The Tea Party's favorite Libertarian has decided to back legislation that would punish the President every time he doesn't use the might of the federal government to impose its will on wayward states.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has thrown his support behind legislation that Republicans could use to force President Barack Obama to crack down on legal marijuana in states like Colorado and Washington.
Speaking to Fox News on Thursday, the libertarian-leaning senator said he supported the Enforce the Law Act, which has been approved by the House. The legislation would allow Congress to sue the president for failing to faithfully execute laws.
Paul said that Obama appeared to be “writing his own laws whenever he feels like it.”
“He also does need to enforce the law. We write laws and he is just deciding willy-nilly if he likes it he enforces it, if he doesn’t, he won’t enforce it, and we really think he needs to be chastened, rebuked, and told that he needs to obey the constitution,” he added.(1)
Now your basic conservative law and order types might be thinking "Hell yes! Laws matter!" But let me take you on a journey all the way back to 2010.
Writing for the Marijuana Policy Project, Mike Meno contacted Nena Bartlett, Rand Paul’s assistant campaign manager, and asked about Paul's stand on medical marijuana.(2) Meno was assured that Paul feels that this is a states right's issue.
As Meno clarified in the article:
So there we have it. Rand Paul believes the federal government should not interfere in state medical marijuana laws.(2)
Why am I bringing up Rand Paul's views on Medical Marijuana? Because that is the purpose of the law Paul is now supporting.
But a committee report submitted by a co-sponsor of the bill suggested Republicans would also use the law to try to force Obama to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized its possession and sale.
The report stated that Obama was not faithfully executing federal law by allowing states to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use. The federal Controlled Substances Act lists marijuana as a Schedule I substance, the most prohibited classification, which is reserved for dangerous drugs with no medical value.
Not enforcing federal drug laws in states that have legalized marijuana “infringes on Congress’s lawmaking authority,” the report said.(1)
So Rand Paul believes that the states have the rights to decide marijuana policy...unless he can score political points by supporting a law which would punish Obama for not enforcing Federal anti-drug laws.
When he first spoke of running for office back in 2009, Paul described himself thusly:
Like his father, the son also favors notions of limited government. "Libertarian would be a good description," Rand Paul told CNN, "because libertarians believe in freedom in all aspects of your life – your economic life as well as your social life as well as your personal life."(3)
So freedom on all aspects of your life...except when it suits him to legislate otherwise.
(1) Dolan, Eric. "Rand Paul backs bill that could lead to crack down on states where voters legalized weed". Raw Story. March 14, 2014. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/14/rand-paul-backs-bill-that-could-lead-to-crack-down-on-states-where-voters-legalized-weed/
(2) Meno, Mike. "Paul Campaign Clarifies Medical Marijuana Stance". Marijuana Policy Project. August 20, 2010. http://blog.mpp.org/medical-marijuana/paul-campaign-clarifies-medical-marijuana-stance/08202010/
(3) Political Ticker. "'I'm very serious about running,' Ron Paul's son says". CNN. May 4th, 2009. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/05/04/im-very-serious-about-running-ron-pauls-son-says/
Before launching into my analysis of events in Ukraine, there are a few points which should be made for an American audience.
Commentators are engaged in a campaign to discredit Vladimir Putin, dismissing him as nothing more than the former head of the KGB. I hold no brief for Putin, whom I consider the head of a state dominated by oligarchs. But it is worth remembering Putin is the head of a state with which the US needs to deal. Poisoning the water with personal attacks does not move us toward a dialogue on Ukraine or on other matters where the US needs to work with Russia.
It is also worth remembering that Gorbachev, widely praised in the West (and in my view a major "good guy") was actually the KGB candidate when he took office. It is in US interests to have a working relationship with Russia on matters such as Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan. And, beyond that, on issues of true nuclear and conventional disarmament.
How legitimate is the new Ukrainian government?
There is general agreement that the ousted president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, was corrupt. The problem is he was elected by a clear margin. Dramatic as events on the Maidan were, it remains unclear what forces were involved, who "won", and what they represent. I've read several eye witness accounts of the dramatic actions in February - the problem is no two agree. The US insists the new government represents the people of Ukraine - but who makes that decision? (Younger readers need to remember that while Britain recognized the new Soviet government, which came to power in 1917, in 1924, the US did not recognize it until 1933. In the case of China, where the present Chinese government took power in 1949, the US did not recognize it until Richard Nixon's term. The US is very selective as to when it recognizes new governments that come to power via a revolution).
How nonviolent were the events at the Maidan?
I was more than a little surprised to find that the facebook page of the Nonviolent Action Research Network (widely wide by American pacifists) termed the events in Kiev "nonviolent". That is nonsense. One can support or oppose the shifts that occurred in Kiev but one cannot call them nonviolent. Not only were a number of protestors killed, but so were a number of Ukrainian police. If people check the storming of the Winter Palace in Czarist Russia,in October of 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power and the Russian Revolution became a reality, there were only a handful of people killed - far fewer than died in Kiev. I support the right of people to resist oppression by the methods they choose, but as a pacifist I will urge that resistance be nonviolent. For better or worse, Kiev was not nonviolent.
What happened at the Maidan?
The events in Kiev were turbulent. There have been reports - again, from eye witnesses - that far right wing elements dominated the protesters, while other equally fervent eye witnesses insist far right wing elements were marginal. Steve Erlanger, in a "memo from Kiev" in the New York Times of Sunday, March 2, noted that the new government has few representatives of "what was the country's largest and most popular party, the Party of Regions, led by the ousted President, Viktor f. Yanukovych. Instead, the government is currently dominated by those associated with a former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who is widely blamed for the failure of the 2004 Orange Revolution to change Ukraine's corrupt political system". Erlanger's analysis suggests that Russian fears of the new government are valid - and, more important, that the fears of many Ukrainians, particularly in the Eastern Ukraine, are valid.
