Steve G.

Archive for the ‘Police State’ Category

Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part I

In Activism, Health, Immigration, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State, Police State, Protest, US Government on August 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Yesterday, I attended Ben Cardin’s Townhall meeting at Towson University.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss healthcare in America.  Ben Cardin currently serves as one of Maryland’s U.S. senators.

I arrived at 4:11, even though the event was not sceduled to begin until 7:00 PM.  Nevertheless, there was already a line.

This line grew quickly, and by 5:30, the Towson University administration began turning people away.

When they finally let us into the auditorium, they inspected bags and purses to ensure an absence of weapons and food.  Walking through the auditorium door, we were each handed blue cards on which we would write down a question for Mr. Cardin along with our contact information.  Inside the auditorium, classical music played.

I sat toward the front.  At 6:57, a gentleman in the corner of the room holding a small camera was asked to be seated.  It was difficult to hear their conversation, but the man appeared to ask the administrator if it was okay for him to stand where he was for the simple purpose of recording the event and the audience, to which the administrator clearly told him it was not.  The man submitted to the administrator.

I commented to the woman sitting to the right of me, “That guy wasn’t harming anyone,” to which she responded, “Yeah, none of us [audience members] had a problem with him.”

About a minute later, Cardin and a few others walk out.  I had not been paying attention to the stage as I was reading my book, but the audience reaction told me all I needed to know, and so I closed the book.  An administrator in a green tie makes some brief opening remarks.  All three persons and on the stage in front of the audience, and two projection screens stand on either side of the three persons.  Behind the podium are three nice-looking chairs, and above the chairs is a banner—probably paid for with your tax dollars—that said, “Every American Deserves Healthcare.”

The administrator lists a bunch of people who were there that night, most of the names being unfamiliar to me.  I presume a number were state delegates.  Although our other senator, Ms. Barbara Mikulski, was not present, her name was mentioned for some reason—perhaps her aids were in the audience.  Although most of the names mentioned received applause, her name received boos from the audience.

I became immediately aware of how lively this audience was going to be.  Clapping and booing were both highly-valued means of communication throughout the night.

Following the administrator, a woman spoke. She explained the troubles her family is facing, and how difficult it’s been caring for her children, the youngest of whom has some serious ailments.  Needless to say, the entire audience—regardless of what its individual members thought about the healthcare crisis—felt sympathy for this woman, the husband of whom currently works two jobs to make ends meet in our turbulent economy.  She ended her brief presentation by saying that she did not know what the best solution to our nation’s problems is, but that she hoped that events such as this townhall meeting would help to flesh out some of the problems and their solutions.

I could not help, when listening to her presentation, but to think that many of the problems she faced were the fault of statist intervention into the healthcare system and into the economy as a whole.

The audience was, for the most part, respectful to this woman.  This audience did not hold the same respect for the man who spoke next—the politician.

Cardin began speaking at 7:09, and he faced many hecklers.  It was really a beautiful sight: people, refusing to place politicians on some godlike pedistal, but instead speaking their mind, challenging the establishmen man, and, in so doing, challenging the entire elitist system!

This isn’t to say I loved every utterance that this audience made.  I was extremely annoyed to hear some audience members whining, “What about the illegals!?”  Such narrow-minded rhetoric was, in my opinion, a detriment to the otherwise-glorious anti-government arguments and sentiments of the crowd.  I half-wanted to pull these anti-immigrationists off to the side and chastise them for their wrongheaded focus, but decided against it.

Cardin had various slides he wanted to show the audience, but the audience was getting wrestless.  “We want to ask you questions!”  “Let us ask questions!”  Still, Cardin continued.

One of his slides, unvailed at 7:18, showed the increasing cost of health insurance over the past ten years.  Looking at the slide, I couldn’t help but to suspect that it was not adjusted for inflation.  Rising costs of health insurance is certainly not a positive thing, of course, but no evidence was presented to indicate that the cause was anything other than the declining value of the dollar.  What is inflation?  Inflation is any increase in the money supply, and it causes the value of each unit of the money supply to drop.  Thus, when the government inflates the dollar by creating new money and credit out of thin air, the purchasing power of the average user of that currency falls.  The solution, therefore, to this problem is not new government mandates and higher taxes; the solution is to abolish the fraudulent institution responsible for inflation the money supply—in the case of America, that institution is the Federal Reserve.

Still facing heckles, Cardin becomes visibly became tiffed a couple minutes later.  He says to his audience at this time something to the effect of, “I know you don’t care about the facts, but…”  The audience responded, unsurprisingly, with further heckles.  Listening to the audience and our guest speaker, I couldn’t help but to feel like I was sitting in the British parliament.

At 7:22, cops walk from the back of the audience down to the front, and stand in the corners of the room.  I didn’t make precise count, but I estimate that about ten cops made this trek, presumably to intimidate speakers by showcasing the might of the state apparatus.  I do not believe anyone actually allowed themselves to be intimidated, but it was an interesting sight nevertheless.  Where has America gone?

At 7:25, in response to calls from the audience to begin the Q&A session, he pleads with the audience to just let him get through the last few slides.  The administrator in the green tie also kept insisting that the audience stay quiet while Cardin finishes his presentation—repeatedly, and to no avail.

Finally, Mr. Cardin finished his presentation at 3:33, and announces that he will now answer questions.  To this, the audience applauded.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Anarchy is Coming to America

In Art, Entertainment, Libertarian, Media, Personal Responsibility, Police State, US Government on May 23, 2009 at 1:52 pm

With massive government debasing of the fiat U.S. Dollar, with mounting decades of hypermilitarism, with the destabilising effects of ever more central planning, could the statist American Empire collapse within the next four years?  And if it does, how will citizens cope?

These are the questions aimed to be addressed by a daring new web series, Anarchy in America.

Written and produced by Sky Conway, President of Renegade Studios, Anarchy in America takes place in 2013, in a bankrupt America where “food riots erupt and mobs loot stores.”  While preachers on street corners claim this is “Armageddon,” the president addresses the nation on live TV.  He declares Martial Law.

I first learned of this project from Laissez-Faire!, a new magazine/catalogue being released by Laissez-Faire Books (which was recently acquired by the International Society for Individual Liberty).  In this magazine, Ms. Joyce Brand writes,

In a small coastal community in California, a band of colorful residents rally together to solve social problems from looting to feeding the elderly.  This is not utopia but flawed characters struggling to make their community work, battling each other and the remnants of government while building voluntary institutions for currency, charity, protection, and more.  But even as freedom takes root, the government returns.  State agents with guns demand taxes and obedience.  And, then, a tank rolls down the center of Main Street; the federal government has reconstituted (p. 9).

Professor Randy Barnett, author of The Structure of Liberty, is one of the consultants on Anarchy in America.

This show will be released as a series of webisodes at anarchy.tv, each approximating seven minutes in length.  Each set of twelve episodes will be “structured like a three-act feature film.  …  This allows us to consolidate each set of webisodes into movie-length DVDs,” writes the producer, “with extras, to market to a wide audience.”

Production will not begin until enough money has been raised to fund the first three episodes, but once things are under way, “Laissez Faire Books will publish the novelization of the series, and we expect to have graphic books as well.  We will have merchandise to sell, such as tee shirts, posters, baseball caps, mugs, etc.  There will be 15 second commercial spots available in front of each episode.  The DVD sales will bring in more revenue as the series continues, and there is the potential for a cable TV deal.”

