Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

“We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.” — Ayn Rand

What we do not need is yet another pretext by which government officials can violate the Fourth Amendment at will under the guise of public health and safety.

Indeed, at a time when red flag gun laws (which authorize government officials to seize guns from individuals viewed as a danger to themselves or others) are gaining traction as a legislative means by which to allow police to remove guns from people suspected of being threats, it wouldn’t take much for police to be given the green light to enter a home without a warrant in order to seize lawfully-possessed firearms based on concerns that the guns might pose a danger.

Frankly, a person wouldn’t even need to own a gun to be subjected to such a home invasion.

SWAT teams have crashed through doors on lesser pretexts based on false information, mistaken identities and wrong addresses.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws allowing the police to remove guns from people suspected of being threats. If Congress succeeds in passing the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order, which would nationalize red flag laws, that number will grow.

As The Washington Post reports, these red flag gun laws “allow a family member, roommate, beau, law enforcement officer or any type of medical professional to file a petition [with a court] asking that a person’s home be temporarily cleared of firearms. It doesn’t require a mental-health diagnosis or an arrest.

In the wake of yet another round of mass shootings, these gun confiscation laws—extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws—may appease the fears of those who believe that fewer guns in the hands of the general populace will make our society safer.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way.

Anything—knives, vehicles, planes, pressure cookers—can become a weapon when wielded with deadly intentions.

With these red flag gun laws, the stated intention is to disarm individuals who are potential threats… to “stop dangerous people before they act.”

While in theory it appears perfectly reasonable to want to disarm individuals who are clearly suicidal and/or pose an “immediate danger” to themselves or others, where the problem arises is when you put the power to determine who is a potential danger in the hands of government agencies, the courts and the police.

We’ve been down this road before.

Remember, this is the same government that uses the words “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably.

This is the same government whose agents are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports using automated eyes and ears, social media, behavior sensing software, and citizen spies to identify potential threats.

This is the same government that has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state.

For instance, if you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you could be at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Moreover, as a New York Times editorial warns, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the police if you are afraid that the government is plotting to confiscate your firearms, if you believe the economy is about to collapse and the government will soon declare martial law, or if you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car.

Let that sink in a moment.

Now consider the ramifications of giving police that kind of authority: to preemptively raid homes in order to neutralize a potential threat.

It’s a powder keg waiting for a lit match.

Under these red flag laws, what happened to Duncan Lemp—who was gunned down in his bedroom during an early morning, no-knock SWAT team raid on his family’s home—could very well happen to more people.

At 4:30 a.m. on March 12, 2020, in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that had most of the country under a partial lockdown and sheltering at home, a masked SWAT team—deployed to execute a “high risk” search warrant for unauthorized firearms—stormed the suburban house where 21-year-old Duncan, a software engineer and Second Amendment advocate, lived with his parents and 19-year-old brother.

The entire household, including Lemp and his girlfriend, was reportedly asleep when the SWAT team directed flash bang grenades and gunfire through Lemp’s bedroom window.

Lemp was killed and his girlfriend injured.

No one in the house that morning, including Lemp, had a criminal record.

No one in the house that morning, including Lemp, was considered an “imminent threat” to law enforcement or the public, at least not according to the search warrant.

So what was so urgent that militarized police felt compelled to employ battlefield tactics in the pre-dawn hours of a day when most people are asleep in bed, not to mention stuck at home as part of a nationwide lockdown?

According to police, they were tipped off that Lemp was in possession of “firearms.”

Thus, rather than approaching the house by the front door at a reasonable hour in order to investigate this complaint—which is what the Fourth Amendment requires—police instead strapped on their guns, loaded up their flash bang grenades and carried out a no-knock raid on the household.

According to the county report, the no-knock raid was justified “due to Lemp being ‘anti-government,’ ‘anti-police,’ currently in possession of body armor, and an active member of the Three Percenters,” a far-right paramilitary group that discussed government resistance.