Andrew Wilson, a Ukraine expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that an early "mistake" by the new government was the overturning of the 2012 law that allowed regions of Ukraine to make Russian a second official language, "needlessly offending Russian-dominated regions like the Donbass and Crimea".
Commentators on events in Ukraine seem to break down into a kind of "left vs. right" pattern. William Blum, whose writing often makes good sense, argued in a recent piece that developments in Ukraine are part of the conscious pattern of the US to dominate the world, which has governed US actions for the last century. Much of what Blum has written has value, but this is nonsense - in 1914 it was Great Britain which ruled the world, WW I had just begun, and the US did not become conscious of its "new destiny" until after World War II. Other figures - Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton - are so off base it would be funny if it were not serious. What is one to say of Obama, speaking at a press briefing in the White House, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sitting beside him, when he spoke of international law, ignoring the fact that Israel has occupied the West Bank in violation of international law, with considerable brutality and violence, for more than forty years.
And of course what can one say about any Russian actions in Crimea (on which I'll comment in a moment) when they come from the leader of a nation which invaded Iraq, destroying it in the process, and has a bloody record of military interventions, some of which have never made rational sense (as in the case of Vietnam, where an estimated three million Vietnamese were killed).
There has been an almost complete lack of balance in media coverage. CNN has been happy to give extended time to interviews with John McCain, one of those rare veterans who seems to long for war, but little time to calmer voices.
To sum up what happened at Maidan, I'm fed up with some of the left telling me it was an anti-Semitic event, and everyone on the right saying it was entirely a democratic event. Clearly - if one can work through the reports - it was not just a "left vs right" event, but one in which many young Ukrainians, fed up with the corruption of the government, burst into a largely spontaneous and very exciting moment of revolt. However there is no question that the political right was there, and no question at all that it has been given key posts in the new government.
A note on Crimea:
Crimea is historically Russian. It does not have the independent history of Ukraine. It also has Russia's only warm water port. It was inevitable, once the events in Kiev took the turn they did, that Russia would move into Crimea, and it is not going to leave. Think back to our own actions - when Fidel Castro took power in Havana in 1960 he posed no threat to the US - only to US control in Central and South America. Yet the US was so disturbed it launched a military attack (the Bay of Pigs), and has spent much of the the past half century trying to assassinate Fidel, and imposing severe sanctions. And we are surprised that Russia took steps to protect what had historically been part of Russia?
The trigger for Russian actions:
Early in February, as events at the Maidan has created a crisis, with the death toll rising, Polish and German diplomats met with both the Ukrainian government and with the rebels, working out a series of compromises which would have left Yanukovych in power but would also have met many of the demands of those in the Maidan. It is probable that Putin would have lived with that, but we will never know, since the rioters continued the uprising, which had by then become a revolution, and Yanukovych was forced to flee.
The context of the Ukrainian Crisis:
Here I want to step back away from the immediate crisis of Ukraine, for a look at the history which dictates much Russian policy - under Putin as it did under Stalin.
Russia has no natural barrier - no river, no mountain range - to guard it on its Western border. It has suffered invasion from the West three times in recent memory - under Napoleon and then twice under the Germans. In the last invasion, under Hitler, between 25 and 27 million Soviet citizens lost their lives. All the factories, dams, railroads. towns and cities West of a line from Leningrad in the North to Moscow to Stalingrad in the South were destroyed. Americans make much of 9.11 (and I don't make light of it) but for Russia it was not just a handful of buildings in one city which were destroyed - it was entire cities, leveled. And then with the wounded to care for, the orphans, the widows.
Americans have never understood what the war meant to Russia and why, after the war, the Soviets sought to build a "protective band" of territory between itself and Germany. This was Eastern Europe, which under the iron boot of Stalin became "people's democracies" or "presently existing socialism".
Something Americans (perhaps including our President and the Secretary of State) have forgotten was that Russia wanted to make a deal with the West. It had made peace with Finland, which (again, memories are short and we have forgotten this) fought on the side of the Nazis. The Soviets withdrew from Austria after the West agreed that Austria, like Finland, would be neutral.The Soviets very much wanted a Germany united, disarmed, and neutral. Stalin did not integrate the East Germany into the Eastern European economic plans for some time, hoping he could strike that deal. But the West wanted West Germany as part of NATO, and so the division of Germany lasted until Gorbachev came to power.
I would have urged radical actions by the West in 1956 when the Hungarian Revolution broke out - it was obvious that if the Soviets could not rule Eastern Europe without sending in tanks (as they had already had to do in East Germany in 1953), they posed no real threat of a military strike at the West.
What if we had said to Moscow, withdraw your tanks from Hungary, and we will dissolve NATO, while you dissolve the Warsaw Pact.
But of course the West didn't do that. The US in particular (but I would not exempt the Europeans from a share of the blame) wanted to edge their military bases to the East. When the USSR gave up control of Eastern Europe, the US pressed for pushing NATO farther East, into Poland and up to the borders of Ukraine.
Pause for a moment and assume that revolutionary events in Canada had meant Canada was about to withdraw from NATO and invite in Russian military advisers.
What do you think US response would be?
Why are we surprised that Putin has said, very clearly, "no closer - back off".
In this case Moscow holds the high cards. Europe is not going to war over Crimea. And it needs Russian gas. Sanctions will cut both ways - Europe is very cautious and, irony of ironies, it is Germany which is behaving with the greatest diplomacy.
