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Professor Fires Off Lengthy Email In Defense Of Student Forbidden From Handing Out Copies Of The Constitution

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | November 1, 2013

On Constitution Day (Sept. 17th), a student of Modesto Junior College, Robert Van Tuinen, was prevented by Modesto Junior College administration from handing out copies of the Constitution. The college apparently believes free speech is limited to a single small concrete slab on campus, generously named the “Free Speech Zone.” Contrary to the First Amendment (and the state’s laws governing public university policies), MJC restricts free speech to no more than two people per day, subject to approval of the administration.

Van Tuinen set out to challenge the stupidity of this policy and MJC administration obligingly played its part, resulting in a story that spread across blogs and news sites. As a result of its actions, the staff at MJC was “subjected” to insults, death threats, and even worse, an “unfair and negative portrayal” by the media. While no one condones death threats, one would be hard pressed to agree with Jill Stearns, the president of MJC, that the portrayal was “unfair” or that the school’s willingness to place policy above all else, including the Constitution and common sense, wasn’t deserving of a few disparaging remarks.

Shortly after MJC went into damage control, Van Tuinen sued the school for violating his First Amendment rights. Van Tuinen is seeking a permanent injunction against the school’s unconstitutional policies, as well as damages and court costs.

Now the organization that originally brought Van Tuinen’s experience to national attention (FIRE) brings news that a Modesto Junior College professor has written a lengthy email to all Modest Junior College faculty members to call attention to the college’s actions which the administration seemingly wants to let recede into the background.

Professor William J. Holly was kind enough to forward his entire email to me, as well as provide some additional info on California laws governing schools and students’ First Amendment rights, as well as this bizarre and tense interaction with school security over the supposed rule changes President Jill Stearns said were underway.

I do not know what rules are now in effect. Last week I stopped by campus security and asked what the rules now were, and he referred me to ASMJC office on the other campus. I said he must know what the rules are since he was responsible for enforcing the rules. He kept pushing the paper with the name of the office on it, saying he was referring me to that office. It got a little tense because I kept saying he must know the rules and should be able to let us know what the rules are. Finally, he said he was not allowed to discuss this with anyone because they are under litigation. Stearns says the rules are being reviewed. Does that mean there are no rules?

Stearns’ statement says the college is “evaluating its policies and procedures.” It also says this:

There is absolutely no requirement that a student register weeks in advance and hand out his literature only in a small marked area.

There may not be one now, but that requirement was certainly in place back in September.

It also says this.

To those who were offended by the appearance of censorship, we again affirm the commitment of the college and district to civil discourse.

Hilarious. Pity the poor people who took offense at Van Tuinen being accosted by a campus cop and repeatedly told he’d need to get on the waiting list for the Freedom Slab and mistakenly believed it violated his First Amendment rights.

Holly does a wonderful job in his email dismantling Stearns’ non-apology.

[I]t is unclear what she means when she addresses “those who were offended by the appearance of censorship.” Van Tuinen was not subjected to the mere “appearance of censorship.” He was silenced and he was prevented from distributing his literature. That is outright censorship, pure and simple, whether it resulted from a misunderstanding or not.

But Holly’s letter is more than just a deconstruction of Stearns’ statements and MJC’s dubious policies. It’s also a wake-up call directed at his colleagues, many of whom were either unaware of this event or simply stood by and let incident pass by not remarked on.

Dear Colleagues:

The paper attached above (Destructing Causal Deconstruction) exposes some of the absurdities that are committed in the name of “Deconstruction.” I think it is a good read — clear, amusing, imaginative, and instructive. If you ever wondered what “deconstruction” is really about, you would be hard pressed to find a better introduction. One question that I cannot answer, however, is whether or not I would be arrested by a security officer if I insisted on wandering about the quad on our campus, handing out copies of this paper and discussing it with those who might be interested in the topic. This is not a silly question…

Nearly a month ago (Sept. 17th) one of our MJC students, Robert Van Tuinen (also a veteran), was trying to pass out copies of our federal Constitution on Constitution Day. He was prevented in this exercise of free speech by an MJC security officer, and then by an official at the office of Student Services who told him he was allowed freedom of speech and the right to pass out literature only in certain tiny restricted areas on our campus, and then only after booking a reservation — which would not be available until the following month!