This is what happens when you adopt red flag gun laws, painting anyone who might be in possession of a gun—legal or otherwise—as a threat that must be neutralized.

Therein lies the danger of these red flag laws, specifically, and pre-crime laws such as these generally where the burden of proof is reversed and you are guilty before you are given any chance to prove you are innocent.

Red flag gun laws merely push us that much closer towards a suspect society where everyone is potentially guilty of some crime or another and must be preemptively rendered harmless.

Where many Americans go wrong is in naively assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or harmful in order to be flagged and targeted for some form of intervention or detention.

In fact, all you need to do these days to end up on a government watch list or be subjected to heightened scrutiny is use certain trigger words (like cloud, pork and pirates), surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, limp or stutterdrive a car, stay at a hotel, attend a political rally, express yourself on social mediaappear mentally ill, serve in the militarydisagree with a law enforcement officialcall in sick to work, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, appear confused or nervous, fidget or whistle or smell bad, be seen in public waving a toy gun or anything remotely resembling a gun (such as a water nozzle or a remote control or a walking cane), stare at a police officer, question government authority, appear to be pro-gun or pro-freedom, or generally live in the United States.

Be warned: once you get on such a government watch list—whether it’s a terrorist watch list, a mental health watch list, a dissident watch list, or a red flag gun watch list—there’s no clear-cut way to get off, whether or not you should actually be on there.

You will be flagged as a potential threat and dealt with accordingly.

You will be tracked by the government’s pre-crime, surveillance network wherever you go.

Hopefully you’re starting to understand how easy we’ve made it for the government to identify, label, target, defuse and detain anyone it views as a potential threat for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from mental illness to having a military background to challenging its authority to just being on the government’s list of persona non grata.

The government has been building its pre-crime, surveillance network in concert with fusion centers (of which there are 78 nationwide, with partners in the private sector and globally), data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).

Combine red flag laws with the government’s surveillance networks and its plan to establish an agency that will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home, and you’ll understand why some might view gun control legislation with trepidation.

No matter how well-meaning the politicians make these encroachments on our rights appear, in the right (or wrong) hands, benevolent plans can easily be put to malevolent purposes.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, even the most well-intentioned government law or program can be—and has been—perverted, corrupted and used to advance illegitimate purposes once profit and power are added to the equation.

The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, the war on COVID-19: all of these programs started out as legitimate responses to pressing concerns and have since become weapons of compliance and control in the government’s hands.

No matter how well-intentioned, red flag gun laws will put a target on the back of every American whether or not they own a weapon.

Source: https://bit.ly/3tAmVGU

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have given way to permanent crisis management: to policing the planet and fighting preventative wars of ideological containment, usually on terrain chosen by, and favorable to, our enemies. Limited government and constitutional accountability have been shouldered aside by the kind of imperial presidency our constitutional system was explicitly designed to prevent.”— David C. Unger, The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs

America, meet your new dictator-in-chief.

As the New York Times reports, “Newly disclosed documents have shed a crack of light on secret executive branch plans for apocalyptic scenarios—like the aftermath of a nuclear attack—when the president may activate wartime powers for national security emergencies.”

The problem, of course, is that we have become a nation in a permanent state of emergency.

Power-hungry and lawless, the government has weaponized one national crisis after another in order to expand its powers and justify all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.

The seeds of this present madness were sown almost two decades ago when George W. Bush stealthily issued two presidential directives that granted the president the power to unilaterally declare a national emergency, which is loosely defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.

Comprising the country’s Continuity of Government (COG) plan, these directives (National Security Presidential Directive 51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20) provide a skeletal outline of the actions the president will take in the event of a “national emergency.”

Just what sort of actions the president will take once he declares a national emergency can barely be discerned from the barebones directives. However, one thing is clear: in the event of a national emergency, the COG directives give unchecked executive, legislative and judicial power to the president.