If, out of all this, US planners accept the fact that there are real limits to how far East NATO can push, then the crisis will have helped us come to terms with reality. It may even lead us to consider dissolving NATO!
The importance of civil society.
All states act in their own interests. States do not have moral values. What we need to count on is the civil society - and Russia has one - which will modify state behavior, just as civil society here can sometimes modify state behavior. We - folks in the American civil society - need to reach out to the folks in Ukrainian and Russian civil society. There have been anti-war actions in Russia at this time - great, let's try to link with them. We need to worry when, as in Nazi Germany, civil society is silenced. To a great extent that has happened here, in the US. Of course we should hope for a fair referendum in Crimea - but I think the fairest possible referendum will still see Crimea returned to Russia.
Meanwhile, we need to tamp down the talk of military action, of sanctions, and of efforts to humiliate Putin. He isn't my hero, but most Russians are happy with him. He has restored to Russia some of the pride it lost with the dissolution of the old Soviet Union. Americans, of all people, should understand this, with our endless (and tiresome) insistence we are the great nation in the world.
Edgeleft is an occasional column by David McReynolds. Its content may be reprinted in whole or in part without further permission. McReynolds is a former chair of War Resisters International, twice the Socialist Party's candidate for President, and is currently retired and living on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year in Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted attempted to suppress non-Republican voters.
Ohio has introduced a new tactic in their broader attempts to make it even harder for Democratic voters to get to the polls this year. Early voting stations in Ohio’s heavily Democratic counties will only be open between 8 am and 5 pm, while Republican counties have expanded their hours to allow voting on nights and weekends. Early voting stations in Ohio’s heavily Democratic counties will only be open between 8 am and 5 pm, while Republican counties have expanded their hours to allow voting on nights and weekends.(1)
A federal court ruled that this was bullshit. Well, maybe not "bullshit." What Judge Peter Economus actually said was the following: "A citizen has a constitutionally protected right to participate in elections on an equal basis with other citizens in the jurisdiction."(2) After Husted decided to ignore the court order.(3) the court ordered Husted to present himself for a hearing.(4) to explain himself. This caused Husted to back down.
Flash-forward a year and Husted is back at it.
Under his latest plan, early voting would begin 29 days before an election, rather than 35, and early voting on the Sunday before a general election would be eliminated except in presidential years.(5)
That last part might not seem like a big deal but as ThinkProgress notes, the GOP knows how important that final Sunday is to certain voters.
[...]A GOP consultant who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution said black voters were a concern. “I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves,” he said.(6)
That is not all Ohio Republicans are up to. Earlier this month, the Ohio Senate has passed SB193 which makes it borderline impossible for a third party to get on the ballot.(7) It was introduced in September but it took until October 8 to pass. The vote fell largely along party lines with 22 Republican votes for while one Republican joined the 10 Democratic votes against.(8)
Bob Fitrakis, Ohio Green Party Co-Chair State Government and Oversight and Reform Committee eloquently spoke against the bill but to no avail.(9)
The first major problem with Senate Bill 193 is the requirement that minor parties must get 3% of the vote in a statewide election every two years to stay on the ballot. The median vote test in the nation for a party to remain on the ballot for those states that require it, is 2%. SB 193 requires 3%. Ohio’s northern neighbor, Michigan, for example, only requires 1%.
The second problem is requiring a newly qualifying party to submit both a petition for the Party and then separate petitions for each of it nominees. SB 193’s requirement for 2014 of 55,809 valid signatures is a massive barrier for any minor party. Then requiring the Party nominees to submit additional petitions is an added difficulty. Clearly any minor party that submits 55,809 valid signatures has demonstrated support for their nominees and should be able to nominate by convention.(9)
Fitrakis and the Green Party aren't the only ones to be angered by this bill. The Libertarian Party is furious, too.(10)
Earlier this month, I wrote about Republicans and voting and their attempts to control the outcome.(11)
Thanks to Republican gerrymandering, in the 2012 elections Republicans won victories in four key states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin) even though they didn't win majorities in those states.(12) In fact, Republicans had a 1.1 million popular-vote deficit.(13) Think Progress reports that in seven states, Republicans so stacked the deck in their favor that they actually picked up seats while winning 1.4 million less votes.(14)
In January of this year, the Republican State Leadership Committee released a report which actually boasts of the fact that the only reason they have control of the House of Representatives is because they gerrymandered congressional districts.(13) The report notes that people voted for Republicans only 49 percent of the time in congressional races(13) yet Republicans enjoy a 33-seat margin in the U.S. House.(13)
British comedian Russel Brand recently authored an article for The New Statesman(15) which led to an interview with Jeremy Paxman for the BBC(16) in the course of which, Brand admitted that he doesn't vote. This pronouncement has been much commented upon on the internet(17) but frankly I think Brand gave a valid defense.
It's not that I'm not voting out of apathy, I'm not voting out of absolute indifference, and weariness, and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now and has now reached a fever pitch, where we have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that [is] not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system.(16)
I quoted Emma Goldman before and I will do it again: "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." For some they already have; for others they are working on it; and for still others they are making it not worth your while by removing all options except the two party plutocracy.
