PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have come to the defense of a Florida mother who was arrested and charged with child neglect for allowing her 7-year-old son to visit a neighborhood playground located a half mile from their house. For the so-called “crime” of allowing her son to play at the park unsupervised, Nicole Gainey was interrogated, arrested and handcuffed in front of her son, and transported to the local jail where she was physically searched, fingerprinted, photographed and held for seven hours and then forced to pay almost $4000 in bond in order to return to her family. Gainey’s family and friends were subsequently questioned by the Dept. of Child Services. Gainey now faces a third-degree criminal felony charge that carries with it a fine of up to $5,000 and 5 years in jail.

Insisting that parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children, which includes determining when their children are mature enough to play outside or walk to a neighborhood park by themselves, Rutherford Institute attorneys plan to demand that the charges against Gainey be dropped.

“What this incident and others like it taking place across the country make clear is that the theater of the absurd that passes for life in the American police state grows more tragic and incomprehensible by the day,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “While we all want to ensure that our young people are safe and protected, the government cannot usurp a parent’s right to determine what is appropriate for their children. Unless we put a stop to this ‘government-knows-best’ nanny state mindset now, we may soon find that we have no rights whatsoever in a society that is increasingly bureaucratic, legalistic, politically correct, self-righteous and unconcerned about individual rights.”

Watch the video here.

Nicole Gainey, a resident of Port St. Lucie, Fla., was arrested on Saturday, July 26, 2014, after allowing her 7-year-old son Dominic to walk by himself from their house to a popular neighborhood playground located a half mile away. According to Gainey, Dominic normally rides his bike (which was out of commission that day due to a flat tire) to Sportsmans’ Park, which is located along the same stretch of road as a fire station, community pool, library, church and a daycare. Dominic also rides his bike along that same route when going to school, which is two miles away, without anyone raising any concerns. As usual, Dominic carried a cell phone with him in order to check in with his mom. According to the 7-year-old, someone asked him where his mom was when he was walking past the pool. Police officers were called, went to the park, questioned Dominic, and then drove him home in their car, without alerting his mother that there was a concern or that they had picked up her son.

Upon arriving at Gainey’s home, officers questioned the single mother about her son’s whereabouts, without informing her that they had picked him up. The police then arrested Gainey, charged her with neglect, and took her to the local jail, where she was physically searched, fingerprinted, photographed and held for seven hours and then forced to pay almost $4000 in bond in order to return to her family. Gainey’s son was allowed to stay with her boyfriend in lieu of going to foster care.

In coming to Gainey’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys plan to challenge the arrest and charges, in light of the fact that there is no law specifying how old a child has to be before he or she can go somewhere unsupervised. State officials are allowed discretion to determine what is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Institute attorneys argue that parents have every right to make their own determinations about when their children are mature enough and responsible enough to be permitted to safely play outside by themselves, wait in the car by themselves or walk to a neighborhood park unsupervised.

NEWARK, N.J. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked a federal court to hold a New Jersey school superintendent and “Bullying Specialist” accountable for unreasonably enforcing the state’s anti-bullying law as an unconstitutional restraint on students’ free speech rights. The Rutherford Institute’s brief comes in response to a federal judge’s question as to whether the individual defendants should be dismissed from the lawsuit.

Institute attorneys argue that the “Bullying Specialist” and Superintendent’s discretionary enforcement of the state’s anti-bullying act represents a violation of the student’s due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and a violation of his free speech rights under New Jersey’s state constitution, and that school officials should be held accountable for their actions in enforcing the district policy. Institute attorneys filed the free speech lawsuit in December 2013 on behalf of a 4th grade boy who was punished under state’s anti-bullying law for truthfully stating that a fellow student had head lice.

“School administrators who engage in a pattern of overreach, effectively criminalizing student speech, must be held accountable,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “While administrators face a difficult task in providing a safe learning environment for our children, they must not enforce rules at the cost of running afoul of the Constitution’s protections for free speech and expression.”

In 2011, New Jersey amended its bullying law with sweeping reforms that significantly impacted student speech rights. Under the new law, the state created new “Anti-Bullying Specialist” positions in each district, who were responsible for identifying and reporting “harassment, intimidation or bullying” violations by students. Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the law’s scope is unconstitutionally broad and the language is too vague to give parents or students adequate notice about what statements will or will not be prohibited.

For example, Institute attorneys pointed to an incident that took place in September 2011, when a 4th grade boy was punished under the act for correctly stating that a fellow student had head lice, despite the fact that a few days earlier, school officials had sent a note home to parents warning them that one of the students had head lice. In a subsequent conversation among several students, one student asked a female student why she had dyed her hair. After she failed to respond to the question, one young boy, L.L., correctly replied that she had done so because she was the student who had head lice. The female student complained to the teacher who in turn instructed L.L. to apologize. The teacher then reported the incident to the school’s “Anti-Bullying Specialist,” who filled out a bullying report and reported to the Superintendent. The student was subsequently forced to undergo a special sensitivity assignment, and the entire class was reminded about the need to be kind to each other, which further embarrassed the fourth grader.