I am puzzled why there has been no faculty outcry over this ugly incident. Why are we not standing up for our student who only wanted to exercise his constitutional right to free speech? Do we really want to be known nationwide as the college that wouldn’t let a veteran pass out copies of our Constitution on Constitution Day?

Holly’s not being facetious about “nationwide.” The story was picked up by the Huffington Post, the Washington Times, FOX News, the L.A. Times, along with numerous other well-read sites like Reason, the Daily Caller and National Review Online. But Modesto Junior College itself? Apparently it isn’t interested in providing current or prospective students (or faculty, for that matter) with anything more than the president’s statement.

The First Amendment in pertinent part says, ” Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …” Some have taken this to be a right you have against the Federal Government, but not (say) against the State of California (as though the rights you thought you had simply in virtue of being a citizen of the United States could be nullified by the particular state in which you live). Happily, the point is largely moot because the constitution of California has its own guarantees of rights that largely parallel the U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights — including separation of church and state, etc. Guarantees of freedom of expression even exist in parts of the California Code of Education, and even the University of California has a constitution that holds out these rights, and even individual campuses have their own codes regarding such things as Academic Freedom. At CSUS and at PLU, the rules that claim Academic Freedom for faculty make clear that such freedom should extend equally to students!

The most pertinent part of the California Education Code is this section.

66301. (a) Neither the Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of the California State University, the governing board of a community college district, nor an administrator of any campus of those institutions, shall make or enforce a rule subjecting a student to disciplinary sanction solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside a campus of those institutions, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 2 of Article I of the California Constitution.

Considering Van Tuinen’s lawsuit, the directly-following subsection is also relevant.

(b) A student enrolled in an institution, as specified in subdivision (a), at the time that the institution has made or enforced a rule in violation of subdivision (a) may commence a civil action to obtain appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief as determined by the court. Upon a motion, a court may award attorney’s fees to a prevailing plaintiff in a civil action pursuant to this section.

Given the state law governing the public college, it would appear that MJC’s free speech policies are in violation of state law, not to mention the state’s constitution, even granting a very generous reading of “time, place and manner” wording.

Holly also questions the “formal apology” extended by the school to Van Tuinen. Whatever it was (and no one has seen it but Van Tuinen and administrators), it’s clearly not sufficient.

[W[e are told that a formal apology has been provided the student. It seems to me, however, that apologies in such cases are best made in public. I think Van Tuinen would want a published apology, a public admission that MJC had no right to deny him the exercise of his liberties that they did, and a promise that no other students would have their rights similarly violated. And, since the violation of the rights of one of our fellow citizens violates us all, I believe that we all are entitled to see a copy of that apology, to see the particulars of the concessions made, and to see in what manner those liberties now are affirmed that then were denied.

As Holly points out, the fact that Van Tuinen is proceeding with his lawsuit is a good indicator that the apology offered wasn’t satisfactory.

Holly then goes further, suggesting what should be done, not only to satisfy Van Tuinen, but to make sure other students know their rights are protected and ensure this sort of restriction doesn’t make its way back into the school policies in the future.

In one interview, [Van Tuinen] has said that he is not doing this for the money. I think what he wants is a civil rights victory. That should be easy to give him, especially if President Stearns is right this all has just been a misunderstanding…

If he doesn’t really care about money, if he just wants public acknowledgement that he was wronged, perhaps we should offer this: Buy him a couple thousand copies of the Constitution or of the Bill of Rights, and offer to make the individuals he has sued do community service that is relevant. Make them each do twenty hours of community service that consist of passing out copies of the Constitution and explaining to people the importance of everyone’s right to free speech. That ought to make him whole. And, to show my sincerity, I hereby offer to do 20 hours of such community service myself. Perhaps I too bear part of the responsibility here, because this one flew under my radar too. I did not check to see if my students’ rights to free speech were properly protected. Sometimes the implications of rules just do not strike us until we see them enforced.

Summing things up, Holly asks what some famous free speakers would run into if attempting to speak on MJC’s campus.

