Rights Talk: First Amendment

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Setting aside an area to exercise our 1st amendment rights is not what the writers of the Bill of Rights had in mind.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.



Overview >
By Jarrod F. Reich
Contributing writer

The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to address the issue of hate speech on the Internet. Nor have many federal or state courts ruled on the issue. But it is important to remember that the courts’ rulings in other hate-speech cases are still controlling for future hate-speech cases no matter in which medium they occur, including the Internet.

To borrow from the late Justice Potter Stewart’s remark about obscenity, we may not be able to describe or classify hate speech accurately, but “we know it when we see it.” Mainstream America collectively shudders when it hears racial, anti-Semitic, homophobic, or other derogatory comments aimed at racial or religious minorities or other groups, but the question is: Can we stop it without stepping on people’s First Amendment rights? Even if so, how could it be stopped on the Internet?

Some have argued that racial and ethnic epithets are types of speech that, like “fighting words” (as articulated in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire in 1942), seem to have “no redeeming value,” can incite violent retaliation, and thus should not enjoy First Amendment protection and can be regulated with no risk of infringing First Amendment rights.

But who decides what is offensive and, moreover, what is offensive enough to be called “hate speech”? Could legislation be drafted that would adequately bar hate speech without being either underinclusive (still allowing some hateful speech) or overbroad (banning protected speech)?

The Supreme Court has not been extremely receptive to hate speech regulation. It has said that such regulation should be “strictly scrutinized” to ensure that it does not prohibit protected speech.

The legacy of the Chaplinsky “fighting words” doctrine as it might be applied to hate speech has evolved into a “speech” vs. “action” dichotomy, as discussed in the following four cases.

Brandenburg v. Ohio: In this 1969 case, the Court explained its modern incitement test, whereby speech does not create the classic “clear and present danger” to citizens unless it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” The case centered around a videotaped and broadcast news piece on an Ohio Ku Klux Klan rally, wherein the viewer could hear racial and anti-Semitic epithets (such as “Freedom for the whites” and “Send the Jews back to Israel”) uttered in the background of the newscast. Although not a “hate speech” case per se (it dealt with an alleged violation of a state criminal syndicalism statute), Brandenburg’s per curiam opinion (all justices writing the opinion in agreement together) made clear that for non-obscene speech to be proscribed by the First Amendment, it must lead to “imminent lawless action.” The Court ruled there was no such imminence in Brandenburg because the epithets were spoken at an earlier time than they were received by its audience because of the television broadcast.

National Socialist Party v. Skokie: This famous 1977 case centered on the efforts of residents of the predominantly Jewish town of Skokie, Ill., to prevent the National Socialist of Nazi Party from holding a planned demonstration there. The Supreme Court denied the residents’ attempts to block the march, because to do so, it said, “albeit reluctantly,” would suppress the Nazis’ First Amendment rights. Said the Court: “[A]nticipation of a hostile audience [cannot] justify the prior restraint … . [I]t is [the] burden of [Skokie residents] to avoid the [offensive march] if they can do so without unreasonable inconvenience.” The Court held, then, that the speech itself, although hateful, could be avoided.

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul: In this 1992 case, the city of St. Paul, Minn., enacted an ordinance that banned the placing on public or private property “a symbol, object, appellation, characterization or graffiti, including, but not limited to, a burning cross or Nazi swastika, which one knows or has reasonable grounds to know arouses anger, alarm, or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender.” The plaintiff in this case was arrested for violating this ordinance by placing a burning cross on the front lawn of an African-American family’s house. The Court held the ordinance invalid because it was both overbroad and inderinclusive, and that it even went so far as to constitute viewpoint discrimination. The Court reasoned that “the First Amendment does not permit [a government] to impose special prohibitions on those speakers who express views on disfavored subjects.” The Court considered that it was overbroad in that any such speech used by “proponents of all views” whatever its context would be prohibited. It was underinclusive in that it did not proscribe all fighting words — homophobic epithets and “aspersions about one’s mother” would be allowed under the statute. The Court therefore suggested in this case that any anti-hate crime statute would be presumed unconstitutional and therefore be strictly scrutinized on the grounds that it would be underinclusive, overbroad, and/or constituting viewpoint discrimination.

Wisconsin v. Mitchell: The Supreme Court solidified a speech/action distinction in this 1993 case. The case concerned black youths who had been convicted under a hate-crime statute after severely beating a white person because they were incensed by racist depictions of the movie “Mississippi Burning,” which they had watched. The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the convictions on the basis of R.A.V., because their actions constituted “offensive [yet protected] thought.” The Supreme Court reversed the state decision, saying that there was a difference between speech and conduct. “Whereas the ordinance struck down in R.A.V. was explicitly directed at expression (i.e., “speech” or “messages”), the statute in this case is aimed at conduct unprotected by the First Amendment,” the high court said.

The Mitchell court thus seemed to suggest that “hate speech” remains a conundrum: The only way it can be prohibited is if the statute that does so is “content-neutral” — yet the point of proscribing hate speech in the first place is to proscribe the content of the speech.

Perhaps the seminal case on the speech-conduct distinction vis a vis the Internet is Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette, Inc. v. American Coalition of Life Activists.

This 2001 case involved the “Nuremberg Files” Web site run by the American Coalition of Life Activists. The names and home addresses of abortion doctors were posted on the site, then crossed out or turned gray if the doctors were killed or wounded by anti-abortion zealots. The “Nuremberg Files” site did not explicitly threaten the doctors, but the ACLA lauded and perhaps encouraged the killings.

Some of the doctors whose names appeared on the list sued the ACLA on grounds that, among other things, the speech on the Web site “robbed the doctors of their anonymity and gave violent anti-abortion activists the information to find them” and praised the slaying/injuring of the doctors on the list. The doctors said this speech hurt them in that it constituted “true threats” against them.

Although not a “hate speech” case per se, the case sheds some light on how courts may handle such a case in the future. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that the ACLA’s speech on the Web site was constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. The court said that there was no “imminence” as required since Brandenburg to prove a danger, and that “advocating illegal action at some indefinite future time is protected [by the First Amendment]. If the First Amendment protects speech advocating violence, then it must also protect speech that does not advocate violence but still makes it more likely,” the 9th Circuit court said.

Further, the court noted that the ACLA did not urge its members to commit the violence or have anyone commit the violence on the ACLA’s behalf. “While pungent, even highly offensive, ACLA’s statements carefully avoided threatening the doctors with harm in the sense that there are no ‘quotable quotes’ calling for violence,” the court held. A generalized implied threat (by giving those who would commit heinous acts the information required for committing them), the court said, could not be suppressed without violating the First Amendment.

The “Nuremberg Files” site, the 9th Circuit concluded, “cannot fairly be read as calling for future violence against several hundred other doctors, politicians, judges, and celebrities on the list; otherwise any statement approving past violence could automatically be construed as calling for future violence.”

First Amendment Center


Speak No Evil?

Why tightening up on anti-Obama speech is a bad idea

By Adam Reilly

NOT SEEN ON TV: Were anti-hate-speech strictures to tighten, there would be less leeway for political protest or satire — namely, films like the British mockumentary Death of a President (above).

Surprisingly, Anthony Lewis isn’t the only civil libertarian thinking along these lines. Gene Policinski, the vice-president and executive director of the Tennessee-based First Amendment Center, says there’s a chance that the courts will pay closer attention to extreme anti-Obama speech than they have to speech regarding previous presidents. “I think there’s great concern, since he’s the first African-American president,” says Policinski. “And given our history of violence directed at African-Americans — particularly those who stand out by challenging the status quo — the courts may see these kinds of expression in a much more serious and immediate way.”

But altering free-speech protections out of concern for Obama could have devastating implications for our collective right to criticize political authority.

The ancillary effects of such a hypothetical expansion also need to be considered. New restrictions on anti-Obama speech could legitimize paranoid conservative fears that Obama plans to silence his opponents, for example — thereby exacerbating anti-Obama animus. Consider, too, that by making hateful attitudes known, the First Amendment allows society to respond in kind. “The theory of the First Amendment actually makes a lot of social sense,” notes Silverglate. “It’s very useful to know who wants to hang the Jews and the blacks.” Penalize the ugliest anti-Obama speech, and this benefit vanishes.

If you’re an Obama booster who thinks concern for his safety might justify even an incremental erosion of free speech, ask yourself: did Checkpoint and Death of a President bother you at the time? Do they bother you now? (Be honest.) And how would you feel if — four or eight years from now — expanded limits on speech that originated during an Obama administration led to the censorship of texts deemed too threatening to, say, President Sarah Palin?

