Oct 212013
 

Painting by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com.

How Many Constitutional Freedoms Have We Lost?

This post explains the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution – and provides a scorecard on the extent of the loss of each right. (This is an updated version of an essay we wrote in February. Unfortunately, a lot of information has come out since then.)

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Jul 172013
 

Domestic intelligence gathering has waived the rights of America’s Muslims.

The evangelical Christians of Greenville County, South Carolina, are afraid.

There has been talk of informants and undercover agents luring young, conservative evangelicals across the South into sham terrorist plots. The feds and the area’s police want to eliminate a particularly extreme strain of evangelical Christianity opposed to abortion, homosexuality, and secularism, whose adherents sometimes use violent imagery and speech. They fear such extreme talk could convince lone wolves or small groups of Christian extremists to target abortion clinics, gay bars, or shopping malls for attack. As a result, law enforcement has flooded these communities with informants meant to provide an early warning system for any signs of such “radicalization.”

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Mar 152013
 

“The war against Bradley Manning is a war against us all.”—Chris Hedges, author and journalist

“I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”—Bradley Manning

Time and again, throughout America’s history, individuals with a passion for truth and a commitment to justice have opted to defy the unjust laws and practices of the American government in order to speak up against slavery, segregation, discrimination, and war. Even when their personal safety and freedom were on the line, these individuals spoke up, knowing they would be chastised, ridiculed, arrested, branded traitors and even killed.

Indeed, while brave men and women such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Henry David Thoreau, Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman are lauded as American heroes today, they were once considered enemies of the state.

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Jul 202012
 

A Paleo dieter/blogger takes on the State censors.

Can the government throw you in jail for offering advice on the Internet about what food people should buy at the grocery store? That is exactly the claim made by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition. In response, a major free speech lawsuit was filed in federal court on May 30. It seeks to answer one of the most important unresolved questions in First Amendment law: When does the government’s power to license occupations trump free speech? The case could have a profound impact on the Internet freedom of millions of Americans who share advice on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere online.

It all started three years ago when an obese man from North Carolina was rushed to the hospital in a near diabetic coma and almost died. Steve Cooksey had been sick for some time. He slowly gained weight over the years, and by 2008 had developed episodic asthma, a chronic cough, and respiratory infections, and was on multiple medications. In February 2009, after being rushed to the hospital, Steve was diagnosed with Type-II diabetes. His doctors informed him he would need insulin and drugs for the rest of his life. The day after being discharged, Steve sat home alone, crying over what he had become.

He vowed to change his life.

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May 282012
 

In 1971, Irving Kristol—the “godfather” of neoconservatism—published an article in the New York Times Magazine: “Pornography, Obscenity, and the Case for Censorship.” This article holds a special place in my memory, because it was the subject of a ferocious argument, in 1974, that I had with Roy Childs, one of the most influential figures in the early phase of the modern libertarian movement.

Our argument per se was of no consequence—we remained close friends until Roy’s untimely death in 1992—but the intellectual factors that contributed to our disagreement are directly relevant to a key question: How fundamental are the differences between neoconservatism and libertarianism?

It will take a while to explain what precipitated my argument with Roy, so please bear with me.

In late 1974, around a year after I had moved from Hollywood back to Tucson, I asked Roy to serve as best man at my wedding. Roy agreed, so I sent him plane tickets.

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May 062012
 

Now we can’t lawfully speak or peaceably assemble. Not within earshot or sight of those who rule us, at any rate.

HR347 – the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act is now “the law.” (More accurately, an updated version of the Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich. The phraseology and cadences are becoming so familiar, aren’t they?)

It codifies the federal government’s practice – ever since the days of The Chimp – to shunt protestors into what Judge Andrew Napolitano rightly calls No Speech Zones and more, expands on it – criminalizing mere speech, mere peaceful assembly, if it “impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of government business or official functions” – as defined by the agents of the federal government. The language is so sweepingly vague it amounts to carte blanche suspension of the First Amendment whenever and wherever the government so decides.

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May 032012
 

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.

Amendment I
Bill of Rights
United States Constitution
Adopted August 21, 1789

As Congressional representatives overwhelming approved the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act in February of this year, few Americans were paying attention. When President Obama signed the Act into law, he did so in secret, without any of the fanfare that came with his signing of universal health care two years prior – and for good reason. This is one of those laws the government doesn’t want you to know exists until it’s too late to do anything about it.

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Mar 072012
 

“Congress shall make no law … 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.”—First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

One of the key ingredients in a democracy is the right to freely speak our minds to those who represent us. In fact, it is one of the few effective tools we have left to combat government corruption and demand accountability. But now, even that right is being chipped away by statutes and court rulings which weaken our ability to speak freely. Activities which were once considered a major component of democratic life in America are now being criminalized. Making matters worse, politicians have gone to great lengths in recent years to evade their contractual, constitutional duty to make themselves available to us and hear our grievances. That is what representative government is all about.

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Feb 232012
 

In 2010 the FBI invaded the homes of peace activists in several states and seized personal possessions in what the FBI–the lead orchestrator of fake “terrorist plots”–called an investigation of “activities concerning the material support of terrorism.”

Subpoenas were issued to compel antiwar protestors to testify before grand juries as prosecutors set about building their case that opposing Washington’s wars of aggression constitutes giving aid and comfort to terrorists. The purpose of the raids and grand jury subpoenas was to chill the anti-war movement into inaction.

Last week in one fell swoop the last two remaining critics of Washington/Tel Aviv imperialism were removed from the mainstream media. Judge Napolitano’s popular program, Freedom Watch, was cancelled by Fox TV, and Pat Buchanan was fired by MSNBC. Both pundits had wide followings and were appreciated for speaking frankly.

Many suspect that the Israel Lobby used its clout with TV advertisers to silence critics of the Israeli government’s efforts to lead Washington to war with Iran. Regardless, the point before us is that the voice of the mainstream media is now uniform. Americans hear one voice, one message, and the message is propaganda. Dissent is tolerated only on such issues as to whether employer-paid health benefits should pay for contraceptive devices. Constitutional rights have been replaced with rights to free condoms.

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Aug 232011
 

Several weeks ago, a New York Times article by Noam Cohen examined the case of Aaron Swartz, the 24-year-old copyright reform advocate who was arrested in July, after allegedly downloading academic articles that had been placed behind a paywall, thus making them available for free online.  Swartz is now being prosecuted by the DOJ with obscene over-zealousness.  Despite not profiting (or trying to profit) in any way — the motive was making academic discourse available to the world for free — he’s charged with “felony counts including wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and recklessly damaging a protected computer” and “could face up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.” 

The NYT article explored similarities between Swartz and Bradley Manning, another young activist being severely punished for alleged acts of freeing information without any profit to himself; the article quoted me as follows:

For Glenn Greenwald . . . it also makes sense that a young generation would view the Internet in political terms.

“How information is able to be distributed over the Internet, it is the free speech battle of our times,” he said in interview. “It can seem a technical, legalistic movement if you don’t think about it that way.”

He said that point was illustrated by his experience with WikiLeaks — and by how the Internet became a battleground as the site was attacked by hackers and as large companies tried to isolate WikiLeaks. Looking at that experience and the Swartz case, he said, “clearly the government knows that this is the prime battle, the front line for political control.

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