Like Goldman, Colin Ward was an Anarchist. While he was British and that system differs from the American one, his article entitled "The Case Against Voting" is well worth a read.(18)
(1) Shen, Aviva and Peck, Adam. "Ohio Limits Early Voting Hours In Democratic Counties, Expands In Republican Counties". ThinkProgress. August 10, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/10/670441/ohio-limits-early-voting-hours-in-democratic-counties-expands-in-republican-counties/
(2) Millhiser, Ian. "BREAKING: Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio Law Restricting Early Voting". ThinkProgress. August 31, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/31/784981/breaking-federal-court-strikes-down-ohio-law-restricting-early-voting/
(3) Shen, Aviva. "Ohio Secretary of State Refuses To Comply With Early Voting Court Order". ThinkProgress. September 4, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/09/04/793441/ohio-secretary-of-state-refuses-to-comply-with-early-voting-court-order/
(4) Shen, Aviva. "After Bucking Federal Judge On Early Voting, Ohio Secretary Of State Ordered To Appear In Court". ThinkProgress. September 5, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/09/05/803331/after-bucking-federal-judge-on-early-voting-ohio-secretary-of-state-ordered-to-appear-in-court/
(5) Millhiser, Ian. "How Ohio’s Top Elections Official’s Early Voting Proposal Would Keep Black Voters From The Polls". ThinkProgress. October 25, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/10/25/2840111/ohios-elections-official-unveils-plan-cut-early-voting/
(6) Shen, Aviva. "Florida Republicans Admit Voter Suppression Was The Goal Of New Election Laws". ThinkProgress. November 26, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/11/26/1234171/florida-republicans-admit-voter-suppression-was-the-goal-of-new-election-laws/
(7) "SB 193 As Passed by Senate". 130th General Assembly of the State of Ohio. http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_SB_193
(8) "Senate Vote on SB 193 (Oct 8, 2013)". Open States. http://openstates.org/oh/votes/OHV00001380/
(9) Fitrakis, Bob. "Third Parties in Ohio knocked off the ballot". The Free Press. October 8, 2013. http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2013/1989
(10) Adams, Becket. "Ohio Libertarians Sure Feel Like They’re Being Shoved Off the Ballot". The Blaze. October 17, 2013. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/17/ohio-libertarians-sure-feel-like-theyre-being-shoved-off-the-ballot/
(11) "Republicans and voting". The Modern Left. October 7, 2013. http://www.themodernleft.com/2013/10/republicans-and-voting.html
(12) "Republicans Win Fewer Votes, but More Seats than Democrats". CQ Press. February, 2013.library.cqpress.com/elections/document.php?id=rcookltr-1527-84193-2523552
(13) Keyes, Scott. "Republicans Brag They Won House Majority Because Of Gerrymandering". Think Progress. January 17, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/01/17/1459991/rslc-gerrymandering-house/
(14) Millhiser, Ian. "Study: Republican Gerrymandering Cost Democrats 1.7 Million Votes In Just 7 States". Think Progress. February 4, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/02/04/1534201/study-republican-gerrymandering-cost-democrats-17-million-votes-in-just-7-states/
(15) Brand, Russell. "Russell Brand on revolution: “We no longer have the luxury of tradition”". The New Statesman. October 24, 2013. http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/10/russell-brand-on-revolution
(16) Grenoble, Ryan. "Russell Brand's Epic Interview With BBC's Jeremy Paxman Just Might Start A Revolution (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. October 25, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/russell-brand-revolution-interview-paxman-bbc_n_4164283.html
(17) Williams, Mary Elizabeth. "The Russell Brand conundrum: Is choosing not to vote ever okay?". Salon. October 25, 2013. http://www.salon.com/2013/10/25/the_russell_brand_conundrum_is_choosing_not_to_vote_ever_okay/
(18) Ward, Colin. "The Case Against Voting". http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/colin-ward-the-case-against-voting
A right wing group of truckers has pledged to shut down the inner loop of the Washington, D.C. beltway for a "Truckers Ride for the Constitution" rally.
Earl Conlon, a Georgia trucker who is handling logistics for the protest, told U.S. News tractor-trailer drivers will circle the beltway "three lanes deep" as he rides with other participants to Congress to seek the arrest of congressmen for allegedly disregarding the Constitution.(1)
Conlon pledged to shut I-495 down with the exception of the left lane which would be strictly for emergency vehicles. But for everyone else it will be a different story with Conlon saying "everybody that doesn't have a supporter sticker on their window, good luck: Nobody in, nobody out."(1) He further stated that if the cops try to interfere they will go ahead and shut down all three lanes.(1)
How can we avoid this? Conlon says that all the government has to do is arrest everyone his group feels has violated his or her oath of office.(1) These indictments will be handed out by a "citizens grand jury".(1)
Pete Santilli, a spokesman for Truckers Ride for the Constitution, has suggested potential violence at the rally.
Santilli claimed, "If we do not rise up this week, peacefully, there is going to be Three Percenters who I will also join, to make it not so peacefully."...
...Claiming that a violent revolution would be inevitable if the semi-trailer truck protest failed to accomplish its goals, Santilli claimed that Three Percenters will take "the next logical step to stop our domestic enemies." He added, "I'm prepared myself to give my life in this effort as a United States Marine."(2)
Of course, Santilli also claimed that the government wants to "take my guns away" in order to arm Al Qaeda.(2) As for the "Three Percenter" thing, the concept of the "Three Percenters" comes from the belief that "During the American Revolution, the active forces in the field against the King's tyranny never amounted to more than 3% of the colonists."(3) The modern Three Percenters don't claim to represent 3% of the American people...although they think they might(3). They do claim to represent 3% of the American gun owners.(3) And that is enough for them.
The Three Percent today are gun owners who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act. Three Percenters say quite explicitly that we will not obey any further circumscription of our traditional liberties and will defend ourselves if attacked. We intend to maintain our God-given natural rights to liberty and property, and that means most especially the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, we are committed to the restoration of the Founders' Republic, and are willing to fight, die and, if forced by any would-be oppressor, to kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution that we all took an oath to uphold against enemies foreign and domestic.(3)
Santilli’s group has won support from conservative radio hosts for its threats.(4)
A few years back, Orson Scott Card penned a tirade justifying overthrowing the government(5) simply because court decisions in California and Massachusetts ruled that maybe...just maybe...gays are people, too.
Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary...
...How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn....(5)
Shall I assume that there is a police detail following Orson Scott Card around? No? Right. Of course not.
Ever since Obama won the presidency, there has been talk of armed revolution on the right(6) and yet there don't appear to be any widespread police squad monitoring them. But if you are a Muslim then it is a different story.(7)
On the other side of the political spectrum, recall what happened when largely peaceful leftist activists began the occupy movement. There were police infiltration(8), FBI infiltration and manipulation(9), armed police officers driving protestors from encampments(10), and were savaged(11) by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.(12)
In North Carolina the fallout from the recent "Moral Monday" protests have revealed a systematic process on the part of the police to profile and track suspected anarchists.
General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver testified to a murmur of disbelief among the many lawyers attending the Wake County District Court hearing that his 18-officer department had people in this region they labeled “anarchists” and collected intelligence on them.
Weaver did not identify the so-called anarchists, nor did he reveal how many his department considered to fall in that category.
But the chief at the helm of the law enforcement agency that arrested more than 930 people this past summer testified that his officers had scanned the many “Moral Monday” rallies with eyes trained for "anarchists."(13)
The FBI has been dragging people into grand juries and pressuring them to give information about suspected anarchists. People who refuse, like anarchist Jerry Koch, are thrown in jail and held in contempt.(14) Why was Koch targeted? In 2008, a cyclist placed an explosive device outside an army recruitment station in Times Square. The cyclist wasn't Koch so one might ask, again, why was Koch targeted?
When his lawyers pressed the prosecutor for a reason, they were told he was believed to have been at a bar where a conversation between other people took place and information about the incident was discussed. No further details were given.
The message to other dissidents? If you are thought to be anywhere even near the wrong kind of conversation, you could be suspect.(14)
Koch isn't an anomaly as there have been others in the past past year. In the Pacific Northwest, four people from Washington and Oregon were imprisoned for refusing to testify against other activists.(14) According to FBI training materials, agents are taught that anarchists are "Criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities."(15) But I guess when you have an overt ideology to justify your actions it is acceptable. As long as that ideology is right wing.
So to recap: when a right wing group openly espouses an willingness to overthrow the government, talk radio supports them and law enforcement agencies largely leave them alone. If you are a left wing activist you are smeared by talk radio, profiled by the police and/or the FBI, and dragged into a grand jury and coerced into naming names.
Tea Party activists like to paint themselves as just humble regular folks with a beef against government corruption and increasingly limited personal freedom. Yet the truth is something different.
In fact, it was the very opposite of grassroots and democratic. It was the creation of billionaires intent on destroying our government, preventing Americans from getting access to healthcare, and sabotaging any attempt to regulate Wall Street or the oil industry.
The small handful of oil and Wall Street groups behind the Tea Party, groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, were all front organizations for the billionaire oil tycoons and banksters who wrecked the economy.
And if you need any more proof of whose interests the Tea Party actually represents, consider this: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks actually began as parts of the group Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was created in 1984 to defend the interests of big tobacco companies. They even started something they called a "tea party" in the 1980s so that smokers could have a "smokers' rights" group.(16)
Want to know whether you are lodging a legitimate protest against the government or if you are instead just a puppet of the right wing oligarchy: how many of you were arrested? If the answer is zero, you are a puppet.
Admittedly, the "Truckers Ride for the Constitution" is still a day off so it is possible that things will suddenly change with law enforcement deciding that maybe they should treat right wing activists who talk of shutting down cities and arresting politicians as the threats they openly claim to be. But I'm not holding my breath.
UPDATE: Apparently a mere 30 trucks showed up for the protest. My prediction that the police would not arrest anyone was on the mark.
Virginia state police did stop four tractor-trailers Friday morning after they drove side-by-side, across all four northbound lanes of the Beltway’s inner loop. That caused traffic to slow to 15 miles per hour. State police troopers stopped the vehicles and “warned them not to impede traffic,” Geller said. The drivers were not issued tickets and allowed to “proceed on their way.”(17)
Compare that to the preemptive arrests made by the Chicago police last year on the eve of the Chicago NATO summit.(18)
(1) Nelson, Steven. "'Truckers for the Constitution' Plan to Slow D.C. Beltway, Arrest Congressmen". U.S. News and World Report. October 07, 2013. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/10/07/truckers-for-the-constitution-plan-to-slow-dc-beltway-arrest-congressmen
(2) Johnson, Timothy. "AUDIO: Conspiracy Theorist Radio Host Calls For Violence If Trucker Protest Fails". Media Matters. October 9, 2013. http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/10/09/audio-conspiracy-theorist-radio-host-calls-for/196365
(3) "What is a "Three Percenter"?". Sipsey Street Irregulars. February 17, 2009. http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-is-three-percenter.html
(4) Garcia, Arturo. "Right-wing truckers’ organizer: ‘We will defend our nation to the absolute death’". Raw Story. October 09, 2013. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/09/right-wing-truckers-organizer-we-will-defend-our-nation-to-the-absolute-death/
(5) Card, Orson Scott. "Orson Scott Card: State job is not to redefine marriage". Deseret News. July 24 2008. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700245157/State-job-is-not-to-redefine-marriage.html?pg=all
