Archive for the ‘U.S. Constitution’ Category

by jhwygirl

What could get me wanting to try and throw out a few words? A bill seeking to repeal last session’s eminent domain debacle, HB198.

I won’t go into the past gory details on the 2011 eminent domain bill – you can click that link above for that – what I will do is offer a heartfelt THANKS to Sen. Debby Barrett, a Republican out Dillon.

Sen. Barrett has proposed SB180 which is a straight all-out repeal of HB198, which handed eminent domain powers straight to the utility corporations, and eliminating any role of assuring that the taking of private property was for public gain, yet alone fair compensation.

In other words, big business who’s priority is only bigger profits, and not necessarily Montana’s best interests, could crisscross this Montana with whatever form of transmission infrastructure they choose, to deliver their energy from..say…Canada to Colorado…and little old property owner in Dillon Montana is left to deal with the barrage of lawyers from big business.

Thank you? You have to wonder what the hell the people who voted for HB198 were thinking and you can’t really paint the Democrats with the lack of respect for private property rights – plenty of Republicans voted for this crappy bill, including Republicans Sen. Dave Lewis and Reps. Janna Taylor, Wendy Warburton and Duane Ankney.

For the Missoula people that care about private property rights, know that only Sen. Dave Wanzenried and Rep. Ellie Hill voted NO to that bill. Occasional commentor (from way-back) Rep. Mike Miller – a self-described Libertarian, I believe – also voted NO to this bill.

Last week, Sens. Wanzenried, Augare, and Windy Boy signed on as co-sponsors to Sen. Barrett’s bill. I’ll be watching this one closely.

Let’s see who respects private property rights, and who wants to let private corporations do what they will, with only the promise of “fair compensation” from their army of lawyers knocking on our Montana neighbor’s doors.

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By JC

———–
Update #2 (this is an update from the original Kos post linked to below):
This is from a statement from Stewart Rhodes of Oathkeepers regarding Republican Denny Rehberg as a target of recall, who also voted for NDAA.

Here in Montana, while we will go after all three violators of the Bill of Rights, I will place special emphasis and “focus of effort” on Denny Rehberg, since he is so fond of wrapping himself in the flag and claiming to be defending the Constitution while his votes do the exact opposite. In that sense, Rehberg is much like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two Republicans who, right along with Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman, are leading a sustained and relentless assault on our Bill of Rights.
———–

Do people really believe it is appropriate for our Senators (or Rep) in Montana to cast votes that take away constitutional rights?

Well, many in Montana and across the country don’t believe so. Jonathan Turley, at the TurleyBlog — the foremost legal blog commenting on civil rights in the country — makes a fine example of what many Montanans are doing in response to Max and Jon’s (and should be doing to Denny, too) ill-advised votes for indefinite detention of american citizens:

…Now Montana citizens have decided to try another approach given the non-responsive attitude of our leaders — they are moving to remove their two Senators from office over their votes in favor of indefinite detention powers.

Montana is one of nine states with recall laws. The other states are Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Eighteen states have recall laws, but most do not apply to federal officers.

Montana Code 2-16-603, on the grounds of physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of certain felony offenses. [sic]

Presumably, they are arguing that voting for an unconstitutional measure that allows for indefinite detention of citizens constitutes both a violation of the oath of office and incompetence. Usually official misconduct does not include policy differences, though voting for potentially authoritarian powers would not be viewed as good conduct in a free nation.

The move by the Montana votes shows something that I found in doing speeches around the country: there is no difference in red and blue states in citizens (1) fed up with our current two-party monopoly and dysfunctional politics and (2) opposed to the loss of civil liberties in this country.

It seems that occasional 4&20 commenter William Crane and others are behind this effort:

Montana law requires grounds for recall to be stated which show conformity to the allowed grounds for recall. The draft language of the Montana petitions, “reason for recall” reads:

“The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees all U.S citizens:
“a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…”

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA 2011) permanently abolishes the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, “for the duration of hostilities” in the War on Terror, which was defined by President George W. Bush as “task which does not end” to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

Those who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have attempted to grant powers which cannot be granted, which violate both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

The Montana Recall Act stipulates that officials including US senators can only be recalled for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense. We the undersigned call for a recall election to be held for Senator Max S. Baucus [and Senator Jonathan Tester] and charge that he has violated his oath of office, to protect and defend the United States Constitution.”

…Montana would be the first recall drive to be launched as a result of the vote for the NDAA military detentions provisions.

Ah, it’s a fine day when the “principled left” believes that a dialog about the electeds stripping Constitutional rights from citizens needs to take center stage! As to Turley’s point above about the “two-party monopoly”, Denny should be taking his licks for his vote, also.

Update with thought exercise: What will the election for Senator look like if both candidates have active petition recalls against them? And what might happen if the petitions actually lead to a vote before the general election next year? And who might the fill in candidates be if both recalls succeeded? Who might replace Max?

By JC
(This is but the opinion of one Occupier in Solidarity, and not the consensus of OccupyMissoula) 

Many people do not understand what the Occupy movement is all about, and preconceptions and prejudices abound. I have spent most of the last two weeks working to understand this movement and help organize OccupyMissoula. I’m not sure why I stuck my neck out, and devoted all my time, but it has changed the way I look at politics, movements, and my community.

In the words of an elderly gentleman I have known and respected for the 25 years I have lived in Missoula, “this is the most important movement I have seen since the the Great Depression.”

Similarly, last night I had the honor to meet 4 young high school students who had decided to put on suits and come down to the County Court House and OccupyMissoula to “check things out.” We had a great conversation and I felt inspired that our youth feel the same concerns that our more experienced community members do, and felt compelled to participate, and to write about their experience (one of them was a writer for their high school’s newspaper).

It took an article in no less than Fox News, tweeted across the internet in a “Holy Shit” moment to put it all into perspective for me: “The key isn’t what protesters are for but rather what they’re against.” Continue Reading »

 
“This is a question of whether American democracy itself can beat back a corporate takeover”
— Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula

By JC

I’ll let the voices of a few of Missoula’s leaders in support of amending the U.S. Constitution to restrict corporate “personhood” tell the story (from behind the paywall at a local chapter of a national corporate newspaper chain):

University of Montana professor Vicki Watson thanked the council for bringing the referendum forward and said she wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an official message it erred. She said extending civil rights to corporations “makes a mockery of our sacred human rights.”

“Corporations do not bleed or feel pain. They can’t die in an unsafe workplace,” Watson said.

Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, said she pitched a similar piece of legislation in Helena, and she heard support from Democrats and Republicans all across the state. Hill noted Montana history is laced with stories of big money, such as the Copper Kings, buying influence.

“This is a question of whether American democracy itself can beat back a corporate takeover,” Hill said.

Mary Stranahan… said putting power back into the hands of the people is a huge matter. She encouraged people to seek more information about the national movement from The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, www.celdf.org.

