Pardon Me

Like so many aspects of this past Presidential election, it has become a mantra in the main stream media that our nation is now showing deep divisions.  In order to help “heal the country,” the thinking goes that the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, should be pardoned of any possible crimes she may have committed prior to the election. Bernie Sanders said that indicting Hillary Clinton would be an “outrage” beyond belief.

The quickest way to spawn divisions among people is to give special privileges to some that others go to jail for. To my libertarian mind, publicly prosecuting Hillary Clinton is actually what the nation needs.

As incredible as it sounds, the good ol’ USA, the land where any child can be President, has become a land of special privileges. Laws are made for personal economic or political gain all the time, and are sometimes ignored simply because the people they affect are something “big.” These are the people known as the too big to fail, and too big to jail.

You do not have to go far to find evidence of what I say. For a century big business has progressively cornered special protections in the law that if done by an individual would land them in jail. The privately owned Federal Reserve instantly creates currency and price fixes interest rates every day. One of the side effects of Obamacare was to create health insurance monopolies in thousands of counties where none existed before, driving out competition, and raising prices. HSBC Bank got the biggest fine in history for money laundering ($1.9 Billion when FBI director James Comey was on its Board, by the way) but none of the responsible officers went to jail. Similarly, the legacy of the trillions of dollars of fraud exposed after the 2008 financial meltdown was that no big company director went to jail anywhere. All of this is a little hard for the average American to take when they can go to jail for simply not getting a permit for a lemonade stand.

The crimes of Mrs. Clinton are even more direct. Any military member knows her violations of security protocols are the fast lane to a jail cell. A former Navy member is now serving hard time after arguing in court that there was no intent to violate security when he took unauthorized photographs. The parallel with the former Secretary of State is obvious. It didn’t help the Navy guy avoid the big house, and yet Hillary walks free.

The Rule of law is a funny thing. With it any country can have unity, even if the laws are draconian.  If the rule of law is based on maintaining individual rights, such as it used to be here, the stage is set for the maximum amount of personal happiness and prosperity. Without the rule of law everyone starts getting into the business of corrupting everyone else. Just look at President Obama who won’t force his Attorney General to act on evidence from an FBI director who cryptically won’t recommend charges about the President’s former Secretary of State, who committed acts that others are in jail for. Go figure.

There is an old military saying that it is good for morale for a general to die in the line of duty every now then. As heartless as that sounds, it makes it clear that everyone in the life and death world of military operations shares the same laws and are subject to the same risks; even those who give the orders. It builds confidence and trust in leadership. It shows that even in war there is a certain amount of equality between the most high and the very low. Although civilian leadership is less stressful, it would still be healthy for the country if Secretaries of State went to jail every now and then.

With all respect to Bernie, it is past time to end the double standards applied in the law in politics, economics or criminal prosecutions.

America needs to show itself, and the world, that it isn’t just the little guy that goes to jail.

 

 

 

Does The United States Still Exist?

An address delivered to the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party on March 23, 2016 in Destin, Florida

Paul Craig Roberts

To answer the question that is the title, we have to know of what the US consists. Is it an ethnic group, a collection of buildings and resources, a land mass with boundaries, or is it the Constitution. Clearly what differentiates the US from other countries is the US Constitution. The Constitution defines us as a people. Without the Constitution we would be a different country. Therefore, to lose the Constitution is to lose the country.

Does the Constitution still exist? Let us examine the document and come to a conclusion.

The Constitution consists of a description of a republic with three independent branches, legislative, executive, and judicial, each with its own powers, and the Bill of Rights incorporated as constitutional amendments. The Bill of Rights describes the civil liberties of citizens that cannot be violated by the government.

Article I of the Constitution describes legislative powers. Article II describes executive powers, and Article III describes the power of the judiciary. For example, Article I, Section 1 gives all legislative powers to Congress. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power to declare war.

The Bill of Rights protects citizens from the government by making law a shield of the people rather than a weapon in the hands of the government.

The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, the press, and assembly or public protest.

The Second Amendment gives the people the right “to keep and bear arms.”

The Third Amendment has to do with quartering of soldiers on civilians, a large complaint against King George III, but not a practice of present-day armies.

The Fourth Amendment grants “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” and prevents the issue of warrants except “upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The Fourth Amendment prevents police and prosecutors from going on “fishing expeditions” in an effort to find some offense with which to charge a targeted individual.

The Fifth Amendment prohibits double jeopardy, self-incrimination, the taking of life, liberty, or property without due process and the prohibition of seizing property without just compensation.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees speedy and public trial, requires that a defendent be informed of the charge against him and to be confronted with the witnesses, to present witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of an attorney.

The Seventh Amendment gives the right of trial by jury to civil suits.

The Eighth Amendment prevents excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishments.