The country would then be subjected to martial law by default, and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would be suspended.

Essentially, the president would become a dictator for life.

It has happened already.

As we have witnessed in recent years, that national emergency can take any form, can be manipulated for any purpose and can be used to justify any end goal—all on the say so of the president.

The emergency powers that we know about which presidents might claim during such states of emergency are vast, ranging from imposing martial law and suspending habeas corpus to shutting down all forms of communications, including implementing an internet kill switch, and restricting travel.

Yet according to documents recently obtained by the Brennan Center, there may be many more secret powers that presidents may institute in times of so-called crisis without oversight from Congress, the courts, or the public.

It doesn’t even matter what the nature of the crisis might be—civil unrest, the national emergencies, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters”—as long as it allows the government to justify all manner of government tyranny in the name of so-called national security.

The war on COVID-19, the war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration: all of these programs started out as responses to pressing national concerns and have since become weapons of compliance and control in the police state’s hands.

Deploying the same strategy it used with 9/11 to acquire greater powers under the USA Patriot Act, the police state—a.k.a. the shadow government, a.k.a. the Deep State—has been planning and preparing for such crises for years now, quietly assembling a wish list of presidential lockdown powers that could be trotted out and approved at a moment’s notice.

Indeed, the Trump Administration even asked Congress to allow it to suspend parts of the Constitution whenever it deems it necessary during the COVID-19 crisis and “other” emergencies. The Department of Justice (DOJ) went so far as to quietly trot out and test a long laundry list of terrifying powers that override the Constitution.

We’re talking about lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level): the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, “stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease,” reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die.

These are powers the police state would desperately like to make permanent.

In such a climate, the American president becomes dictator with permanent powers: imperial, unaccountable and unconstitutional.

Bear in mind that the powers the government officially asked Congress to recognize and authorize barely scratch the surface of the far-reaching powers the government has already unilaterally claimed for itself.

Unofficially, the police state with the president at its helm has been riding roughshod over the rule of law for years now without any pretense of being reined in or restricted in its power grabs by Congress, the courts or the citizenry.

Although the Constitution invests the President with very specific, limited powers, in recent years, American presidents have claimed the power to completely and almost unilaterally alter the landscape of this country for good or for ill.

The powers amassed by each successive president through the negligence of Congress and the courts—powers which add up to a toolbox of terror for an imperial ruler—empower whoever occupies the Oval Office to act as a dictator, above the law and beyond any real accountability.

As law professor William P. Marshall explains, “every extraordinary use of power by one President expands the availability of executive branch power for use by future Presidents.”

Moreover, it doesn’t even matter whether other presidents have chosen not to take advantage of any particular power, because “it is a President’s action in using power, rather than forsaking its use, that has the precedential significance.”

In other words, each successive president continues to add to his office’s list of extraordinary orders and directives, expanding the reach and power of the presidency and granting him- or herself near dictatorial powers.

All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which he might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump and passed along to Joe Biden.

These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.

These are the powers that continue to be passed along to each successive heir to the Oval Office, the Constitution be damned.

This is what you might call a stealthy, creeping, silent, slow-motion coup d’état.

From Clinton to Bush, Obama to Trump, and now Biden, it’s as if we’ve been caught in a time loop, forced to re-live the same abuses over and over again: the same assaults on our freedoms, the same disregard for the rule of law, the same subservience to the Deep State, and the same corrupt, self-serving government that exists only to amass power, enrich its shareholders and ensure its continued domination.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but “we the people” are paying the price for it now.

We are paying the price every day that we allow the government to continue to wage its war on the American People, a war that is being fought on many fronts: with bullets and tasers, with surveillance cameras and license readers, with intimidation and propaganda, with court rulings and legislation, with the collusion of every bureaucrat who dances to the tune of corporate handouts while on the government’s payroll, and most effectively of all, with the complicity of the American people, who continue to allow themselves to be easily manipulated by their politics, distracted by their pastimes, and acclimated to a world in which government corruption is the norm.