“I think this is one of the most important issues we as a country face in trying to preserve what democracy we have,” Stranahan said.

And to those of you who complained in the comments of my last post on this issue, that the City Council should attend to more important matters, you got your wish: they also approved spending $188,829 on a machine to fill pot holes.

I’m just back from several days of vacation on a (mostly) deserted lake somewhere in NW Montana (and aching legs to prove it), and I’ll have much more to say about this issue in the future. One point I’d like to focus on is the stance that Missoula’s other newspaper publisher (and I presume many other newspapers) has taken in opposition to the movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to reserve 1st Amendment rights to the flesh and blooded. That somehow that would affect the 1st Amendment’s bedrock protection of freedom of the press.

I think that debate is a very worthy one to have. What is at stake is not just the fallout from Citizen’s United, but future fallout from a concerted effort by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his activist wife Virginia to reconstruct the Constitution to adhere to an originalist’s (and Tea Party) view that is more in concert with the will of the “Founders.”

 
“Corporations are not human beings and do not have the same rights as human beings”
— Cynthia Wolken, Missoula City Councilwoman

By JC

Hot on the heals of the “Running on Empty” corporate push to consolidate power in the states, Missoula’s newest Councilwoman, Cynthia Wolken, has introduced a Resolution in Missoula City Council to have the City join with communities across the land calling for a Constitutional Amendment opposing corporate personhood.

Wolken’s Resolution was heard and approved in the Council of the Whole yesterday, and moves to the full City Council at its regular meeting next Monday night. Wolken was quoted behind a paywall in the local affiliate of a corporate newspaper chain as saying:

“I heard an overwhelming sense of despair about government,” Wolken said Wednesday. People don’t believe their voices are heard, especially at the state and federal levels, she said. And they believe campaign dollars are distorting democracy…

“A lot of people feel what they say doesn’t matter because somebody with more money will come along and drown out their voices,” she said at a Committee of the Whole meeting.

She is asking the Missoula City Council to place on the 2011 ballot a referendum to push the Montana Legislature and the U.S. Congress to amend the Constitution and declare “corporations are not human beings and do not have the same rights as human beings.

“The city of Missoula, unfortunately, can’t fix this problem, but we can give our constituents a voice at the local level to say how they feel about it,” Wolken said.

Wolken’s Resolution represents Missoula’s local entry into a larger national movement focalized by groups like Move to Amend that are pushing for a Constitutional Amendment:

On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:

* Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

* Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our vote and participation count.

* Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate “preemption” actions by global, national, and state governments.

The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend.

Move to Amend is chock full of resources intended to help local activists organize and fight in your community and state against corporate personhood. Check it out and get organized and fight the behemoth!

And right on Cynthia! It’s great to see the new Councilwoman in my old ward take up the good fight and carry on the torch! Get your rearends down to City Council Monday night and show your support for Cynthia in her quest to lead Missoula into the national fight against corporate personhood and domination in American politics.

And don’t forget to listen to the great editorial on Montana Public Radio last year by Brian Muldoon describing Citizen’s United and the history of corporate “personhood.”

Text of Resolution after the jump:
Continue Reading »

By @CarFreeStpdty

you have to result to finding news from an Australian news site, the World Socialist Web Site, and a Rusian news station – see, Obama can’t be a socialist because the real socialists still left in this world hate him just about as much as they hated G.W.

CIA director Leon Panetta filed a legal brief to stop a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the federal government challenging its acquired taste for assassinating its own citizens. The administration doesn’t want the lawsuit to go through because… well… it would be embarrassing, potentially damaging leading into the elections, and challenge the extra-legal authorities of the Imperialist Presidency.  Already the State Department is attempting to invoke “States Secrets” as a defense against the lawsuit.   Arguing that the judicial branch has no authority here and that the Administration can act as judge, jury, and executioner… and assertion perhaps more egregious than almost anything Obama’s predecessor pulled off.  Amy Goodman featured the story as the top headline on Monday’s show here.

The story first developed when details became available that an American citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, wound up on a CIA hit list for materially supporting terrorism.  This got a little play in the MM and a small snippet here by Duganz, but basically it was quickly forgotten by most Americans because we all assume he’s guilty.  I mean just look at him, those beady little eyes, his un-American clothing, and a name slow-talking Midwesterners can’t wrap their tongues around.  I’m not defending any of his actions, because well, he’s a bearded douche.  Just do a Google video search for more videos like this where he openly calls on American Muslims to participate in Jihad against their own country.  While his words hold a great deal of inconvinient and sad truth, an examination of his motives would be for another post.

No, the real story is this seemingly final stride we are taking as a nation into the abyss of police statedom, an abyss nations do not come back from.  No matter how big of a douche this man is he is still an American citizen, born in America and so entitled to all the rights that any other Amiercan citizen is afforded.  And even if his actions and words constitute treason, which they probably do, treasonous people still get trials.  But now we have the development that the administration is actively engaging in “targeted killings,” of US citizens overseas, a policy that Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, openly admitted all the way back in February.

“…he was speaking publicly about the issue to reassure Americans that intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense “follow a set of defined policy and legal procedures that are very carefully observed” in the use of lethal force against U.S. citizens.

and

“We don’t target people for free speech.”

I feel reassured… don’t you?  It’s good to know they have a process for this type of thing, so that some bearded hipster doesn’t get mistaken for an anti-American Muslim cleric.

You know he's a patriotic American by the PBR pride he's displaying

G.W., with the collusion of Democrats, already effectively killed habeas corpus with the PATRIOT Act way back in 2001 so we’ve had a full nine years to get accustomed to our rights getting violated on a regular basis.  Now they have a process so that they don’t kill the wrong American talking about the evils of American policies.  At least Bush had the decency to try and give the American people a credible cover-up scandal when his administration violated the Constitution and international law.  Now instead of Bush hiding his hubris behind a half-cocked smirk we have the Obama administration upfront stating that they just took a steamer on the Constitution and wiped with the Declaration of Independence.  I guess that is Change We Can Believe In©, instead of an administration that spits in our coffee and then mixes it in before being served we now have one that spits directly in our face as we try to order.

Former Reagan Administration Official, Paul Craig Roberts says it better than I can…

Yes, the U.S. government has murdered its citizens, but Dennis Blair’s “defined policy” is a bold new development. The government, of course, denies that it intended to kill the Branch Davidians, Randy Weaver’s wife and child, or the Black Panthers. The government says that Waco was a terrible tragedy, an unintended result brought on by the Branch Davidians themselves. The government says that Ruby Ridge was Randy Weaver’s fault for not appearing in court on a day that had been miscommunicated to him. The Black Panthers, the government says, were dangerous criminals who insisted on a shoot-out.