All in all, I’m quite excited about the prospect of watching this show.

—Alexander S. Peak

Live-blogging: Hamilton’s Curse: Chapter 1: The Rousseau of the Right

In Books, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, History, Libertarian, literature, Live-blogging, Police State, Protest, Taxation, US Government on March 31, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Although no other founder has had “a bigger impact on American society” than Alexander Hamilton, his impact has nevertheless been “almost universally negative from the perspective of those who would like to think of America as the land of the free,” people like you and me (p. 9).

Thomas J. DiLorenzo continues with this theme as he embarks on chapter two of Hamilton’s Curse, the title of which comes from an article by political scientist Cecelia Kenyon in the scholarly journal Political Science Quarterly (pp. 22–23).

The defining characteristics of the British Empire, the same British Empire American revolutionaries found so liberticidal that secession was their only option, were “dictatorial monarchy, centralized power, imperialism, and economic mercantilism”—the very same set of conditions Hamilton fervently hoped America would adopt (p. 9).  Thus, if Hamilton was to convince the public to adopt these conditions, he would have to use rhetoric with striking simularity to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s conception of “general will.”  Thus, Hamilton discussed his policies in terms of “the public interest” literally “hundreds of times in [his] speeches, letters, and writings” (Ibid.).  This is, of course, an ancient tactic of statist oppressors, but one that often proves successful nonetheless.

Thus DiLorenzo writes, “Hamilton was an American mercantilist, and he and his party (and its political heirs, the Whigs and Republicans) advocated special-interest policies that would primarily benefit politically connected merchants, manufacturers, speculators, and bankers at the expense of the rest of the public.  The ‘public interest’ rhetoric was (and is) an indispensable political smoke screen if they were to achieve political success.  The wool must be pulled over the public’s eyes with ‘public interest’ rhetoric if mercantilism were to succeed.  Jefferson and his political compatriots, such as John Taylor, saw through it” (pp. 23–24).

We learn a bit more about Hamilton in this chapter, for example we learn that he was a slave-owner (pp. 10–11) who became a founder of the New York Post with the purpose of smearing his rival Thomas Jefferson.  We learn that Hamilton was an advocate of outright nationalism (p. 13) who wanted America to “a kind of ‘king’ [a permanent president] who would yield supreme power over all people, who in turn would have essentially no say in how their government was run.  The states would be mere provinces whose governors would be appointed by and loyal to the ‘king.’  Under such a regime, all political power in the nation would be exercised by the chief executive and his circle of advisors” (pp. 16–17).  And we learn that Hamilton had no qualms with lying in order to achieve his goals.

Hamilton, for example, prior to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, assured Jeffersonian localists that the various states would still be sovereign under the Constitution, even though he clearly had no personal opposition to the seizure of power by the central state.  Moreover, he promised that the newly-proposed U.S. Congress would never contemplate “marching the troops of one state into the bosom of another” for any reason (p. 20).  This, it turns out, was a bald-faced lie.

Hamilton, who wished to have a huge national debt and ever-higher levels of taxation, “was instrumental in getting Congress to enact numberous excise taxes, a national property tax, and other taxes, including a special tax on whiskey” (p. 34).  Unfortunately for western Pennsylvanian farmers, who used whiskey as their means of exchange (i.e. money), this made basic commerce too difficult and thus destroyed trade.  Needless to say, the farmers rebelled by refusing to pay the insane tax.

This act of independence and rebellion infuriated Hamilton, who wanted to fight the rebellion with “overwhelming force” (Ibid.).  “So at Hamilton’s urging, President Washington personally led an army of more than 13,000 conscripts to Pennsylvania, accompanied by Hamilton the chief tax collector,” the very thing he had promised the New York ratifying convention less than a decade earlier would never happen (Ibid.).

We really shouldn’t be surprised by this corruption.  Hamilton had no love for restrained government, and instead aimed to “build the foundations of a new empire” (p. 14).  Both Jefferson and Hamilton, DiLorenzo tells us, “fully understood what was at stake:  Would the American government mimic the British and pursue ‘national greatness,’ ‘imperial glory,’ and empire, as Hamilton preferred?  Or would the primary purpose of government be the modest Jeffersonian one of protecting the lives, liberties, and property of its citizens?  Both men understood that empire would mean that government would become the master, rather than the servant, of the people, as it had been for generations in the Old World” (p. 12).  The difference between the two men is that Hamilton wanted the involuntary servitude associated with statism to be foisted upon the haplas masses; the Jeffersonians did not.

Hamilton was no doubt disappointed by the Philadelphia Convention, therefore, which rejected his goals.  As Robert Yates’s Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention and Senator John Taylor’s New Views of the Constitution of the United States (1823) point out, the Founders understood themselves to be creating a system wherein each of the states retain their sovereignty.  Although Hamilton proposed his “permanent president,” the Convention whole-heartedly rejected the proposal and the philosophy of “executive dictatorship and monopoly government” (p. 17), instead viewing the Constitution as “a compact among the free and independent states and not as the creation of a ‘national’ government” (Ibid.).  It was never their intention to create a “central government whose laws would always trump the laws of the states” (p. 18), so it should come as no surprise that Hamilton, following the convention, called the Constitution “a frail and worthless fabric” (p. 14)—it didn’t achieve his hypernationalist goals.

Unfortunately today, the central state is treated as a Leviathan whose legitimacy trumps all below it, from the various state governments down to the individual.  Thus, although Hamilton initially saw his objective as having failed, in the end Hamiltonianism has unfortunately succeeded in transforming the American republic into the American Empire.  Hamilton the nationalist, Hamilton the mercantilist, Hamilton the militarist (pp. 28–29, 32), would be gleeful at the position of the modern American state.

I cannot say that this chapter comes without a personal objection.  On page 27, DiLorenzo states that the doctrine of implied powers, as advocated by Hamilton and his Federalist Party, bore “liberal judicial activism.”

I must ask, why do people still insist on implying that judicial activism necessarily expands the state?  It seems to me that it is judicial restraint that allows the Congress and the president to expand state power—in other words, the judiciary restrains itself from overriding the unconstitutional actions of the other two branches.

Liberal judicial activism was used back in the day to limit the power of the state, used to say that the unconstitutional big government policies of the other two branches were just that—unconstitutional—and were thus null and void.  Liberal judicial activism was used in the early years of Roosevelt to fight his unconstitutional New Deal.

Judicial restraint, conversely, was used—more often then not—to pretend that various big government programmes of Congress and the president were in fact perfectly fine vis-à-vis the Constitution.  Thus, the judicially restrained court effectively restrained itself from nullifying these laws.

It therefore seems to me that the Federalist Party brought us the birth of conservative judicial restraint.

DiLorenzo also fails to point out, when speaking of state sovereignty, that states do not actually possess “rights,” that rights can only be possessed by individuals and the voluntary associations they form.  (Surely, not even Mussolini would be so cavalier as to claim that the state is a voluntary association.)  The Founders clearly understood this, as the tenth amendment, which DiLorenzo himself addressed on pages 17–18, refer to the reserved powers of the states, not their “rights.”