Unless something changes in the way we deal with these ongoing, egregious abuses of power, the predators of the police state will continue to wreak havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives.

If we continue down this road, there can be no surprise about what awaits us at the end.

After all, it is a tale that has been told time and again throughout history about how easy it is for freedom to fall and tyranny to rise, and it often begins with one small, seemingly inconsequential willingness on the part of the people to compromise their principles and undermine the rule of law in exchange for a dubious assurance of safety, prosperity and a life without care.

Unfortunately, the process of unseating a dictator and limiting the powers of the presidency is far from simple but at a minimum, it must start with “we the people.”

For starters, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we must recalibrate the balance of power.

Start locally—in your own communities, in your schools, at your city council meetings, in newspaper editorials, at protests—by pushing back against laws that are unjust, police departments that overreach, politicians that don’t listen to their constituents, and a system of government that grows more tyrannical by the day.

What we desperately need is a concerted, collective commitment to the Constitution’s principles of limited government, a system of checks and balances, and a recognition that they—the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the police, the technocrats and plutocrats and bureaucrats—answer to and are accountable to “we the people.”

This will mean that Americans will have to stop letting their personal politics and party allegiances blind them to government misconduct and power grabs.

It will mean holding all three branches of government accountable to the Constitution (i.e., vote them out of office if they abuse their powers).

And it will mean calling on Congress to put an end to the use of presidential executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements as a means of getting around Congress and the courts.

In other words, we’ve got to start making both the president and the police state play by the rules of the Constitution.

Source: https://bit.ly/38FKkzs

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

Abortion on demand is the ultimate State tyranny; the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law. The State protects the ‘right’ of some people to kill others, just as the courts protected the ‘property rights’ of slave masters in their slaves.”—Ron Paul

The government wants to play god.

It wants the power to decide who lives or dies and whose rights are worthy of protection.

Delve beneath the rhetoric and spin that have turned abortion into a politicized, polarized and propagandized frontline in the culture wars, and you will find a greater menace at work.

Abortion may be front and center in the power struggle between the Left and the Right over who has the right to decide—the government or the individual—when it comes to bodily autonomy, the right to privacy, sexual freedom, the rights of the unborn, and property interests in one’s body, but there’s so much more going on here.

The Left would suggest that unborn babies do not have constitutional rights and the only right that matters is a woman’s right to privacy in choosing whether or not to abort a pregnancy. The Right, while fixated on saving the lives of unborn babies, seems less concerned about what happens to those lives from birth to death.

What few seem willing to address is that in the 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade, the government has come to believe that it not only has the power to determine who is deserving of constitutional rights in the eyes of the law but it also has the authority to deny those rights to an American citizen.

This is how the abortion debate—a politicized tug-of-war over when an unborn child is considered a human being with rights—plays into the police state’s hands by laying the groundwork for discussions about who else may or may not be deserving of rights.

Even if (as a leaked draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests) the Supreme Court overturns its earlier rulings recognizing abortion as a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment, that will not resolve the larger problem that plagues us today: namely, that all along the spectrum of life—from the unborn child to the aged—the government continues to play fast and loose with the lives of the citizenry.

Take a good, hard look at the many ways in which Americans are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

American families who have their dogs shot, their homes trashed and their children terrorized or, worse, killed by errant SWAT team raids in the middle of the night are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Disabled individuals who are being strip searched, handcuffed, arrested and “diagnosed” by police as dangerous or mentally unstable merely because they stutter and walk unevenly are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