And again here on Russia Today.  Oh how far our press has sunk that a former Reaganite has to go on a Russian news program to openly talk about the injustices our government commits, not to mention that the irony is thick enough to choke on.

Add on top of this last weeks FBI raid against anti-war protesters with “terror links” and other preemptive raids on activists and all hope seems to just drain out of me.  Back in the good old days Democrats would at a minimum feign disgust and outrage at situations like this, at least until our short American attention spans turned our heads in a different direction.  So lets all just go back to bashing the Tea Party and fighting over where specific houses of worship can be built and pretend like this is still America.

By @CarFreeStpdty

Listening to NPR’s Morning Edition – like I do on a routine basis while at work – has become just one more element in the background of white noise that fills my average day. But yesterday morning someone’s comments caught my attention in an unusual way. One quote stuck in my mind… playing itself over and over again. It wasn’t the shear stupidity of the statement.. but the brazen belief that we – Americans – operate on such a different plane of moral existence than all the rest of mankind. America = pure moral good… the rest of the earth = a world constantly on the search for a way to circumvent the rules of a civilized existence. We of course never cheat, never lie, never try to game the system while our foreign adversaries never do anything but exhibit such behavior. They – whoever we decide to define as that foreign element – that we are currently battling with never play by the rules. Of course the rules are those that we impose, err… unanimously decide upon.

The story Morning Edition featured detailed the tricky legality of Cyber Warfare… as if any warfare can be contained by the niceties of some wishful legal framework.

The quote, in reference to the emerging legal rules of cyber warfare was as follows:

“It is a near certainty that the United States will scrupulously obey whatever is written down, and it is almost as certain that no one else will,” says Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel and an assistant secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush.

Because… you know… we would never violate the Geneva Convention

– or at least try to slyly circumnavigate it – we would never try to enact policies that violate our own Constitution, or basic rights as citizens, we would never put personal gain above moral righteousness and the public good, etc, etc, etc, etc. Because… well… we’re Americans dammit, and no matter how many time we fuck up we are still morally unimpeachable as a nation. So… cyber warfare… we are obviously the only ones that will stay within the bounds of the law on that one…

by JC

Via HuffPo:

In a major victory for gay rights activists, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that a voter initiative banning same-sex marriage in California violated the Constitution’s equal protection and due process rights clauses.

After a five-month wait, 9th Circuit District Court Judge Vaughn Walker offered a 136-page decision in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, firmly rejecting Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in November 2008.

“Although Proposition 8 fails to possess even a rational basis, the evidence presented at trial shows that gays and lesbians are the type of minority strict scrutiny was designed to protect,” Walker ruled.

“Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy — namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.”

“Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society.”

This is a huge decision folks! Finally, the road to sanity in regards to gay marriage has been paved by a judge with some intelligence. Here are a few highlights of the decision:

In deciding the case, Walker offered a variety of findings that may be as important as the ruling itself. Among them were the following:

  • “Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as a characteristic of the individual. Sexual orientation is fundamental to a person’s identity and is a distinguishing characteristic that defines gays and lesbians as a discrete group. Proponents’ assertion that sexual orientation cannot be defined is contrary to the weight of the evidence.”
  • “Individuals do not generally choose their sexual orientation. No credible evidence supports a finding that an individual may, through conscious decision, therapeutic intervention or any other method, change his or her sexual orientation.”
  • “Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital unions. Like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples have happy, satisfying relationships and form deep emotional bonds and strong commitments to their partners. Standardized measures of relationship satisfaction, relationship adjustment and love do not differ depending on whether a couple is same-sex or opposite-sex.”
  • “Marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals.”
  • “Same-sex couples receive the same tangible and intangible benefits from marriage that opposite-sex couples receive.”
  • “The availability of domestic partnership does not provide gays and lesbians with a status equivalent to marriage because the cultural meaning of marriage and its associated benefits are intentionally withheld from same-sex couples in domestic partnerships.”
  • “Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.”

Perhaps the most important political finding that Walker made was his conclusion that the fact that Prop 8 passed as a voter initiative was irrelevant.

That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, as “fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

And let’s not forget that Montana has a Constitutional ban on gay marriage passed in 2004. That ban was challenged in court last month:

Seven gay couples in Montana filed a lawsuit against the state Thursday for its failure to provide legal protections to gay couples and their families.

In 2004 voters approved a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage or same-sex couple recognition.”

Should be a slam-dunk case, given the findings in Judge Walker’s decision!

Update: Here’s a link to Judge Walker’s Decision at Scribd.

By CFS

“We are the army out to free men!” – Sheriff Richard Mack

I just want to get back to building an army and preparing for a revolution.” – Schaeffer Cox

“While the State exists there can be no freedom; when there is freedom there will be no State. – Vladimir Lenin

That last quote by Lenin could have easily come from the mouth of your average American Libertarian.

This last weekend saw Ravalli County political group Celebrating Conservatism host the first ever Liberty Convention held at the Adams Center on The University of Montana campus.  While the Adams Center might have seemed a little hollow with so few people in attendance, that fact didn’t  seem to bother the convention organizers.  “This,” said Mona Docteur, the driving force behind much of Celebrating Conservatism’s activities, “was mainly a chance to network with like minded individuals.”  But while the numbers might have been small, the philosophical foundation from which the Liberty movement is building upon is not; it is bold, steeped Western anti-government sentiment and rugged individualism, and wants to radically change the relationship between the individual and the state.

The fact that Conservatism is in the name of the group is an insult to true Conservatives.  Conservatism as a political and social philosophy is one that respects traditional institutions that work to uphold the functioning of a society and rejects radical change.  Many of the people brought into speak at the Liberty Convention made a point to specifically call for a radical break from current political institutions and radically reshape American society.  On the surface of things, Celebrating Conservatism and many similar small groups around Montana and the West are pushing for many policies that many would associate with conservatism… gun rights,  states sovereignty, small government, and individual freedom.

Peel back the public veneer and what this movement wants is much more radical; a libertarian utopia devoid of any from of central government “tyranny,” and ultimate freedom for the individual.  When speaking about the “proper” role of government Gary Marbut – local Missoula gun rights advocate and author of the Firearms Freedom Act – questioned whether building highways was a legitimate use of government authority.  If a so called  “conservative” is questioning the building of roads you can imagine his opinion on the BLM, Forest Service, Social Security, DUI laws, etc.  To them, individuals should operate as they see fit without any regulation upon behavior… except for vigilante justice dispensed by local citizen militias and an armed populace.  I guess a clean gun is supposed to make for good neighbors.

Many of the speakers at the convention expressly stated such beliefs based not only upon political philosophy but also scripture.  2008 Constitution Party Presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin – whom spoke Friday night – in a May 19th 2010 article available on his website predicts the breakup of the United States and applauds the prospect of states succeeding from the union (in the same article he also claims that bringing women into the military is a globalist plot to make our military less efficient and weaken our national security to the point that wee can’t operate without UN support).

