Showing posts with label First Amendment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First Amendment. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dear Kim Davis: This Christian Says "You're 100% Wrong."

Dear Kim, I know you are presenting yourself as a victim of persecution: persecution of religious folk who simply want to excercse their faith, persecution by a totalitarian judiciary that is imposing law on average citizens, persecution by a vocal and strident gay minority who are insisting on violating your sincerely-held beliefs, conscience, and deepest religious convictions. Think Again.

First, let me introduce myself to you. I am a Christian. I am a Gay man. I am an attorney who fully embraces the civil liberties enshrined on our Constitution.

Throughout your protestations, you have made fools of the majority of Christians in this country, you have made fools of the people of Kentucky, and you have employed a tortured and innovative interpretation of Constitutional Rights.

You, Madam Clerk, insist that you are being denied your right to live out your faith. I call Balderdash.

No one is telling you to marry a woman. No one is telling that you must engage in homosexuality. In fact, no one is even telling you that you should change your mind, your beliefs, or your most sincerely held religious convictions.

But when you are acting as County Clerk, you are not acting as Kim Davis - you are acting as an agent of the Government.

The First Amendment has a long, time-honored and cherished history in this country. It reads, in part (in case you haven't actually read it) as follows:

Amendent I: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Amendment XIV: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

Taken together, this is very simple: Under Amendment I, the federal government may not impose a religion upon the nation, nor may it prevent private citizens from exercising their religion. Under Amendment 14, the prohibitions imposed on the federal government are extended to State governments.

A lesson in civics, dear: Counties are administrative units of States. When you act as County Clerk, you are acting under the authority of the State - not as a private citizen. You are therefore bound by a Constitution which mandates that States must abide by the same rules as the federal government when it comes to citizen's rights. And what are our rights? To not have a particular religion and it's doctrine 'established' as official policy.

As a private citizen, you may believe as you wish, protest as you wish, worship as you wish, and even campaign for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Marriage Equality.

As an agent of the State, you may not impose or establish a religious test on the citizens. It's very, very simple.

But I'll take it even further: As a Christian, you need to stop speaking for the Church, speaking for God, and making grand pronouncements about what you believe the Bible requires as if your position is Infallible In fact, dear, your statements are erroneous at best, and blasphemous at worst: you have presumed to speak for God on the issue.

Millions of Christians in this nation support same-sex marriage. Numerous denominations have endorsed same-sex marriage, ordination of gays and lesbians, and full GLBT equality. For you to presume to 'declare' what is or is not biblical, or Christian, or "God's Position" on the issue is the worst form of arrogance: you presume to speak on God's behalf. Shame on you.

Your approach is not supported legally, Constitutionally, or theologically.

It's time to retire from public life, consider the damage you have done to other Christians and Kentuckians by association, and reconsider your self-righteous, self-aggrandizing motivations.It's bad enough you have made a fool of yourself and a circus of Rowan County - but in addition, you have betrayed your faith, your God, your public trust, and your Constitution.


Sunday, July 06, 2014

Corporate Personhood - a Historical and Necessary Legal Concept

If you support the right to advertise contraception, even if it ‘offends’ some people; if you believe that newspapers need to be able to report on corruption in government; and if you think that big banks need to be prosecuted when they conspire to manipulate currency and commodity prices – then thank the concept of Corporate Personhood.

In the wake of the Citizens United and Hobby Lobby decisions, many people are just coming to see that corporations are often treated as ‘persons’ under the law, and are upset about it;  many believe it’s an invention of a runaway, pro-corporate court.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  The concept of Corporate Personhood – and of corporate rights under the Constitution – is as old as our Republic itself.  Having grown weary of trying to argue this point over and over in limited space on Facebook, I decided to put my thoughts into one longer blog post, and stroll through some of the critically important background relating to corporate personhood.

1. Freedom of the Press – Surely the founding fathers understood, when they penned that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom..of the press” (First Amendment) that they meant newspapers and corporate media, and not just individual reporters. Indeed, two of the most important decisions in this century protecting a free press protected a corporate entity: The New York Times.

In 1964, the New York Times claimed that the arrest of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for perjury in Montgomery, Ala., was part of a campaign to destroy King's efforts to integrate public facilities and encourage blacks to vote. In response, Montgomery city commissioner L.B. Sullivan filed a libel action against the newspaper as a corporation.  The Court ruled, in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, that even though some of the newspaper’s statements were in fact false, that the corporation was protected by the First Amendment.  