L.L.’s parents appealed the bullying determination first with the local school board, and then with the state Board of Education, both of which affirmed the decision. Arguing that the statute punishes any speech deemed “hurtful,” even if factually true and non-disruptive, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute filed a free speech lawsuit in federal court, asking that the statute be struck down, and that students like L.L. not be penalized for exercising their constitutional rights. Affiliate attorney Mike Daily is assisting in the case.

“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”—C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Whether it’s the working mother arrested for letting her 9-year-old play unsupervised at a playground, the teenager forced to have his genitals photographed by police, the underage burglar sentenced to 23 years for shooting a retired police dog, or the 43-year-old man who died of a heart attack after being put in a chokehold by NYPD officers allegedly over the sale of untaxed cigarettes, the theater of the absurd that passes for life in the American police state grows more tragic and incomprehensible by the day.

Debra Harrell, a 46-year-old South Carolina working mother, was arrested, charged with abandonment and had her child placed in state custody after allowing the 9-year-old to spend unsupervised time at a neighborhood playground while the mom worked a shift at McDonald’s. Mind you, the child asked to play outside, was given a cell phone in case she needed to reach someone, and the park—a stone’s throw from the mom’s place of work—was overrun with kids enjoying its swings, splash pad, and shade.

A Connecticut mother was charged with leaving her 11-year-old daughter in the car unsupervised while she ran inside a store—despite the fact that the child asked to stay in the car and was not overheated or in distress. A few states away, a New Jersey man was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of his children after leaving them in a car parked in a police station parking lot, windows rolled down, while he ran inside to pay a ticket.

A Virginia teenager was charged with violating the state’s sexting law after exchanging sexually provocative videos with his girlfriend. Instead of insisting that the matter be dealt with as a matter of parental concern, police charged the boy with manufacturing and distributing child pornography and issued a search warrant to “medically induce an erection” in the 17-year-old boy in order to photograph his erect penis and compare it to the images sent in the sexting exchange.  The police had already taken an initial photograph of the boy’s penis against his will, upon his arrest.

In Georgia, a toddler had his face severely burned when a flash bang grenade, launched by a SWAT team during the course of a no-knock warrant, landed in his portable crib, detonating on his pillow. Also in Georgia, a police officer shot and killed a 17-year-old boy who answered the door, reportedly with a Nintendo Wii controller in his hands. The cop claimed the teenager pointed a gun at her, thereby justifying the use of deadly force. Then there was the incident wherein a police officer, responding to a complaint that some children were “chopping off tree limbs” creating “tripping hazards,” pulled a gun on a group of 11-year-old boys who were playing in a wooded area, attempting to build a tree fort.

While the growing phenomenon of cops shooting family pets only adds to the insanity (it is estimated that a family pet is killed by law enforcement every 98 minutes in America), it’s worse for those who dare to shoot a police dog. Ivins Rosier was 16 when he broke into the home of a Florida highway patrol officer and shot (although he didn’t kill) the man’s retired police dog. For his crime, the teenager was sentenced to 23 years in prison, all the while police officers who shoot family pets are rarely reprimanded.

Meanwhile if you’re one of those hoping to live off the grid, independent of city resources, you might want to think again. Florida resident Robin Speronis was threatened with eviction for living without utilities. Speronis was accused of violating the International Property Maintenance Code by relying on rain water instead of the city water system and solar panels instead of the electric grid.

Now we can shrug these incidents off as isolated injustices happening to “other” people. We can rationalize them away by suggesting that these people “must” have done something to warrant such treatment. Or we can acknowledge that this slide into totalitarianism—helped along by overcriminalization, government surveillance, militarized police, neighbors turning in neighbors, privatized prisons, and forced labor camps, to name just a few similarities—is tracking very closely with what we saw happening in Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

When all is said and done, what these incidents reflect is a society that has become so bureaucratic, so legalistic, so politically correct, so militaristic, so locked down, so self righteous, and so willing to march in lockstep with the corporate-minded police state that any deviations from the norm—especially those that offend the sensibilities of the “government-knows-best” nanny state or challenge the powers that be—become grist for prosecution, persecution and endless tribulations for the poor souls who are caught in the crosshairs.

Then there are the incidents, less colorful perhaps but no less offensive to the sensibilities of any freedom-loving individual, which should arouse outrage among the populace but often slip under the radar of a sleeping nation.

For instance, not only is the NSA spying on and collecting the content of your communications, but it’s also going to extreme lengths to label as “extremists” anyone who attempts to protect their emails from the government’s prying eyes. Adding insult to injury, those same government employees and contractors spying on Americans’ private electronic communications are also ogling their private photos. Recent revelations indicate that NSA employees routinely pass around intercepted nude photos, considered a “fringe benefit” of surveillance positions.