(6) "Right wingers defend freedom via treason". The Modern Left. November 10, 2009. http://www.themodernleft.com/2009/11/right-wingers-defend-freedom-via.html
(7) Francescani, Chris. "New York police sued over surveillance of Muslims". Reuters. June 18, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/18/us-usa-newyork-nypdsurveillance-idUSBRE95H15020130618
(8) Pinto, Nick. "Occupy's Undercover Cop: "Shady," Ubiquitous, & Willing To Get Arrested". Gothamist. October 10, 2013. http://gothamist.com/2013/10/10/occupys_undercover_shady_ubiquitous.php
(9) Potter, Will. "FBI Supplied Occupy Cleveland “Terrorists” Arrested in May Day Plot". Green is the New Red. May 1, 2012. http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/fbi-anarchist-terrorists-may-day-ohio/5988/
(10) "Oakland cops eye Occupy camp after Ore. arrests". Associated Press. November 14, 2011. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57324027/oakland-cops-eye-occupy-camp-after-ore-arrests/
(11) Bershad, Jon. "Rush Limbaugh: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Probably Glad They Can Now ‘Move Back In With Their Parents’". Mediate. November 16th, 2011. http://www.mediaite.com/online/rush-limbaugh-occupy-wall-street-protesters-probably-glad-they-can-now-%E2%80%98move-back-in-with-their-parents%E2%80%99/
(12) "Limbaugh: Occupy Wall St. Protesters Are "Perpetually Lazy, Spoiled Rotten, 99 Percent White Kids"". Media Matters. October 06, 2011. http://mediamatters.org/video/2011/10/06/limbaugh-occupy-wall-st-protesters-are-perpetua/137831
(13) Blythe, Anne. "Police were on lookout for anarchists at Moral Monday protests". News & Observer. October 07, 2013. http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/10/07/3263240/nc-general-assembly-police-chief.html
(14) Simonton, Anna. "How the FBI Manipulates Grand Juries to Intimidate Political Dissidents and Radicals". AlterNet. October 09, 2013. http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/how-grand-juries-are-manipulated-fbi-intimidate-political-dissidents-and-radicals
(15) Potter, Will. "Newly Released FBI “Domestic Terrorism” Training on Anarchists, Environmentalists, Show COINTELPRO Tactics". Green is the New Red. May 29, 2012. http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/fbi-domestic-terrorism-training-anarchists-eco/6199/
(16) Hartmann, Thom. "The Libertarian Billionaire Agenda Propelling the Tea Party Monster That Has Shut Down Congress". AlterNet. October 03, 2013. http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/libertarian-billionaire-agenda-propelling-tea-party-monster-has-shut-down
(17) Hedgpeth, Dana and Aratani, Lori. "Trucker protest hits Beltway but causes no major delays, authorities say". The Washington Post. October 11, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/va-state-police-trucker-protest-launched-on-i-95-north-vehicles-head-toward-beltway/2013/10/11/c8049b7e-3266-11e3-89ae-16e186e117d8_story.html
(18) "Chicago cops start preemptive arrests on the eve of NATO Summit ". RT. May 18, 2012. http://rt.com/usa/chicago-police-law-raid-609/
Let's talk about the shutdown for a minute. Or at least, the Republican response to the shutdown they instigated.
Some members of Congress have announced that they will donate, refuse or hold in escrow money they earn during the shutdown.(1)
But not all. Not Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) for instance.
"Whatever gets them good press," Terry said of members giving up their salary. "That's all that it's going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I've got a nice house and a kid in college, and I'll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly."(2)
If Terry's snarkiness makes it seem like he isn't really taking the shutdown seriously, that is probably because the Republicans really aren't. When forced to talk about why the shutdown is still happening you get an small insight into how the modern Republican mind works.
"We're not going to be disrespected," Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) told The Washington Examiner. "We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."(3)
Yes, Stutzman just admitted that they don't even know what it is that they want to get out of this. But something, dammit. Something. How about someone a little higher on the Republican totem pole?
Less than two hours after President Barack Obama turned up political pressure on Republicans to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the president was looking for "unconditional surrender."
"The president said today if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk to us," Boehner said Tuesday. "That's not the way our government works."(4)
Look at the verbiage being used here. "Unconditional surrender." "We have to get something out of this." This is either a game or war. But even if the latter, it is merely a war game as there is no actual violence or seizing of land and/or property.
This is one of the many reasons why the two party system is ridiculous. All they care about is getting one over on the other side. Not doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Not helping the country get on its feet and improve.
And they certainly aren't concerned with you or your well being.
(3) O'Keefe, Ed. "Which lawmakers will refuse their pay during the shutdown?". The Washington Post. October 08, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/10/01/which-lawmakers-will-refuse-their-pay-during-the-shutdown/
(2) Terkel, Amanda. "Lee Terry Needs His Salary During Government Shutdown To Pay For His 'Nice House'". The Huffington Post. October 04, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/lee-terry-government-shutdown-nice-house_n_4044511.html
(3) "This Quote Says Everything About The GOP's Shutdown Stand". The Huffington Post. October 03, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/03/marlin-stutzman-government-shutdown_n_4034123.html
(4) Siddiqui, Sabrina. "John Boehner On Debt Ceiling: Not Threatening Default Would Be 'Unconditional Surrender'". The Huffington Post. October 09, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/08/john-boehner-debt-ceiling_n_4066123.html
I just read an article on Truth Out by William Rivers Pitt entitled "Half the Republicans You Know Are Insane"(1) which initially describes the findings of a poll which found that Republicans are more likely to believe Government Conspiracy Theories.(2)
Some of the results are pretty eye opening.
When asked if they believe that Mr. Obama is secretly plotting to remain in office when his term expires, 44% of Republicans answered "Yes."(1)
Yet there were some examples given where the author's commentary struck me as a little untrue.