“We need to have historical humility,” says Nadine Strossen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union and a professor at New York Law School. “Each era tends to have historical hubris — ‘This is the greatest danger ever posed to the values we hold most dear.’ We tend always to exaggerate the danger — and to unnecessarily cut off civil liberties.”

more – The Boston Phoenix


Student Thinks School Violated 1st Amendment Rights

Warsaw Community High School officials say the method in which the school’s “Young Americans for Liberty” approached holding a proposed demonstration Tuesday expressing their concerns with Barack Obama’s policies violated school policy.

The purpose of the demonstration was to put the Constitution information booklet in student’s hands so they could see government had a rule book.

“The goal was to basically peel back the marketing of what Obama’s so-called change is, and we wanted to expose to students that everything he says in his commercials and what you hear in the media might not necessarily be true,” Austin Brenneman said.

“Young Americans for Liberty” is the continuation of Ron Paul’s youth campaign, Students for Ron Paul, and was officially endorsed Dec. 2 by Paul. The organization seeks to recruit, train, educate and mobilize students on the ideals of liberty and the Constitution.

“Although I understand it is school policy, I don’t think it is the law, and I think it is violating my First Amendment right by prohibiting me from distributing these materials at the time I planned,” Brenneman said.
more – Times Union


Ohio State’s on FIRE

As the largest university in the nation, one could only hope that The Ohio State University would be an open canvas for academic and intellectual exchange, as well as a free zone for sharing opinions, ideas, and values. However, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Ohio State is preventing such an open environment from existing. According to its website, TheFIRE.org, FIRE works to “defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities.” Some of the rights mentioned are freedom of speech, due process, and legal equality, “the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity.” Unfortunately, Ohio State has earned a “red-light” classification from FIRE, identifying the school as having at least one policy which violates freedom of speech.

In support of the red-light classification, FIRE specifically identified the university’s “Diversity Statement” as a clear violation of freedom of speech. Selected in September of 2007 as FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month, FIRE reported on the explicit regulations that are detailed in the Diversity Statement which, not only cross the line in terms of constitutionality, but are also self-defeating, if indeed they are meant to actually encourage diversity.

The first grievance which FIRE cites is a section of the Diversity Statement which at the time read “Do not joke about differences related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability, socioeconomic background, etc.” Considering the ramifications of this instruction, it seems preposterous that only a year or two ago the university commanded that its student body refrain from joking about controversial matters. As FIRE points out, and as Ohio State students already know, joking in a certain manner about brash and seemingly offensive topics often diffuses tense situations and can aid in fostering understanding and communication between different students. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with OSU as to whether or not making jokes is a malevolent behavior, the policy still treads on first amendment rights. FIRE makes the point that “There is no exception to the First Amendment for ethnic jokes or dumb blonde jokes.”
more – FIRE


Photography is Not a Crime. It’s a First Amendment Right

Do police have the right to confiscate your camera?

In one word – NO!


Religious freedom at center of pot case

Arguing that he uses marijuana for religious reasons, a 48-year-old Mexico man has filed suit against the state and two law enforcement agencies, charging violation of his constitutional rights.

Hutchinson stated he is a member of the Religion of Jesus Church, which mandates the use of cannabis based on 12 tenets. These include the belief that cannabis “increases ability to feel the presence of God,” helps conquer addiction to tobacco and alcohol, creates peace and “is a good thought-stimulating neuro-hormone,” according to the Religion of Jesus Church Web site.

Hutchinson charges the agencies with violating his right to free exercise of his religion under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 3 of the Maine Constitution; violating the Freedom of Religion Restoration Act of 1993; violating his civil rights under the U.S. Code, false imprisonment, trespass, invasion of privacy and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Hutchinson was indicted in November 2004 and charged with aggravated marijuana cultivation and the criminal forfeiture of an ATV alleged to have been used in the cultivation.
more – sunjournal


The Rutherford Institute Wins Court Victory for West Virginia Constitution Part’s Right to Circulate Petitions at a State Park

ELKINS, W.Va. –Judge John Preston Bailey of the Northern District of West Virginia has ruled that a First Amendment lawsuit dealing with the right of a political group to circulate petitions and collect signatures at a state park can move forward. Officials with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR), which manages and controls the park, had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Filed in April 2008 by Rutherford Institute attorneys on behalf of members of the Constitution Party of West Virginia, the lawsuit poses a constitutional challenge to a ban on politics in West Virginia state parks.

“Americans have a First Amendment right to the freedom of political expression,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “We cannot allow the government to silence. We have a right to be heard.”

A copy of the court’s ruling is available here.
more – Rutherford Institute


The First Amendment — optional?

In South Carolina, if state Senator Robert Ford has his way, it will be illegal to use profanity in public. He believes that citizens in violation should be subjected to fines and/or imprisonment, and of course, it’s all about protecting the children:

Under the pre-filed bill, profanity could land you in jail for up to 5 years and/or cost you up to $5,000 in fines. Which words are exactly considered profane is still unclear, but the bill does have a list of qualifications for profanity including words or actions that are lewd, vulgar or indecent in nature.

I can think of a few profane words I might like to use to describe this bill. Here is the article and the full text of the bill.
Red State Eclectic


Fate of 1st Amendment

“We have enough political free speech in the U.S.,” a prominent civic leader of McHenry County said the other day.

That “enough” plus Congress’ flirting with the “Hate Speech” bill makes me wonder about the First Amendment’s fate.

Who should decide on the “enough” and the “hate” qualifiers when it comes to political discourse? The Government? No way! That’s precisely what the First Amendment protects against.

Only the people should rule on such matters.

For now, the Internet has settled the issue. It has shown that we need not amend the First Amendment. Overwhelming, opinionated, confusing, messy, you name it; the Internet is an unrestricted democratic forum of ideas.

While it lasts, the Republic is safe.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media, too, have decided that it carries “enough” political free speech. God bless the mainstream media’s innocence (or is it collaboration?)
Nelson Borelli



‘The Ron Paul Platform’

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By Editor ∙ Truth Rocker ∙ September 2, 2008

I purchased and read the book The Revolution: A Manifesto, and upon the Republic rally today, here is the platform:

The Ron Paul Platform: Foreign Policy

“Neoconservatives, the false conservatives who got us into the Iraq mess and pushed hard for war with Iran, continue to hold their positions of prominence. Why that is so is quite beyond me…. Meanwhile, where is the exposure for those who favor a non-interventionist foreign policy? These individuals would have avoided the Iraq fiasco altogether.

“America would be trillions richer over the long term, Iraqi society would not be in shambles, and countless Americans and Iraqis alike would still be alive. Noninterventionists have been entirely vindicated. And yet they do not enjoy the places of prominence that the establishment has bestowed upon those who have been consistently wrong, and responsible for carnage and destruction that have destroyed our good name around the world and isolated us more than ever in our history.” More…

The Ron Paul Platform: The Constitution

“A ‘living’ Constitution is just the thing any government would be delighted to have, for whenever the people complain that their Constitution has been violated, the government can trot out its judges to inform the people they’ve simply misunderstood: the Constitution, you see, has merely evolved with the times. Thus, as in Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘no animal shall sleep in a bed’ becomes ‘no animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets,’ ‘no animal shall drink alcohol’ becomes “no animal shall drink alcohol to excess,’ and ‘no animal shall kill any other animal’ becomes ‘no animal shall kill any other animal without cause.’

“That’s why on this issue I agree with historian Kevin Gutzman, who says that those who would give us a ‘living’ Constitution are actually giving us a dead Constitution, since such a thing is completely unable to protect us against the encroachments of government power.” More…

The Ron Paul Platform: War Powers and the Draft

“Whatever kind of evidence you want to examine, whether constitutional or historical, the verdict is clear: Congress was supposed to declare war, and the president in turn was to direct the war once it was declared….

“The draft is a totalitarian institution that is based on the idea that the government owns you and can dispose of your life as it wishes. Republican Senator Robert Taft said that the draft was ‘far more typical of totalitarian nations than of democratic nations. It is absolutely opposed to the principles of individual liberty, which have always been considered part of American democracy.’

“The Korean War was the great watershed in the modern presidential power grab in war-making. President Harry Truman sent Americans halfway around the world without so much as a nod in the direction of Congress.” More…

The Ron Paul Platform: Abortion and the War on Drugs

“By a simple majority, Congress could strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over abortion, thereby overturning the obviously unconstitutional Roe. At that point, the issue would revert to the states, where it constitutionally belongs….

“Government exacerbates racial thinking and undermines individualism because its very existence encourages people to organize along racial lines in order to lobby for benefits for their group. That lobbying, in turn, creates animosity and suspicion among all groups, each of which believes it is getting less of its fair share than the others….