Seven years later, a second blockbuster case arose involving the NY Times: New York Times Co. vs. United States.

In 1971, as the nation heatedly debated its involvement in the Vietnam War, the Times obtained a copy of an internal Defense Department report detailing government discussions about the war. These confidential documents would become famously known as the Pentagon Papers. At the U.S. government's request, the district court issued a temporary injunction ordering the New York Times not to publish the documents, claiming that the publication of the documents would endanger national security. The Times appealed, arguing that prior restraint (preventing publication) violated the First Amendment. Once again, the Supreme Court ruled (6-3) in favor of the Times. 

Yes, the Corporation had rights under the Constitution, even as against government arguments of national security.

2. Freedom of Speech:  Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

In the 1970s, New York State enacted a law prohibiting anyone other than a licensed pharmacist from distributing nonprescription contraceptives to persons 16 years of age or over, prohibiting the distribution of nonprescription contraceptives by any adult to minors under 16 years of age, and prohibiting anyone, including licensed pharmacists, from advertising or displaying contraceptives.

Population Services International was a North Carolina corporation that distributed birth control knowledge and services. The corporation sold and advertised contraceptives to New Yorkers  primarily through mail-order retail sale of nonmedical contraceptive devices, which was a violation of the New York law. 

In Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678 (1977), the Supreme Court held that the law was unconstitutional: 

“The prohibition of any advertisement or display of any contraceptives that seeks to suppress completely any information about the availability and price of contraceptives cannot be justified on the ground that advertisements of contraceptive products would offend and embarrass those exposed to them and that permitting them would legitimize sexual activity of young people. These are not justifications validating suppression of expression, which are protected by Amendment I. The advertisements in question simply state the availability of products that are not only entirely legal, but also constitutionally protected."

The case is critical because it ruled that a corporation, Population Services International, had free speech rights. Without corporate personhood, New York State could have legally squashed advertising for contraception.

3. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

For almost 100 years, this right of  “the people” has been extended to corporations.

In 1924, the US Federal Trade Commission – acting on its own - demanded internal documents and private communications from the American Tobacco Co., and denied that any warrant or cause was needed.  In FTC v. American Tobacco Co. - 264 U.S. 298 (1924), the Court held,

A governmental fishing expedition into the papers of a private corporation, on the possibility that they may disclose evidence of crime, is so contrary to first principles of justice, if not defiant of the Fourth Amendment, that an intention to grant [that] power to a[n]agency will not be attributed to Congress unless expressed in most explicit language…We cannot attribute to Congress an intent to defy the Fourth Amendment, or even to come so near to doing so as to raise a serious question of constitutional law.”

And so yes, your desk and office and items in your workplace are subject to the same protections that you have elsewhere…because 4th amendment rights have been bestowed on businesses as well.

5. Double Jeopardy – most of us growing up watching police dramas know that you can not be tried for the same crime twice once you are acquitted.  It is the 5th Amendment that offers us that protection:

[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb . . .

Note that the wording is very specific: no person.

And yet, this too has always been seen as applying to corporations. 

In 1977, the Martin Linen Supply Company was brought up on charges for collusion, and after a trial by jury, acquitted.  The US Government sought to bring the same charges again, and in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the right against double jeopardy clearly applied to the company, and the suit was tossed. (United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co, 430 U.S. 564 (1977).

6. Due Process and Equal Protection – Two places in the Constitution address these rights.

The 5th Amendment provides:
[N] or shall any person . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . , and
Section One of the 14th Amendment provides:
[N]or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . .

In general, these two clauses require that laws be transparent and equitably enforced by both the federal government and state governments. A law must be clear, fair, and have a presumption of innocence to comply with procedural due process; all have a right to a fair and public trial conducted in a competent manner, the right to be present at the trial, and the right to an impartial jury; Taxes may only be taken for public purposes, property may be taken by the government only for public purposes, and owners of taken property must be fairly compensated .

The 14th Amendment was adopted after the Civil War, and even though it clearly states ‘person,’ the same generation that adopted the amendment understood it to apply to  corporations. In  Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad – 118 U.S. 394 (1886), Chief Justice Morrison Waite began oral arguments on a case by stating, 

"The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."  

7. The view that corporations are ‘persons’ within the meaning of the law is not just limited to Constitutional Law, but to statutory Law as well, for well over a century.  The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890  - which is still alive and valid today – was the first federal law to go after monopolization and corporate collusion. And yet, read this critical section:
Section 2: 

"Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felon.”

“Person.”  And for 124 years, we have understood that “person” also refers to corporations. 