DiLorenzo’s failure to mention that states do not actually possess rights and his willingness to associate judicial activism with either the Federalists or Hamilton’s doctrine of implied powers appear to be the only drawbacks to this chapter.  DiLorenzo’s attack on Hamilton remains well-deserved, and my view of Hamilton has, especially in light of his vicious and vile attack on the admirable Whiskey Rebellion, sunk to all new levels.

—Alexander S. Peak

Anthony Gregory on Peaceful Dissent and Government Crackdowns

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment, History, Libertarian, Police State, US Government on March 19, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Over at Campaign for Liberty yesterday, Anthony Gregory released an article detailing various historical examples of the U.S. federal government targeting peaceful dissenters.

This article comes after a recent release of a memo to the state of Missouri, a memo conflating belligerent, right-wing extremist groups—some of whom are racist or anti-Semitic, some of whom are violently opposed to open immigration, some of whom want to impose upon the American people a system of national socialism—with others who, like many of us, simply want to get big government off of our backs.

Thus, tax protesters, second amendment advocates, anti-war activists, goldbugs, Ron Paul enthusiasts, and “sovereign citizens” (who sound like agorists and other natural-law libertarians from the description given)—all my kind of people—are lumped together with the sort of terrorist scum that would burn crosses on other people’s property, blow up abortion clinics, harass undocumented migrant workers, or—like Timothy McVeigh—blow up buildings with innocent people, including children, inside.

On the surface, one might assume Gregory’s article is nothing more than an explanation to people interested that these are two very different camps, and that the sort of people who frequent Campaign for Liberty have no connection to the violent, aggressive goals of various right-wing extremist groups in operation.  But Mr. Gregory’s article goes much further than that.

Gregory’s article takes an in-depth look at the tendency of the government, over the course of U.S. history, to overreact to criticism and suppress dissent, even those most peaceful of dissenters, the Quakers.  Starting from the horrendous Alien and Sedition Acts of Adams and his Federalist Party, the U.S. government has cracked down on free speech and peaceful dissent of Americans from all angles of the political spectrum—left, right, and centre.

There is a lot of history here, and although Gregory handles the material with breathtaking clarity, I’m left wanting to read more.  No doubt, a book could be written on the subject, detailing these various episodes, the various uses of counter-intelligence and infiltration by U.S. officials.  If Gregory were to tackle such a subject in book form, I would surely order a copy.

In any event, this article is worth the read.

—Alexander S. Peak

Cops Gone Wild: Brutal attack on teen girl not uncommon police behavior

In Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Human Rights Abuses, Law, People in the news, Police Brutality, Police State, Protest on March 13, 2009 at 6:15 pm

By now, unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve seen the video of the 15-year-old girl who was violently attacked by a Seattle (Kings County) cop while being booked, because she kicked her shoe off at him and called him a name.

For said cave dwellers, here’s the video in question from a news report.

The teen had been arrested when she and some friends were seen driving erratically; the car belonged to a friend’s mother, and had been taken without permission.  The girls were arrested and charged with stealing the car.

Bear in mind, I do not condone that behavior by any stretch of the imagination.  No one ever has the right to take someone else’s property without permission, and they were also a serious danger to everyone else on the road since their erratic driving along with their age suggests they had no training or experience driving a motor vehicle.  I therefore have absolutely no problem with the girls being arrested.

I do, however, have a very, very serious problem with cops violently attacking suspects in this manner.

In a nutshell, the 15-year-old girl (Malika Calhoun, who has since given media interviews so her name is in the public record) angered officer Paul Schene, age 31, by calling him a “fat pig” and kicking her shoe off at him (though the shoe was not kicked hard, so it could not have harmed anyone), and Schene reacted with a shocking level of violence.  As you can see in the video, Schene ran into the room in full attack mode, slammed her head against the wall, threw her to the floor, punched her in the head several times, then picked her up by her hair (don’t get me started on what the hair-pulling says about this cop’s psychological problems).  She complained of having trouble breathing after the attack, which I do not doubt.  If nothing else, she may have had a panic attack following the shockingly violent attack against her.

Should she have called him a “fat pig” and kicked her shoe off at him?  Obviously not, and it’s pretty clear that she is a troubled teen based on her being involved in auto theft.  At the same time, that kind of behavior in teens is not unusual, as many parents find out the hard way, and many teens engage in that kind of behavior but grow up to be perfectly respectable, law-abiding adults; in fact, that’s why the criminal records of minors are sealed, since they lack the maturity of adults and do many times make extremely poor choices.  Either way, her disrespectful actions toward Schene do not explain Schene’s reaction, and in fact his reaction says far more about him than her behavior says about her, given her age.  I therefore can’t say her portrayal of him as a “fat pig” was necessarily incorrect.  Why should anyone respect the authority of a cop like Schene, who acts like a violent criminal himself?

Even in light of the video evidence against him, Schene has only been placed on paid leave pending the investigation.  Yet it is very clear that he engaged in brutality, since even his defense – that she called him names and kicked her shoe off at him – does not in any way explain, much less excuse, his violent actions.  So why are taxpayers being forced to fund what amounts to a paid vacation for him?  Clearly he is a danger to the public, and thus should have been fired as soon as his actions came to light.  Steps must be taken to protect the public from Schene.  Pure and simple, this is a man who should never have been given a badge.  Paul Schene didn’t just snap and attack a suspect this one time, that much I can guarantee.  He merely got away with it until now, because he’s a cop.

While the various television talking heads are quick to point out that this is an unusual situation, they’re both completely right and horribly, terribly wrong.  This kind of violence toward suspects actually happens all the time, but is almost impossible to prove since the average person tends to believe cops over the people they arrested, so the public doesn’t hear about it.   The only thing truly unusual about this situation – not unlike the infamous Rodney King beating by the LAPD – is that the attack was caught on videotape.  In this case, the prosecutor who was assigned to examine the criminal complaint (filed by the cop against the girl, not vice versa) pulled the surveillance tape to see what happened.  Had Schene not charged the girl for kicking her shoe at him, the public would never have even known about this shocking instance of police brutality.  The truth is, few if any people would believe a 15-year-old girl over a cop, even if she went public with the allegation.  Schene was counting on that, too.  The fact that he knew there was a surveillance camera there, but still filed the assault charges against her, suggests that he was counting on the prosecutor looking the other way as well.

The other cop in the room, a trainee, never reported the incident even though he had an absolute duty to do so since a violent crime was committed in his presence.  Is this trainee really so stupid that he doesn’t recognize assault when it’s right in front of him?  Does that trainee believe that cops are allowed to brutalize suspects?  Was he afraid of getting into trouble for being there?  Or did the trainee not report it because he feared for his career, and possibly even his life since in the field he has to depend upon other cops to cover his back?

The trainee cop has not been disciplined, and has not been charged.  However, he should have been fired immediately for failing to report the assault.  It’s easy to fire a trainee, since they can be relieved of duty for any reason, or no reason at all.  Chances are he was not fired because he cooperated with the investigation into Schene’s actions, but that still does not excuse his actions (or lack thereof) insofar as his employment is concerned.  At most he should be granted immunity from prosecution, since he does not appear to have assaulted the girl himself (but could still be charged with conspiracy); however, he still should lose his job for not reporting Schene’s assault.