“The federal war on drugs has wrought disproportionate harm on minority communities. Allowing for states’ rights here would surely be an improvement, for the states could certainly do a better and more sensible job than the federal government has been doing if they were free to decide the issue for themselves….

“We should not think in terms of whites, blacks, Hispanics and other such groups. That kind of thinking only divides us.” More…

The Ron Paul Platform: Economic Freedom

“Economic freedom is based on a simple moral rule: everyone has a right to his or her life and property, and no one has the right to deprive anyone of these things.

“To some extent, everyone accepts this principal. For instance, anyone going to his neighbor’s home and taking his money at gunpoint, regardless of all the wonderful, selfless things he promised to do with it, would be promptly arrested as a thief.

“But for some reason it is considered morally acceptable when government does that very thing. We have allowed government to operate according to its own set of moral rules.” More…

The Ron Paul Platform: Civil Liberties

“The misnamed Patriot Act, presented to the public as an antiterrorism measure, actually focuses on American citizens rather than foreign terrorists. The definition of ‘terrorism’ for federal criminal purposes is greatly expanded, such that legitimate protest against the government could someday place an American under federal surveillance. Similarly, your Internet provider can be forced to hand over user information to law enforcement without a warrant or subpoena.

“The biggest problem with these new law enforcement powers is that they bear little relationship to fighting terrorism. Surveillance powers are greatly expanded, and checks and balances on government are greatly reduced. ‘Sneak and peek’ and blanket searches are becoming more frequent every day. Most of the provisions have been sought by domestic law enforcement agencies for years, not to fight terrorism but rather to increase their police power over the American people.

“The federal government has not shown us that it failed to detect or prevent the September 11 attacks because it lacked the powers over our lives that it was granted under the Patriot Act.” More…

The Ron Paul Platform: Personal Freedom

“Regardless of where one stands on the broader drug war, we should all be able to agree on the subject of medical marijuana. Here, the use of an otherwise prohibited substance has been found to relieve unbearable suffering in countless patients. How can we fail to support liberty and individual responsibility in such a clear-cut case?

“What harm does it do to anyone else to allow fellow human beings in pain to find the relief they need? What kind of ‘compassionate conservatism’ is this?” More…

The Ron Paul Platform: Money

“Americans are concerned about our financial picture: the housing bubble, the collapsing dollar, the specter of inflation. Most don’t know what’s causing it, but they correctly sense that something in our economic system is rotten.

“Neither political party will speak to them frankly and honestly. Instead, the people are told by the talking heads on television that their rulers know just what is wrong and will promptly put things right. A little more monetary manipulation by the Federal Reserve is all the economy needs, and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the system.

“These contrived, self-serving answers satisfy very few, but they are all the answers the American people are ever given.

“Once again, Americans are deprived of a full and fruitful debate on a subject of the utmost importance. The entire range of debate is limited to minor tinkering: should the Fed make this trivial adjustment or that one? Read the major newspapers and watch the cable news channels: you will not see any fundamental questions raised. The debate will be resolutely confined to superficialities.” More…

The Ron Paul Platform: The Revolution

“I have heard it said that mankind does not want freedom, that people are happy to be slaves as long as they are entertained and well fed. I have likewise heard it said that most Americans have bought into the version of events they are given in the mainstream media and they are perfectly content to be told what to think — what is good, what is bad, who is politically acceptable, who is politically unacceptable.

“I don’t believe this for a second. For one thing, our own American Revolution would have been impossible if this mentality had prevailed. Contrary to what many Americans have been taught, a majority, not a minority, of the colonists supported the fight for liberty against Great Britain.” More…

From: http://truthrocker.livejournal.com/

Post by way of: http://detainthis.wordpress.com/

Turning Away From American State Terrorism

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By: Peter Chamberlin

“The American people realize this election represents a turning point. In two months they will decide the future direction of our nation. It’s a decision to follow one path or another.” Rudy Giuliani

The choice we face in November is very clear. It is a choice to continue to support the US terror war, or to turn away from this path of unlimited destruction. This lie-based war is all about terrorism – whether America actually fights terrorism or promotes its use. To find the answer to this conundrum all we have to do is turn our gaze to Pakistan.

In Pakistan we find the complete history of the American “war on terrorism,” from its Cold War origins nearly thirty years ago to its present incarnation in the illegal American aggression in Pakistan’s Frontier region (FATA, Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and in American attempts to reignite the Cold War with Russia. The latest cross-border attack against Pakistan in South Waziristan, which involved American helicopters and ground troops, costing 15 villagers their lives, represents the first steps in American attempts to escalate its war into a reasonable facsimile of another world war.

Once again, America claims that its aggression against Pakistan is a legitimate act of self-defense against the “Pakistani Taliban” (TTP,Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan), who, it is claimed, are responsible for America’s faltering war effort in Afghanistan. Wednesday’s aggression was another attempt to get TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud (branded “public enemy number one” by the US) or one of his top commanders. Mehsud is the key to understanding America’s true role in the terror war, that of state terrorism planner and facilitator, in order to later assume the role of defender against the terrorism it causes.

Baitullah Mehsud assumed control of the TTP from its founder, his infamous cousin Abdullah Mehsud. Abdullah was a prisoner at Guantanamo before being inexplicably released to return to Pakistan, where he founded the new Taliban splinter group. On his second day in S. Waziristan he instigated the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers from the building of the Gomal Zam Dam, beginning the TTP fight against America’s adversaries in the region.

Setting the pattern for all future American terror attacks, the American media reported that America’s secret allies, the TTP, were “al Qaida linked.” Whenever and wherever the Western media uses the expression “al Qaida linked,” to describe terrorist attacks, they are referring to American terrorism. This is also painfully true about those sinister forces that killed 3,000 American civilians on September 11, 2001. American/“al Qaida” terrorism always targets civilians, even American civilians. Next to the US military, al Qaida is the greatest killer of innocent Muslims in the world.

Now we have American covert forces busily killing Pakistani civilians by the hundreds, in order to justify the planned overwhelming American assault upon Pakistan, which is conveniently situated between the main target Iran and all that juicy fuel located in the “Stans,” the former Soviet satellites where America’s Georgian mercenaries are busily committing acts of genocide to restart the new Cold War.

The American destabilization of nuclear-armed Pakistan has been the key to the planned destruction of Iran and the seizure of the Caspian region oil and gas fields and the pipeline routes for marketing the stolen booty. Targeting American-backed militants, who are using the same terrorist training camps created by the CIA to launch a “jihad” against the Soviets, American interests are seeking to topple the Pakistani government and to seize their nuclear arsenal.

The corporate American government cannot survive the debt-based collapse of its own economy and the world economy without a massive military expansion of its power, gaining control of the world’s energy reserves. America cannot continue bullying the world to have its way without this key asset.

The Republican and Democratic co-conspirators understand the dilemma created by America’s greed and attempts to forge a global empire. This means that no matter who wins the November election will continue this policy of international piracy and terrorism. It is up to the American people to decide whether these policies of state terrorism continue. It is our decision to make, whether we allow America to destroy the world to save itself, or whether we suffer the economic consequences for our actions in the past. By our inaction, or by the wrong action, we allow the evil that our government continually sows. By participating in our farcical “free elections,” casting a vote for either man, we vote to destroy a large portion of the world and its people.

We can no longer give our assent to the crimes against humanity committed against the world by our government on a daily basis. Non-participation in the affairs of this government on any level, will deny it the cover of legitimacy and support it needs to continue on its terror rampage. We must become the “monkey wrench” in the works of government and in American life, in general. We begin by overwhelming the Congress with our righteous anger against governmental plans to unleash hell on earth.

All it will take to do this is a unified signal from the people that we will no longer silently abide its immoral actions. The Congressional parasites who feed at the public trough fear a non-complacent electorate, a united people committed to reclaiming our rightful positions as “watchdogs” of government.

All we have to do to sway a chicken hawk Congress is to convince them that we are now awake. We must focus our antiwar efforts to disrupt the aggression against Pakistan. It is time to join with the democratic antiwar resistance forces in Pakistan, to put an end to the American empire of terror.

Fight the evil that we have become!


Source: http://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/turning-away-from-american-state-terrorism/


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https://i0.wp.com/www.foodnotbombs.net/410x600_sept3.jpg Painting by Hank Brusselback

Ramsey County charges nonviolent Food Not Bombs volunteers under Minnesota version of USAPATRIOT Act, alleges acts of terrorism

By Keith McHenry

In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges under the 2002 Minnesota version of the federal USAPATRIOT Act, Ramsey County prosecutors have formally charged eight alleged leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee with conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.