Red Beckman – perpetual tax protester and long time militia movement supporter – shared this same view that the tyrannical Federal Government will be brought down because we as a nation have forsaken God and that, just as the USSR was brought down by God, the Federal Government will disappear as part of God’s will.  He also stated that illegal immigration was God’s curse on this nation for the Roe v. Wade decision.  They don’t just see the fall of the American Empire… they actively want to push it over the edge.

This group sees themselves as being oppressed by a tyrannical and unjust government that time and again ignores the constitution and has usurped individual freedom.  How they propose to reshape the political landscape is truly nothing short of a revolution.  Red Beckman implored the audience to follow the example of Romanian soldiers whom in 1989 turned on and killed the dictator.

The one feature of language used throughout the convention that surprised me was the constant allusions to and mentioning of “building an army.”  Speakers referred to the audience as “foot soldiers” and Mona Docteur asked them to, “stand on the front lines.”  As much as they disparaged against socialism, communism, and specifically the Bolshevik Revolutionaries it seems that they share much in common with the Bolsheviks in their formative year.  The pattern of history the Liberty Movement sees themselves part of is awkwardly similar to how Marx and Lenin foretold the fall of the oppressive Tsarist regime.

Just as the Bolsheviks saw themselves as the awakened and enlightened vanguard that would lead Russia to a proletariat democratic utopia; the Liberty Movement’s professional revolutionaries  on display this last weekend talked of “leading the charge,” and “bringing enlightenment to the rest of America,” from this small base of people that can, “see the truth,” of how oppressive and tyrannical the government is.  Speaker Schaeffer Cox – Fairbanks, AK militia organizer – talked of, “being right on the edge of having to bloody our swords… revolutions are not instituted, they are provoked, and they are provoked by government.”  Sounds oddly like “a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation,” declared by Vladimir Lenin.

The normal person involved in these meetings and the movement are just that… normal people that are simply fed-up with the current political atmosphere and I’m sure they wouldn’t consider themselves revolutionary.  A lot of the allusions to revolution might be hyperbole… but it seems to me that these luminaries, the professional revolutionaries of the Liberty Movement, believe what they are saying.  They are in no why cynical and actually quite optimistic in their assessment of what they can and will accomplish and are attempting to build a larger coalition across the West.

Groups like these feed off of troubling and uncertain times and today is full a many challenges and uncertainties about the future.  Just as in the 1930s this country, saw a large uptick in communist and fascist party membership people today are looking for a fresh political movement that will provide a clear way forward and a promising future to those that currently see only despair.  While this movement is small today no group that openly talks of revolution should be ignored.  Rather they should be studied to understand the mechanisms by which they operate and grow so that their very legitimate concerns may be addressed within society at large.

Vladimir Lenin established his first revolutionary group in 1895, it wasn’t until 1917 that the revolution came to fruition… jolted violently to life by the collapse of the Russian economy after WWI.  The Liberty Movement is predicting such a collapse… hoping for such a collapse… and biding their time until such a collapse happens.

by Pete Talbot

By giving corporations the same rights as citizens, the U.S. Supreme Court guarantees a less-than-level playing field in upcoming elections. A majority on the court (this would be mainly your Reagan/Bush/Bush appointees) overturned much of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act.

Here’s the story, and how each justice voted.

Of course, labor unions have also contributed vast sums to candidates and campaigns but weren’t happy with the ruling. SEIU denounced the court decision, saying it opened the door for corporations to outspend unions:

“I don’t think working people would ever have as much to spend as corporations. For us, being able to spend a few extra dollars isn’t worth allowing decisions to be made from boardrooms instead of the polling booth,” said union spokeswoman Lori Lodes.

In my inbox this morning was a timely request from David Sirota. He called the SCOTUS decision a “a radical ruling that threatens the most basic fundamentals of American democracy.” I agree. And Sirota offers up a petition to amend the Constitution to declare that corporations are NOT people. Please sign it.

by jhwygirl

I marked my calendar a little over a week ago for Scott McClellan’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which will be looking into the leak which exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Valerie Plame was undercover investigating the trafficking of yellowcake uranium in Niger, and trying to keep the stuff out of Iraq. Her name was leaked out of the Whitehouse, and Scooter Libby was subsequently found guilty of obstruction of justice, for failing to reveal the source of the leak. Libby’s sentence was quickly commuted by President George W. Bush.

Shows the Whitehouse’s commitment to national security, huh?

Hearing begins at 8am (MST), and C-Span radio will be streaming. Go to C-Span for specifics.

by jhwygirl

Kucinich was just warming us up – on June 20th, former Bush Whitehouse press secretary Scott McClellan will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee regarding what he knows about the leaking of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame, who was working to prevent the underground trade in yellowcake uranium.

It’s my belief that Vice-President Dick Cheney was the source of the leak, and as such, committed treason. Libby Scooter, Cheney’s chief of staff, was sentenced to jail for obstruction of justice – for failure to reveal who told him that Plame was a spy – for failure to reveal the source of the leak. There’s way more to what has formed my firm belief that Cheney leaked Plame’s name – and anyone with time and motivation can go out and inform themselves. It’s not like there’s a dearth of information on the issue.

Last April, Kucinich had introduced a resolution of articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney. The resolution was killed, but only after Republicans voted in favor of taking up the measure to force a debate.

I know this all seems too radical for some, but the Constitution is the damned basis of our Government – and illegal torture, misuse of the FISA court, illegal surveillance, destruction of evidence, suspension of habeas corpus, war crimes, treason – at what point do Americans stand firm and say “No More”? At what point do our elected officials stand tall and speak up for our government? The government which our forefathers envisioned and put onto paper?

Scotty testifies on the 20th…and despite what I’ve thought about his need for a paycheck, maybe he really is seeking redemption. He might want to think about getting a bullet-proof vest and a bodyguard, though – they may come in handy.

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by jhwygirl

Live, on C-Span, right now, he’s reading his 35 count resolution of impeachment.

I had to commemorate this with a post.

It’s about time.

Go Dennis!

UPDATE: Apparently a lively beginning – upon initiating his floor speech this evening, Kucinich turned to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and said “The House is not in order,” to which Ms. Pelosis pounded her gavel, and Kucinich then continued with his resolution. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said numerous times that impeachment is “not on the table.”

by jhwygirl

A New York Times article released yesterday but dated today – much of which was the result of having to sue the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of email messages, transcripts and records – goes into gory, disgusting detail of the relationship between the Pentagon, the Bush Administration and most (yep, most) military analysts on mainstream media outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and NBC.