Schene, on the other hand, would be harder to fire because he almost certainly has the Fraternal Order of Police backing him up.  While the FOP is extremely powerful when it comes to defending cops who have been fired, it would also be extremely hard for them to successfully argue that Schene should not be fired in light of the video and his pathetic excuses for his actions.  Yes, it would cost the department quite a bit of money to defend against a union challenge, but that’s their mistake and they now need to correct it.  They obviously didn’t screen either cop very well, or else they would not be in this predicament at all.  They need to fire the trainee, fire Schene, fight any FOP challenge to the decision, and learn from it by more carefully screening their officers.  Either way, take the badge and gun away from this uniformed thug before he kills someone else.

Yes, you read that right.  Schene has been a cop for only eight years, but has already been investigated for two police-related shootings, one of which resulted in death.  He was cleared both times, which is also not at all surprising.  Cops are rarely found at fault in shootings, even when they acted improperly, because the cop’s claimed perceptions are given greater weight than the actual reality of the situation.  Schene’s shootings should be reinvestigated by an independent panel outside the law enforcement community and outside the area, given his actions in this case which clearly show that he has extremely serious impulse control problems which render him dangerous to others, as well as the failure of everyone within the department to report his assault upon the girl – though obviously numerous people knew, including the trainee and the medics – which suggests there may have been a coverup in the investigation of the shootings as well. 

This brings me to another issue, with regard to the complaint made against this girl which resulted in the discovery of this surveillance video.  Simply stated, charges of obstruction of justice and assault on a police officer are rarely legitimate charges.  More likely than not, they are used to pad other charges.  Sometimes, as in this case, a charge of assault upon a police officer is filed only to cover up violent behavior by the cops.  Those kinds of charges are also used as a trump card by the prosecution, to make defendants think they’re getting a deal by having some charges dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on other charges, when in reality there is rarely any evidence to back up the dropped charges beyond than the cop’s word.  That the girl would be charged with assault upon a police officer at all, given what is shown in that video, is disturbing at best.

What I find most disturbing of all, however, is the number of people who are defending Schene for committing a violent crime against a minor.  The internet is overrun by those making excuses for him, from “maybe he had a bad day” to “the girl had it coming because she stole a car”.   I hate to tell them this, but “having a bad day” is not an excuse for attacking anyone, or else it would be an affirmative defense for everyone accused of assault, murder, and other violent crimes; and there is no law in this country which states that the punishment for being accused of car theft is a violent beating by someone much larger than you, and trained to attack others. 

Those who claim to be law-and-order types are strangely the first ones to suggest that violent crime is acceptable, as long as it’s committed by a cop.  Those with the same mindset defended the animals-with-badges on the LAPD who nearly beat Rodney King to death (they claimed he was resisting arrest, though the video shows otherwise), and the NYPD cops who shot Amadou Diallo a shocking 41 times (they claimed they thought his wallet, taken out to show ID as he did not speak English well, was a gun), so making excuses for completely out-of-control cops is not a new phenomenon, but it never fails to be an extremely disturbing reflection upon our society.

At any rate, the US Department of Justice is now investigating Schene’s actions in brutalizing the teenager.  While normally I don’t approve of the feds intervening in local affairs, it is the best thing which could happen in this case since local authorities (and local juries) rarely take appropriate action in cases of police brutality, even when there is clear and convincing evidence and high public/media interest.  Even in this case, in which Schene was criminally charged, he was only charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault.  Chances are he will get probation at most if convicted of that charge, and based upon the long history of cops being acquitted for even more heinous acts against the citizenry, it is not even sure that he will be convicted despite the video evidence.  However, if convicted in federal court, he will likely be sentenced to federal prison, and caged like the animal he has proven himself to be.

Kooky pro-government conspiracy theories

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Local Politics, Police State, Politics, Protest, Republican, Terrorism, US Government on September 30, 2008 at 2:02 pm

A Letter from the RNC 8

Dear Friends, Family, and Comrades:

We are the RNC 8: individuals targeted because of our political beliefs and work organizing for protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention, in what appears to be the first use of Minnesota’s version of the US Patriot Act. The 8 of us are currently charged with Conspiracy to Commit Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism, a 2nd degree felony that carries the possibility of several years in prison. We are writing to let you know about our situation, to ask for support, and to offer words of hope.

A little background: the RNC Welcoming Committee was a group formed in late 2006 upon hearing that the 2008 Republican National Convention would be descending on Minneapolis-St. Paul where we live, work, and build community. The Welcoming Committee’s purpose was to serve as an anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing body, creating an informational and logistical framework for radical resistance to the RNC. We spent more than a year and a half doing outreach, facilitating meetings throughout the country, and networking folks of all political persuasions who shared a common interest in voicing dissent in the streets of St. Paul while the GOP’s machine chugged away inside the convention.

In mid-August the Welcoming Committee opened a “Convergence Center,” a space for protesters to gather, eat, share resources, and build networks of solidarity. On Friday, August 29th, 2008, as folks were finishing dinner and sitting down to a movie the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department stormed in, guns drawn, ordering everyone to the ground. This evening raid resulted in seized property (mostly literature), and after being cuffed, searched, and IDed, the 60+ individual inside were released.

The next morning, on Saturday, August 30th, the Sheriff’s department executed search warrants on three houses, seizing personal and common household items and arresting the first 5 of us- Monica Bicking, Garrett Fitzgerald, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, and Eryn Trimmer. Later that day Luce Guillen-Givins was arrested leaving a public meeting at a park. Rob Czernik and Max Specktor were arrested on Monday, September 1, bringing the number to its present 8. All were held on probable cause and released on $10,000 bail on Thursday, September 4, the last day of the RNC.

These arrests were preemptive, targeting known organizers in an attempt to derail anti-RNC protests before the convention had even begun. Conspiracy charges expand upon the traditional notion of crime. Instead of condemning action, the very concept of conspiracy criminalizes thought and camaraderie, the development of relationships, the willingness to hope that our world might change and the realization that we can be agents of that change.

Conspiracy charges serve a very particular purpose- to criminalize dissent. They create a convenient method for incapacitating activists, with the potential for diverting limited resources towards protracted legal battles and terrorizing entire communities into silence and inaction. Though not the first conspiracy case against organizers- not even the first in recent memory- our case may be precedent-setting. Minnesota’s terrorism statutes have never been enacted in this way before, and if they win their case against us, they will only be strengthened as they continue their crusade on ever more widespread fronts. We view our case as an opportunity to demonstrate community solidarity in the face of repression, to establish a precedent of successful resistance to the government’s attempts to destroy our movements.

Right now we are in the very early stages of a legal battle that will require large sums of money and enormous personal resources. We have already been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support locally and throughout the country, and are grateful for everything that people have done for us. We now have a Twin Cities-based support committee and are developing a national support network that we feel confident will help us through the coming months. For more information on the case and how to support us, or to donate, go to http://RNC8.org

We have been humbled by such an immense initial show of solidarity and are inspired to turn our attention back to the very issues that motivated us to organize against the RNC in the first place. What’s happening to us is part of a much broader and very serious problem. The fact is that we live in a police state- some people first realized this in the streets of St. Paul during the convention, but many others live with that reality their whole lives. People of color, poor and working class people, immigrants, are targeted and criminalized on a daily basis, and we understand what that context suggests about the repression the 8 of us face now. Because we are political organizers who have built solid relationships through our work, because we have various forms of privilege- some of us through our skin, some through our class, some through our education- and because we have the resources to invoke a national network of support, we are lucky, even as we are being targeted.