When asked if Muslims are working to implement Sharia Law in America - the harshly medieval seventh-century Islamic code best represented by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Wahabists in the ranks of al Qaeda and (shhhh) a significant portion of the rebels in Syria - 44% of Republicans said it was true. If you know five Republicans, once again, two of them believe this, and a third is halfway convinced. Um...how? Where? In what way? Because women can now get free contraception and gay people have the same rights as you do? You think the Taliban is down with that?(1)
Gay people have the same rights as you do? Really? While polls show increasing support for same-sex marriage,(3) it took President Obama until 2012 to show his support.(4) Even with all this, only a handful of states allow marriage and There is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination.(5)
Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.(5) A mere 17 states and D.C. also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.(5) This proves that gay people have the same rights as cisgendered people?(6)
For example, a question was posed about whether the respondents believe the Obama administration is coming to take their guns away, and 62% of Republicans answered "Yes." If you know five Republicans, that means three of them believe this, and a fourth has doubts. This, despite the fact that no gun legislation of any impact whatsoever has shadowed the president's desk since he took office.(1)
Maybe William Rivers Pitt and I have a different definition of the term "legislation of any impact whatsoever". I think allowing people to carry concealed guns in national parks(7) is kind of a big thing. It even replaced a law signed by good Old Saint Ronnie that required guns be locked in glove compartments or trunks of car that enter national parks.(8)
Soon enough, William Rivers Pitt turns the article into a polemic about how not enough
of the right people vote.
Make no mistake about it: these people will vote in 2014, because they always vote. If it is raining live, ravening, man-eating jaguars outside, they turn out with strong umbrellas and cast their ballots for the pro-gun anti-Sharia Jesus-and-fetuses candidate. Because guns, and Sharia, and they believe everything they've heard and read from their beloved bedlam news sources.
Why is the government shut down? Because a lot of people don't vote, but these people did in 2010, like they always do, and the crazy will elect the crazy every single time and twice on Sunday, amen.
Thanks to Republican gerrymandering, in the 2012 elections Republicans won victories in four key states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin) even though they didn't win majorities in those states.(10) In fact, Republicans had a 1.1 million popular-vote deficit.(11) Think Progress reports that in seven states, Republicans so stacked the deck in their favor that they actually picked up seats while winning 1.4 million less votes.(12)
In January of this year, the Republican State Leadership Committee released a report which actually boasts of the fact that the only reason they have control of the House of Representatives is because they gerrymandered congressional districts.(11) The report notes that people voted for Republicans only 49 percent of the time in congressional races(11) yet Republicans enjoy a 33-seat margin in the U.S. House.(11)
In Ohio, state Senate President Tom Niehaus (R) vowed to create an congressional map that "that Speaker Boehner fully supports."(13) Ohio Republicans completely redrew the map to benefit Republicans including adding a peninsula with no residents at all to Rep. Jim Renacci’s (R-OH) district because it included the headquarters of a company whose leaders donated to Renacci.(13) While the state is roughly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans(14), Republicans gave themselves an advantage in 12 of the state’s 16 congressional districts.(14) The map combined the 9th and 10th districts forcing Democratic Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich to compete against each other for a single seat. With Kaptur's win,(15) Republicans got to remove a Democrat without even having to run against him.
Republicans in Texas are currently fighting to keep their newly gerrymandered map and in court documents openly admit that "both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats."(16)
But the point that William Rivers Pitt was trying to make is something I have seen many people claim: that Republicans overwhelmingly get out to vote and Democrats don't. How does one know that all those non-voting people would vote Democratic Party? Is there any valid reason to suppose that there isn't a large block of non-voting Republicans who would then vote Republican if motivated to actually vote?
And this is all overlooking the fact that certain elements of society are targeted to prevent their voting. Republicans have a tendency to target youth voters for exclusion based on the assumption that they will overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Nevada Republican Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey recently admitted this on a local talk radio show.
“We have some real opportunities in 2014. This is a great year in an off presidential election. Seemingly no Democrat at the top of the ticket against Sandoval.No Harry Reid. Probably where we had a million voters turnout in 2012, we’ll have like 700,000. A lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in a non-presidential year. It’s a great year for Republicans.”(17)
Pennsylvania Republicans have been working hard to block youth voting as well.
An amendment being pushed by House Republicans would in effect penalize Ohio colleges and universities if they help out-of-state students register to vote. The plan requires any school that offers a student proof of residency documentation for voter registration to give that student in-state tuition. According to one estimate, more than 23,000 students hailing from the state’s 13 biggest schools could be disenfranchised under the plan.(18)
In August of this year, Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 589 into law which makes student IDs and out-of-state driver’s licenses invalid for the purpose of voting.(19) The Republicans who are so worried about voter fraud are actually banning legal government issued IDs as forms of identification for the sake of voting.
Convicted felons are also targeted for voter disenfranchisement.(20) It is estimated that 5.85 million people were ineligible to vote in 2012 due to felony disenfranchisement laws.(21)
Emma Goldman once said "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." For some, they already have.
With all these facts, is the government shut down really because a lot of people don't vote? Is it really because the crazier elements of the right wing often do vote? Or is it because the Republican party has figured out a fool proof way to win elections even when they don't carry the popular vote.