Monica Bicking, Eryn Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, face up to 7½ years in prison under the terrorism enhancement charge which allows for a 50 percent increase in the maximum penalty.

Affidavits released by law enforcement, which were filed in support of the search warrants used in raids over the weekend and used to support probable cause for the arrest warrants, are based on paid, confidential informants who infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC, assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Evidence released to date does not corroborate these allegations with physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these allegations than the claims of the informants.

“These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real violence and attempts to place the stated political views of the defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil disobedience,” he said.

Five Food Not Bombs volunteers were arrested in Minneapolis in early morning raids on Saturday, August 30, and are facing charges of conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to commit civil disorder and conspiracy to damage property.

The five, who are being held in the Hennepin County Jail, are Nathanael Secor, Garrett Fitzgerald, Eryn Trimmer, Monica Bicking, and Erik Oseland.

Officers from the Minneapolis Police Department, the Hennepin and Ramsey County Sheriffs’ departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, armed with search warrants, executed the raids. The FBI and county sheriffs’ departments held the cooks face down at gunpoint for several hours as they videotaped and photographed their cooking equipment and other belongings. Later that evening Monica Bicking, owner of the Food Not Bombs house at 2301 23rd Ave. South in Minneapolis, was interrogated in her cell by Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher. She refused to talk. Eryn Trimmer reported yesterday morning in a phone call to his mother that 50 new prisoners joined him in the county jail last night. Monica Bicking was released yesterday.

The FBI claims that Food Not Bombs had weapons stored at their homes are false. Fortunately, the FBI and Ramsey county sheriff’s department did clean out all the old belongings left behind in the garage by the past owners saving Food Not Bombs a great deal of work. Volunteers held at gunpoint reported that “we aren’t even painting banners here. All we have is food and cooking equipment.“

The FBI, Pentagon and other agencies have been investigating and disrupting the Food Not Bombs movement since at least 1988 when volunteers were first arrested for feeding the hungry. That same year, the San Francisco Police wiretapped my (Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry) home phone. By 1997, the San Francisco police had made over 1,000 arrests for sharing vegetarian meals. I faced 25 years to life in prison even though I have written many articles and a book on nonviolent social change and have never participated in any violence and promote vegan and vegetarian diets, animal rights and peace.

This past year Eric McDavid and Lauren Weiner were framed by the Sacramento California office of the FBI after they paid a college student $75,000 to join Food Not Bombs. Wren is starting a five-year prison sentence and Eric has been sentenced to 19 years. The FBI provided their informant “Anna” with a specially wired car and home. They also gave her blasting caps, a book on how to build bombs and instructed her to try and convince Eric and Wren to bomb a dam in California. Eric and Wren refused but because they failed to stop “Anna” talking about her plans they were convicted.

“This investigation pertains to actions of the RNC Welcoming Committee,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said in a statement at midday Saturday. “The ‘Welcoming Committee’ is a criminal enterprise made up of 35 anarchists who are intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention.

Food Not Bombs has spent the last year organizing to provide free meals to protesters attending the demonstrations outside the Republican National Convention in Minnesota and the Democratic National Convention in Colorado in the United States.

Food Not Bombs is an all volunteer movement dedicated to nonviolent social change. Food Not Bombs provides free vegetarian meals every week in over 1,000 cities all over the world. Food Not Bombs volunteers provided free meals to the rescue workers at the World Trade Center after 9/11, to the protesters at the Orange Revolution in Kiev, Ukraine and fed survivors in nearly 20 communities in the Gulf region of the United States in the months after Katrina. From Iceland to Chile, Nigeria, New Zealand, Israel and beyond thousands of Food Not Bombs volunteers will be sharing vegetarian meals, working for peace, planting gardens, fixing up bikes for poor children and responding to hurricanes and earthquakes.

Please forward this to your local media and community groups.

Post by way of: http://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/


On the RNC, Monica Bicking, Eryn Trimmer, and Protest

Ian Bickling

Saturday morning my sister, Monica Bicking, and her boyfriend, Eryn Trimmer, were arrested in Minneapolis. Monica was released on Sunday, but Eryn and others are still in custody, and the police will try to keep them detained as long as possible. update: Monica has been taken back into custody, the two of them and six others from the Welcoming Committee are charged with felonies, including “furtherance of terrorism”.

They were arrested for “conspiracy to incite a riot”. This is the same charge used against the Chicago 8 (or 7) at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Perhaps the police have a sense of tradition?

But more directly she and Eryn were arrested in an attempt to preemptively suppress the protests at the Republican National Convention. They were both very active with the RNC Welcoming Committee, which is a group coordinating and supporting some of the people coming to the Twin Cities for the convention.

Obviously I’m very concerned by the arrests and charges. But there’s been a huge outpouring of support from the community — both from activist in the Twin Cities, and from their neighbors. In Chicago I’m a little unsure about what to do.

Reading articles about the incidents (Glenn Greenwald’s post on Salon is a good one) I find myself mostly avoiding the comment sections. The comments fall into two categories: mean comments against the protesters, and reactionary comments with no real substance (“this is proof this country is a police state!”) Activists generally understand what’s going on, and people of a right-wing/authoritarian bend are hardly going to be convinced of anything, but there’s a lot of progressive people out there who’ve never really been involved in any activism like this. There’s very little explaining the protests, the role of activists like my sister, and the philosophies they hold. Certainly the news makes no attempt, and unfortunately the activists themselves often speak from an unexplained perspective.

So I’d like to use this as an opportunity to explain my understanding of the role of protest, what’s going on at the RNC specifically, and what an “anarchist” really is. At the moment I can’t do a lot to help Eryn and Monica directly, but at least I can talk about her personally instead of another story about a named but otherwise anonymous “protester”.

The Role Of Protest

It’s challenging to explain and justify protest, at least in this country and at this moment. Probably the biggest blow for protest as a useful form of political expression was the February 15, 2003 protests against the Iraq War. I say this because those were the largest protests the world has ever seen, estimated around 10 million people, and yet they did so little to stop the war.

That war is still with us, and is still the most significant motivation for the RNC protests. The war has gone through many phases since then — purported success, then clear failure by just about anyone’s definition, then ongoing failure labelled as success because of dramatically lowered expectations (the surge). Public opinion has moved several times, but is constrained by what is considered the reasonable options. These “reasonable” options are defined by the Democratic and Republican elite. Balance in news means inviting participation from partisans from those two parties. In this context the Democratic party had a practical landslide in 2006, driven primarily by anti-war sentiments, and then proceeded to do almost nothing to stop the war. If protest has failed, then so has electoral politics.

I don’t have any third path to offer, but I just want to make it clear: none of us know what is best to do, none of us have figured out the way to effect change. People complain protest doesn’t work. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but frankly most things don’t work. Doing nothing definitely doesn’t work, and frankly that’s what most of us are doing. It’s hard to take criticisms seriously when they are made from a stance of inaction.

What might the RNC protests accomplish?

First, it is an attempt to break out of a politics restricted to two perspectives. I believe, quite firmly, that “radical left” opinions are actually quite mainstream. This was also the goal of the DNC protests. This goal has become quite difficult to achieve. News stations generally ignore protest, and when they do cover protest they seldom talk about the actual issues.

Second, protests can attempt to disrupt normal activity. To be fair, this is probably better termed “civil disobedience”, and I’m sure there will be civil disobedience in response to the RNC. One possible goal of civil disobedience is to make news — to be so disruptive that you simply can’t be ignored. And even if the news won’t say why you won’t be ignored, at least one message that can be made clear: everything is not okay. Another goals is simply to disrupt the RNC. This is a bringing together of many of the architects and profiteers of war. This is a convention that includes many people advocating torture.

It’s also a convention of people who buy the lines about the Republican party being “conservative” and supporting “family values” and whatever other bullshit. One argument goes: oh, these poor dullards and simpletons! Do not interrupt their harmless partying! Do not interrupt their absurd views! They deserve their delusions as much as anyone! I say: this stuff is too important to defer to the bullshit of this political grandstanding.

Are We In A Time Of War?

It is all too easy to fall into “protesting for the right to protest”. Lest I fall into this, I want to make it clear: protest itself is not the goal. 600,000 Iraqis dead. And to what ends? No ends at all? Unlikely! There is a purpose. It is a purpose architected by people who would throw away hundreds of thousands of lives. People may argue about whether war is valid. I don’t believe it is, nor do Monica or Eryn, but whatever your feelings: this is not an abstract war. This is a specific war. And this specific war is a war made by liars, by people who treat human life lightly, by people whose primary ambition seems focused on power itself.