And so, while we ask for support in whatever form you are able to offer it, and while we need that support to stay free, we also ask that you think of our case as a late indicator of the oppressive climate in which we live. The best solidarity is to keep the struggle going, and we hope that supporting us can be a small part of broader movements for social change.

For better times and with love,

the RNC 8: Luce Guillen-Givins, Max Spector, Nathanael Secor, Eryn Timmer, Monica Bicking, Erik Oseland, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald

Angela Keaton’s report from Rally for the Republic

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Iraq War, Law Enforcement, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Police State, Politics, Protest, War on September 5, 2008 at 10:28 am

The following was written by LNC member and Antiwar.com Development Director Angela Keaton, and was provided to LFV by the author.  Thanks, Angela!

While stationed for Antiwar.com at an alternative to the GOP’s convention, I stayed at the Hotel Saloon, Minneapolis’ only gay motel. I highly recommend it and both the Saloon Bar and Pi, the lesbian bar. Didn’t make it to the Gay 90s a few blocks down but some Ron Paul supporters received some acceptable adult gay entertainment there.

The butch who owned Pi said it is acceptable to support Ron Paul just as long as you call him Ron Paul and not “Dr. Paul, cuz that’s creepy.”

The police and secret service were in full force. Pumped up on Starbucks, I foolishly challenged two police officers and two secret service agents much to the amusement of former Outright ex com member Mike Nelson. They were complaining about the presence of “anarchists” in their fair city. I asked if they had ever met an anarchist. “You just did, here’s my card.”

The LP had a presence there but unlike some of the published pictures, it was mostly staffed by two volunteers (Rich Paul and another man whose name I did not get.) The Barr workers and LP staff were nowhere to be found save when I bumped into too attractive to be a libertarian Austin Petersen.

Frankly, the booth was unremarkable bordering on unprofessional. The fact that the LP paid twice the price that Antiwar.com paid for such a sloppy display is why it was the right thing for me to discontinue raising money for the LNC.

People noticed the lack of quality and it reflected poorly. Image does matter. The bags were nice though.

An Antiwar.com donor was also staying at the Hotel Saloon for the Ron Paul event. He’s a Catholic lay leader and rebukes religious people who would vote for a mass murderer just to avoid gay marriage. Something that those who attended the “other” event should reflect upon.

Keaton, an anarchist, no hyphen

If you get an unexpected package in the mail, be prepared to be raided and have your dogs killed by the cops

In Big Brother, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crazy Claims, Crime, Drug War, Fraud, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, People in the news, Police Brutality, Police State, Terrorism on August 8, 2008 at 1:27 pm

A package of marijuana was sent to an unsuspecting mayor’s wife, in a scheme in which drugs are mailed to people who are not in any way involved, then intercepted by those in the smuggling ring.   She hadn’t even seen the package, and it had not even been opened, when a SWAT team burst in without knocking, killed their dogs immediately, and terrorized the mayor, his elderly mother-in-law, and his innocent wife.  The cops refused to show a warrant when asked, and furthermore, no-knock warrants aren’t even legal in the state of Maryland.  Not at all surprisingly, the cops claim they did nothing wrong.

Why did they raid these people at all?  Had they done even a little bit of background, they’d know it was the mayor’s home, and that they could have just knocked on the door and asked for the package, and it would undoubtedly have been turned over without question.

From CNN:

(CNN) — A Maryland mayor is asking the federal government to investigate why SWAT team members burst into his home without knocking and shot his two dogs to death in an investigation into a drug smuggling scheme.

“This has been a difficult week and a half for us,” Cheye Calvo, mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, said Thursday. “We lost our family dogs. We did it at the hands of sheriff’s deputies who burst through our front door, rifles blazing.”

The raid last week was led by the Prince George’s County Police Department, with the sheriff’s special operations team assisting, after a package of marijuana was sent to Calvo’s home.

Authorities say the package was part of a scheme in which drugs are mailed to unknowing recipients and then intercepted.

Calvo said he had just returned home from walking his two Labrador retrievers, Chase and Payton, when his mother-in-law told him a package had arrived for his wife, Trinity Tomsic.

Moments later, Calvo was in his room changing for a meeting when he heard commotion downstairs.

“The door flew open,” he said. “I heard gunfire shoot off. There was a brief pause and more gunfire.”

Calvo said he was brought downstairs at gunpoint in his boxer shorts, handcuffed and forced onto the floor with his mother-in-law near the carcass of one of dead dogs.

“I noticed my two dead dogs lying in pools of their own blood,” Calvo said.

Calvo said his mother-in-law is still recovering from the incident.

“She got the worst of it,” Calvo said. “She was literally in the kitchen, cooking a lovely pasta dish, and they brought down the door and shot our dogs.”

While he was being held, Calvo said, he told police he is the town’s mayor, but they didn’t believe him.

Berwyn Heights has its own police force, he said, but Prince George’s County police did not notify the municipal authorities of their interest in his home or the package.

“They didn’t know my name. All they knew was my wife’s name. They matched that to the registration of the car,” Calvo said. “It was that lack of communication that really led to what has really been the most traumatic experience of our lives.”

After the raid, arrests were made in the package interception scheme.

The incident has prompted the couple to call for a federal investigation because, they say, they don’t believe police are capable of conducting an internal investigation.

“They’ve said they’ve done nothing wrong,” Calvo said. “I didn’t sign up for this fight, but I think what we have to do now is make changes to how Prince George’s County police and Prince George’s County sheriff’s department operate.”

Calvo said authorities entered his home without knocking and refused to show him a warrant when he requested one.

But Prince George’s County Police Department spokeswoman Sharon Taylor said legal counsel had informed her that “no-knock” warrants do not exist in Maryland.

Taylor said authorities were acting on a warrant issued based on information available to them at the time.

“This warrant was for permission to search the premises,” she said. “The special operations team that supported us made a decision about the necessity of entry at the point of being on the scene.”

“No-knock” warrants have drawn criticism before. In Atlanta, Georgia, Kathryn Johnston, 92, was shot to death by police in a botched drug raid involving such a warrant in November.

Taylor, a self-described dog lover, expressed sympathy for the loss of Calvo’s dogs, but stopped short of apologizing for the incident.

“We’ve done these similar kinds of operations over and over again, to the tune of removing billions of dollars of drugs from the community and without people or animals being harmed,” she said. “We don’t want any of our operations to result in the injury or loss of anybody, and certainly not animals.”

The deputies have said they killed the two animals because they felt threatened.

“I would say that the dogs presented a threat, I would imagine, to the special operations situation,” Taylor said.

Meanwhile, Calvo and his wife said members of the community have expressed sympathy and concern about the incident.

At a news conference Thursday, Tomsic tearfully recalled a recent encounter with a neighbor who used to wave at the couple as they walked Payton and Chase.