Some of these analysts were on the mission to Cuba on June 24, 2005 — the first of six such Guantánamo trips — which was designed to mobilize analysts against the growing perception of Guantánamo as an international symbol of inhumane treatment. On the flight to Cuba, for much of the day at Guantánamo and on the flight home that night, Pentagon officials briefed the 10 or so analysts on their key messages — how much had been spent improving the facility, the abuse endured by guards, the extensive rights afforded detainees.The results came quickly. The analysts went on TV and radio, decrying Amnesty International, criticizing calls to close the facility and asserting that all detainees were treated humanely.

“The impressions that you’re getting from the media and from the various pronouncements being made by people who have not been here in my opinion are totally false,” Donald W. Shepperd, a retired Air Force general, reported live on CNN by phone from Guantánamo that same afternoon.

The next morning, Montgomery Meigs, a retired Army general and NBC analyst, appeared on “Today.” “There’s been over $100 million of new construction,” he reported. “The place is very professionally run.”

Within days, transcripts of the analysts’ appearances were circulated to senior White House and Pentagon officials, cited as evidence of progress in the battle for hearts and minds at home.

Are you kidding me?!

Assistant secretary of defense for public affairs Torie Clark, a former public relations executive, cooked up the plan. Before 9/11, she had begun to build a system within the Pentagon to recruit key movers and shakers that could be counted on to generate support for Secretary of State Don Rumsfield’s priorities. She found them in military analysts who she saw as not only getting more airtime than network reporters, but were also viewed by the public as independent of the media – which we all know can be biased, right?

What the public got, instead, was a neoconservative brain trust which spoonfed Pentagon and Bush administration talking points to the public while raking in increasingly larger salaries from military contractors that supplemented their retirement incomes.

Neocons such as retired Army general Paul E. Vallely, a Fox News military analyst from 2001 to 2007. Vallely had specialized in psychological warfare and co-authored a paper in 1980 that blamed American’s loss in Vietnam on American news organizations failure to defend the nations from “enemy propaganda” during the war – a belief shared by many on Bush’s national security team.

Then there were defense profiteers such as retired Army general James Marks, a military analyst for CNN from 2004 to 2007, who worked as a senior executive for McNeil Technologies which pursued both military and intelligence contracts. Marks was also national security adviser for former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

There was also retired Army colonel John C. Garret, a military analyst for Fox News TV and radio & a lobbyist at Patton Boggs, which assists firms wishing to win Pentagon contracts. Or retired Air Force general Joseph W. Ralston, CBS military analyst and vice-chair of the Cohen Group, a consulting firm headed up by former defense secretary William Cohen, which represents agencies and firms wishing for entry into the aerospace and defense market.

The Times admits to having had at least nine of the Pentagon’s recruited minions writing op-ed articles for them.

Vallely is apparently having some crisis of conscience. In an interview with the Times, commenting on a September 2003 tour of Iraq with fellow military analysts, Vallely expresses remorse: “I saw immediately in 2003 that things were going south.”

Vallely had told Alan Colmes of Fox News, upon his return from that very same propaganda-filled tour, “You can’t believe the progress”

Fox news military analyst and retired Army lieutenant colonel Timur J. Eads had a crisis-of-conscience too – he told the times that he, too, had at times held his tongue on television for fear that “some four-star would call up and say, ‘Kill that contract.’ Eads believe Pentagon officials misled the analysts aboutthe progress of Iraq’s security forces. “I know a snow job when I see one,” he said.

Eads never mentioned that on Fox News.

You don’t say!

The Times story goes on to shine the light, in full disgusting brightness, on the self-serving criminal arrogance of the Bush Administration and Don Rumsfield and the Pentagon. In April 2006 the Bush Administration faced what is now known as the General’s Revolt – open criticism by Rumsfields’ former generals that his wartime performance was crap. His resignation was being called for and his days were beginning their downward spiral.

The day after that NY Times article, the Pentagon helped Fox analysts General McInerney and General Vallely write an opinion article for The Wall Street Journal defending Rumsfield. News of that meeting leaked, and was printed on the front page of the Times. By Tuesday, the Pentagon was in full defense mode, and had a larger group of analysts in its offices willing to propogate the spin necessary to help defend Rumsfield from his own Iraqi war generals:

“I’m an old intel guy,” said one analyst. (The transcript omits speakers’ names.) “And I can sum all of this up, unfortunately, with one word. That is Psyops. Now most people may hear that and they think, ‘Oh my God, they’re trying to brainwash.’ ”

“What are you, some kind of a nut?” Mr. Rumsfeld cut in, drawing laughter. “You don’t believe in the Constitution?”

There was little discussion about the actual criticism pouring forth from Mr. Rumsfeld’s former generals. Analysts argued that opposition to the war was rooted in perceptions fed by the news media, not reality. The administration’s overall war strategy, they counseled, was “brilliant” and “very successful.”

“Frankly,” one participant said, “from a military point of view, the penalty, 2,400 brave Americans whom we lost, 3,000 in an hour and 15 minutes, is relative.”

An analyst said at another point: “This is a wider war. And whether we have democracy in Iraq or not, it doesn’t mean a tinker’s damn if we end up with the result we want, which is a regime over there that’s not a threat to us.”

“Yeah,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, taking notes.

But winning or not, they bluntly warned, the administration was in grave political danger so long as most Americans viewed Iraq as a lost cause. “America hates a loser,” one analyst said.

Much of the session was devoted to ways that Mr. Rumsfeld could reverse the “political tide.” One analyst urged Mr. Rumsfeld to “just crush these people,” and assured him that “most of the gentlemen at the table” would enthusiastically support him if he did.

“You are the leader,” the analyst told Mr. Rumsfeld. “You are our guy.”

At another point, an analyst made a suggestion: “In one of your speeches you ought to say, ‘Everybody stop for a minute and imagine an Iraq ruled by Zarqawi.’ And then you just go down the list and say, ‘All right, we’ve got oil, money, sovereignty, access to the geographic center of gravity of the Middle East, blah, blah, blah.’ If you can just paint a mental picture for Joe America to say, ‘Oh my God, I can’t imagine a world like that.’ ”

Even as they assured Mr. Rumsfeld that they stood ready to help in this public relations offensive, the analysts sought guidance on what they should cite as the next “milestone” that would, as one analyst put it, “keep the American people focused on the idea that we’re moving forward to a positive end.” They placed particular emphasis on the growing confrontation with Iran.

“When you said ‘long war,’ you changed the psyche of the American people to expect this to be a generational event,” an analyst said. “And again, I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job…”

“Get in line,” Mr. Rumsfeld interjected.

The meeting ended and Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing pleased and relaxed, took the entire group into a small study and showed off treasured keepsakes from his life, several analysts recalled.

Read it if you dare. I’ll just leave you with the image above: Rumsfield, appearing pleased and relaxed, showing off his little trinkets.

by jhwygirl

I read Doug regularly. Don’t always agree, but I certainly don’t always disagree.

Scary stuff.