School-aged children as young as 4-years-old who are leg shackled, handcuffed and strip searched for violating school zero tolerance policies by chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun and playing an imaginary game of cops and robbers, or engaging in childish behavior such as crying or jumping are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Unarmed citizens who are tasered or shot by police for daring to hesitate, stutter, move a muscle, flee or disagree in any way with a police order are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Likewise, Americans—young and old alike—who are shot by police because they pointed a garden hose at a police officer, reached for their registration in their glove box, relied upon a cane to steady themselves, or were seen playing with air rifles or BB guns are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Female motorists who are unlucky enough to be pulled over for a questionable traffic infraction only to be subjected by police to cavity searches by the side of the road are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Male pedestrians and motorists alike who are being subjected to roadside strip searches and rectal probes by police based largely on the color of their skin are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

American citizens subjected to government surveillance whereby their phone calls are being listened in on, their mail and text messages read, their movements tracked and their transactions monitored are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Homeowners who are being fined and arrested for raising chickens in their backyard, allowing the grass in their front yards to grow too long, and holding Bible studies in their homes are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Decorated military veterans who are being arrested for criticizing the government on social media such as Facebook are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Homeless individuals who are being harassed, arrested and run out of towns by laws that criminalize homelessness are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Individuals whose DNA has been forcibly collected and entered into federal and state law enforcement databases whether or not they have been convicted of any crime are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Drivers whose license plates are being scanned, uploaded to a police database and used to map their movements, whether or not they are suspected of any crime, are being denied their rights under the Constitution. The same goes for drivers who are being ticketed for running afoul of red light cameras without any real opportunity to defend themselves against such a charge are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Protesters and activists who are being labeled domestic terrorists and extremists and accused of hate crimes for speaking freely are being denied their rights under the Constitution. Likewise, American citizens who being targeted for assassination by drone strikes abroad without having been charged, tried and convicted of treason are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

Hard-working Americans whose bank accounts, homes, cars electronics and cash are seized by police (operating according to asset forfeiture schemes that provide profit incentives for highway robbery) are being denied their rights under the Constitution.

So, what is the common denominator here?

These are all American citizens—endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, rights that no person or government can take away from them, among these the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—and they are all being oppressed in one way or another by a government that has grown drunk on power, money and its own authority.

If the government—be it the President, Congress, the courts or any federal, state or local agent or agency—can decide that any person has no rights, then that person becomes less than a citizen, less than human, less than deserving of respect, dignity, civility and bodily integrity. He or she becomes an “it,” a faceless number that can be tallied and tracked, a quantifiable mass of cells that can be discarded without conscience, an expendable cost that can be written off without a second thought, or an animal that can be bought, sold, branded, chained, caged, bred, neutered and euthanized at will.

It’s a slippery slope that justifies all manner of violations in the name of national security, the interest of the state and the so-called greater good.

Yet those who founded this country believed that what we conceive of as our rights were given to us by God—we are created equal, according to the nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence—and that government cannot create, nor can it extinguish our God-given rights. To do so would be to anoint the government with god-like powers and elevate it above the citizenry.

Unfortunately, we have been dancing with this particular devil for quite some time now.

If we continue to wait for the government to restore our freedoms, respect our rights, rein in its abuses and restrain its agents from riding roughshod over our lives, our liberty and our happiness, then we will be waiting forever.

Already, the politicos are beating the war drums to herald the next phase of the abortion wars.

President Biden wants voters to elect more pro-abortion rights officials to ensure that “a woman’s right to choose is fundamental.” The Senate plans to vote to codify the right to an abortion into federal law. Chief Justice John G. Roberts is opening an investigation into how the Supreme Court’s draft abortion ruling was leaked. And polling indicates that the majority of the American people want abortion to remain legal.

Like clockwork, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of yet another political circus that could get scary, ugly and overwhelming really fast.

Before you get too distracted by this conveniently timed diversion that has everyone forgetting about spiking gas prices, inflation, housing shortages, and warring empires, remind yourself that no matter how the Supreme Court rules in Dobbs, it will not resolve the problem of a culture that values life based on a sliding scale.  Nor will it help us navigate the moral, ethical and scientific minefields that await us as technology and humanity move ever closer to a point of singularity.