Now, if you do not like my suggestion that we should have a policy of completely free, unfettered and unqualified freedom of thought and expression on this campus, just ask yourself this one question: Suppose that Thomas Paine, the great pamphleteer (“These are the times that try men’s souls…”) were to come to MJC. Would you make him show his ID or make an advance appointment? Would you sic campus security and Student Services on him before allowing him to distribute his literature? Hell, what would you do if Jesus came? Would you have Student services tell Him he needs an appointment in advance, that the free speech zone is booked up until next month, and that He needs to confine his speech to the designated free speech zone areas? I say, Let Freedom Reign!

Holly’s effort to light a fire under his colleagues is admirable. Many people are too willing to defer to existing policy, especially if it doesn’t apply directly to them. Van Tuinen pushed back against an unconstitutional policy and has brought the idiocy of campus “Free Speech Zones” back into the national limelight. Holly doesn’t suggest throwing away all restraints on speech (exempting classrooms and faculty offices in order to prevent disruption of educating), but his view of what a “Free Speech Zone” should actually include covers far more area than MJC’s infamous concrete slab.

Holly’s defense of students’ rights is a rarity in institutes of higher learning, many of which seem to believe the restraint of speech somehow creates better students.

Full email posted at link.

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lavabit Encrypted Email Service Shuts Down, Can’t Say Why

By Kurt Opsahl | EFF | August 8, 2013

Today, Lavabit announced that it would shut down its encrypted email service rather than “become complicit in crimes against the American people.” Lavabit did not say what it had been asked to do, only that it was legally prohibited from sharing the events leading to its decision.

Lavabit was an email provider, apparently used by Edward Snowden along with other privacy sensitive users, with an avowed mission to offer an “e-mail service that never sacrifices privacy for profits” and promised to “only release private information if legally compelled by the courts in accordance with the United States Constitution.” It backed up this claim by encrypting all emails on Lavabit servers such that Lavabit did not have the ability to access a user’s email (Lavabit’s white paper), at least without that user’s passphrase, which the email provider did not store.

Given the impressive powers of the government to obtain emails and records from service providers, both with and without legal authority, it is encouraging to see service providers take steps to limit their ability to access user data, as Lavabit had done.

But now it’s gone. Here is Lavabit’s statement in full:

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Sincerely,

Ladar Levison

Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

It’s rare to see an email provider choose to go out of business rather than compromise its values. It must have been a hard decision for Ladar Levison, but he remained true to his promise to put privacy before profits. It was also hard on the users, some of whom lost access to email not available elsewhere.

Lavabit’s ominous note and the lack of information about this case is especially concerning for users of large communication service providers like Facebook and Google that may well have been subject to similar pressure, and we hope they will continue to fight for the user in the face of government demands, even if not recognized for years. Already, Lavabit’s note has led to Silent Circle dropping its email service, saying “We see the writing [on] the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.”

Moving forward, we need more transparency so the public can know and understand what led to a ten-year-old business closing its doors and a new start-up abandoning a business opportunity. Hopefully Congress will get concerned, especially when there are American jobs at stake.

Lavabit’s post indicates that there was a gag order, and that there is an ongoing appeal before the Fourth Circuit. We call on the government and the courts to unseal enough of the docket to allow, at a minimum, the public to know the legal authority asserted, both for the gag and the substance, and give Lavabit the breathing room to participate in the vibrant and critical public debates on the extent of email privacy in an age of warrantless bulk surveillance by the NSA.

August 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Distorts ‘Just War’ Principles

By Daniel C. Maguire | Consortium News | May 24, 2013

OBAMA-IN-ISRAELIn his address on terrorism and America’s counterterrorism policy, President Barack Obama invoked the “just war” theory to justify the continued use of assassination by drones as America’s increasingly favored war policy. The President and most Americans need schooling on just what the “just war theory” (JWT) is.

JWT lays out the tests that state-sponsored violence must pass to be deemed morally defensible. JWT has its roots in the first tentative moves – in ancient Hebraic, Greek and Roman societies – away from total obliteration of the enemy, its people and its land as the goal of war. It was and is an effort to put some limits on collective violence.

According to JWT, there are six tests a war must pass to claim some moral justification. If the war fails on any of the six, that war is immoral and the killing it involves is murder.

1. A Just Cause: As ethicist David Hollenbach writes: “The only just cause is defense against unjust attack.” Aggressive, imperial or preemptive wars fail this test and open the door to international barbarism.