“She gave me a big hug,” Tomsic said. “She said, ‘If the police shot your dogs dead and did this to you, how can I trust them?’ “

LPKY repudiates Landham again

In Activism, Celebrities, Crazy Claims, Iran, Iraq War, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Middle East, Minorities, People in the news, Police State, Politics, Protest, Terrorism, War on August 5, 2008 at 2:36 am

PolitickerKY reports that Sonny Landham, the controversial Kentucky candidate who advocates economic nationalization, culture wars, and the use of a tax-funded military to conduct a war of genocide so that the US can appropriate other people’s oil, has been repudiated by the LP a second time. It appears that Sonny Landham will not be on the ballot at all this year.

For anyone who is not familiar with this story, Independent Political Report previously covered it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Many of the same Landham stories, and a few others, received additional comments at Last Free Voice:

Worst candidate actually on the ballot this year?

Todd Andrew Barnett condemns LP Senate candidate Sonny Landham for anti-Arab remarks

Letters from LFV mailbag: Gene Trosper on Sonny Landham

Lance Brown launches petition re Sonny Landham’s racist remarks

LPKY: Landham “not on the ballot yet, and we control ballot access”

Press Release: Todd Andrew Barnett condemns Sonny Landham for genocide statements, praises Libertarians Against Landham petition

Libertarians drop Sonny Landham

Sonny Landham: the floater that just won’t stay flushed

LPKY withdraws support from Landham

Landham: back on the LP ballot line?

The PolitickerKY story:

An effort to re-nominate former actor Sonny Landham as the Libertarian Party of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidate was rejected by a vote of the party’s executive committee, chairman Ken Moellman told PolitickerKY.com today.

“The motion to put Sonny back on failed,” said Moellman. “At this point, it appears he will not be our candidate.”

After a month as the prospective Libertarian candidate, Landham was stripped of the party’s support after he made a string of anti-Arab comments topped by what could be interpretted as advocacy for a potential Arab genocide.

The Party’s executive committee initially voted unanimously to withdraw Landham’s nomination on July 28, after earlier launching a petitioning campaign to gain ballot access for both Landham and Libertarian presidential nominee and former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, of Georgia. That campaign gained 7,700 signatures, according to Moellman, which is more than required for ballot access.

After losing the nomination, Landham said he would continue as an independent candidate, but it became clear he would have to collect 5,000 “original” petition signatures for ballot access – a task deemed “impossible” by Moellman, given the limited time window.

The vote to re-nominate Landham as a Libertarian came about because Moellman said it was not the party’s goal to kick Landham off the ballot entirely when removing their nomination.

“There are other factors involved here. It’s more for the third party and independent movement in general,” said Moellman during an appearance last week on the Weekly Filibuster radio program. “While that is not directly related to the LP, we have some concerns in that regard.”

Still, the Party’s executive committee ultimately did not embrace those factors, rejecting the efforts to renew Landham’s ballot slot.

Moellman said the second vote came after the party received comments about Landham’s candidacy from across the country after his controversial remarks about Arabs. A “majority” of the feedback was received from outside of the state, and Moellman said “100 percent” of that communication was opposed to Landham.

From within the state, Moellman indicated responses were “pretty minimal,” noting 60 percent of them were against Landham’s continued candidacy as a Libertarian, with 40 percent supporting Landham. Moellman noted that those Kentuckians contacting the party were largely not Libertarian Party members.

With petitions for ballot access due in to the Secretary of State’s office by August 12, the Libertarians are armed with signatures but no Senate candidate.

Moellman said the party was investigating their legal options and the possibility of replacing Landham, though early indications from the Secretary of State’s office were that the signatures could not be applied to another candidate.

Landham did not return requests for comment.

Bob Barr’s Stop the Bill of Rights Blackout Petition

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Police State, Politics, US Government on July 31, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Petition to the U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on the Judiciary, Congressman Conyers, Chairman

Whereas, the basis for the laws of this great Republic is the Constitution, adopted September 17th, 1789; and,

Whereas, that Constitution provided for a clear but difficult procedure for amending it; and,

Whereas, the founding fathers saw a need for Amendments to guarantee certain civil rights to citizens including the right to a free press, free religious expression, the right to keep and bear arms, freedom from government seizure of their property, freedom from unlawful detention, the right to a prompt and fair trial by a jury, and protection from unreasonable bail requirements; and,

Whereas, these and other rights were considered important enough to be added as the first 10 Amendments and these have become known as The Bill of Rights; and,

Whereas, The Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791 remain untouched by Amendment for more than two centuries; and,

Whereas, the Executive branch of the Federal Government, through executive orders and other schemes has eroded many of these rights and still greater threats loom; Now therefore the undersigned citizens of the United States petition Congress to rise to its responsibilities and enforce and protect the Bill of Rights through any and all means at its disposal including but not limited to Committee Hearings and legal action through the courts.

Click here to sign the petition.

Disclaimer: Jake Porter is the Iowa Coordinator for the Bob Barr campaign

Technically legal signs for libraries

In Activism, Big Brother, Censorship, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law Enforcement, Police State, Protest, Terrorism on July 27, 2008 at 1:57 am

From librarian.net

IRS Gone Wild: Joe Francis claims alleged tax evasion was a setup

In Celebrities, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Entertainment, Fraud, Law, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, People in the news, Police State, Shine on you crazy diamond, Taxation, US Government on July 26, 2008 at 12:04 am

Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, currently free on $1.5 million bond, has been accused of claiming $20 million in fraudulent expenses on his tax returns. He has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of tax evasion. If convicted, he faces a possible 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

However, Francis says he never knew anything about the tax problems until after he was indicted, and that the situation is really nothing more than his own CPA setting him up so he could collect a multimillion dollar “reward” from the Internal Revenue Service.

“IRS informant rules permit a CPA who actually plans and initiates the tax return mistakes to still collect the tax informant reward, which in this case could go as high as $10 million. If the case goes criminal, the tax rat gets even more.” – Robert Bernhoft, attorney for Joe Francis

Francis has filed a lawsuit against his former CPA, Michael Barrett, for fraud. Francis alleges that Barrett personally prepared, reviewed and approved tax ledgers with errors in them, and vouched for the correctness of those records with Francis’s tax preparers. Francis also claims that Barrett never brought the errors to his attention, or to the attention of anyone except the IRS; and that he pushed the IRS to bring criminal charges against Francis, so that he could collect a larger bounty.

Joe Francis’s tax evasion trial is presently scheduled to start on September 16th.

Animal in Man

In Activism, Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Economics, Entertainment, First Amendment, Fraud, George Bush, History, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Music, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Protest, Republican, Second Amendment, Terrorism, US Government, War on July 25, 2008 at 1:42 pm

By Dead Prez

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter…

In Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Drug War, Law Enforcement, Police Brutality, Police State, Terrorism, War on July 24, 2008 at 11:24 pm

Posted at Rad Geek

These are scenes from a SWAT team training exercise in Floyd County, Georgia, in which a squad of heavily armed paramilitaries practice storming, sweeping, and occupying a house, while dressed in military-style fatigues and heavily armed with assault rifles, body armor, gas grenades, etc. The training exercise is part of a recruitment video that the Floyd County Public Safety department is preparing, in order to show potential [job] applicants what Floyd County Public Safety is all about, apparently because Floyd County cops want to hire on even more of the kind of people who would be attracted to the prospect of doing things like this all day, and who believe that this sort of thing is what policing is all about:

And here’s the reality

The bipartisan surveillance state

In Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Democrats, First Amendment, Fraud, George Bush, History, Human Rights Abuses, Iraq War, Law, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Middle East, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Terrorism, US Government, War on July 24, 2008 at 10:59 pm

Anthony Gregory in the San Diego Union Tribune:

The Democratic Congress passed and President Bush signed the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008,” legalizing the president’s illegal wiretapping program.