600,000 dead, and what’s so different in America? Do you feel this war? If you didn’t turn on the TV or listen to the news, what would remind you that we are at war? What would remind you of all that’s happened? We are a nation at war, and yet there is nothing to show us this, it has no presence. Our nation is so large, our institutions so abstracted, our military so partitioned from most of society… we are numb to war. Moving around while numbed is dangerous. You can’t feel what you are doing. A cut doesn’t hurt, a bruise is just a faint sensation. We are a numbed nation and this is dangerous.

If I was to give one reason for civil disobedience, it would be this: to acknowledge this war is real. This isn’t just a difference of opinion, this isn’t just a debate. This is about how we exercise our collective power, the power that is exercised in the form of the state. This is our war, whether we feel it or not.

One of the criticisms of civil disobedience is to say it deprives the Republicans of their free speech. First, this is absurd. No form of civil disobedience deprives them of free speech. No one is taping their mouths shut. No journalists are being detained by activists. No debate is stifled. The RNC’s request: we want to speak our lies without interruption, without distraction. The Republicans have through decades of whining managed to frame the debate, to redefine “common sense” and “conventional thinking”, to move the Overton Window far to the right. Free speech does not mean they should not be challenged. Protest challenges the content of their speech, it doesn’t deny them of the ability to speak.

This is an aside, but for all the effort put into limiting the bounds of debate I don’t think the Republicans, or Bush, have really changed the country as much as they are given credit for. I don’t think people are as easily manipulated as that. I think our core values are not so easily affected. If we were not so numb I think it would all come rushing back.

On “Anarchism”

If you read the articles you will see Monica and Eryn called “self-described anarchists”. This is true, they are anarchists. I will attempt, briefly and probably inaccurately, to describe what anarchism is.

Anarchism is, at its core, a belief in the individual, and a belief that good flows uniquely from the individual. Conversely, it believes that bad comes from institutions, from the abstractions we build between people. Anarchism is a belief in the power of empathy instead of laws. Instead of leading our lives according to principles that are passed down to us, anarchism says we should live our lives based on our personal reflections and decisions. We should be deliberate, we should not be obedient.

The RNC Welcoming Committee (the name is ironic) is a “anarchist/anti-authoritarian” organization. Ha ha you say, isn’t an anarchist organization an oxymoron? If you meet an anarchist this is the most tedious joke you could possibly make. Anarchism is, of course, a somewhat chaotic philosophy. And any anarchist should be a human first, and an anarchist second — anything else would be contrary to the very principles of anarchism! More practically, they form groups based on shared understandings and motivations, and there is nothing at all inconsistent about individuals working together — indeed it is interpersonal cooperation that is at the heart of anarchist traditions.

Do anarchists want to tear down all institutions? I guess some flavors of anarchist rhetoric make this claim. Looking in from the outside, it feels like some kind of phase adolescent male anarchists go through. There is an underlying lack of respect for institutions and authority, and this is genuine. But though they see nothing wrong with disrupting institutions, violence against people is not considered acceptable. Some would like to categorize property damage as violence, but I find this rather disrespectful of genuine violence. Things don’t feel pain or fear.

Discussions of anarchism tend to degrade very quickly because people are overly obsessed with self-consistency. For instance: how could an entire society run without laws, governments, police, taxes? There are answers and speculations, but we would all do better to make the world we want now and here. This is what actual anarchists do — running whole societies might be fun to theorize about, but building a community is actually attainable, and among progressive groups anarchists are probably the most enthusiastic community builders.

Lastly: why the term “anarchism”? It’s a scary term, though it’s derivation is simply from the term “without rulers”. It’s been a term used to scare people for so long that it’s hard to separate the idea from the myth. People at time suggest alternative terms. But anarchism isn’t just a philosophy, it’s a tradition and culture and shared understanding, one that goes back over a hundred years. And anarchists don’t want to disassociate themselves from that tradition. And usually, what does it matter what other people think of the name? It is however awkward when the police are trying to label you as a dangerous extremist.


Reports have come out about violent protest. First, I want to talk about the facts related to this:

Actual incidents are often exaggerated or fabricated. For instance, in the case of the home raids things like paint, bottles, and rags were labeled as “the ingredients for making Molotov cocktails”. I’m sure every reader of this post has sufficient ingredients to make a Molotov cocktail. Also, many people have hatchets, bricks, and other materials. Buckets of urine were particularly attention-grabbing, but the only reason for these was that one of the houses had a broken toilet. The police interpretation of the confiscated material is not credible.

There have also been reports of violence at the protests themselves. First it should be noted that there are no reports of police or bystanders being injured. I personally find it is hard to classify property damage as “violence”. If you don’t include property damage then there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of violence.

Protest is confrontational. Some will suggest that protesters should obey police in all situations. They suggest that protesters should obey all laws and only protest where permitted. They suggest protesters should not be disruptive of anyone else. The result would not be protest. In cases like the RNC, where extensive planning was in place to counter protest, non-confrontational protest means protesting according to someone else’s plans, someone who has no desire for the protest to succeed in any way. Once you confront the police, there will be violence — usually by the police. And sure, you can stand with a flower in your hand and get a face full of pepper spray, and of course many people choose that course. It’s a noble choice, but I can’t fault people for making other tactical decisions.

Another protesting tactic is the “black bloq”, typically a group of people who try to attract the attention of the police, often through property damage. If the police have nothing better to do, then why not pin down the peaceful protesters and direct them where they can make the least impact? People in the black bloq will try to keep this from happening. It’s unlikely they were at all successful at the RNC as it was so thoroughly militarized. You could debate whether this is a good strategy (and there is lots of debate about this), but probably few people outside activists have any idea that there even is any underlying strategy.

Also, if you wonder why protesters, especially the anarchists, dress the way they do, it is primarily defensive. If you are going to get teargassed and peppersprayed does wearing a handkerchief seem so odd? And if they are tracking people to preemptively arrest, all the more reason to be as anonymous as possible.

Monica and Eryn

I’d like to speak specifically of Monica and Eryn. Talking to Monica about the RNC protests, she was never actually that excited. The RNC isn’t what she wanted to focus on. Why focus on the thing you dislike? Why focus on a political process you don’t believe in? Why focus on the workings of institutions you wish didn’t exist? She would have preferred to work on the scale she felt was valid — to build a community of individuals. But of course events are larger than us, and by whatever coincidence the RNC was coming to the Twin Cities. This is not the sort of thing you can just ignore. And of course it wasn’t up to her whether there would be protests.

Monica and Eryn are competent and diligent, so of course they would become important to the organizing process. It seems that there were infiltrators in many of the organizations, so it’s unsurprising that the police knew who to find when they were getting ready to suppress the protests. The two of them had expected informants from early on. Monica herself worked for a year for the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker charity and peace advocacy organization) at a time when they were being spied on because of purported fears of violent protest. If you are not aware of Quakerism, it is a quite strictly passivist faith, and the pretense for the spying was exceptionally absurd. So Monica was not particularly shocked that there would be spying in the lead up to the RNC.

The RNC Welcoming Committee is itself a coordinating organization. It was inevitable that many, many groups would want to protest at the RNC. There’s no lack of people who are angry. The Welcoming Committee served as a local resource for all those people — so visitors could find a place to stay in the city, so people could coordinate with each other, so people could perform their chosen form of protest in as well-informed a manner as possible. That it is being painted as an organization with criminal intent is a complete misrepresentation; the Welcoming Committee specifically has no intention of direct action.

The preemptive arrest was surprising to everyone. It is normal in the course of civil disobedience that some people expect to be arrested. Civil disobedience is confrontational. You have to go into it knowing that there will be certain consequences. Those are the consequences of the confrontation. They are not the consequences of the possibility of future confrontation. As organizers I know Monica and Eryn weren’t planning on being arrested.

But I haven’t written this essay in anger over their arrest. Protest is conflict. The lines of conflict move, and I find this move to preemptive arrest quite troubling, but I’m also optimistic that they won’t ultimately be charged with anything. I also don’t want to slip into the protest-to-protest mode, more obsessed with the form of protest than the function of this protest. This is a frustrating turn of events, and I’m sure no one is more frustrated than the two of them — one sequestered in a jail, the other in legal limbo, at the culmination of all their work over the last year. But I didn’t write this essay out of anger but because I wanted to recognize what they’ve been doing and do my best to explain it to other people, because I’m proud of them. They are exactly the model of an engaged, ethically driven citizenry.