(1) Pitt, William Rivers. "Half the Republicans You Know Are Insane". Truthout. October 03, 2013. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/19201-half-the-republicans-you-know-are-insane
(2) Williams, Jim. "Conspiracy Theories Round Two: Republicans More Likely To Subscribe to Government Conspiracy Theories". Public Policy Polling October 02, 2013. http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/10/conspiracy-theories-round-two-republicans-more-likely-to-subscribe-to-government-conspiracy-theories.html
(3) Silver, Nate. "Support for Gay Marriage Outweighs Opposition in Polls". The New York Times. May 09, 2012. fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/support-for-gay-marriage-outweighs-opposition-in-polls/
(4) "Obama Affirms Support for Same-Sex Marriage". ABC News. May 09, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/obama-sex-marriage-legal-16312904
(5) "Employment Non-Discrimination Act". Human Rights Campaign. October 1, 2013. http://www.hrc.org/laws-and-legislation/federal-legislation/employment-non-discrimination-act
(6) "Cisgender". Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender
(7) "Major Garrett: Obama has expanded, not reduced gun rights". CBS News. July 23, 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505267_162-57477652/major-garrett-obama-has-expanded-not-reduced-gun-rights/
(8) Murse, Tom. "How Many Gun Laws Did Obama Sign?". About.com. http://uspolitics.about.com/od/Gun-Control/a/Gun-Laws-Signed-By-Obama.htm
(9) "Gerrymandering". Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering
(10) "Republicans Win Fewer Votes, but More Seats than Democrats". CQ Press. February, 2013.library.cqpress.com/elections/document.php?id=rcookltr-1527-84193-2523552
(11) Keyes, Scott. "Republicans Brag They Won House Majority Because Of Gerrymandering". Think Progress. January 17, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/01/17/1459991/rslc-gerrymandering-house/
(12) Millhiser, Ian. "Study: Republican Gerrymandering Cost Democrats 1.7 Million Votes In Just 7 States". Think Progress. February 4, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/02/04/1534201/study-republican-gerrymandering-cost-democrats-17-million-votes-in-just-7-states/
(13) Millhiser, Ian. "How John Boehner Engineered An Ohio Gerrymander To Save His Speakership". Think Progress. October 2, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/10/02/2718621/how-john-boehner-engineered-an-ohio-gerrymander-to-save-his-speakership/
(14) Millhiser, Ian. "Documents Show Boehner Helped Gerrymander Ohio Map Giving GOP 12 of 16 Congressional Seats". Think Progress. December 13, 2011. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/12/13/388360/documents-show-boehner-engineered-gerrymandered-ohio-map-giving-gop-3-of-4-congressional-seats/
(15) Kane, Paul. "Rep. Dennis Kucinich suffers primary defeat in Ohio". The Washington Post. March 6, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/kucinich-faces-uphill-battle-for-redistricted-seat/2012/03/05/gIQA6MFrvR_story.html
(16) Millhiser, Ian. "Texas Brags To Court That It Drew District Lines To ‘Increase The Republican Party’s Electoral Prospects’". Think Progress. August 14, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/08/14/2465761/texas-brags-to-court-that-it-gerrymandered-to-increase-the-republican-partys-electoral-prospects/
(17) Easley, Jason. "Republican Says 2014 Will Be Great Because Minorities and Young People Won’t Vote". PoliticsUSA. September 25th, 2013. http://www.politicususa.com/2013/09/25/republican-2014-great-year-minorities-young-people-vote.html
(18) Whitaker, Morgan. "Ohio GOP’s new plan to suppress the youth vote". MSNBC. May 02, 2013. http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/05/02/ohio-gops-new-plan-to-suppress-the-youth-vote/
(19) "Republican Contempt For Youth Voters Is Nothing New". Young Democrats of North Carolina. August 28, 2013. http://www.ydnc.org/2013/08/republican-contempt-for-youth-voters-is-nothing-new/
(20) King, Ryan S. "Expanding the Vote". The Sentencing Project. September, 2008. http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/fd_statedisenfranchisement.pdf
(21) Pilkington, Ed. "Felon voting laws to disenfranchise historic number of Americans in 2012". The Guardian. July 13, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/13/felon-voting-laws-disenfranchisement
The government shutdown got me thinking about food assistance.
Just a couple of week ago, Republicans in the House passed a bill which would massively cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.
House Republicans narrowly approved a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s food stamp program Thursday that would slash about $39 billion in funding over the next decade, cut aid to about 4 million Americans in the next few years and shift the burden of providing aid to some of the nation’s poor to state governments.(1)
Current funding for the SNAP program is safe throughout the length of the government shutdown, but other programs aren't.
Food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will not be interrupted by the shutdown. It’s funded through October by the 2009 Recovery Act. School lunches and breakfasts will continue to be served during October. The program known as WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) is in a tougher spot. No new funds will be available until a shutdown ends. Funds that states have on hand could “continue operations for a week or so,” the Agriculture Department says. The department’s own contingency funds would also help, but couldn’t cover the full month.(2)
With so many employees now furloughed due to the government shutdown, there will be many more people now in need of assistance as it becomes more difficult to pay bills. hundreds of thousands of government employees are expected to see paychecks delayed.(3) While Social Security and Medicare benefits will keep coming, there will be delays in processing new disability applications.(3) Senior nutrition grants, which provides meals for 2.5 million elderly Americans,(3) lose funding.
If you are one of the people who aren't too adversely affected by the government shutdown, please think about donating some money to a local food bank to help those in need.
Alternately, you could get involved with an organization like Food Not Bombs and help feed the hungry.
(1) O'Keefe, Ed and Chokshi, Niraj. "House approves GOP plan to slash food stamp funding". The Washington Post. September 19, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/09/19/house-approves-gop-plan-to-slash-food-stamp-funding/
(2) Trumbull, Mark. "How government shutdown affects benefits for seniors, poor, jobless, veterans (+video)". The Christian Science Monitor. October 1, 2013. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/2013/1001/How-government-shutdown-affects-benefits-for-seniors-poor-jobless-veterans-video
(3) Moya-Smith, Simon and Rafferty, Andrew. "A government shutdown: What could it look like?". NBC News. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/29/20745618-a-government-shutdown-what-could-it-look-like?lite
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