A trove of leaked documents reveals the government’s unmitigated gall in labeling Americans as terrorists for little more than being suspected of committing “any act that is ‘dangerous’ to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.” As The Intercept reports: “This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets.” All the while, the TSA, despite the billions of dollars we spend on the agency annually and the liberties to which its agents subject travelers, has yet to catch a single terrorist.

No less disconcerting are the rash of incidents in which undercover government agents encourage individuals to commit crimes they might not have engaged in otherwise. This “make work” entrapment scheme runs the gamut from terrorism to drugs. In fact, a recent report released by Human Rights Watch reveals that “nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the ‘direct involvement’ of government agents or informants.”

Most outrageous of all are the asset forfeiture laws that empower law enforcement to rake in huge sums of money by confiscating cash, cars, and even homes based on little more than a suspicion of wrongdoing. In this way, Americans who haven’t been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of wrongdoing, are literally being subjected to highway robbery by government agents offering profit-driven, cash-for-freedom deals.

So who or what is to blame for this bureaucratic nightmare delivered by way of the police state? Is it the White House? Is it Congress? Is it the Department of Homeland Security, with its mobster mindset? Is it some shadowy, power-hungry entity operating off a nefarious plan?

Or is it, as Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt suggests, the sheepish masses who mindlessly march in lockstep with the government’s dictates—expressing no outrage, demanding no reform, and issuing no challenge to the status quo—who are to blame for the prison walls being erected around us? The author of The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt warned that “the greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

This is where democracy falls to ruin, and bureaucracy and tyranny prevail.

 

A Government of Wolves book coverAs I make clear in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we have only ourselves to blame for this bureaucratic hell that has grown up around us. Too many of us willingly, knowingly and deliberately comprise what Arendt refers to as “cogs in the mass-murder machine.”

These cogs are none other than those of us who have turned a blind eye to the government corruption, or shrugged dismissively at the ongoing injustices, or tuned out the mayhem in favor of entertainment distractions. Just as guilty are those who have traded in their freedoms for a phantom promise of security, not to mention those who feed the machine unquestioningly with their tax dollars and partisan politics.

And then there are those who work for the government, federal, state, local or contractor. These government employees—the soldiers, the cops, the technicians, the social workers, etc.—are neither evil nor sadistic. They’re simply minions being paid to do a job, whether that job is to arrest you, spy on you, investigate you, crash through your door, etc. However, we would do well to remember that those who worked at the concentration camps and ferried the victims to the gas chambers were also just “doing their jobs.”

Then again, if we must blame anyone, blame the faceless, nameless, bureaucratic government machine—which having been erected and set into motion is nearly impossible to shut down—for the relentless erosion of our freedoms through a million laws, statutes, and prohibitions.

If there is any glimmer of hope to be found, it will be at the local level, but we cannot wait for things to get completely out of control. If you wait to act until the SWAT team is crashing through your door, until your name is placed on a terror watch list, until you are reported for such outlawed activities as collecting rainwater or letting your children play outside unsupervised, then it will be too late.

Obedience is the precondition to totalitarianism, and the precondition to obedience is fear. Regimes of the past and present understand this. “The very first essential for success,” Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.” Is this not what we are seeing now with the SWAT teams and the security checkpoints and the endless wars?

This much I know: we are not faceless numbers. We are not cogs in the machine. We are not slaves. We are people, and free people at that. As the Founders understood, our freedoms do not flow from the government. They were not given to us, to be taken away at the will of the State; they are inherently ours. In the same way, the government’s appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.

Until we can get back to this way of thinking, until we can remind Americans what it really means to be a free American, and learn to stand our ground in the face of threats to those freedoms, and encourage our fellow citizens to stop being cogs in the machine, we will continue as slaves in thrall to the bureaucratic police state.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Citing restrictive legislation, disparate rulings by the various circuit courts, and the Supreme Court’s own unclear guidance, which have all combined to undermine the rights of prisoners to receive a fair and final review of their constitutional claims, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to remove unconstitutional roadblocks faced by state prisoners throughout the country in challenging their convictions in federal court.

In weighing in on the case of Jackie Ray King v. Mary Berghuis, Rutherford Institute attorneys point out that the federal courts have conflicting standards for what a person must do to “exhaust” his constitutional claims. Thus, depending on which judicial circuit hears a case, an accused might be subjected to unequal applications of what it means to present or “exhaust” one’s constitutional claim in the state courts. Jackie Ray King v. Mary Berghuis deals with the habeas corpus petition of a Michigan prisoner who was ordered to serve his sentences consecutively, rather than concurrently as agreed to in his plea deal, resulting in an increase of over 30 years in his prison time.

“The historical English Writ of habeas corpus has protected the rights of the convicted for hundreds of years, granting them one final opportunity to ensure that justice is indeed being served,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “Given the paramount importance of this right, it is our hope that the Supreme Court will adopt a consistent standard that guarantees all American prisoners a fair and full final review of their constitutional claims.”