I see lots of comments like “this country is a fascist state!” and “this is just like Nazi Germany!” But of course this country is not those things. That’s what happens when the citizenry of a country stands down, when they look away from what’s happening right in front of them, when they ignore justice and discard empathy. This country is not those things because of Monica and Eryn and the thousands of people who will be present and paying attention when the RNC lands from on high.

Source: http://blog.ianbicking.org/2008/09/02/on-the-rnc-monica-bicking-eryn-trimmer-and-protest/

Shouting "End the Fed" and More at the Rally for the Republic

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You won’t hear the words ‘End the Fed’ at the RNC as the crowd at the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic shouted.
You didn’t hear anything at the DNC but change, change, change.
The two party monster doesn’t allow debate. It fears it.

Ron Paul supporters Kathryn Grim/Medill News Service

CSPAN2 is showing the alternative to the RNC.
The message is there.

I’m sure the videos of the speakers will be posted soon and they will have more words for thought on saving our republic than anything that will ever come out of the mouths of the designated winner and loser “losers” that have ended up on the Nov. ballot.

Whether or not one agrees with everything said by all of these speakers or even trusts them is not the point.
Real debate should be the issue; free from the spin and lies of the main stream media, free from the profiteers of war, free from corporate interests, foreign interests, big money interests and free from the political whores who sell themselves to the highest bidder.

Don’t waste your vote on either Obama or McCain. Write in Ron Paul, write in Minnie Mouse, write in ‘none of the above’ but don’t give any legitimacy to the bought puppets and the criminal scam called the ‘Election of 2008’.

Even Jimmie Vaughn will play in Minneapolis tonight at the rally. He seems to be a fine patriot to me.


Don’t Tread on Me!

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By Ron Ewart

From: Canada Free Press

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Gadsden FlagThe Gadsden Flag, named after Christopher Gadsden, an American general and statesman, came to be a symbol of the thirteen original colonies and of American freedom and spirit.

Its origins are traced back to Benjamin Franklin from a hand carved replica he made of a snake cut into eight pieces that represented the 13 colonies, with the head being the New England colonies and the tail representing South Carolina. This hand carved image became one of the first political cartoons in history.

Paul Revere added the symbol as a snake, joined to fight a British Dragon, in an article in the “Massachusetts Spy”, one of the first newspapers in the new world.

In an essay published in the Pennsylvania Journal, Benjamin Franklin said:

“I recollected that her eye (speaking of the snake) excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.—She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.”

Here are a few excerpts from the Declaration of Independence as our Founding Fathers sought redress from the oppressive hand of King George the third, of England. The parallels are uncanny, startling and downright disturbing.

  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws;
  • He has imposed Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • He has taken away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
  • We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.
  • How many of these statements from the Declaration are directly applicable to our current situation under an oppressive United States Government? All of them!!! It appears that after 232 years and hundreds of thousands or millions of men and women who were maimed or gave their lives to defend our freedom, we successfully became independent from a foreign power, England, only to become helplessly dependent on our own government.

    A country founded on the God-given, unalienable individual rights and self-reliance, has morphed into weak individuals, dependency and a complete willingness to be dominated by an ever-more-powerful government, because that government has brought a perpetual Christmas as an all-benevolent Santa Claus, handing out “free” gifts, largess and public welfare, taken by force at the point of a gun, from the sweat, blood and tears of the American producer. Government has become the purveyor of waste, fraud, abuse and corruption and destroys America’s free spirit along with its independence, creativity, ingenuity, industriousness and generosity. Almost everything that government touches ends up in chaos, or very expensive and dire unintended consequences.

    It is time to bring back the symbol of American freedom and indomitable spirit, the Gadsden Flag, with the message to everyone in Government and those that support their policies of socialism, communism and radical environmentalism, “Don’t Tread On Me”, because I am a proud American and I will dedicate my life, my fortune and my sacred honor in the defense of freedom for me, my children and my grandchildren. As long as there is breath in my body, I shall not submit to government’s unconstitutional power and I will enlist a multitude of others in this most noble of all causes, the preservation, protection and defense of freedom and liberty for all.

    We call out to those whose spirit and resolve are the very core of their being and represent the epitome of liberty. We call out to all Americans who believe strongly in righting a wrong and who have the courage and the will to return this great land to the destiny, out of providence, for which it was born; the extension of liberty for all peoples of the Earth, into the infinite future. For life without liberty is not life at all, but in fact is a living Hell in slavery.

    What the colonists faced with the British, we now face with our own government. It took a bloody revolution to unlock the chains of English slavery. The question is, can we unlock the chains of American slavery with just words and civil deeds, or will once again freedom have to be regained by force and bloody violence? We urge that long before violence becomes the only alternative, rise up with us so that we may regain our freedom by the application of our own law, which provides us with a legal and lawful mechanism to hold government within its constitutional limits. Let us return our laws to common sense, constitutional principles and restore the goodness that lies in the hearts of all men, to our institutions of freedom, such that freedom is perpetual instead of accidental, or born out of misery, heartache, violence and revolution. Freedom is always in our grasp but we must at all times be ready and willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary to maintain it. Now is that time.

    If you would like a bound color booklet of our inspirational speech to the Southeast Arizona Freedom 21 Conference held in Benson, AZ on Saturday, August 23, 2008 containing our Power Point Presentation, log onto narlo.org/speech.html.

    Ron Ewart, President, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF RURAL LANDOWNERS. An organization dedicated to re-establish, preserve, protect and defend property rights

    Ron can be reached at: //’;l[1]=’a’;l[2]=’/’;l[3]=”;l[24]=’\”‘;l[25]=’ 109′;l[26]=’ 111′;l[27]=’ 99′;l[28]=’ 46′;l[29]=’ 115′;l[30]=’ 115′;l[31]=’ 101′;l[32]=’ 114′;l[33]=’ 112′;l[34]=’ 101′;l[35]=’ 101′;l[36]=’ 114′;l[37]=’ 102′;l[38]=’ 97′;l[39]=’ 100′;l[40]=’ 97′;l[41]=’ 110′;l[42]=’ 97′;l[43]=’ 99′;l[44]=’ 64′;l[45]=’ 115′;l[46]=’ 114′;l[47]=’ 101′;l[48]=’ 116′;l[49]=’ 116′;l[50]=’ 101′;l[51]=’ 108′;l[52]=’ 61′;l[53]=’ 99′;l[54]=’ 99′;l[55]=’ 98′;l[56]=’ 63′;l[57]=’ 116′;l[58]=’ 101′;l[59]=’ 110′;l[60]=’ 46′;l[61]=’ 116′;l[62]=’ 115′;l[63]=’ 97′;l[64]=’ 99′;l[65]=’ 109′;l[66]=’ 111′;l[67]=’ 99′;l[68]=’ 64′;l[69]=’ 116′;l[70]=’ 114′;l[71]=’ 97′;l[72]=’ 119′;l[73]=’ 101′;l[74]=’ 46′;l[75]=’ 114′;l[76]=’:’;l[77]=’o’;l[78]=’t’;l[79]=’l’;l[80]=’i’;l[81]=’a’;l[82]=’m’;l[83]=’\”‘;l[84]=’=’;l[85]=’f’;l[86]=’e’;l[87]=’r’;l[88]=’h’;l[89]=’a ‘;l[90]=’= 0; i=i-1){ if (l[i].substring(0, 1) == ‘ ‘) document.write(“&#”+unescape(l[i].substring(1))+”;”); else document.write(unescape(l[i])); } //]]> r.ewart@comcast.net

    Source: http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/4644


    Posted on

    By Representative Sam E. Rohrer*

    August 24, 2008


    History offers many examples of societies which have sought to increase security by sacrificing freedom. America itself provides many pertinent instances. However, our founding fathers have not left us without wisdom on this issue. Ben Franklin has famously stated, “People willing to trade freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.” REAL ID undoubtedly exemplifies a scenario in which a difficult tension exists between freedom and security. By commandeering every state’s driver’s license issuing process, REAL ID threatens the results warned by Franklin – loss of both freedom and security. It has become the biometric enrollment phase of a plan to implement a terribly invasive tracking system, largely without public knowledge or approval. REAL ID is merely the current face of a far larger, international government and private economic effort to collect, store, and distribute the sensitive biometric data of citizens to use for the twin purposes of government tracking and economic control. At issue are much more than standardized or non-duplicative driver’s licenses. This effort extends worldwide, threatening every person alive today. Although very legitimate security concerns exist in this age of terrorism, this Act extends far beyond terrorism prevention or protection of the innocent. Keeping that broad picture in mind, let us move to some background behind the face of REAL ID implementation in America.