I’m talking about his post.

by Pete Talbot

There ought to be a law against (alleged) boneheads like this having handguns.

An 18-month-old girl gets shot in the head when a man caring for her leaves (allegedly) a 9 mm pistol on the bed, within her reach, while he’s sleeping. Plus the gun doesn’t have a safety.

Please, my progressive gun-loving friends, explain to me how the Second Amendment applies to an (alleged) loser like this. I have a grandson about this age and this story sickens me.

by Rebecca Schmitz

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I wanted to post a link to what is, in my opinion, Dr. King’s most moving speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop“. He gave it the night before his assassination on April 4th, 1968.  Beacuse of that, his final words are some of the most poignant in American history.

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

If you have the time, I really encourage you to listen to the audio file (others are available here). The words above are beautiful, but Dr. King’s delivery is meant to be heard.

by jhwygirl

These three guys are presiding over the Senate while the rest of ’em are taking a much needed rest.

Our own Senator Tester, though, is still at it – the man knows no rest it seems – having spent last Monday up on the border meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The three Senators above – Webb, Dorgan & Reed – are taking time away from their families in the name of – as Senator Webb (D-VA) put it – “an exercise of protecting the Constitution and our constitutional processes.”

This is because Bush had notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that he intended to fill some appointments during the Senate recess.

Recess appointments are a favorite of George Jr. – he’s made 167 of them, notable amongst them the controversial John Bolton, as U.S. representative to the United Nations. Bolton had faced a successful filibuster in the Senate due to allegations of his use – and abuse – of wiretappings of U.S. citizens. The Bush Administration backed up his man by refusing to release documents related to said wiretaps.

Bolton was put into place during the summer recess of August 2005. He resigned in December 2006, just before the swearing in of the new congress – when he would have had to face the new Senate for confirmation.

This time around, it is assumed the objet d’affection is Dr. James Holsinger, Bush’s nominee for the post of Surgeon General. Holsinger was nominated back in May, but it seems time hasn’t been right to bring the nomination forward. It won’t be. Holsinger is a homophobic nutcase who founded a church that ministers to people who no longer wish to be gay.

Wonder how they were recruited for that position? Ye-shall-burn-in-hell preaching abilities? Bet those guys and gals were at the top of that game.

Has he tried out his ministry on Mary Cheney yet?

These pro forma sessions may look silly – a lone Senator and 4 or 5 staff, sitting before an empty Senate floor, opening and closing the Senate in the space of less than 30 seconds – but they are important to protecting our constitutional process. They’re also important in protecting us from nutcases like Dr. James Holsinger.

Thank you Senator James Webb, Senator Byron Dorgan, Senator Jack Reed. You are appreciated.

by jhwygirl

We have the Bush administration that is basically pissing on the Constitution and doesn’t seem to know what habeas corpus means, and people are in an uproar about this?

Geez.

Maybe we should put some prickly bushes and a fence around the Constitution.

(For those of you who’d rather do video, Keith Olberman had a pretty good visual I remember from a while back. Click on the video on this link.)

by Jay Stevens

Okay, first I was rabid in one direction, then measured in the other. What does seem clear is that there are two possible methods to end the war: through funding, or through a revised war resolution.

(By the way, it seems that the War Powers Act of 1973 – which I assume Iraq falls under – gives Congress a clearer role in ending the war. Check it out.)

In any case…I finally got a peek at the Reid/Feingold bill:

a) Transition of Mission – The President shall promptly transition the mission of United States forces in Iraq to the limited purposes set forth in subsection (d).

(b) Commencement of Safe, Phased Redeployment from Iraq – The President shall commence the safe, phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq that are not essential to the purposes set forth in subsection (d). Such redeployment shall begin not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(c) Prohibition on Use of Funds – No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008.

(d) Exception for Limited Purposes – The prohibition under subsection (c) shall not apply to the obligation or expenditure of funds for the limited purposes as follows:

(1) To conduct targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.

(2) To provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.

(3) To train and equip Iraqi security services.

I found this at Bob Geiger’s blog, who has this to say about Jon Tester:

“Senator Tester will not vote for any measure that he feels may compromise the safety and security of the troops on the ground,” said Matt McKenna, Communications Director for freshman Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

But putting the onus on Democrats to keep funding this war, versus placing the weight on Bush to pull the troops out of that quagmire before the money is gone, means that Tester is almost reciting Republican talking points for a response. Jon Tester’s a good man and I have faith that he will rethink this before the vote actually comes to the Senate floor.

Discuss.

by Jay Stevens

I admit I’ve enjoyed the back-and-forth with rightie blogger Montana Headlines. It’s good to have a quality foil in the Montana blogosphere, it keeps me on my toes.

The latest MH post was in response to my savaging of Barack Obama over his statements on Iraq War funding. (In which I do now admit I was a little over-heated. I like Obama.) In MH’s post, he questions whether Congress can Constitutionally deny funds to the Iraq War, and opines that Obama’s stance may, in fact, be the most politically astute:

Unless Congress is also prepared to pass a resolution that specifically de-authorizes the war, it is asking for a Constitutional crisis to have Congress merely defund the war. Any attached instructions for military commanders also are asking for a Constitutional crisis.

Consider: Congress has the constitutional authority and responsibility to declare war (and, as we have stated before, presumably to undeclare war), and it is tasked with raising funds to support the military. It was probably never contemplated by the Founders that the two might not go clearly hand-in-hand with each other.

Congress needs formally to “undeclare war” if it wants to make a defunding iron-clad….

[snip]

[The President] can furthermore justifiably claim that the Constitution gives no authority to Congress to dictate how a military action is to be conducted. The Supreme Court is unlikely to come up with an emanation from a penumbra saying that Congress has somehow developed constitutional military command authority.

Man, I love me a good ole fashioned Constitutional debate!

So let us traipse over to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States…

[snip]

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces…

It seems clear that the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the scope of military action. With the original Iraqi War Resolution, Congress gave the President the authority to use force, if necessary, against the present danger of Iraq. (While I happen to think this Resolution void because of the manufacturing of danger by the administration, Congress does not.) A clear way to end the Iraq War, then, would be to pass a new resolution.

But this section also gives Congress the power to fund the military as it sees fit. Nowhere does the document state that Congress must fund the military to the President’s desires, nor does it deny Congress the authority to allocate the money where it sees fit. In fact, it seems clear that Congress’ control over funding is intended to serve as a check on the executive’s power to wage war.

Don’t believe me? You shouldn’t: I’m just some schmuck with a computer. But here’s what Alexander Hamilton had to say about Congress’ power to raise funds for the military in Federalist paper 24:

….in that clause which forbids the appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer period than two years a precaution which, upon a nearer view of it, will appear to be a great and real security against the keeping up of troops without evident necessity.

