cell phone data and emails of every American citizen. There is one of these facilities in Madison near the Dane county regional airport, at 2445 Darwin Road. (See slideshow or view an interactive map of their locations here).
According to Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the DHS described its fusion centers as “one of the centerpieces of [its] counterterrorism strategy” and its database was supposed to be a central repository of known or “appropriately suspected” terrorists. In theory, local law enforcement officers, in conjunction with DHS officials, conduct surveillance and write up a report known as a Homeland Intelligence Report (HIR) for the DHS to review. If credible, the DHS would then spread the information to the larger intelligence community.
The Senate report, however, found that the fusion centers failed to uncover a single terrorist threat and only gathered information that is used for ordinary criminal investigations that local law enforcement agencies are well-capable of doing. Even DHS officials told the panel the fusion centers produce “predominantly useless information” and “a bunch of crap.”
Five centers the Senate studied spent their federal terrorism grant money on “hidden ‘shirt button’ cameras,” cell phone tracking systems and other surveillance tools. They also spent taxpayer money on things like “dozens of flat-screen TVs” and SUVs, sometimes claiming that Chevrolet Tahoes were intended to help “respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) incidents.”
Here a few more details of what the Senate report reveals:
- A DHS intelligence officer filed a draft report about a U.S. citizen who appeared at a Muslim organization to deliver a day-long motivational talk and a lecture on positive parenting.
- An intelligence officer decided to report on two men who were fishing at the US-Mexican border. A reviewer commented, “I…think that this should never have been nominated for production, nor passed through three reviews.”
- A report was submitted on a motorcycle group for passing out leaflets informing members of their legal rights. A reviewer commented, “The advice given to the groups’ members is protected by the First Amendment.”
And more from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which filed a lawsuit against the FBI, DOJ and NSA regarding fusion centers:
- A DHS analyst at a Wisconsin fusion center prepared a report about protesters on both sides of the abortion debate, despite the fact that no violence was expected.
- A Texas fusion center released an intelligence bulletin that described a purported conspiracy between Muslim civil rights organizations, lobbying groups, the anti-war movement, a former U.S. Congresswoman, the U.S. Treasury Department and hip hop bands to spread Sharia law in the U.S.
- The same month, but on the other side of the political spectrum, a Missouri Fusion Center released a report on “the modern militia movement” that claimed militia members are “usually supporters” of third-party presidential candidates like Ron Paul and Bob Barr.
- In March 2008 the Virginia Fusion Center issued a terrorism threat assessment that described the state’s universities and colleges as “nodes for radicalization” and characterized the “diversity” surrounding a Virginia military base and the state’s “historically black” colleges as possible threats.
Like so many post-9/11 surveillance laws passed under the vague guise of “national security,” these fusion centers violate the civil liberties of ordinary Americans that should be guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and other laws. An entire section of the Senate report is dedicated to Privacy Act violations and the collection of information completely unrelated to any criminal or terrorist activity in the HIRs.
The Senate report and the activity of fusion centers makes it clear that these facilities are designed to spy on American citizens, invading their privacy while doing nothing to stop terrorism. With all the talk in the Presidential campaigns about frivolous spending, perhaps these worthless facilities should be addressed, instead of Medicare or Social Security.
This may sound like a conspiracy theory, but it is reality. In fact, the one episode of “Conspiracy Theory” done by former navy SEAL and Governor Jesse Ventura that dealt with these fusion centers was refused to be aired by TruTV. In that episode he interviews a young woman from Missouri who was put on the terrorism watch list by her local fusion center for supporting Ron Paul in the Republican primary election. (See“banned” video to the left).
This is yet more evidence that America is turning from a democracy or constitutional republic into a corporate fascist state. Just look at the 14 defining characteristics of fascism and decide for yourself.