Drone attacks that kill “suspected terrorists” based not on due process proceedings but on “intelligence” agencies, do not pass this initial test. Those are the same agencies that gave us the fictional weapons of mass destruction in Saddam’s Iraq resulting in a decade of unjustified slaughter and havoc.

2. Declaration by Competent Authority:  For the United States, proper declaration is defined in Article One, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution which says that it is the prerogative of Congress “to declare war” and to “provide for the common Defence.” James Madison said that “in no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war and peace to the legislature and not to the executive department.”

The United States has not obeyed this part of the Constitution since December 1941. The constitutional requirement was alluded to at the onset of the Korean War but bypassed ever since.  Instead Congress surrenders its right to declare war by giving blank check authorization to the president (whether Lyndon Johnson or George W. Bush) to go to war if he, in his royal wisdom, chooses to do so.

When President Bush was given authorization to use “force” after the 9/11 attacks, the decision to use kill-power was seen as entirely his and the wisdom of the Constitution was trashed. President Obama’s drone policy – sending unmanned aircraft around the world to kill people – continues to rely on this congressional abdication of responsibility.

The United States further defined proper declaration of war when it helped to draft and signed on to the United Nations Charter. As Richard Falk writes, that historic document outlawed state vigilantism and entrusted “the Security Council with administering a prohibition of recourse to international force (Article 2, Section 4) by states except in circumstances of self-defense, which  itself was restricted to response to a prior ‘armed attack’ (Article 51) and only then until the Security Council had the chance to review the claim.”

This is called “the policing paradigm” and it would put upon states the communitarian and legal restraints imposed on use of violence by police and would also serve as a deterrent since to attack one was to attack all.

Briefing Congress before, or more often, after using state-sponsored drone violence mocks the right and abandoned duty of Congress to declare war. So does ignoring the UN Security Council.

3. Right Intention: This requirement of JWT involves honesty about the real reason for the violence and avoidance of excessive secrecy. It does not hide the truth and suppress the vox populi. It also does not substitute force for due process.

4. Non-combatant immunity: Drone warfare involves long-distance killing by remote control. It is disingenuous to say that drone usage honors non-combatant immunity. The targeted individual will rarely be found alone. The loose definition of who is and who is not a “militant” further belies the claims of sensitivity to civilian casualties.

5. Last Resort: Totally missing from President Obama’s May 23 address was the question why? Why do these targeted people hate us but don’t hate Sweden or Japan or Brazil. Why is killing them the answer when there has been little or no consideration of the grievances that lead them to engage in suicide attacks to hurt us?

Are we not stupidly striking at the bitter fruit of the tree while still nourishing its roots and thus guaranteeing more bitter fruit? If war is to be the last resort, shouldn’t we first ask what legitimate grievances animate the animosity toward our nation?

American economic supremacy has played a big part in producing a world where 82 percent of the world’s income goes to the top 20 percent, leaving the rest to face hardship or starvation. Our paltry foreign aid does little to alleviate world poverty and the world knows that.

As to the trouble zones in the Middle East, there is a question that is not permitted in our halls of political power or even in the American press. It was asked by Jesuit scholar John Sheehan who studied in the Middle East. His question: “Whenever I hear that Israel is our best friend in the Middle East I ask why is it that before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East?”

Our financial, political and military support for Israeli expansionism and militarism make us no friends in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world. It is also not good for Israel or for us to be Israel’s ever deferential enabler. Friends do not let friends drive off a cliff and Israel is doing just that by having started the nuclear arms race in the Middle East and with its policy of occupation and expansionism. It’s not friendly of us to keep paying for that.

In the Suez crisis of 1956, when President Dwight Eisenhower threatened cutback of aid if Israel did not retreat from its expansionism, Israeli officials agreed to retreat. When George H. W. Bush did the same in 1989 regarding settlements in Palestinian territory, the Israeli government again stopped, only to restart at the end of his term.

Tony Judt has called us Israel’s “paymaster.”  When the paymaster makes demands – not feeble entreaties – the recipients listen.