The Ninth Amendment says that the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution does not deny or disparage others retained by the people. In other words, people have rights in addition to the those listed in the proscriptions against the government’s use of abusive power.

The Tenth Amendment reserves the rights not delegated to the federal government to the states.

The Tenth Amendment is a dead letter amendment. The Third Amendment protects against an abandoned abusive practice of government. The Seventh Amendment is still relevant as it allows damages in civil suits to be determined by a jury, once a protection against unfairness and today not always the case.

The other seven amendments comprise the major protections of civil liberty. I will examine them in turn, but first let’s look at Section 1 and Section 8 of Article I. These two articles describe the major powers of Congress, and both articles have been breached. The Constitution’s grant of “all legislative powers” to Congress has been overturned by executive orders and signing statements. The president can use executive orders to legislate, and he can use signing statements to render sections of laws passed by Congress and signed by the president into non-enforced status. Legislative authority has also been lost by delegating to executive branch officials the power to write the regulations that implement the laws that are passed. The right that Section 8 gives to Congress to declare war has been usurped by the executive branch. Thus, major powers given to Congress have been lost to the executive branch.

The First Amendment has been compromised by executive branch claims of “national security” and by extensive classification. Whistleblowers are relentlessly prosecuted despite federal laws protecting them. The right of assembly and public protest are overturned by arrests, tear gas, clubs, rubber bullets, water canons, and jail terms. Free speech is also limited by political correctness and taboo topics. Dissent shows signs of gradually becoming criminalized.

The Fourth Amendment is a dead letter amendment. In its place we have warrantless searches, SWAT team home invasions, strip and cavity searches, warrantless seizures of computers and cell phones, and the loss of all privacy to warrantless universal spying.

The Fifth Amendment is a dead letter amendment. The criminal justice system relies on self-incrimination as plea bargains are self-incrimination produced by psychological torture, and plea bargains are the basis of conviction in 97% of all felony cases. Moreover, physical torture is a feature of the “war on terror” despite its illegality under both US statute and international law and is also experienced by criminals in the US prison system.

The Fifth Amendment’s protection against deprivation of life, liberty, and property without due process of law has been lost to indefinite detention, executive assassination, and property takings without compensation. The Racketer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) passed in 1970. The act permits asset freezes, which are takings. The Comprehensive Forfeiture Act passed in 1984 and permits police to confiscate property on “probable cause,” which often means merely the presence of cash.

The Sixth Amendment is a dead letter amendment. Prosecutors routinely withhold exculpatory evidence, and judges at prosecutors’ requests have limited attorneys’ ability to defend clients.The “war on terror” has introduced secret evidence and secret witnesses, making it impossible for a defendant and his attorney to defend against the evidence.

The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of excessive bail and torture are routinely violated. It is another dead letter amendment.

It is paradoxical that every civil liberty in the Bill of Rights has been lost to a police state except for the Second Amendment, the gun rights of citizens. An armed citizenry is inconsistent with a police state, which the US now is.

Other aspects of our legal protections have been overturned, such as the long standing rule that crime requires intent. William Blackstone wrote: “An unwarrantable act without a vicious will is no crime at all.” But today we have crimes without intent. You can commit a crime and not even know it. See for example, Harvey Silverglate, Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.

Attorney-client privilege has been lost. The indictment, prosecution, and imprisonment of defense attorney Lynne Stewart is a good example. The DOJ prevailed on her to defend a blind Muslim regarded by the DOJ as a “terrorist.” She was informed that “special administrative measures” had been applied to her client. She received a letter from the federal prosecutor informing her that she and her client would not be permitted attorney-client privilege, and that she was required to permit the government to listen to her conversations with her client. She was told that she could not carry any communications from her client to the outside world. She regarded all this as illegal nonsense and proceeded to defend her client in accordance with attorney-client privilege. Lynne Stewart was convicted of violating a letter written by a prosecutor as if the prosecutor’s letter were a law passed by Congres and present in the US code. Based on a prosecutor’s letter, Lynne Stewart was sentenced to prison. No law exists that upholds her imprisonment.

Our civil liberties are often said to be “natural rights” to which we are entitled. However, in historical fact civil liberty is a human achievement that required centuries of struggle. The long struggle for accountable law that culminated in the Glorious Revolution in England in the late 17th century can be traced back to Alfred the Great’s codification of English common law in the 9th century and to the Magna Carter in the early 13th century. Instead of issuing kingly edicts, Alfred based law on the traditional customs and behavior of the people. The Glorious Revolution established the supremacy of the people over the law and held the king and government accountable to law. The United States and other former British colonies inherited this accomplishment, an accomplishment that makes law a shield of the people and not a weapon in the hands of the state.

