Do any of us really believe it is a coincidence that Congress and the president are fast-tracking specific legislation and executive orders that, when viewed in their entirety, destroy the Bill of Rights? Three months ago, Congress passed the alarming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), allowing indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without due process - meaning without probable cause, criminal charge, benefit of counsel, or a trial. This treatment of U.S. citizens was outlawed after the Civil War, only to resurface now in an even more egregious manner, especially since back then, citizens had to at least be charged with a crime.
In the shadow of this shocking legislation, last week Congress almost unanimously passed another horrifying law that criminalizes protesting on or near any federal property, or merely being in the vicinity of either (a) an event of national significance, or (b) a person under the protection of the Secret Service. The Federal Restricted Buildings & Grounds Improvement Act repeals our right to peacefully assemble and petition the government with our grievances. In fact, it is now illegal to assemble in front of Congress if even one member might be inside.
Three hundred eighty-eight congressmen voted in favor of this attack on the First Amendment, including every Iowa legislator. This unconscionable betrayal by Representative Bruce Braley (D) and Senators Chuck Grassley (R) and Tom Harkin (D) requires that these politicians answer for abdicating their oaths of office on such a fundamental level. Come November 2012, voters have an opportunity to unseat Braley, but Grassley and Harkin need recall proceedings, if nothing else. The combination of offenses is over the top and points to an unprecedented breach of trust, let alone of law.
Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) co-sponsored the NDAA and are now separately introducing cyber-security bills: the SECURE IT Act and the Cybersecurity Act, respectively. Both are highly intrusive, and have no measured application other than to "encourage" private Internet companies to "share" any citizens' information with military spy agencies, including the National Security Agency, if there is a perceived threat to cyber-security. What qualifies as a "cyber-threat" is wide open for interpretation. The Internet companies, which are currently obliged by law to privacy standards, will be given immunity for breaching those standards. Again, the government is looking to spy on U.S. citizens with the the help of the private sector without cause or due process. A "good-faith belief" is all that is required to spy on any one of us. (See RCReader.com/y/cybersecurity.)
Last week during a Senate budget hearing, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta openly admitted that the president and defense agencies no longer seek congressional approval for military engagement, but instead look to international law and the United Nations for their permissions. It was a stunning revelation, leaving Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) visibly shaken. (See RCReader.com/y/panetta.) Just days later, House Concurrent Resolution 107 was introduced in committee that would make it a treasonous act and an impeachable offense for the president to engage in military actions without the express approval of Congress. It's about time someone stepped into this issue and retrieved the constitutional authority for taking America to war!
Meanwhile, just this week, yet another nonlethal weapon was unveiled to the Pentagon that arguably has few uses in military combat but would deploy more effectively as a crowd-control device: the Active Denial System, which emits an extremely painful 95-gigahertz heat ray from as far away as 0.6 miles. (A microwave is one gigahertz.) The heat-ray gun boasts an automatic turn-off safety feature to limit the shooter's ability to accidentally seriously harm victims. (See RCReader.com/y/heatray.)
Add this to the an ever-growing list of crowd-control weapons that can be found in police departments' arsenals - including debilitating sound canons, excruciating Tasers, toxic gases, and drones that can spy on (and, in the future, shoot preprogrammed) targets - and a community's police department becomes a fully armed domestic military force, specifically prohibited by the U.S. Constitution but summarily being ignored by the very people who took oaths to protect it, including lawmakers, judges, and law-enforcers. Are you getting the picture yet?
Based on the rubber-stamping that characterizes the entire Scott County Board of Supervisors, residents better pay attention to budgets and spending to make sure such weapons are not being purchased in our county. This same caution holds true for all our Quad Cities, because each has its own police force.
Please read the laws that permit these dangerous constitutional breaches by allowing for the use of such weapons against Americans. Somebody needs to, because legislators, whether local, state, or federal, are on-the-record freely admitting that they certainly don't. We've all seen or heard the numerous media clips confirming as much.
Even Scott County Board of Supervisors Chair Tom Sunderbruch admitted, prior to a public hearing on the county's $83-million budget, that (a) the actual budget figures are not published online until after they are approved, and (b) "We have budget analysts who look at this stuff for us." (Watch Reader Publisher Todd McGreevy questioning the board during the public hearing at RCReader.com/y/countybudget.) Since when did taxpayers agree to pay for advisors to do the work we elect - and pay - supervisors to do? Attend or view online (YouTube.com/scottifatv) one county-board meeting, and you will see for yourself the typical lack of engagement that follows bureaucrats and politicians who are ceremonial versus effective stewards.