Both the U.S. Constitution and federal statutory law allow persons who are in the custody of a state under a criminal conviction to ask the federal courts to review the legality of the confinement and whether a violation of the prisoner’s constitutional rights has occurred. These habeas corpus actions, also known as the “Great Writ,” have for centuries been applied as a bulwark against restraints on liberty resulting from fundamentally flawed criminal convictions. However, Congress has adopted restrictions on the right of prisoners to petition a federal court for relief, including a requirement that an application for habeas corpus shall not be granted unless “[t]he applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State[.]” Exhaustion includes the requirement that the prisoner have “fairly presented” the “substance” of his federal constitutional claim to the state courts.

King brought a habeas corpus petition in the federal courts alleging that his agreement to plead guilty was based on a promise that his sentence would be served concurrently with any sentence on another charge, but the state court ordered the sentences be served consecutively, resulting in an increase of over 30 years in his prison time. King argued in state court proceedings that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary and violated the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, but the state courts ruled against him. When King presented this claim to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, that court refused to hear the merits ruling that King had not fairly presented his federal claim to the state courts because he had not cited a specific Supreme Court decision.

In asking that the U.S. Supreme Court review and overturn the court of appeals’ decision, Rutherford Institute attorneys point to decisions of federal courts around the country showing that there is no consistency in the standard applied in determining whether a prisoner exhausted his federal claim. The amicus brief asks the Court to establish a uniform standard for prisoners and attorneys to follow to “ensure that habeas corpus proceedings are not rendered inaccessible to deserving petitioners solely on the basis of inflexible procedural traps.” Attorney Ross W. Bergethon of Atlanta, Georgia, assisted The Rutherford Institute in advancing the arguments in the amicus brief before the Supreme Court.

What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else.” —Author Tom Clancy

Call it what you will—taxes, penalties, fees, fines, regulations, tariffs, tickets, permits, surcharges, tolls, asset forfeitures, foreclosures, etc.—but the only word that truly describes the constant bilking of the American taxpayer by the government and its corporate partners is theft.

We’re operating in a topsy-turvy Sherwood Forest where instead of Robin Hood and his merry band of thieves stealing from the rich to feed the poor, you’ve got the government and its merry band of corporate thieves stealing from the poor to fatten the wallets of the rich. In this way, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. All the while, the American Dream of peace, prosperity, and liberty has turned into a nightmare of endless wars, debilitating debt, and outright tyranny.

What Americans don’t seem to comprehend is that if the government can arbitrarily take away your property, without your having much say about it, you have no true rights. You’re nothing more than a serf or a slave.

In this way, the police state with all of its trappings—from surveillance cameras, militarized police, SWAT team raids, truancy and zero tolerance policies, asset forfeiture laws, privatized prisons and red light cameras to Sting Ray guns, fusion centers, drones, black boxes, hollow-point bullets, detention centers, speed traps and abundance of laws criminalizing otherwise legitimate conduct—is little more than a front for a high-dollar covert operation aimed at laundering as much money as possible through government agencies and into the bank accounts of corporations.

The rationalizations for the American police state are many. There’s the so-called threat of terrorism, the ongoing Drug War, the influx of illegal immigrants, the threat of civil unrest in the face of economic collapse, etc. However, these rationalizations are merely excuses for the growth of a government behemoth, one which works hand in hand with corporations to profit from a society kept under lockdown and in fear at all times.

Indeed, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the real motivating factor behind erecting a police state is not to protect the people, but to further enrich the powerful. Consider the following costly line items, all part of the government’s so-called quest to keep us safe and fight terrorism while entrenching the police state, enriching the elite, and further shredding our constitutional rights:

$4.2 billion for militarized police. Almost 13,000 agencies in all 50 states and four U.S. territories participate in a military “recycling” program which allows the Defense Department to transfer surplus military hardware to local and state police. In 2012 alone, $546 million worth of military equipment was distributed to law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

$34 billion for police departments to add to their arsenals of weapons and equipment. Since President Obama took office, police departments across the country “have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”While police departments like to frame the acquisition of military surplus as a money-saving method, in a twisted sort of double jeopardy, the taxpayer ends up footing a bigger bill. First, taxpayers are forced to pay millions of dollars for equipment which the Defense Department purchases from megacorporations only to abandon after a few years. Then taxpayers find themselves footing the bill to maintain the costly equipment once it has been acquired by the local police.

$6 billion in assets seized by the federal government in one year alone. Relying on the topsy-turvy legal theory that one’s property can not only be guilty of a crime but is also guilty until proven innocent, government agencies have eagerly cashed in on the civil asset forfeiture revenue scheme, which allows police to seize private property they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the cops keeps the citizen’s property. Eighty percent of these asset forfeiture cases result in no charge against the property owner. Some states are actually considering expanding the use of asset forfeiture laws to include petty misdemeanors. This would mean that property could be seized in cases of minor crimes such as harassment, possession of small amounts of marijuana, and trespassing in a public park after dark.