6. Proportionality: War must do more good than harm, a proviso that is increasingly infeasible given the advances in weaponry. When drones are causing constant fear and dread for Pakistani children and their parents, are those elusive demons in the sky doing more good than harm? What good do we envision when we export terror into other nations’ homes?

Is it not past time to realize that our kill-power is not making us safe but sowing fear and enmity? In regard to that recognition, Obama’s May 23 speech is not reassuring.

Is American genius not up to the challenge of sensitive diplomacy, the kind that does not love its enemies but strains to understand their grievances? Are our fingers grown too rough with bludgeoning to undertake the needlepoint of peace-making diplomacy? Much of the world seems to think so.

~

Daniel C. Maguire, a professor of religious ethics at Marquette University, is author of The Horrors We Bless: Rethinking the Just-War Legacy, Fortress Press.

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Constitution Applies When the Government Bans Americans From the Skies

By Nusrat Choudhury & Hina Shamsi | ACLU | March 28, 2013

The government does not have the unchecked authority to place individuals on a secret blacklist without providing them any meaningful opportunity to object, the ACLU argued in a brief filed last Friday with the federal district court in Oregon.

We made the filing in Latif v. Holder, our lawsuit asserting that the government violated the Fifth Amendment due process rights of 13 Americans, including four military veterans, by placing them on the No Fly List and refusing to give them any after-the-fact explanation or a hearing at which they can clear their names.

Our brief highlighted the utter irrationality of the government’s No Fly List procedures. The plaintiffs in Latif all flew for years without any problems. But more than two years ago, they were suddenly branded as suspected terrorists based on secret evidence, publicly denied boarding on flights, and told by U.S. and airline officials that they were banned from flying perhaps forever. Each of them asked the government to remove them from the No Fly List through the only “redress” mechanism available—the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. But the government has refused to provide any explanation or basis for their inclusion in the list. Our clients have been stuck in limbo ever since.

We submitted evidence to the court showing that the No Fly List burdens our clients’ constitutionally protected liberties, with devastating consequences for their personal and professional lives. It deprives them of the ability to fly—an essential means of travel in modern life. It also stigmatizes them as suspected terrorists, although they have never been charged with any crime, let alone convicted of one.

Our brief argued that the Constitution’s core promise of procedural due process requires the government to provide at least some explanation and some hearing where Americans can defend themselves after it deprives them of their liberties. The government’s categorical refusal to provide either is unconstitutional. We explained:

Defendants’ refusal to provide the bare rudiments of due process stems from their embrace of an explicit policy—known as the “Glomar” policy—of refusing to confirm or deny any information concerning a person’s status on the No Fly List. The Glomar policy and Defendants’ inadequate process cannot be reconciled with governing due process doctrine. Courts routinely require notice and some form of hearing for much less severe deprivations of liberty than Plaintiffs have suffered. Thus, the government cannot suspend a student from school for ten days, or recover excess Social Security payments, or terminate state assistance for utility bills without some kind of notice and hearing.

In its own brief to the court defending its “redress” program, the government’s arguments boiled down to two sweeping—and extraordinary—claims. First, according to the government, the Constitution has nothing to say about the adequacy and fairness of the procedures the government provides Americans to challenge their inclusion on the No Fly List because “alternatives” to flying are available. We countered that argument in a separate brief (also filed on Friday) showing that the government relied on the wrong law, and by providing evidence confirming what is obvious: the No Fly List so severely restricts Americans’ ability to travel that it triggers due process rights. Not only does the list ban Americans from the skies, it even bars them from travel on boats. As a result, two of our clients have been effectively banned from traveling from the United States to be with their families in Ireland and Yemen.

The government’s second sweeping claim is that even confirming or denying No Fly List-status (much less actually providing notice of the reasons and basis for inclusion in the list) will cause a parade of national security horribles, including the disclosure of sensitive or classified information. Our brief, however, showed that this argument is based on a fiction: all of our clients already know they are on the No Fly list; they were each prevented from flying and explicitly told that they are on the list. We also pointed out that the mere possibility that sensitive national security information might be involved is no reason to categorically foreclose the hearings that due process requires.