In fact, just two weeks ago, it was reported that JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and the London Metal Exchange Ltd. were hit with a class action in New York federal court alleging they schemed to manipulate zinc prices by hoarding it in LME warehouses in order to artificially spike its price.

The suit against the corporations was brought under section 2 of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which addresses “persons.”

8. Finally – and perhaps conclusively – is the Dictionary Act of 1947 (Ch 388, 61 Stat. 633; commonly referred to 1 US Code Section 1.

It defines terms for US laws this way:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise—

words importing the singular include and apply to several persons, parties, or things;

words importing the plural include the singular;

words importing the masculine gender include the feminine as well;

words used in the present tense include the future as well as the present;

the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals

The notion of Corporate Personhood has been supported by almost every provision of American Constitutional Law and legal jurisprudence, and has been since our founding.  You may not like some of the decisions that rely on that concept, but, over the course of American history, the concept has carried out what the Constitution was designed to do:  enhance the rights of private entities, of whatever make-up, and restrict the power of government.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Time to Reassert the ENTIRE Bill of Rights

In light of this scary sea-change in the American Body Politic, I decided to use this blogpost to reassert the Rights that we have as Americans – rights that we have (or SHOULD have), even when government disagrees….and especially when a majority of the American Citizens disagree.

The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to protect citizens against government…and to protect minorities against the majority.

Amendment ICongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, 

No Official Religion, folks.  I don’t want Congressmen and Senators basing laws on their understanding of the teachings of the Bible, the Torah, Confucius, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Vishna or Haile Selassie.  We are a secular nation – not a theocracy.  Religious teaching must NOT be the basis for any American LawOne religious set of beliefs must not be 'preserved' by the State.
…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…..

Yes, we are allowed to believe the most mundane – or the oddest things – in our religious life.  My church marries gays – too bad if you don't like it.  Some are highly structured and liturgical, some operate like camp meetings, some appear to be college lectures. We have the RIGHT to believe, AND TO EXERCISE our religion -  even in public.  If a Muslim wants to pray on a rug in public, or a Sikh feels compelled to wear a turban, or a Christian insists on wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday to work, or a Jewish man insists on wearing a yarmulke through a TSA checkpoint, or four wives freely choose to submit to one husband and wear prairie dresses…that’s their business.  They have a RIGHT to be different, a RIGHT to be a minority in a diverse, secular nation.

…. or abridging the freedom of speech…

We have a right to voice our opinions, no matter how objectionable, disgusting, counter-culture, or inflammatory they may be. (And that includes 'symbolic speech' as well as the spoken word.)  Ours was a nation that believed in ALLOWING the free flow of ideas and discourse, in the hopes that the marketplace of ideas would sift through the crap. 

You don’t like “hate speech,” or Westboro Baptist protests, or talk-show hosts spewing the craziest of dishonest tales?  Neither do I.  The response is for a free people to respond with speech of their own – not to use the police power of the state to stifle opinions with which they disagree. (And please, don’t resort to that old, “What about shouting-fire-in-a-theater?” crap.  That phrase was used to justify the jailing a draft protester…and was overturned by a subsequent court decision).

“ or of the press…”

The Press includes more than a NY Times reporter with a press pass; it includes every blogger on their laptop, every Tweeter on their iPhone, and every citizen on their Android.  I have a right to film police and other public servants in the course of their duties, without obtaining permission or being threatened with arrest...and to report what I have found without being branded a 'terrorist' or troublemaker by the government that exists to serve me.

“… or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Notice it doesn’t say, “As long as you protest here, or there, and have a permit, and insurance, and get permission and clearance and pay for a police watch.”  It says we have a RIGHT to assemble, to protest, to petition our government – and that should not be accompanied by the State ‘kettling’ protesters, or pepper-spraying, tear-gassing, or tazering the citizens while clad in riot gear.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This is not about Hunting.  It’s not entirely about Self-Defense.  And it’s definitely not about the National Guard, or authorizing "regulation" (The word meant something entirely different when it was written).  More than 220 years of Constitutional history, as well as previous colonial history and state parallels, make one thing very clear: the purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to permit the People to Arm themselves against Their Government.  No, we probably will not prevail in an all-out insurrection...but the Right is not meant to be a guarantee that we will prevail against our government, just as freedom of speech doesn't mean you will win the support of the majority…but it does  exist to help the People fight their own Police, a right, if exercised, which may have resulted in different results for the  Lakhota Sioux at Wounded Knee, the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto,  interned Japanese-American citizens, and countless others who saw ‘legitimate’ governments turn to tyranny under the excuse of "national security." 