$11,000 per hour for a SWAT team raid on a government dissident. The raid was carried out against Terry Porter, a Maryland resident who runs a welding business, is married with three kids, is outspoken about his views of the government, and has been labeled a prepper because he has an underground bunker and food supplies in case things turn apocalyptic. The raiding team included “150 Maryland State Police, FBI, State Fire Marshal’s bomb squad and County SWAT teams, complete with two police helicopters, two Bearcat ‘special response’ vehicles, mobile command posts, snipers, police dogs, bomb disposal truck, bomb sniffing robots and a huge excavator. They even brought in food trucks.”

$3.8 billion requested by the Obama administration to send more immigration judges to the southern border, build additional detention camps and add border patrol agents. Border Patrol agents are already allowed to search people’s homes, intimately probe their bodies, and rifle through their belongings, all without a warrant. As one journalist put it, “The surveillance apparatus is in your face. The high-powered cameras are pointed at you; the drones are above you; you’re stopped regularly at checkpoints and interrogated.” For example, an American citizen entering the U.S. from Mexico was subjected to a full-body cavity search in which she was subjected to a variety of invasive procedures, including an observed bowel movement and a CT scan, all because a drug dog jumped on her when she was going through border security. Physicians found no drugs hidden in her body.

$61 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, one of the most notoriously bloated government agencies ever created. The third largest federal agency behind the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, the DHS—with its 240,000 full-time workers and sub-agencies—has been aptly dubbed a “runaway train.”

$80 billion spent on incarceration by the states and the federal government in 2010. While providing security, housing, food, medical care, etc., for six million Americans is a hardship for cash-strapped states, it’s a gold mine to profit-hungry corporations such as Corrections Corp of America and GEO Group, the leaders in the partnership corrections industry. Thus, with an eye toward increasing its bottom line, CCA has floated a proposal to prison officials in 48 states offering to buy and manage public prisons at a substantial cost savings to the states. In exchange, the prisons would have to contain at least 1,000 beds and states would have to maintain a 90% occupancy rate for at least 20 years. This has led to the phenomenon of overcriminalization of everyday activities, in which mundane activities such as growing vegetables in your yard or collecting rainwater on your property are criminalized, resulting in jail sentences for individuals who might otherwise have never seen the inside of a jail cell.

$6.4 billion a year for the Bureau of Prisons and $30,000 a year to house an inmate. There are over 3,000 people in America serving life sentences for non-violent crimes. These include theft of a jacket, siphoning gasoline from a truck, stealing tools, and attempting to cash a stolen check. Most of the non-violent offenses which triggered life sentences were drug crimes involving trace amounts of heroin and cocaine. One person imprisoned for life was merely a go-between for an undercover officer buying ten dollars’ worth of marijuana. California has more money devoted to its prison system than its system of education. State spending on incarceration is the fastest growing budget item besides Medicaid.

93 cents an hour for forced, prison labor in service to for-profit corporations such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Walmart, and Victoria’s Secret. What this forced labor scheme has created, indirectly or not, is a financial incentive for both the corporations and government agencies to keep the prisons full to capacity. A good portion of the 2 million prisoners in public facilities are forced to work for corporations, making products on the cheap, undermining free laborers, and increasing the bottom line for many of America’s most popular brands. “Prison labor reportedly produces 100 percent of military helmets, shirts, pants, tents, bags, canteens, and a variety of other equipment. Prison labor makes circuit boards for IBM, Texas Instruments, and Dell. Many McDonald’s uniforms are sewn by inmates. Other corporations—Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret, Boeing, Motorola, Compaq, Revlon, and Kmart—also benefit from prison labor.”

$2.6 million pocketed by Pennsylvania judges who were paid to jail youths and send them to private prison facilities. The judges, paid off by the Mid Atlantic Youth Service Corporation, which specializes in private prisons for juvenile offenders, had more than 5,000 kids come through their courtrooms and sent many of them to prison for petty crimes such as stealing DVDs from Wal-Mart and trespassing in vacant buildings.

$1.4 billion per year reportedly lost to truancy by California school districts, which receive government funding based on student attendance. The so-called “solution” to student absences from school, has proven to be a financial windfall for cash-strapped schools, enabling them to rake in millions, fine parents up to $500 for each unexcused absence, with the potential for jail time, and has given rise to a whole new track in the criminal justice system devoted to creating new revenue streams for communities. For example, Eileen DiNino, a woman serving a two-day jail sentence for her children’s truancy violations, died while in custody. She is one of hundreds of people jailed in Pennsylvania over their inability to pay fines related to truancy, which include a variety of arbitrary fees meant to rack up money for the courts. For example, “[DiNino’s] bill included a laundry list of routine fees: $8 for a “judicial computer project”; $60 for Berks constables; $40 for “summary costs” for several court offices; and $10 for postage.” So even if one is charged with a $20 fine, they may end up finding themselves on the hook for $150 in court fees.

$84.9 million collected in one year by the District of Columbia as a result of tickets issued by speeding and traffic light cameras stationed around the city. Multiply that income hundreds of times over to account for the growing number of localities latching onto these revenue-generating, photo-enforced camera schemes, and you’ll understand why community governments and police agencies are lining up in droves to install them, despite reports of wide scale corruption by the companies operating the cameras. Although nine states have banned the cameras, they’re in 24 states already and rising.