    The REAL ID Act passed Congress in 2005 buried in a “must-pass” war funding and tsunami relief bill. The little debate in the House and total absence of debate in the Senate ensured that many Congressmen did not realize the full implications of REAL ID. Importantly, the desire by government and economic interests to implement a national tracking and ID system did not start with the REAL ID Act in 2005. Under the guise of security, it has been attempted numerous times in the past, even during Ronald Reagan’s administration. When former Attorney General William French Smith proposed to implement what he called a “perfectly harmless” national ID system as well as when a second cabinet member proposed to “tattoo a number on each American’s forearm,” Ronald Reagan responded, “My God, that’s the mark of the beast,” signaling an abrupt end to the national ID debate during the Reagan years.

    The significant opposition to a national ID system in the past extends to the REAL ID issue today. This conviction has united both Democrats and Republicans as well as such normally opposed groups as the ACLU and the ACLJ. Whether the concern is privacy, religious rights, states’ rights, or cost of implementation, REAL ID has galvanized broad and deep resistance, currently including an estimated six hundred groups. Today, over twenty legislatures have passed resolutions or legislation variously opposing implementation of the REAL ID Act. Eleven of those legislatures have gone further by passing laws specifically prohibiting compliance with REAL ID.

    What does REAL ID do? REAL ID attempts to mandate a standardized process and format for all state drivers’ licenses to achieve increased security. Most importantly in this standardized process, REAL ID mandates a certain picture quality. A footnote issued by the Department of Homeland Security establishes this quality as compliant with the ICAO Document 9303 biometric format. The global body setting this format, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), is a specialized agency created under the United Nations. Biometric data can be produced from a simple digital photograph of this quality by running the picture of a person’s face through a software program which measures and analyzes the unique, personally identifiable characteristics of that face. The process results in a unique numeric code which identifies a person according to facial measurements. You read that correctly. A unique number or “code” is developed from an algorithmic formula which converts a digital biometric sample to biometric “face print” data. Under REAL ID biometric facial recognition technology, you become a number literally worn on your face – a number which is read by computer, tracked by surveillance camera, and distributed worldwide. Clearly, this international standard provides global compatibility of American citizens’ biometric data collected through REAL ID.

    Having this background, we should observe that many Americans still do not know why the provisions of the REAL ID Act must be rejected and aggressively opposed because they do not understand the full implications of REAL ID. Many wrongly assume that the legitimate need for security trumps all other considerations. However, REAL ID is not primarily about a secure driver’s license or terrorism prevention. The full and dangerous implications of REAL ID may be fleshed out through a discussion of why each American must vigorously oppose this Act’s most basic tenets. It poses dangers in the following three areas:

    1 – REAL ID violates Constitutional rights.
    2 – REAL ID compromises national and state sovereignty.
    3 – REAL ID threatens the safety of all Americans.

    I- First, let us note that compliance with REAL ID would violate our constitutionally protected freedoms.

    Amendment I – Freedom of Religion

    REAL ID violates freedom of religion for some citizens by forcing inclusion into a system which requires a picture – and more – just to access public services. The Amish and some Mennonites provide examples of religious groups who view the mere taking of photographs as idolatry. REAL ID conditions their freedoms, such as entering a federal building, upon a provision which violates their religious beliefs. Because this “government” identification system limits travel and access to certain public places, and could even become a debit card, other more mainline religious groups view REAL ID as the advent of the “mark of the beast.”

    Particularly because this technology assigns a unique number to represent each person’s biometric face print, these concerns are hardly unfounded.

    A Powerpoint presentation from L-1 Identity Solutions, the major biometrics company in the U.S. today, bolsters this claim. A slide in that presentation includes a graph which charts future likely applications for biometrics. Phase 1 of this “blueprint” for biometric implementation utilizes the authority of Federal agencies to impose such requirements as REAL ID. Phase 2 utilizes bureaucratic leveraging on regulated industries to implement biometrics. Phase 3 anticipates mass implementation on the citizens at large for such everyday activities as buying and selling. As an example, under Phase 2 DHS is attempting to force airlines to pick up the costs of collecting biometrics from foreigners at airports. In Texas under Phase 3, a company is experimenting with using the driver’s license as a debit card. Whether one is personally alarmed at some or all of these concerns, REAL ID would prohibit the free exercise of religion for many people.

    Amendment IV – Freedom of Privacy

    REAL ID also violatess the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of privacy. First, by mandating the collection, storage, and dissemination of personally identifiable data without any informed consent, REAL ID tramples on this right. In reality, this practice constitutes government-sanctioned identity theft and seriously breaches the “security of person” guaranteed to every U.S. citizen. No sufficiently compelling need exists to warrant government mass collection and storage of such sensitive information about its citizens. Concern heightens even further when private corporations control the databases being set up to house this information. As an example, L-1 Identity Solutions houses a database of U.S. driver’s license information. This company, which has consolidated a virtual monopoly on the driver’s license issuing market in the U.S., will handle all private information collected during the license issuing process.

    Secondly, REAL ID threatens freedom of privacy because this warehoused data cannot be confidently secured. Even the Department of Homeland Security’s own Privacy Impact Assessment fails to guarantee that the database linking and networking that will result from REAL ID will be secure. Many privacy experts agree that REAL ID will actually increase identity theft! In reality, the database and access to it will create an electronic superhighway for potential mass identity theft.

    Thirdly, REAL ID violates the Fourth Amendment in that the process of collecting personal biometric data without consent violates the very laws that exist to protect against such measures. This is probably one of the most significant Constitutional issues. Current US law allows the collection of biometric information only in the case of criminal activity. However, REAL ID institutionalizes the capture of facial recognition biometrics for every driver, regardless of criminality.

    Fourthly, REAL ID ripens the climate for aggressive efforts to control the masses via information and leading-edge technology, regardless of crucial privacy considerations. Data collection and surveillance is simultaneously occurring across several diverse fronts, each one a potential privacy danger painting the broader picture of where REAL ID will take us as a country. For instance:

    1- In Rhode Island, a school district is allowing a company to place radio frequency tracking (RFID) chips in students’ book bags.

    2- Nationwide, Great Britain has installed an estimated 4.2 million surveillance cameras utilizing facial recognition technology to keep tabs on all citizens. These cameras, of which there is 1 for every 14 citizens, can observe a person up to 300 times in a normal day in the city of London.

    3- China is aggressively pursuing country-wide surveillance of its citizens using facial recognition technology purchased from a contractor supplied by the previously mentioned L-1 Identity Solutions.

    4- According to a June 28, 2008 New York Times article, US and European officials are nearly agreed upon a “binding international agreement” which would allow “European governments and companies to transfer personal information to the United States, and vice versa.” Under the cloak of terrorism prevention, European governments could request “private information – like credit card transactions, travel histories, and Internet browsing habits” about American citizens.

    5- Homeland Security Presidential Directive 24 issued by the President on June 5, 2008, “establishes a framework to ensure that Federal executive departments and agencies use mutually compatible methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information of individuals.” This step shows the President’s extensive authority and disregard for privacy in streamlining the biometric sharing process.

    6- The FBI is currently building a billion-dollar database to house an enormous amount of biometric data. While officially aimed at housing criminal and terrorist data, this database already retains finger prints, iris scans and other individual biometrics that the government collects on ordinary citizens. Who knows the extent of the private information that will be stored in this massive database? REAL ID-collected “face prints” are just one more piece of the data collection and tracking system.

    These examples only serve to underscore the aggressive global government efforts to track and control citizens. In every case, REAL ID violates the freedoms guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

    Amendment X – States’ Riights

    REAL ID violates the Tenth Amendment in that the federal government is attempting to force the states to collect private data on their citizens, only to allow that data to be shipped out-of-state and shared worldwide. This action forces the states to work against the very interests of the citizens they are to protect. When states accede to this pressure under REAL ID, they allow the transfer of state authority to the federal government. The separation of powers built into our Constitution then crumbles as the federal government makes the rules, interprets the rules, and enforces the rules regarding all state drivers’ licenses.

    II- In addition to the three ways REAL ID would violate the Constitution, compliance with the REAL ID Act would undermine our national and state sovereignty. While REAL ID reads like a manual for a national ID card, the Department of Homeland Security’s own rules for REAL ID reveal that it implements an international ID system based on biometric identification. Complying with the requirements under REAL ID would violate U.S. national and state sovereignty by forcing states to adopt international biometric facial image standards and to document standards set by international organizations.