Yes, we have a right to semi-automatic and automatic rifles.  No, we don't need ‘permission’ or registration to exercise a right.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

No, Officer, you do not have a right to shove a sobriety test in my face for no reason, or to ask me where I’m going and where I’ve been.  No, Mr. Homeland Security Bureaucrat, you do not have a right to examine my bank transactions or Library selections. No, Mr. Sheriff,  you do not have a right to walk through 400 homes in search of a fugitive, and No, you do not have a right to search thousands of properties with drones without a warrant.

We have the right to be secure.  In our banking. In our doctor-patient relationships.  In who and how we love. In how we enjoy a party.  In what we download or repost from the Internet. It’s none of the Government’s damned business unless there's "probable cause" for a criminal charge.

No person …. shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Mr. President, your Death-by-Drone attacks against United States citizens is a flagrant violation of this amendment, as is the IRS confiscating the assets of accused (not convicted) drug dealers, and the Supreme-Court ‘approved’ taking of private property (New London vs. Kelo) for *private* use.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

The detainment of Human Beings in prison camps conveniently arranged on foreign soil, without charge, or trial, or the ability to confront witnesses, and the state-sponsored censorship of their own attorney's documents, is an unconscionable violation of this clause.  Guantanamo Bay must SHUT DOWN.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Waterboarding.  The forced, naked isolation of Bradley Manning in a frigid stone cell. The Destruction of families, livelihoods, and neighborhoods via 20 and 30 year federal sentences for mere drug possession.  The Jailing of HIV Positive men for having sex (*after* divulging their status, and with the consent of the other adult, and without transmitting any virus), with sentences longer than those given for murder in Iowa.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

And fortunately, there are other identified rights which have been added by amendment, or developed based on these first ten the right to privacy; freedom of association; to travel unhindered; to equal protection before the law regardless of race; for women to vote on an equal basis with men; for home education; for Jury Nullification.

The history of our nation has been one of expanding rights, not restricting them…but based on what I hear the current generation saying and writing, they would toss many of those rights out the window without a second thought…all because it doesnt seem to affect ‘them.’

Thursday, July 26, 2012

FBI Agents Seek to Intimidate Vermont Activists

 Just about two hours ago (1 pm on Thursday, July 26) activists near Burlington, VT received a knock at the door of their home from two FBI agents. The agents asked to speak with a member of the household who wasn't present. The person who answered the door, organizer and self-identified anarchist Jo Robin, a pseudonym, asked the agents why they were looking for her roommate. While they initially declined to tell her, they ultimately said that they wanted to ask him questions about the Northeast Governors' Conference, to take place in Burlington over the July 28th weekend.

Organizers from the northeast United States and Quebec have planned a convergence to coincide with the binational governors' meeting, the BTV Convergence. Members of the FBI-targeted house near Burlington have been actively involved in planning the convergence, including Jo Robin.
"I think it's highly inappropriate for the FBI to visit my home to ask my roommate about his political activity," said Robin. "That kind of intimidation intends to chill political speech. It isn't appropriate and I want the federal government to know that we are not intimidated."

It's not the first time Robin has been approached by law enforcement to inquire about her First Amendment protected political activity. While organizing in New York City she was repeatedly, informally interrogated by plainclothes NYPD officers about her protected speech and association. On more than one occasion, members of the NYPD legal office called Robin out by her legal name in public. An NYU and Fordham University study released this week says that Robin is far from alone, reporting "evidence that police made violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments, obstructed independent legal monitors and [were] opaque about [their] policies."

Today's FBI visit to the activist house near Burlington in advance of the governors' conference follows a week of FBI raids on houses affiliated with anarchists in the northwest United States.
Also this week, journalist and green activist Will Potter released documents showing that the FBI "is creating reports and maintaining files about the writing, interviews, and lectures of journalists who are critical of the government’s repression of political activists," including his own writing, which agents called "compelling and well written."