The law allows broad warrantless surveillance of Americans in the United States, so long as the call or e-mail is thought to be international.

Eavesdropping on domestic communications is legal for a week before court papers even have to be filed. The telecom companies that cooperated with Bush are immune from civil lawsuits. Most important, the administration’s illegal conduct has been retroactively approved and future administrations have wider powers than ever to spy on Americans.

The Democratic leadership and virtually all congressional Republicans approved the law. In a complete reversal of his campaign promise, so did Sen. Barack Obama. Last October, his campaign announced, “To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” Instead, he voted to prevent a filibuster and then he voted for the bill.

Democrats and Obama supporters defend the betrayal with hollow claims that the law actually protects civil liberties. Why then was Bush so eager to sign it? Missouri Republican Sen. Christopher Bond, a leader in this “compromise,” says “the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped.”

Two years ago, the Democrats seemed outraged after we learned Bush had ordered the National Security Agency, a military outfit, to spy on Americans without warrants, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now they control Congress with good odds at the presidency. Power and the hope for more power corrupt.

Starchild instrumental in putting prostitution decriminalization on the ballot

In Activism, Big Brother, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Economics, Entertainment, First Amendment, Law, Law Enforcement, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Local Politics, Nanny State, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics on July 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Press release posted on the LP Radicals yahoo group. Starchild has had various offices in the San Francisco and California LP, and is one of the spokespeople for this initiative.

The San Francisco Department of Elections announced today that the measure prohibiting city officials from spending money arresting and prosecuting people for prostitution, and mandating equal legal protection for sex workers, has qualified for the November ballot. Of 500 signatures randomly sampled and checked by department personnel, 80 percent were found to be valid. “This is a happy day for San Franciscans who want government to focus on fighting real crimes like homicides and robberies, and are tired of seeing resources wasted in a futile effort to police consensual sex between adults,” said Starchild, a sex worker activist and spokesperson for the campaign. “We’ve cleared the first hurdle.” By the Elections Department’s tally, supporters had turned in 12,745 signatures of registered San Francisco voters on July 7.

The campaign to decriminalize prostitution will hold a kickoff rally and press conference to formally announce the results on Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. in front of the Polk Street entrance of City Hall, with
speakers to likely include Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who was a signer of the petition to put the measure on the ballot along with two of his board colleagues. “It is way past time that the
recommendations of the Board of Supervisors 1996 Prostitution Task Force were implemented,” said the measure’s proponent, Maxine Doogan. “Criminalizing sex workers has been putting workers at risk of violence and discrimination for far too long.”

The prostitution reform measure joins two other voter-submitted measures on the local Nov. 4 ballot, along with eight measures put on the ballot by the mayor or members of the Board of Supervisors, with many others expected to be added in the next several weeks.

Starchild – (415) 621-7932 / (415) 368-8657 / RealReform@…
Maxine Doogan – (415) 265-3302 / MistressMax@…

FLDS finally getting their children back today

In Big Brother, Children, Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Media, Minorities, Nanny State, People in the news, Police State on June 2, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Two months after their children were taken by state social service agencies, the parents of the Yearning For Zion polygamist sect have been granted permission by the court to pick up their children from foster care starting at 10:00 am CDT today.  This latest development comes after the Texas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the state lacked probable cause to remove their children from their families, because they could not show that any of the children were in immediate danger.

The order does have some serious restrictions, however.  The families have been ordered to cooperate with state officials, including unannounced home visits and physical and psychiatric testing; they are also not permitted to leave the state of Texas, and the parents must take parenting classes.  The families are also not allowed to travel more than 100 miles without notifying Child Protective Services.

The return of the children is being hailed as a victory by civil libertarians, who viewed the raid as a violation of the sect’s constitutional rights.  However, many still question the restrictions placed upon the families by the court.

Yearning For Zion is a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sect.  FLDS members believe in the original teachings of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, who taught that polygamy is the way to glorification in heaven.  The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints banned polygamy over a hundred years ago.

The state of Texas had taken over 400 children into custody, following a hoax call from a woman falsely claiming to be a pregnant FLDS teenager being beaten by her much older husband.  That woman, Rozita Swinson of Colorado, has been arrested; and it has come to light that this is not the first time she has perpetrated a hoax of this type.

It is expected that the YFZ families whose children were removed, as well as the young women who were taken against their will and assumed to be underage even though they are legal adults (at least one is in her mid-twenties), will sue the state of Texas and the state’s Child Protective Services agency.  If that occurs, due to the number of people involved, the damages could be in the billions.

Previous LFV entries on this subject (listed in chronological order):

“Sickos: What’s a free market solution?” by Nigel Watt, 4/22/08

“Another viewpoint on FLDS case” by ElfNinosMom, 4/22/08

“Texas Supreme Court orders polygamist children returned to parents” by ElfNinosMom, 05/29/08

Dirty cop convicted in no-knock warrant death of 92-year-old woman

In Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Drug War, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Obituaries, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police Brutality, Police State on May 21, 2008 at 4:37 pm

After two Atlanta cops (Gregg Junnier and Jason R. Smith) pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and federal civil rights violations in the death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, a third cop (Arthur Bruce Tesler) has been found guilty by a jury of lying in the investigation into the woman’s death. Tesler did not fire any of the shots in the raid.

Tesler and his partners Junnier and Smith had gotten a no-knock warrant, claiming that there was a kilo of cocaine in the house, but they lied about whether they had confirmed the information from their informant. Consequently they busted into the elderly woman’s home in plainclothes, shot and killed her when she shot at them – undoubtedly in self-defense, believing them to be intruders – then planted drugs in her house to make it look like a “good” bust.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The jury acquitted Tesler on two charges from the illegal 2006 narcotics raid in which officers shot and killed Kathryn Johnston in her northwest Atlanta home. It found him guilty of lying in an official investigation in the cover-up of police wrongdoing that followed the shooting.

“It is not like anyone intended to hurt her, but that’s what came out of it,” Woltz said. “Right will win out.”

Tesler, 42, faces up to five years in prison when sentenced Thursday. If he had been convicted on all counts, he could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The verdict came shortly after the jury reviewed a transcript of Tesler’s defense testimony. He and his two partners were accused of lying to get the no-knock search warrant for Johnston’s home on the mistaken belief it was the house of a drug dealer.

The Johnston killing shocked metro Atlanta and enraged many in the African-American community, who complained that shoddy or heavy-handed police work in the war on drugs was a source of repeated abuses.

You can read the article in its entirety on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Police brutality in Philadelphia last night caught on tape

In Civil Liberties, Constitutional Rights, Cops Gone Wild, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Media, Minorities, People in the news, Police Brutality, Police State on May 7, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Another viewpoint on FLDS case

In Activism, Big Brother, Children, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Crime, First Amendment, Fraud, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Law Enforcement, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Nanny State, People in the news, Police State on April 22, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Polygamists outside courtThe judge hearing the case of 400+ children removed from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), Judge Barbara Walther, has ordered DNA tests of the children from the Yearning For Zion (YFZ) compound. The tests began yesterday via cheek swab, and it is taking an extraordinarily long time to do each one (about 30 minutes) due to the convoluted relationships between the adherents, which brings with it fear of contamination of the samples. Many polygamist children living in a sect of this type have no idea which woman is their biological mother, or which man is their biological father. Prosecutors have also requested psychiatric examinations of the children, while the attorneys for the children objected vehemently to both.