    As mentioned previously, the ICAO, affiliated with the UN, sets the standards for facial image captures (photos). Besides tracking the movements of international travelers, the ICAO also has assumed the responsibility of creating a common international passport system that stores individual personal and biometric information on a RFID chip built into the passport. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), which recognizes ICAO standards, “enables” this scheme. This international body and private organization sets nearly all the standards for REAL ID document scanning, storage, data encryption, barcode and layout design to comply with their 2005 international driver’s license system. Under REAL ID, AAMVA is the hub and backbone of the database system being set up to share information between states. From a broad perspective, the system created by REAL ID destroys national sovereignty and constitutional authority by removing control of government from the people and establishing government control over the people.

    Furthering AAMVA’s control strategy here in North America, implementation of REAL ID is “de facto” enrollment of each state into AAMVA’s Driver’s License Agreement (DLA). AAMVA has pushed the DLA, which meets REAL ID specifications, for nearly ten years. The implementation of this DLA is crucially important to the global effort because it mandates the sharing of all U.S. drivers’ license information with Mexico and Canada. This egregious step places U.S. citizen’s data at the mercy of Canadian and Mexican privacy controls, further exacerbating the identity theft problem, and violating Constitutional law and national sovereignty by essentially having states form a treaty with a foreign nation.

    REAL ID also violates national sovereignty because any international system includes and requires agreements and obligations that would weaken any sovereign standing. In fact, a Government Computer News report notes the following from Robert Mocny, acting program manager for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program. His quote comes from comments about a federal plan to extend biometric data sharing to Asian and European governments and corporations, so as to create a Global Security Envelope of identity management.

    “My question is, how is it ethical not to share?” Mocny asked. “It makes no sense for us to develop separate systems . . . information sharing is appropriate around the world.” Government Computer News further notes that he is sketching a plan for sharing biometric data that would permanently link an individual with data that governments and corporations hold. Since both governments and corporations have been infiltrated by extremists and terrorists and since certain governments of today may be our enemies tomorrow, I hardly think that worldwide sharing of our citizen’s data is a good idea!

    Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (or EDL’s) provide a further example of the undermining of national and state sovereignty. Citizens that purchase these nearly REAL ID-compliant licenses, which contain biographic and biometric information on an RFID chip, can use them as a passport to enter either Mexico or Canada. This advancement establishes the international ID designation of REAL ID. The Canadian province British Columbia has also issued a new EDL which, according to their website is also, “an acceptable document for entry from Canada into the United States by land and water.”

    REAL ID violates state sovereignty because the issue in contention is “national identity management”, with the federal government manipulating the tool of state driver’s licenses. Consider the following statements about REAL ID from Electronic Data Systems, the very company likely to maintain AAMVA’s driver’s license database: “The Real ID Act, then, is about more than a driver’s license. It puts in place a set of standards for Identity Management (IdM) that can be leveraged across an entire government organization to create an integrated citizen identity security program.” The international biometric standards mandated in DHS’s final rules, paint the broader picture of an international ID card for government surveillance and tracking.

    III- REAL ID would endanger Constitutional rights and both national and state sovereignty. Finally, let us consider that compliance with the REAL ID Act would compromise the safety of our people. Unlike what some government officials might say, 9/11 and the prevention of terrorism are not the real reasons for REAL ID. In fact, this technology was being pushed well before 9/11. Although REAL ID and biometrics are promoted as the “cure-all” to terrorism and identity theft problems, many highly dispute this claim. In response to the post-9/11 claims of biometrics companies that their technology could have prevented 9/11, Jim Wayman, the former head of the US Biometrics Center countered, “No, the government didn’t have this stuff in place, precisely because it had been working on it and knew its limitations and didn’t find any value for the costs involved.” He further noted, “It’s going to be hard to know how these technologies can be applied to increase national security. We’re not just going to turn these machines on and start catching terrorists.” REAL ID will not assure greater safety since terrorists will either avoid or duplicate a REAL ID compliant drivers’ license, although a correctly operating biometric system would certainly increase the difficulty of faking or forging a license.

    Despite the government’s assurances about the “certain” safety benefits of REAL ID, no government or company can create a foolproof, perfectly secure system. A person who breaks the law or who desires to wreak havoc on American soil will find a loophole with which to avoid the requirements of REAL ID. One needs only consider that driver’s licenses on the black market will continue to be readily available.

    Further, the safety of law abiding citizens will be compromised as their identities are stolen, stored and made accessible to thieves around the globe. Some people reject this idea because they hope that the government will be able to protect their identity once it has all of a person’s information. The simple faith implicit in this idea is widely misplaced, however. As proof, consider that in 2007, a Globe and Mail report noted, “A security flaw in Passport Canada’s website has allowed easy access to the personal information – including social insurance numbers, dates of birth and driver’s licence numbers – of people applying for new passports.” A breach of security in Great Britain last December resulted in the loss of approximately 25 million individual records. In my state of Pennsylvania, a security breach which occurred two years ago at a Driver’s License Center resulted in over 11,000 records being compromised. Such security breaches highlight significant personal dangers to law abiding citizens and prove that the only secure data is uncollected data.

    Finally, REAL ID does not assure safety because biometric technology itself does not work predictably. At this point in time, the technology we are discussing does not work well; hence REAL ID and facial recognition biometrics can not ensure safety. As a result, no one has yet been successfully prosecuted via facial biometrics. The opportunity for false identification and therefore being, “guilty before proven innocent” is great. For example, the Tampa, Florida police force scrapped a facial recognition system in 2003 because, according to a spokesman, “We never identified, were alerted to, or caught any criminal. It didn’t work.” While on its face, the concept of REAL ID seems like it would increase security, it does not. A Privacy International Study conducted in 2004 found “Of the 25 countries that have been most adversely affected by terrorism since 1986, eighty percent have national identity cards, one third of which incorporate biometrics. This research was unable to uncover any instance where the presence of an identity card system in those countries was seen as a significant deterrent to terrorist activity.” The simple truth is that REAL ID cannot stop crime.

    In summary, we have seen that REAL ID threatens Constitutional rights, national and state sovereignty, and the safety of our people. The enrollment of American citizens into an international biometric system of identification and tracking constitutes the heart of the REAL ID issue. A secure driver’s license is not the ultimate goal or certainly the ultimate result of the REAL ID Act. And it is unfortunately clear that the ultimate purpose is government tracking and economic control through enhanced knowledge and surveillance through biometric identification and tracking.

    This being established, it is clear that this aggressive effort of the federal government, working hand-in-hand with private commercial interests, must be opposed on every level. While Congress must move to quickly repeal the passage of the REAL ID Act, the states provide an ideal position from which to fight this encroachment by the federal government. The responsibility for the security and privacy of our own generation and the generations to come, however, rests upon our shoulders.

    The next action to be taken involves the following three steps.

    First, Congress must immediately repeal the REAL ID Act and resist any effort to pass anything remotely similar. Secondly, individual states which have not passed legislation preventing implementation of any provision of REAL ID, particularly the biometric portion, must do so without delay. As has been stressed throughout this article, biometrics is the core provision of REAL ID; consequently, the states must move to protect their citizens’ biometric data immediately. This step is critical because the vast majority of statutory law did not envision the breadth of individually identifiable data that could be gleaned by rapidly advancing technology. Further, because L-1 Identity Solutions holds a virtual monopoly as contractor for state DMVs, they could use their position to coerce the states into implementing all of DHS’s wishes. This scenario further endangers state’s rights.

    Therefore, it is not enough for states to simply stop collecting biometric data. They must purge and “dumb-down” databases to preclude any government knowledge or use of private citizen’s biometrics. Additionally, private third-party inspections should be ordered to ensure that all measures have been fully implemented. Fundamentally, the states must demand control – they must inform the contractor what to ddo, not vice versa. Thirdly, citizens must play a role in resisting illegitimate actions of the federal government. They must be encouraged in their capacity as law-abiding citizens to whom Constitutional guarantees were acknowledged, to resist implementation of any effort that would compromise their individual, God-given rights

    The American people remain the strongest defenders of freedom in the world. Many in our past have died for the liberties we enjoy today. Most of us are still willing to fight and die today for our freedom and the freedom of our children tomorrow. May we each do our part to ensure the greatest nation on earth remains “the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

    “Liberty has never come from the government; it has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.” -Woodrow Wilson

    Sam Rohrer is a Representative for the state of Pennsylvania and a member of the American Policy Center Advisory Board.

    For more information on the dangers of the Real ID Act, contact:

    Mark Lerner
    Co-Founder – Stop Real ID Coalition
    Phone: (816) 401-7615
    Email: stoprealid@aol.com

    © 2008 – Margaret Goodwin – All Rights Reserved

    *Sam Rohrer is a Representative for the state of Pennsylvania and a member of the American Policy Center Advisory Board.

    Source: http://www.newswithviews.com/guest_opinion/guest128.htm