(One of my heroes, Harvey Silverglate, reknowned Civil Liberties attorney who has litigated for the ACLU, The, and others)

Remember: if the FBI asks to speak with you, you do not have to talk to them, no matter what they say. The best thing you can do is take the agent's card and say your lawyer will contact them. Say nothing else, because lying to a federal agent can get you in very serious trouble, and they'll figure out a way to make it look like you lied. Watch the clip below to see how that works. Don't get caught in their vice; don't speak to them without your lawyer present. Ever.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Problem with an "Anti-Corporate Personhood" Amendment

Across the country, one of the rallying cries of the “Occupy” Movement has been the demand to eliminate “Corporate Personhood,” a concept that was cemented into law by a US Supreme Court decision commonly called the “Citizens United” decision [Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), 558 U.S. ––––, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010)) The decision in essence, permitted corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns as an expression of First Amendment Speech rights. Since that decision, various groups and initiatives have arisen in an effort to overturn it and remove this Constitutional right from applying to Corporations. Unfortunately, in their passion to end corporate domination of US politics, it appears that some of these proposals may end up causing even greater potential harm to our society. A sober reflection on the issue suggests that a blanket “anti-Corporate-Personhood” amendment may not be the wisest route...and that better alternatives exist.

The effort to limit corporate control of the electoral process began in earnest with the McCain-Feingold Act, otherwise known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which was adopted on March 27 of that year. The Act limited corporate contributions to campaigns, and prohibited the airing of corporate-sponsored political advertising in the weeks immediately preceding an election.

In an early test of that Act, Citizens United – a conservative advocacy group – challenged the right of the media to show the documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which was highly critical of the Bush Administration, during the 2004 campaign. When the Federal Elections Commission held that showing this film was not prohibited by the Act, Citizens United then geared up for its own documentary. In the 2008 campaign, it promoted it's film titled, "Hillary: The Movie," which was critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton, to DirecTV Satellite subscribers. With some troublesome reasoning, the Federal Election Commission and subsequent courts ruled against this movie, and the case reached the U S Supreme Court.

In 2010, a highly fractured U S Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision in favor of Citizens United, striking several sections of the McCain-Feingold Act as Unconstitutional. It was a decision that was (and remains) highly controversial.

The Court held that the First Amendment Freedom of Speech prohibits government from censoring political broadcasts in elections when those broadcasts are funded by corporations or unions.

The Court decided by a slim 5-4 majority, but even the five Justices in the majority wrote three separate opinions. Justices largely seen as conservative (Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas) were joined by moderate/swing vote Justice Kennedy in the decision. The Courts liberal block (Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Stevens) opposed the decision.

The dissenting opinion was stinging in its criticism of the majority. In it, Justice Stevens argued that the Court's ruling

"…threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution…”

and argued that by addressing issues not raised not even raised in the court pleadings by Citizens United, the majority

"changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law…The Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.”

The case raised eyebrows in many circles: The American Civil Liberties Union, normally identified with “liberals,” actually filed a brief with the Court in support of Citizens United because of the over-riding free speech issue. After the decision, it was discovered that Justice Thomas’ wife was the founder and president of Liberty Central, a conservative political advocacy group whose operations were directly affected by the decision, bringing into question both his ethical and legal right to participate in the decision.

In the wake of the decision, a number of proposals have been suggested to overturn it, or to find alternative mechanisms to limit corporate contributions in elections. Some groups have arisen - with growing public support – promoting a Constitutional Amendment that would declare that Corporations are not “persons,” and therefore not entitled to Constitutional Protections. One such group, “Move to Amend,” has proposed an Amendment, that reads in part:

“The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.”

While well-intentioned, I think this is a classic case of attempting to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer."

There are many rights guaranteed in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights in addition to Speech. The above amendment – which is growing in popularity and being promoted in towns and cities across the country – strips corporate entities of all Constitutional protections. Consider the following Constitutional Rights that could be affected:

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of …the press.

Amendment III: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Article IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

These are all Constitutional rights currently enjoyed by all residents of our nation, including non-citizens and corporations. Amendments similar to the one proposed would eliminate these Constitutional rights for corporations.

Do we really want to live in a country where the corporate media – our magazines, television stations, radio reports, and internet providers – are NOT protected from Government censorship?

Do we really want a country where the military – which has already vastly expanded its domestic jurisdiction through the Patriot Act – can be stationed in your workplace against the will of that company?

Do we really want warrantless searches of our office desks, file cabinets, computer servers and systems, and office spaces by the local police, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?

What about rights to Due Process? Equal Protection of the Laws? How about the Constitutional clause that prohibits Eminent Domain without proper compensation? Do wwe really want to say that businesses dont have these protections?

For over 200 years, a broad array of Constitutional Rights have protected the American people from intrusive government actions at home and at work. It is understandable that citizens want to reverse Citizens United; but the complete removal of all rights enjoyed by companies is a ‘cure” worse than the disease itself.