$1.4 billion for fusion centers. These fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance and intelligence efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, have proven to be exercises in incompetence, often producing irrelevant, useless or inappropriate intelligence, while spending millions of dollars on “flat-screen televisions, sport utility vehicles, hidden cameras and other gadgets.”

In sum, the American police state is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle, meant to keep the property and the resources of the American people flowing into corrupt government agencies and their corporate partners. For those with any accounting ability, it’s clear that the total sum of the expenses being charged to the American taxpayer’s account by the government add up to only one thing: the loss of our freedoms. It’s time to seriously consider a plan to begin de-funding this beast and keeping our resources where they belong: in our communities, working for us.

Direct Action Against War

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”―Edward Abbey, American author

There’s a lot to love about America and its people: their pioneering spirit, their entrepreneurship, their ability to think outside the box, their passion for the arts, etc. Increasingly, however, as time goes by, I find the things I don’t like about living in a nation that has long since ceased to be a sanctuary for freedom are beginning to outnumber the things I love.

Here’s what I don’t like about living in the American police state: I don’t like being treated as if my only value to the government is as a source of labor and funds. I don’t like being viewed as a consumer and bits of data. I don’t like being spied on and treated as if I have no right to privacy, especially in my own home.

I don’t like government officials who lobby for my vote only to ignore me once elected. I don’t like having representatives incapable of and unwilling to represent me. I don’t like taxation without representation.

I don’t like being bullied by government bureaucrats, vigilantes masquerading as cops, or faceless technicians. I don’t like being railroaded into financing government programs whose only purpose is to increase the power and wealth of the corporate elite. I don’t like being forced to pay for wars abroad that serve no other purpose except to expand the reach of the military industrial complex.

I don’t like being subjected to scans, searches, pat downs and other indignities by the TSA. I don’t like VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets like shopping malls and bus depots by black-clad, Darth Vader look-alikes. I don’t like fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement.

I don’t like being treated like an underling by government agents who are supposed to be working for me. I don’t like being threatened, intimidated, bribed, beaten and robbed by individuals entrusted with safeguarding my rights. I don’t like being silenced, censored and marginalized. I don’t like my movements being tracked, my conversations being recorded, and my transactions being catalogued.

I don’t like how the presidency has developed into a neo-monarchy replete with all the luxury and lasciviousness of the feudal lords of old.

I don’t like politicians who spend most of their time running for office, fundraising and enjoying being feted by lobbyists and corporations alike. I don’t like being kept at a distance from my elected representatives, including the president (a.k.a. the Emperor). I don’t like free speech zones, roving bubble zones and trespass laws that restrict Americans’ First Amendment rights.

I don’t like laws that criminalize Americans for otherwise lawful activities such as holding religious studies at home, growing vegetables in their yard, and collecting rainwater. I don’t like the NDAA, which allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely. I don’t like the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.

I don’t like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has become America’s standing army in direct opposition to the dire warnings of those who founded our country. I don’t like military weapons such as armored vehicles, sound cannons and the like being used against the American citizens. I don’t like government agencies such as the DHS, Post Office, Social Security Administration and Wildlife stocking up on hollow-point bullets. And I definitely don’t like the implications of detention centers being built that could house American citizens.

I don’t like the fact that since President Obama took office, police departments across the country “have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.”

I don’t like America’s infatuation with locking people up for life for non-violent crimes. There are over 3,000 people in America serving life sentences for non-violent crimes, including theft of a jacket, siphoning gasoline from a truck, stealing tools, and attempting to cash a stolen check. I don’t like paying roughly $29,000 a year per inmate just to keep these nonviolent offenders in prison.

I don’t like having my hard-earned taxpayer dollars used against me.

I don’t like the partisan nature of politics today, which has so polarized Americans that they are incapable of standing in unity against the government’s abuses. I don’t like the entertainment drivel that passes for news coverage today.

I don’t like the fact that those within a 25-mile range of the border are getting a front row seat to the American police state, as Border Patrol agents are now allowed to search people’s homes, intimately probe their bodies, and rifle through their belongings, all without a warrant.

I don’t like public schools that treat students as if they were prison inmates. I don’t like zero tolerance laws that criminalize childish behavior. I don’t like a public educational system that emphasizes rote memorization and test-taking over learning, synthesizing and critical thinking.

I don’t like police precincts whose primary purpose—whether through the use of asset forfeiture laws, speed traps, or red light cameras—is making a profit at the expense of those they have sworn to protect. I don’t like militarized police and their onerous SWAT team raids.

I don’t like Department of Defense and DHS programs that transfer surplus military hardware to local and state police. I don’t like government programs that reward cops for raiding homes and terrorizing homeowners. I don’t like local police dressing and acting as if they were the military while viewing me as an enemy combatant.