Today law as a shield of the people has been lost. The loss was gradual over time and culminated in the George W. Bush and Obama regime assaults on habeas corpus and due process. Lawrence Stratton and I explain how the law was lost in our book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions. Beginning with Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century, liberals saw the protective shield of law as a constraint on the government’s ability to do good. Bentham redefined liberty as the freedom of government from restraint, not the freedom of people from government. Bentham’s influence grew over time until in our own day, to use the worlds of Sir Thomas More in A man for All Seasons, the law was cut down so as to better chase after devils.

We cut down the law so that we could better chase after the Mafia.
We cut down the law so that we could better chase after drug users.
We cut down the law so that we could better chase after child abusers.
We cut down the law so that we could better chase after “terrorists.”
We cut down the law so that we could better chase after whistleblowers.
We cut down the law so that we could better cover up the government’s crimes.

Today the law is cut down. Any one of us can be arrested on bogus charges and be helpless to do anything about it.

There is very little concern in legal circles about this. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) does attempt to defend civil liberty. However, just as often the ACLU is not defending the civil liberties in the Bill of Rights that protect us from the abuse of government power, but newly invented “civil rights” that are not in the Constitution, such as “abortion rights,” the right to homosexual marriage, and rights to preferential treatment for preferred minorities.

An attack on abortion rights, for example, produces a far greater outcry and resistance than the successful attack on habeas corpus and due process. President Obama was able to declare his power to execute citizens by executive branch decision alone without due process and conviction in court, and it produced barely audible protest.

Historically, a government that can, without due process, throw a citizen into a dungeon or summarily execute him is considered to be a tyranny, not a democracy. By any historical definition, the United States today is a tyranny.

Hope on the War Front

The people of the panhandle should be justly proud of their important role in defending our nation. All five of our armed services have missions in this area, and serving in the military is an esteemed part of thousands of local family histories.

I am not a soldier, but I can understand such pride. From my brother, who currently serves in the Army, to my grandfathers who served in the last century, I am honored to come from a long line of servicemen to the country; in fact, going all the way back to the Revolution. I deeply respect the sense of duty and commitment to the principles of our Constitution that are found in our military.

But things in the military are not as they used to be in our great Republic.

In 1776, our forefathers were fighting an imperial British occupation force in their own back yards. In 2011, our friends and loved ones are asked to fight a faceless enemy as an occupation force in foreign lands.

Why is that? America was attacked by terrorists on 9/11. The military mission was to bring to justice those who perpetrated this crime.

Osama bin Laden and his cronies are now dead. Enemy organizations have been shattered. Yet our military remains abroad, now engaged for over a decade.

The United States military now accounts for almost half of total world military spending, and is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world. During many missions, the U.S. cedes its military sovereignty to international organizations such as the UN and NATO, putting its troops under foreign commanders and foreign flags.

In an example of collateral damage, the war on terror became a pretext to expand government control, violate individual rights, and erode the Constitution at home. Since 2002 there are precedents for the assassination of U.S. citizens abroad without trial, a blatant violation of the Fifth Amendment. There are plans for virtually all travelers in our country to be routinely searched. The rule of law continues to be battered by a President who neither sought the Constitutionally-mandated approval of Congress to engage in war on Libya, nor complied with the War Powers Act passed by Congress. To cap it off, this week, the Senate is debating the National Defense Authorization Act (S.1867/H.1540) – a bill that will let the government use the military, as Congressman Justin Amash stated, to “indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil, without charge or trial, at the discretion of the President.” The House has already passed this bill.

Broad powers might not seem so bad when the custodian is someone you trust, and in the name of safety, but what happens if and when someone unchecked by conscience, the rule of law, and the Constitution takes office?

But take heart, because we are not there yet. We can still bring the troops home to reunite with their spouses, children, and families, by forcing Congress to uphold its Constitutional accountability for the wars. Our troops can rest and recuperate, in case the U.S. faced a legitimate threat, while spending their money here at home and spurring the domestic economy. We can cut the spending overseas and foreign aid by hundreds of billions of dollars per year. We can defend our own borders from illegal immigrants and Mexican drug cartel terrorists. All it takes is your voice.

America’s Founding Fathers envisioned a revolutionary ideology for the New World; one where the nation would refrain from offensive and interventionist wars, one where force would only be justified in defense against imminent attacks. Sadly, the U.S. today could not be further to the opposite side of the spectrum. Now fighting multiple wars in the Middle East with no real end in sight, the cost of incessant war is being unnecessarily paid every day with American lives and American dollars – blood and treasure.

How many veterans fought for more debt, less freedoms, and endless war?

This is not the nation America’s Founding Fathers envisioned. It is time to restore the U.S. military to its rightful place as the defender of sovereignty and beacon of liberty worldwide.

Calen Fretts is a candidate for Congress in the First District of Florida