Americans have a right to know what kind of “evidence” or innuendo is sufficient to land them on the No Fly List, and to have a hearing where they can defend themselves. Without this bare minimum, there is no meaningful check to correct the government’s mistakes or ensure that it uses the blacklisting power it claims fairly and appropriately. We are asking the court, therefore, to vindicate a basic yet fundamentally important proposition: a government black list that denies Americans the ability to fly without giving them an explanation or fair chance to clear their names violates the Constitution.

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Constitution Applies When the Government Bans Americans From the Skies

John Brennan Sworn in as CIA Director Using Constitution Lacking Bill of Rights

Emptywheel | March 8, 2013

According to the White House, John Brennan was sworn in as CIA Director on a “first draft” of the Constitution including notations from George Washington, dating to 1787.

Vice President Joe Biden swears in CIA Director John Brennan in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 8, 2013. Members of Brennan’s family stand with him. Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution, dating from 1787, which has George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it.

That means, when Brennan vowed to protect and defend the Constitution, he was swearing on one that did not include the First, Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendments — or any of the other Amendments now included in our Constitution. The Bill of Rights did not become part of our Constitution until 1791, 4 years after the Constitution that Brennan took his oath on.

I really don’t mean to be an asshole about this. But these vows always carry a great deal of symbolism. And whether he meant to invoke this symbolism or not, the moment at which Brennan took over the CIA happened to exclude (in symbolic form, though presumably not legally) the key limits on governmental power that protect American citizens.

Update: Olivier Knox describes how the White House pushed the symbolism of this.

Hours after CIA Director John Brennan took the oath of office – behind closed doors, far away from the press, perhaps befitting his status as America’s top spy – the White House took pains to emphasize the symbolism of the ceremony.

“There’s one piece of this that I wanted to note for you,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters gathered for their daily briefing. “Director Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”

Earnest said Brennan had asked for a document from the National Archives that would demonstrate the U.S. is a nation of laws.

“Director Brennan told the president that he made the request to the archives because he wanted to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law as he took the oath of office as director of the CIA,” Earnest said.

Update: I’m assuming this copy of the Constitution is the one Brennan used.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 3 Comments

US judge annuls anti-union state law in Wisconsin

Press TV – September 15, 2012

A US judge in the State of Wisconsin has struck down an anti-union law signed by the state’s Republican governor in 2011, reigniting a controversial issue that prompted recall elections just weeks before Election Day.

Wisconsin’s Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas ruled on Friday that the law, curbing collective bargaining for most public employees, violates both the state and the US Constitution and infringes on free speech and association rights.

The judge’s ruling represents at least a temporary defeat for Governor Scott Walker, who promptly censured the decision on Friday but further expressed confidence that his state would launch an appeal against it.

“The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5,” said Walker. “Now, they are ready to move on. Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”

The state law struck down by the Wisconsin judge was at the core of Walker’s legislative agenda following his 2010 election victory and its passage triggered a chaotic political situation in the state throughout most of 2011 and 2012.

The bill included a provision curbing collective bargaining for most public employees. It was passed, and Walker subsequently signed it into law over angry protest rallies by labor activists who stormed the state capital in early 2011.

The Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees celebrated the ruling and tried to portray it as an obvious reprimand to the Republican governor.

“Today, Governor Scott Walker was rejected by the courts again,” said AFSCME Council 48 Executive Director Rich Abelson. “Today’s ruling shows that his attempt to steal the rights away from working men and women in Wisconsin was unconstitutional. We have always believed that Governor Walker and the state legislature overstepped their authority by taking away the rights of public employees to collectively bargain.”

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on US judge annuls anti-union state law in Wisconsin

Congress still okay with indefinite detention and torture of Americans

RT | 18 May, 2012

Even after a federal court deemed the NDAA unconstitutional, the US House of Representatives refused to exclude indefinite detention provisions from the infamous defense spending bill during a vote on Friday.

An attempt to strike down any provisions allowing for the US military to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge from next year’s National Defense Authorization Act was shot down Friday morning in the House of Representatives.

Following discussions on an amendment to the 2013 NDAA that was proposed by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), House lawmakers opted against passing the law by a vote of 182-238. Had the Smish-Amash amendment passed, military detention for terror suspects captured in the US would have been excluded in the annual defense spending bill. Provisions that allow for that power, Sections 1021 and 1022, were inserted into the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2012. President Barack Obama signed that legislation on New Year’s Eve, essentially authorizing the US Armed Forces to detain Americans indefinitely at military facilities over only allegation of ties with terrorists and subject them to enhanced interrogation tactics on par with torture.