Clearly Hamilton here sees Congressional control over funding a necessary check on the executive’s desire to build up an army or keep one in the field longer than necessary, as defined by Congress.

Then there’s Federalist paper 26:

The legislature of the United States will be OBLIGED, by this provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter, by a formal vote in the face of their constituents. They are not AT LIBERTY to vest in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.

Got that? Congress isn’t allowed to abrogate this authority to the executive. It’s not only acceptable to consider limiting funds for the military, such consideration is Constitutionally mandated.

Given that Congress can both dictate the scope and form of war and controls the funding of war, it seems clear that the recent Iraq War funding bill is constitutional. Congress can dictate to the President exactly how long he has to wage war in Iraq. Or, more specifically, the operations are up to the President; the goals and scope of the war is up to Congress.

by Jay Stevens 

State Sen. Rick Laible (R-Darby) has introduced a bill that would give Montana’s presidential electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. According to Laible, the bill would make Montana and other sparsely populated states more relevant in the national election:

Republican Sen. Rick Laible and other supporters said the change would make Montana and other sparsely populated states more of a factor in presidential races and could increase voter turnout.

“This affirms what we all hear, which is one man, one woman, one vote,” Laible told the Senate State Administration Committee. “The electoral voting system doesn’t allow that.”

The bill has caused confusion, and why not? At a quick glance it looks like it has the potential to counter the will of the state’s voters, especially if the state prefers the candidate who loses the national popular vote. In practice, however, the bill actually gives more weight to Montanans’ votes and issues than the present system.

I actually wrote about this issue way back in March, when the idea got some exposure in The New Yorker.

According to the bill backers, under the current winner-take-all system, presidential candidates completely ignore all the states where it’s clear which candidate will win. After all, it doesn’t matter if 55 percent or 65 percent of Montanans vote for a candidate: the state’s electoral votes go to the candidate in either case. As a result, the presidential race – and subsequent national politics – is aimed at a handful of “battleground” purplish states – like Ohio and Florida – where the race could go either way.

According to the theory, the system discourages voter participation. Why go out and vote if you’re an Idaho liberal? Why go to the polls if you’re a California conservative? Your vote doesn’t matter.

If Montana and a number of other states pass bills that grant their state’s electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote, that all changes. Under the new system, with the Electoral College bypassed, it does matter if a candidate wins 55 percent or 65 percent of the vote in Montana. All the extra votes get added to the total and could help the candidate prevail in the popular vote.

There are, of course, nay-sayers who point to the nation’s republican structure, tout the process’ “protection” of small states. Which is all hogwash, naturally. Hertzberg:

There’s a traditional view that without the Electoral College Presidential campaigns would simply ignore the small states. It hasn’t worked that way. The real division that the Electoral College creates, in tandem with the winner-take-all rule, is not between large states and small states but between battleground states and what might be called spectator states. Of the thirteen least populous states, six are red, six are blue, and one—New Hampshire—is up for grabs. Guess which twelve Bush and Kerry stiffed and which one got plenty of love, long after the primary season? Size doesn’t matter. At the other end of the spectrum, the three biggest states—blue California, red Texas, and blue New York—were utterly ignored, except for purposes of fund-raising.

That is, the Electoral College doesn’t actually do what it’s supposed to. This won’t make a whit of difference with those that oppose the plan; the real fear here is that a popular referendum would put into power a politician whose politics they find abhorrent. Or worse: it would actually encourage more people to vote.

Personally, I shy away from positions that narrow the democratic process so that I can have my way politically.

by Jay Stevens 

So Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee today, in what is obviously — hopefully — a harbinger of things to come.

Crooks & Liars has the video up of Sen. Leahy slamming – and I mean slamming — Gonzalez over the case of Canadian Maher Arar, who, though later found innocent of all charges, was shipped by the CIA to Syria where he was tortured. Leahy:

We knew damn well if he went to Canada he wouldn’t be tortured. He’d be held and he’d be investigated. We also knew damn well if he went to Syria, he’d be tortured. And it’s beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

It’s a great quote, and sounds even better coming from a red-faced indignant Senator. Give it a watch and feel the goose bumps when you realize how sincere and right it sounds. Kind of refreshing after watching GOP Senators kow-tow to the administration. Like, say, Orrin Hatch:

Orrin Hatch spent the first two minutes of his time “questioning” Gonzales by lauding Gonzales’ extreme integrity and diligence during this Grave and Epic War on Terrorism that America faces, explaining that everything they’ve done is critical to protecting us and describing the time in which Gonzales is Attorney General as one of the most difficult and important in history — Hatch emphasized that he means not only U.S. history, but in the history of the whole, wide world….

Hatch then spent the rest of his time (all 6 minutes) demanding that Gonzales and the Justice Department devote much more of its resources and attention — including FBI agents, other law-enforcement resources and a new task force — to enforcing anti-obscenity laws against people in the U.S. who produce pornography, particularly those who sell it over the Internet, and urged that whole new laws be created to criminalize Internet pornography….

Or, to put it another way, the Terrorists pose such a grave danger to our Republic that it is the most threatening and important time Ever, justifying whole new expansions of government power and total government secrecy in order to protect us and to win this War because the Terrorists want to kill us all, and our law enforcement resources should therefore be poured into imprisoning people who make adult films and putting an end to pornography. That’s what Orrin Hatch said today.

Good times…

by Jay Stevens 

Colby already blogged about SB 15, which would prohibit picketing at funerals.

Colby supports the bill, as do I. And so should you.

Yes! Me! Mr. Freedom-is-for-tolerating-those-that-we-disagree-with!

There is, of course, an argument to be made that the government should not be in the business of creating “free speech zones” — which already exist, by the way, at political conventions and Bush speeches. And that’s the general fear of SB 15 opponents, that somehow this bill violates picketer’s First Amendment rights and violates the Constitution.

A couple of things: like Colby, I don’t think this bill places undue restrictions against the First Amendment: “..some free speech is destructive and not protected.” Specifically political speech that purposefully incites.

SB 15 clearly is protecting society against such speech. The bill is, of course, a reaction to the infamous Westboro Baptists’ (no link from me, thank you very much) protest at the funeral of Max Baucus’ nephew, Phillip, a veteran of the Iraq War. The Westboro gang makes it a habit to protest the funerals of servicemen and -women who fell in Iraq as part of their continuing crusade to inform the country that the soldiers’ deserved to die because we tolerate homosexuality. In that context, it’s clear that these protests at military funerals have the potential to erupt in violence. Protecting both the picketers and funeral-goers from the logical results of inciting protest is, IMHO, constitutional.

Another argument against the bill was offered by Carol Juneau (D-Browning), who, “suggest[ed] she could be thrown in jail for protesting the funeral of someone, who, for example, had killed her grandchild.”