I don’t like being treated as if I have no rights.

I don’t like cash-strapped states cutting deals with private corporations to run the prisons in exchange for maintaining 90% occupancy rates for at least 20 years. I don’t like the fact that American prisons have become the source of cheap labor for Corporate America.

I don’t like feeling as if we’ve come full circle back to a pre-Revolutionary era.

I don’t like answering to an imperial president, who operates above the law. I don’t like the injustice that passes for justice in the courts. I don’t like prosecutors so hell bent on winning that they allow innocent people to suffer for crimes they didn’t commit.

I don’t like the double standards that allow government officials to break laws with immunity, while average Americans get the book thrown at them. I don’t like cops who shoot first and ask questions later. I don’t like police dogs being treated with more respect and afforded more rights than American citizens.

I don’t like living in a suspect society. I don’t like Americans being assumed guilty until they prove their innocence. I don’t like the fact that 38 states require that a property owner prove his innocence when police have laid claim to it in a civil forfeiture proceeding, whether or not that individual has done anything wrong.

I don’t like technology being used as a double-edged sword against us. I don’t like agencies like DARPA developing weapons for the battlefield that get used against Americans back at home. I don’t like the fact that drones will be deployed domestically in 2015, yet the government has yet to establish any civil liberties protocols to prevent them from being used against the citizenry.

Most of all, I don’t like feeling as if there’s no hope for turning things around.

Now there are those who would suggest that if I don’t like things about this country, I should leave and go elsewhere. And there are certainly those among my fellow citizens who are leaving for friendlier shores. However, I happen to come from a long line of people who believe in the virtue of hard work and perseverance and in the principle that nothing worthwhile comes without effort.

So I’m not giving up, at least not anytime soon. But I’m also not waiting around for the government to clean up its act. I’m not making any deals with politicians who care nothing about me and mine. To quote Number Six, the character in the British television series The Prisoner: “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own!”

I plan to keep fighting, writing, speaking up, speaking out, shouting if necessary, filing lawsuits, challenging the status quo, writing letters to the editor, holding my representatives accountable, thinking nationally but acting locally, and generally raising a ruckus anytime the government attempts to undermine the Constitution and ride roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.

As I make clear in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we’re at a crisis point in American history. If we don’t get up off our duffs and get involved in the fight for freedom, then up ahead the graveyard beckons. As Martin Luther King Jr. warned, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”

financial crisis

“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself…Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”—H.L. Mencken, American journalist

It’s vogue, trendy and appropriate to look to dystopian literature as a harbinger of what we’re experiencing at the hands of the government. Certainly, George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm have much to say about government tyranny, corruption, and control, as does Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report. Yet there are also older, simpler, more timeless stories—folk tales and fairy tales—that speak just as powerfully to the follies and foibles in our nature as citizens and rulers alike that give rise to tyrants and dictatorships.

One such tale, Hans Christian Andersen’s fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes, is a perfect paradigm of life today in the fiefdom that is the American police state, only instead of an imperial president spending money wantonly on lavish vacations, entertainment, and questionable government programs aimed at amassing greater power, Andersen presents us with a vain and thoughtless emperor, concerned only with satisfying his own needs at the expense of his people, even when it means taxing them unmercifully, bankrupting his kingdom, and harshly punishing his people for daring to challenge his edicts.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, the Emperor, a vain peacock of a man, is conned into buying a prohibitively expensive suit of clothes that is supposedly visible only to those who are smart, competent and well-suited to their positions. Surrounded by yes men, professional flatterers and career politicians who fawn, simper and genuflect, the Emperor—arrogant, pompous and oblivious to his nudity—prances through the town in his new suit of clothes until a child dares to voice what everyone else has been thinking but too afraid to say lest they be thought stupid or incompetent: “He isn’t wearing anything at all!”

Much like the people of the Emperor’s kingdom, we, too, have been conned into believing that if we say what we fear, if we dare to suggest that something is indeed “rotten in the state of Denmark,” we will be branded idiots and fools by the bureaucrats, corporate heads, governmental elites and media hotshots who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo—or who at least are determined to maintain the façade that is the status quo. Yet the truth is staring us in the face just as surely as the fact that the Emperor was wearing no clothes.

Truth #1: The U.S. is on the brink of bankruptcy, as many economists have been warning for some time now, with more than $16 trillion in debts owned by foreign nationals and corporations. As one financial news site reports: “Internationally, the world is fed up with The Fed and the U.S. government’s unabashed debt growth. China, Russia, Iran, India and a host of other countries are establishing trade relationships that are bypassing the U.S. dollar altogether, a move that will soon see the world’s reserve currency lose purchasing power and status. In anticipation of this imminent collapse gold is being hoarded by private and public entities from Berlin to Beijing in an effort to preserve wealth before the Tsunami hits.”