On Thursday night, Rep. Amash took to his Facebook page to address the amendment with his followers. “No matter how much I am slandered or my positions are demagogued, I will NEVER stop fighting to defend your liberty and the Constitution,” wrote the congressman.

Back on Capitol Hill, Rep. Amash circulated a document to his fellow lawmakers on Thursday outlining his proposed amendment. In urging his colleagues to vote yes on the Smith-Amash amendment, the representative from Michigan explained to Congress that the proposal would offer protection to non-citizens of the United States and is the only amendment up for discussion that would guarantee Americans a charge and trial.

Elsewhere in the paper, Rep. Amash harped on a decision out of a federal court earlier this week that ruled that the NDAA violated the US Constitution.

“Our constituents demand that we protect their right to a charge and a trial — especially after the NDAA was ruled unconstitutional this week,” wrote Rep. Amash.

That decision came Wednesday when United States District Judge Katherine Forrest shunned the NDAA’s indefinite detention provision, saying it had a “chilling impact on First Amendment rights.”

“An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so,” wrote Judge Forrest, who then cited complaints for American journalists who were concerned that they’d be imprisoned without charge solely for speaking with alleged terrorists.

Attorney Carl Mayer represented the plaintiffs in this case and spoke with RT after Judge Forrest’s decision. Mr. Mayer revealed that while the Obama administration can — and most likely will — file an appeal, “we are suggesting that it may not be in their best interest because there are so many people from all sides of the political spectrum opposed to this law.”

Although that opposition has indeed been widespread since even before this year’s NDAA was signed by President Obama on December 31, it was absent on Capitol Hill this Friday when the Smith-Amash amendment was shot down.

Moments before the amendment went up for vote, Rep. Amash wrote on Facebook, “We know the NDAA’s detention provision is unconstitutional. The House will vote on one substantive solution.”

“Will we fix it? And if we don’t, how will we explain that to our constituents?”

May 18, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 2 Comments

Attorney General Eric Holder: Wrong on the Law, the Politics, and on the Wrong Side of History

By Wilmer J. Leon III, Ph.D. | Black Agenda Report | March 14, 2012

During a speech at Northwestern University’s Law School, Attorney General Eric Holder explained that the American government can kill American citizens abroad under the following conditions:

”First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

There’s one small problem with Holder’s analysis. It’s called the Constitution. Holder is wrong on the law, wrong on the politics, and on the wrong side of history.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution says in part, “No State shall… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Holder went on to explain that when it comes to national security ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same. First, this distinction is not made in the Constitution and second, the Constitution guarantees “due process of law” not just due process.

Black’s Law Dictionary 5th Edition defines “due process of law” as “Law in its regular course of administration through courts of justice.” It also states, “… no person shall be deprived of life… unless matter involved first shall have been adjudicated against him upon trial… ” For Holder to state due process of law does not involve judicial process conflicts directly with established law. As a graduate of Columbia Law School he knows better. Even a first year law student would be banished to the law library if they made such a ridiculous argument.

Even more basic than the 14th Amendment argument is the Article 1, Section 9 argument. It states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. No Bill of Attainder… shall be passed.” A Bill of Attainder is a government declaration that a person is guilty of a crime that carries the death penalty without the benefit of a trial. What else is a government determination to kill an American citizen without any judicial proceedings other than a Bill of Attainder?

As the Obama administration spokesperson for the Justice Department, Holder is wrong on the politics. Senator and candidate Obama characterized the national security policies of the Bush administration as “draconian,” “ineffective” and “counter to the values of the United States.” Candidate Obama railed against his predecessor’s counterterrorism techniques such as domestic warrantless wiretapping, waterboarding, military tribunals, and indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay. Making these assertions, Holder sounds a lot like former Bush administration counsel John Yoo, the author of the opinion justifying torture. Candidate Obama promised the American people “change we can believe in.” The more these policies change, the more they look like the Bush administration, and the more they appear to have been politically motivated.