Colby, as usual, is dead-on:

No matter how bad this dead [person] might have been, he/she still had friends, parents, etc who deserve the right to grieve; they didn’t do anything wrong, and may have loved the person. It is the same logic that I used to refute the death penalty for obviously guilty people, when you kill somebody you don’t punish just that person, but everybody who loves that inmate. Everybody deserves the right to grieve for their dead, even if the dead were terrible people.

I’d also add that Juneau’s hypothetical protest would also be inciting, as well, and shouldn’t be allowed. Colby is clearly correct. Funerals should be allowed to proceed uninterrupted.

But neither Colby nor Juneau touched on the case of “reasonable” protest, protest at a funeral that wouldn’t be inciting. At the funeral of a prominent figure, a president or other politician, say. I can imagine that, for example, at the funeral of Reagan, a protest in support of embryonic stem-cell research – which Nancy Reagan vigorously supported – would be “reasonable.”

Fortunately, SB 15’s provisions still maintain a protester’s free-speech rights for a reasonable, non-inciting protest. The bill’s text:

A person commits the offense of funeral picketing if the person knowingly engages in picketing within 1,500 feet of any property boundary entrance to or exit from a funeral site during the period from 1 hour before the scheduled commencement of the funeral services until 1 hour after the actual completion of the funeral services.

The bill, then, doesn’t prohibit groups from protesting or engaging in free speech, but in protesting at the funeral, the goal of which, one assumes, is to be inciting. Under the bill’s text, protesters could picket up to an hour before the funeral, giving plenty of time for passersby and media to take note, but removes them when the family and friends of the deceased are present and actively in mourning.

The bottom line for legislators, of course, is this: do you think it’s a reasonable and worthy goal? If so, even if you’re worried about the constitutional problems with the bill, vote for it. In the end the constitutionality of the bill will not be – and should not be – decided by the legislature. That is the job of the courts. If the bill is indeed unconstitutional, the courts will overturn it. But I doubt it.

Vote for Senate Bill 15.

by Jay Stevens 

The ACLU announced its intention to be more active in Montana, planning on giving Montana branch an extra financial boost:

The ACLU in New York said that of the $10 million, Montana stands to receive about $1.2 million over a four-year span, with fifth-year funding still to be determined. The Montana budget was about $300,000 last year.

Naturally, reaction from righties was absolutely predictable. One of the first comments on the story compared the ACLU to the Taliban. Or take this weird letter that claims the ACLU’s main mission is to expunge Christianity from the public sphere.

Now usually I’d launch into these arguments and defend the organization’s mission. But I’m not going to. That’s because several people already have, and better than I ever could.

Like Ed Kemmick, who picked up on the hatred; he opined that the ACLU was the lightning rod for blind hatred, and found the hate unfounded:

How uninformed are people? Well, in the comments attached to the story in question, at least two people called the ACLU the American Taliban. Huh? If a Taliban-like group were to take over the United States, the first group it would abolish would be the ACLU. Then the rest of us would be easier pickings.

Another commenter on the Gazette story – mike – rightfully noted that the ACLU is hardly partisan or favors any one group over another:

Most of the ACLU haters rely on garbage they hear on hate radio and other far right sources. If one looks carefully at the case history, ACLU provides legal support to cases where Constitutional principles are compromised, and have represented people and organizations on both ends of the political spectrum. Often they protect a legal principle while reviling the the group or individual in question, as with the Nazis in Skokie and NAMBLA. Evidently the concept of Constitutional rights belonging to all citizens, not just those you agree with, is beyond the ability of many to grasp. This is exactly why we we need ACLU.

And finally Hullabaloo’s Tristero explains why he supports the ACLU even when they support someone he disagrees with, or finds repulsive:

First and foremost, the banning of speech and the curtailment of civil rights is a political act exercised by the powerful upon the weak. It is an immensely slippery and dangerous slope. Speech suddenly gets criminalized at the whim of the government or corporations in cahoots with the government. That is why those of us who don’t have any interest in speaking up in defense of major league jerks nevertheless refuse to give up our ACLU cards when they offer their services to defend someone we utterly detest. We know that, if they get away with shutting up Ollie [North] or a Nazi, we’re next. Just as we don’t like Iran/Contra criminals, we don’t like NAMBLA either. But they all got rights. Or none of us really do.

Amen!

by Jay Stevens 

Here we go. The work can begin.

Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd today announced his intention to introduce legislation in the Senate that would amend the “torture bill.” Some planned changes:

Restores Habeas Corpus protections to detaineesNarrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants

Bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials

Empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable

Authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions

Limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight

Provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions

This is exactly what needs to happen: reinstitute the rule of law over the executive branch, yet still giving federal officials powerful law-enforcement tools to combat terrorism. Let’s face it: the executive needs oversight. Detainees must have their basic rights. This shouldn’t even be up for discussion, let alone already existing legislation voted on by the Senate.

There were 12 Democrats who voted for it and only 1 Republican who voted against it. Let’s hope those numbers change and significantly. The 2006 elections was a clear demonstration that American voters do not like the way the executive branch is handling Iraq and the “war on terror.” We’ll soon see which Senators got that message.

by Jay Stevens 

I’ve already posted this in “Links,” but it’s worth highlighting. Recently a couple on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles was…well…“snuggling and kissing inappropriately” during their flight:

“Persing was observed nuzzling or kissing Sewell on the neck, and … with his face pressed against Sewell’s vaginal area. During these actions, Sewell was observed smiling,” reads the indictment filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.On a second warning from the flight attendant, Persing snapped back threatening the flight attendant with “serious consequences” if he did not leave them alone.

The couple could face 20 years imprisonment under the Patriot Act.

I seriously doubt that this was what the well-intentioned thought the Patriot Act was supposed to protect us against. Sure, there was a veiled threat made. But do we want flight attendants deciding who’s a terrorist? Especially if you could lose all of your Constitutional rights to trial and representation? Especially if the man in question was sick, not over-sexed?

This stuff matters. Take the administration’s recently unveiled claim that it can hold immigrants indefinitely, if accused of terrorism. And who does the accusing? Who decides? You remember the torture bill: it’s the President. But the problem is, there’s no oversight.

What if an administrator makes a mistake? What if a paranoid flight attendant sees something she really doesn’t? What if a federal agent takes a dislike to someone passing through security?

Supporters of the administration will tell you that the only people affected by these regulations will be evildoers bent on the destruction of the planet. But is that necessarily the case? With rendition, for example, the CIA tends to kidnap and torture those that it has the least amount of evidence against. People: this isn’t a television cop show! There’s a reason we need evidence to convict somebody; that’s because there’s always a possibility that the person is innocent.

So scrapping oversight and checks on executive power is a bad idea, especially if you consider everyday and all-too ordinary government bureaucrats will most often be deciding your fate.

I’m all for giving police officials extra tools to combat terror. But let’s not throw away the foundations of our legal system to do so.




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