Truth #2: We no longer have a government that is “of the people, for the people and by the people.” What we have now is a feudal monarchy, run by wealthy overlords and financed with the blood, sweat and labor of the underclasses who are kept in check by the increasingly militarized police. This sorry state of affairs is reinforced by a study which found that average citizens have “little or no independent influence” on the policy-making process. A similar study published by the Political Research Quarterly revealed that members of the U.S. Senate represent their wealthiest constituents while ignoring those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

Truth #3: Far from being a benevolent entity concerned with the well-being of its citizens, whether in matters of health, safety or security, the government is concerned with three things only: power, control and money. As an often quoted adage says, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Unfortunately, the master-servant relationship that once had the government answering to “we the people” has been reversed. Government agents now act as if they are the masters and we are the servants. Nowhere is this more evident than in the transformation of police officers from benevolent keepers of the peace to inflexible extensions of the military hyped up on the power of their badge.

Truth #4: Our primary use to the government is as consumers, worker bees and bits of data to be collected, catalogued, controlled, mined for information, and sold to the highest bidder. Working in cahoots with corporations, the government has given itself carte blanche access to our phone calls, emails, bank transactions, physical movements, even our travels on foot or in our cars. Cybersecurity expert Richard Clarke envisions a future where data about every aspect of our lives will be collected and analyzed. Thus, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court might have said to the contrary, the government no longer needs a warrant to spy on your cell phone activity or anything else for that matter. As the Washington Post recently revealed, 9 out of 10 people caught up in the NSA’s surveillance net had done nothing wrong to justify such intrusions on their privacy. Clearly, the government now operates relatively autonomously, answering only to itself and unbridled by the courts, Congress, the will of the people or the Constitution.

Truth #5: Whatever problems we are grappling with in regards to illegal immigrants flooding over the borders has little to do with the fact that the borders are porous and everything to do with the government’s own questionable agenda. How is it that a government capable of locking down roads, open seas, and air routes is unable to prevent tens of thousands of women and children from crossing into the U.S. illegally? Conveniently, the Obama administration is asking Congress for $3.8 billion in emergency funding to send more immigration judges to the southern border, build additional detention facilities and add border patrol agents. The funds would be managed by the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, State and Health and Human Services, the very same agencies responsible for bringing about a rapid shift into a police state.

Truth #6: The U.S. government is preparing for massive domestic unrest, arising most likely from an economic meltdown. The government has repeatedly made clear its intentions, through its U.S. Army War College report alerting the military to prepare for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,” through its ongoing military drills in cities across the country, through its profiling of potential homegrown “dissidents” or extremists, and through the proliferation of detention centers being built across the country.

Truth #7: As Gerald Ford warned, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” Too often, Americans have fallen prey to the temptation to let the government take care of whatever ails them, whether it be financial concerns, health needs, childcare. As a result, we now find ourselves caught in a Catch-22 situation wherein the government’s so-called solutions to our problems have led to even graver problems. In this way, zero tolerance policies intended to outlaw drugs and weapons in schools result in young children being arrested and kicked out of school for childish behavior such as drawing pictures of soldiers and crying too much; truancy laws intended to keep students in school have resulted in parents being arrested and fined excessively; and zoning laws intended to protect homeowners have been used to prosecute residents who attempt to live off the grid.

Truth #8: The U.S. is following the Nazi blueprint to a “t,” whether through its storm trooper-like police in the form of heavily armed government agents, to its erection of an electronic concentration camp that not only threatens to engulf America but the rest of the world as well via NSA surveillance programs such as Five Eyes. Most damning of all is the Department of Homeland Security’s self-appointed role as a national police force, a.k.a. standing army, the fundamental and final building block for every totalitarian regime that has ever wreaked havoc on humanity. Indeed, just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to police agencies in the form of grants.

Truth #9: Not only does the U.S. government perpetrate organized, systematic violence on its own citizens, especially those who challenge its authority nonviolently, in the form of SWAT team raids, militarized police, and roaming VIPR checkpoints, but it gets away with these clear violations of the Fourth Amendment because the courts grant them immunity from wrongdoing. Expanding its reach, the U.S. also exports its violence wholesale to other countries through armaments sales and the use of its military as a global police force. Yet no matter how well trained, well equipped and well financed, America cannot police the world. As history shows, military empires, once over extended, inevitably collapse into chaos.

Truth #10: As I make clear in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the United States of America has become the new battlefield. In fact, the only real war being fought by the U.S. government today is the war on the American people, and it is being waged with deadly weapons, militarized police, surveillance technology, laws that criminalize otherwise lawful behavior, private prisons that operate on quota systems, and government officials who are no longer accountable to the rule of law.

So there you have it: facts rather than fiction, so naked that a child could call it for what it is, and yet so politically inconvenient, incorrect and uncomfortable that few dare to speak of them.

Even so, despite the fact that no one wants to be labeled dimwitted, or conspiratorial, or a right wing nut job, most Americans, if they were truly paying attention to what’s been going on in this country over the past few decades and willing to be truthful, at least to themselves, would have to admit that the outlook is decidedly grim. Indeed, unless something changes drastically for the good in the near future, it looks like this fairytale will not have a happy ending.