Reasonable limits (or prohibitions) on corporate contributions can be achieved through amendments that are far more ‘precise’ and less draconian than this. Professors Lucian Bebchuk at Harvard Law School and Richard Squire at Columbia Law School have proposed that legislation could be adopted, consistent with the Citizens United decision, giving shareholders (rather than Corporate Executives) the right to determine if or how corporate money could be spent in political activities. Since this could be done through simple legislation, it would be far easier than a Constitutional Amendment. Others have called for an simple Amendment that would declare that money is not speech, thereby empowering states and the federal government to re-implement McCain-Feingold or similar statutes.

These would both be easier and more effective restraints on the Citizens United decision, and avoid the danger of an greater erosion of American citizen’s Constitutional Rights.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Green Party candidate Jill Stein defends First Amendment

In spite of efforts by police across the nation to silence the media during their coordinated assault on protesters, videos made by ordinary citizens and posted on YouTube have gone viral and provided all the evidence that is needed to show the excessive brutality exercised by The Police State against American citizens last night: Pepper spray used on an octagenarian who was moving too slowly, thousands of books destroyed, protesters roused and rounded up at night, press passes confiscated, individuals with official court restraining orders punched in the face by uniformed officers, a NY city Councilor beaten...and the list goes on.

The Republicans continue to dismiss the people with total disdain, while Obama's Department of Homeland Security coordinates with City Police forces to storm the protests.

In the midst of this, the Green Party alone has had the courage to stand up and oppose these gestapo-like tactics. I reprint, in its entirety, the official statement released by Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President:

"The aggressive, needless police actions across the country against Occupy Wall Street (OWS) are an assault on civil liberties and an effort to suppress a much needed movement for economic justice and democracy. The courageous protesters who have stood up to intimidation by lethal force are standing up for us all.

The use of police in full riot gear with helicopters buzzing overhead to arrest peaceful and largely sleeping protesters is frightening commentary on the militarization of state and municipal security. Unprovoked police violence against citizens practicing peaceful civil disobedience - clearly documented on videos gone viral on the internet - is deeply alarming: young women being corralled and pepper sprayed on Wall Street, students at University of California Berkeley being attacked with nightsticks, Iraq veteran Scott Olsen who served two tours of duty supposedly defending freedom, yet whose own freedom was assaulted in a police attack at Occupy Oakland that fractured his skull and rendered him unable to speak.

In conducting these raids, public officials are suppressing rights of free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. Routinely, reporters were physically prevented from observing the raids. Many of those who managed to get in to the sites were reportedly intimidated or arrested. If access to public ways and public health and safety concerns were significant, other non-military solutions were available to deal with them. The lack of such efforts belies the excuse that these concerns justified police raids.

As the OWS protesters have said, the defenders of the 1% can evict the protesters, but they can't evict an idea. The protest is here to stay. I call upon the mayors of the occupied cities to follow the example of Green Party Mayor Gayle McLaughlin of Richmond, California, who welcomed the local occupation, and to allow the Occupy gatherings to continue.

Throughout American history public assemblies by the people have been essential to the advance of our civil liberties and to the defense of our freedoms.

Coxey's Army in 1894 marched from Ohio to DC, demanding public jobs for the unemployed in the midst of a recession. In 1932, the Bonus Army of 17,000 World War I veterans and their families, in the third year of the Great Depression camped in DC demanding the immediate cash-payment redemption of their World War I bonuses that were scheduled to be paid in 1945. In 1968, the Poor People's Campaign, a legacy of recently assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, set up a shantytown in DC known as "Resurrection City" in support of an Economic Bill of Rights, seeking full employment, a guaranteed annual income, and affordable low-income housing. In 1985-86, students erected and camped in anti-apartheid shantytowns on college campuses to protest investments in corporations in apartheid South Africa.

Some of the OWS protesters are homeless. Many more are young and jobless, often carrying unconscionable college-loan debt burdens. They are the tip of the iceberg of insecurity that is increasingly intolerable for growing numbers of the American public, with the upper 1 percent of Americans now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year and controlling 40 percent of the nation's wealth. Income disparity in the US now exceeds that before the Great Depression. Thus, the anguish that compels protesters to sleep on the cold hard ground is not going away.

The political parties of the 1% are showing signs of neither understanding the protest, nor acting to address the root economic causes. I challenge President Obama to forbid all Federal involvement in these disturbing violations of civil liberties, and to urge all elected officials to respect the right of citizens to peacefully assemble to petition their government for redress of the economic grievances caused by rule by the 1%."

Jill Stein for President Campaign