During his speech at Northwestern Holder said, “… the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.” The problem with this rationale is that America is not at war so what war principles is he referring to? The Constitution divides war powers between the Congress and the President. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states, “The Congress shall have Power: To declare War… ” If Holder was referring to The “War on Terror” that is just a marketing scheme devised by the Bush administration to convince Americans that the powers of the Executive Branch post 9-11 needed to be expanded. Congress has authorized military action but has not formally declared war.

Holder’s comments are even more disturbing when considered in the context of President Obama signing the 2012 Defense Authorization Act (DAA). Section 1021 of the Act allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens and/or anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the U.S. As stated above, Article 1, Section 9 states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” By signing the 2012 DAA President Obama reaffirmed Bush’s suspension of habeas corpus instead of overturning it. So now, not only can American citizens be indefinitely detained, they can also be assassinated by their own government at the will and whim of their President.

The framers of the Constitution endorsed these protections to insure that a president could not act like a monarch or dictator and unilaterally violate a citizens civil rights and liberties. In the 1960’s FBI Director Hoover spied upon and disrupted the efforts of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement by creating the Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO. Hoover’s misguided fears, personal bigotry, and sense that members of the movement were “enemy combatants” engaged in “belligerent acts” against the United States resulted in the harassment and false imprisonment of conscience citizens, and many believe the assassinations of Dr. King, Malcolm X, and others fighting for equality in America. Holder is on the wrong side of history.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “those who will sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” If a US President can order the assassination of an American citizen without judicial approval he has become no better than the dictators that we have invested invaluable time, blood, and treasure to overthrow. With these pronouncements we have met the enemy and the enemy is us.

~

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with WilmerLeon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to Dr-Leons-Prescription@facebook.com, http://www.wilmerleon.com, email: wjl3us@yahoo.com. Or http://www.twitter.com/drwleon

© 2012 InfoWave Communications, LLC.

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 4 Comments

Eric Holder Tortures the Constitution

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | March 7, 2012

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week attempted to explain how the U.S. Constitution allows the American president to be a law unto himself – to be judge, jury and executioner. Those are the powers that President Obama claims are inherent in his office: the right to kill at will, based on evidence only he is fit to examine and assess. This is a system of law without courts, without evidence that either the public or the condemned person has a right to see, or to contest. One man, with the power of life and death over any inhabitant of the planet, including citizens of the United States.

They used to call such people kings. But even the English kings of old – at least since the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago – were compelled to recognize the principle that free men could only be punished based on the law of the land. The United States Constitution is rooted in the principle of due process of law, with the courts as final arbiters of whether the law has been served.

With the passage of preventive detention without trail or charge, and President Obama’s claim to have sole power to target any human being for death, the rule of law has been eviscerated, abolished by presidential decree and congressional acquiescence. A pillar of civilization has been toppled, but most people in the United States appear not to have noticed.

It turns out that due process of law is not what we thought it was, these last two centuries. Attorney General Holder defended the president’s authority to summarily execute, without sanction of the courts, or formal charges, or even evidence of crime, persons designated by him as enemies of the United States. You can’t get more king-like than that. Holder acted as if he’d found a previously undetected loophole in the Constitution. “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process,’” he said, “are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.” According to Holder, “The Constitution guarantees due process,” but it does not guarantee judicial process. In other words, the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee people access to the courts, even if they are targeted for execution. If that were true, it would be a worthless Constitution, but the U.S. Supreme Court has convincingly ruled, in a 2004 case, that citizens who are detained as enemy combatants have a right to confront the government on the facts of the matter “before a neutral decision maker” – that is, before a court of some kind. Certainly, such rights would apply to someone the president wants killed.

Ah, but this is war, says Eric Holder, and different rules apply. We could ask the rhetorical question: When does this war end? But Obama is clearly claiming to have rights that are inherent in the president’s national security powers. War is…whatever he says it is. Or, whatever President Romney or President Santorum say it is.

The Attorney General ultimately justifies the trashing of the Constitution on national security grounds. We have reached our national “hour of danger,” he says.

Holder is right about that. The danger is upon us, and it emanates from the White House. There’s a name for the danger: it’s called fascism, which happens when militarists and the worst capitalists get together and abolish due process and the rule of law – which the First Black President of the United States has already done.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Comments Off on Eric Holder Tortures the Constitution