What I seem to consistently underestimate is folks' threshold for unacceptable conduct by public servants. I get my back up every time I learn of some infraction, injustice, or grubby behavior that advantages a politician or bureaucrat (with some real or imagined authority) at the expense of those he/she is hired to serve.
I like to think everyone has a line. When I read about the new nonlethal heat-ray weapon, I realized that its announcement, coupled with the two recent laws - the one that permits imprisonment of citizens indefinitely without due process, and the other that subverts our right to freely assemble in protest against our government - was no coincidence. I am frustrated and disgusted at the mounting betrayal by Congress, but I am far more frustrated with my fellow Americans for continuing to tolerate the intolerable.
We need to examine our priorities as Americans, each of us drawing his/her line to determine: At what point are you willing to actually do something to stop the abuse of power that is systematically dismantling our "republic, for which it [the flag] stands"? The end game is to usurp not just our resources and property, but our individual liberty, as well, because at the end of the day, people are resources, too. It is now, and always has been, about controlling resources.
So here is the quick breakdown of potential solutions: (1) nullification, (2) the power of the vote, and (3) the power of the purse. These three superpowers still belong to the people.
What makes America unique is our Constitution, more specifically the Bill of Rights. Even while lawmakers are legislating away the protection of our rights, those rights still exist. Never forget that our rights are given to us by God, not by government. The Bill of Rights protects our God-given rights; it does not grant them. In fact, the Bill of Rights' main purpose is to impose limits on the government's ability to infringe on these rights. Our rights exist whether government does or not.
Because the Bill of Rights is the foundation of American law, any laws or statutes that endow government with authorities beyond those expressly listed in the Constitution are nullifiable. States can nullify any such federal laws, while grand and petit juries can nullify any law they find unconstitutional, or even unwarranted in individual circumstances.
These superpowers are rarely invoked because few citizens know they possess them. County sheriffs are the final authority, even over the president in cases of federal mandates that are unlawful. Together, constitutional sheriffs, grand juries, and fully informed juries can right a multitude of wrongs, especially if the community supports such governance. Visit FIJA.org and TenthAmendmentCenter.com for superb resources and news updates on these topics.
Sheriffs across America are successfully and formally interposing between federal agencies run amok - including the FDA, EPA, and the Bureau of Land Management - and citizens, whose liberties the employees of these agencies swore an oath to protect. Visit CountySheriffProject.org for videos and details on these exciting developments.
Another superpower is your individual vote. But your vote is only as good as the voting system your county uses for elections, whether local, state, or federal. America's voting machines, ballot counters, and election software are largely compromised, requiring a grassroots fix in all 3,100-plus counties throughout the nation. We must return to paper ballots, on-site election judges, random audits, and other failsafe protocols that used to protect elections from fraud and abuse.
Computerization of elections has compromised voting systems on so many levels, corrupting election results across the board. Rigging votes is becoming commonplace, and Iowa's recent fiasco with its caucus voting should be red flag enough to revamp Iowa's processes. I cannot stress this enough. Until the last general election, Scott County had no chain-of-custody protocol for ballots and memory chips - for more than 30 years!
BlackBoxVoting.com and NationalCleanElections.com are Web sites dedicated to exposing all the problems with computerized voting, including its vulnerability to hacking, pre-programming fraudulent positive or negative votes before a single lever is pulled, and stacking votes in favor of one candidate over another by redistributing votes before the tally tape is printed as confirmation. If your voting system is computerized, it is vulnerable. In many counties, elections have become a racket.
The good news is that this is entirely correctable on a county-by-county basis. Residents don't have to fix the world; they just need to stick with fixing their own county. This is a most doable grassroots project that doesn't take a ton of explanation, just solid determination to see it done. Politicians will not buck residents for long before they risk exposing themselves as part of the corruption. Therefore cooperation is eventually more likely than not. And no other activism could be more important than securing your county's voting system to ensure a fair and accurate vote for its residents. It is perhaps the single most important oversight activity in all of politics, and is desperately needed in every county beginning today.
The power of the purse is your third superpower. Your ability to choose what you produce and/or consume is huge. Consumption is taken for granted, but in a market-driven economy, the end user has the most influence over what is produced. No one will make a product if no one will use/consume it - in other words pay for it. Consumers ultimately have the final say. At times, sacrifice is required in choosing different products or consumption behaviors, but utilizing this superpower can effect monumental economic good. History is full of examples of the power of the purse, both for good and ill, depending on whose purchase power is in play. Never underestimate its reach.