In polygamist relationships, the women assigned to a particular man refer to one another as “sister wives”, and they are all viewed as mothers to all of their husband’s children. There is a pecking order among the wives, though, with each subsequent wife bearing less power within the overall relationship. Furthermore, women and children can be taken from the fathers, and “reassigned” to another man. For this reason, it is not at all unusual for a child to not know the identity of their biological parents.

However, there is reason to fear that the DNA tests will be used for other purposes. For example, if it is proven that a child was born to an underage mother, or that the mother and father are closely related, criminal charges could ensue, and the state will already have proof of the illegal relationship. More chillingly, under the guise of scientific knowledge, the test results could be used for other purposes, since in established polygamist sects everyone is related by blood to everyone else, and incest is common. Frankly, I fear that these children will become guinea pigs.

The judge stated the reason for the testing is that the mothers have regularly changed their names, possibly lied about their ages, and have difficulty naming their relatives.

In the meantime, the children are being held as a group, inside a coliseum.

In an interview with CBS’s “The Early Show” one of the men from the polygamist sect, known only as “Rulan”, stated that the men would cooperate with DNA testing if it will help them get their children back. He also stated that the sect would reconsider allowing sex with girls under 18.

Many of us perhaps were not even aware of such a law. And we do reconsider, yes. We teach our children to abide the law.

Prosecutors claim that simply living in the compound exposes the girls to sexual abuse, or the imminent risk of abuse, due to the practice of forcing girls as young as 13 to marry men sometimes old enough to be their grandfathers or great-grandfathers. There is a pecking order among the men, just as there is among the women, and even elderly men can request that a young girl be “assigned” to them as an additional wife. The purpose of this, insofar as their religious belief, is so that the man can produce as many “superior souls” as possible. Once that man dies – or if he no longer wants the wife, or if a man higher in the patriarchy decides he wants that man’s wife – his wives and children are assigned to other men; the women have no say with regard to which man they are assigned as a wife.

Once the DNA sampling is completed, which is expected to take several days, the children will be placed in foster care, and the children younger than four – who up to this point have stayed with their mothers – will be taken away as well.

Psychologists, however, warn that placing the children in conventional foster homes can cause severe psychological damage due to overexposure; these children have lived in such a strict community that even being allowed to play with mainstream children could cause serious problems. State workers have said that they will try to keep siblings together, and keep the children in groups. For the sake of the children, they will also need to create an environment with little to no contact with the outside world, which means no television, computers, or other media. It is unclear how the children will be educated, given that sending them to public school could prove to cause lifelong emotional and psychological scars.

Furthermore, another barrier stands in the way, which is that FLDS children have been taught from the earliest age that even mere disobedience to one’s parents leads to eternal damnation, and that the world outside the compound is evil. Obviously, these children are suffering both emotionally and psychologically, not just from being separated from their parents and community, but because they fear damnation for merely being taken by the state into the outside world.

I know some foster families, but I cannot imagine changing their entire household to accommodate restrictions that severe. I fear most foster parents will not even try, thinking it is best for the children to be exposed to the outside world. I therefore fear for those children, because I honestly think the psychologists’ warnings are to be taken seriously. We’re living in the 21st Century, while those children for all intents and purposes have never known anything beyond the 19th Century, since most have never even been off the compound before now. Experiencing a typical home today would be something akin to a time machine for them, and could even alter the religious beliefs they have been taught. The state, however, has absolutely no right whatsoever to expose those children to anything which might alter the beliefs their parents hold as truth; and to do otherwise is a violation of the First Amendment.

This is a very serious problem in this situation, and personally, I think this is such an extreme case – since the state has essentially denied their religious rights as well as the right to be secure in their homes – that the Supreme Court needs to step in and make sure the constitutional rights of the children and their parents are protected, before irreparable damage is done. It may already be too late.

Rozita SwinsonIn the meantime, police have identified a 33-year-old Colorado Springs woman, Rozita Swinton, as a “person of interest” and the possible source of the phone calls which caused this situation. Swinton is currently in police custody, charged with false reporting to authorities in another, unrelated case. There has been no explanation regarding why she would make phone calls of that nature regarding this particular religious sect, as it appears that she has no ties to the group.

We should all watch this case very, very closely. What the state is doing in the YFZ case could happen to any of us, based upon a hoax call. Child Protective Services nationwide is renowned for removing children from homes on the flimsiest of evidence, while leaving children actually at risk (and sometimes obviously being abused) in the home with their abusers. The truth of the matter is that religions such as the Primitive Baptists are equally strict with their children, and the women are completely subservient to their husbands (in fact, Primitive Baptist women look very much like the FLDS women), both of which could also be misinterpreted as abuse by overzealous social workers. One attorney stated that none of the parents had ever even received a copy of the original petition for removal of the children, yet were expected to appear in court 14 days later in order to present their case to have their children returned; one mother said that removing the children from their home and community was the worst abuse the children had ever experienced, and she may very well be correct.

On the other hand, you have the question of indoctrination into a patriarchal society, where young girls are taught from a very early age to be completely subservient to men. They are then married off as young as 13 years old, with no choice in who they marry and possibly even without warning. Many boys are driven off the compound at a very young age, to eliminate competition for the young girls’ affection. It is a strange society by our standards, to be sure, and we as a society do have a responsibility to help those children.

The question is, how do we help them, while ensuring the protection of their constitutional rights, as well as the constitutional rights of the parents? Is government intervention the best decision? I’m not altogether sure that it is, unless abuse can be proven. However, abuse is defined based upon the norms of society – for example, spanking is legally defined as abuse in some countries, but here parents can spank their children and a spanking in and of itself is not considered abusive – and it is indisputable that such sects have their own society, quite apart from our own; what is defined as abuse in our society is obviously not viewed as abuse in theirs, and is instead the norm. We are also not on a moral high ground with regard to pregnant teenagers, since we see that all the time in our own society, and many teen mothers in our society were impregnated at an even younger age.

This is an extremely complex question, with no easy answers to be found. However, one thing is clear, and that is that the FLDS sects have the same constitutional rights as you or I, and those rights must be protected above anything else. At this point, I do not believe the state had any cause whatsoever to remove the young children, and I fear that doing so has violated their constitutional rights, as well as the constitutional rights of the parents. If the state’s concern is sexual abuse of teen girls as stated, they may have probable cause to remove the teens for their own protection, but not to remove the younger children. I have seen and heard nothing which would suggest that children under the age of ten are in imminent danger of abuse, except the state’s assertion that, according to their religion, they may be “spiritually married” at any age. I therefore suspect the state is trying to enforce its own standards and morality upon a religion which has existed and been practiced the same way for hundreds of years.

My biggest concern is that this is nothing more or less than religious persecution. Religious persecution absolutely cannot be tolerated in our country, so there needs to be oversight at the federal level, to ensure the rights of all the sect members are protected.