Humanity is being propelled at warp speed into a whole new frontier when it comes to privacy, bodily autonomy, and what it means to be a human being. As such, we haven’t even begun to wrap our heads around how present-day legal debates over bodily autonomy, privacy, vaccine mandates, the death penalty, and abortion play into future discussions about singularity, artificial intelligence, cloning, and the privacy rights of the individual in the face of increasingly invasive, intrusive and unavoidable government technologies.

Yet here is what I know.

Life is an inalienable right.

By allowing the government to decide who or what is deserving of rights, it shifts the entire discussion from one in which we are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights” (that of life, liberty property and the pursuit of happiness) to one in which only those favored by the government get to enjoy such rights.

If all people are created equal, then all lives should be equally worthy of protection.

There’s an idea embraced by both the Right and the Left according to their biases that there is a hierarchy to life, with some lives worthier of protection than others, but there is no hierarchy of freedoms.

All freedoms hang together.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we must never stop working to protect life, preserve our freedoms and maintain some semblance of our humanity.

Freedom cannot be a piece-meal venture.

Source: https://bit.ly/3kKfaJn

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away. They’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country, is a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter. Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government … doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety… It’s interested in its own power. That’s the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.”— George Carlin

We’re in a national state of denial.

For years now, the government has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the American people, letting us enjoy just enough freedom to think we are free but not enough to actually allow us to live as a free people.

Case in point: on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court appeared inclined to favor a high school football coach’s right to pray on the field after a game, the high court let stand a lower court ruling that allows police to warrantlessly track people’s location and movements through their personal cell phones, sweeping Americans up into a massive digital data dragnet that does not distinguish between those who are innocent of wrongdoing, suspects, or criminals.

Likewise, although the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for a death row inmate to have his pastor audibly pray and lay hands on him in the execution chamber, it refused to stop police from using hidden cameras to secretly and warrantlessly record and monitor a person’s activities outside their home over an extended period of time.  

For those who have been paying attention, there’s a curious pattern emerging: the government appears reasonably tolerant of those who want to exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner that doesn’t challenge the police state’s hold on power, for example, by praying on a football field or in an execution chamber.

On the other hand, dare to disagree with the government about its war crimes, COVID-19, election outcomes or police brutality, and you’ll find yourself silenced, cited, shut down and/or branded an extremist.

The U.S. government is particularly intolerant of speech that reveals the government’s corruption, exposes the government’s lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices. For instance, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the latest victim of the government’s war on dissidents and whistleblowers, is in the process of being extradited to the U.S. to be tried under the Espionage Act for daring to access and disclose military documents that portray the U.S. government and its endless wars abroad as reckless, irresponsible, immoral and responsible for thousands of civilian deaths.

Even political protests are fair game for prosecution. In Florida, two protesters are being fined $3000 for political signs proclaiming stating “F—k Biden,” “F—k Trump,” and “F—k Policing 4 Profit” that violate a city ban on “indecent” speech on signs, clothing and other graphic displays.

The trade-off is clear: pray all you want, but don’t mess with the U.S. government.

In this way, the government, having appointed itself a Supreme and Sovereign Ruler, allows us to bask in the illusion of religious freedom while stripping us of every other freedom afforded by the Constitution.

We’re in trouble, folks.

Freedom no longer means what it once did.

This holds true whether you’re talking about the right to criticize the government in word or deed, the right to be free from government surveillance, the right to not have your person or your property subjected to warrantless searches by government agents, the right to due process, the right to be safe from militarized police invading your home, the right to be innocent until proven guilty and every other right that once reinforced the founders’ belief that this would be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Not only do we no longer have dominion over our bodies, our families, our property and our lives, but the government continues to chip away at what few rights we still have to speak freely and think for ourselves.

My friends, we’re being played for fools.

On paper, we may be technically free.

In reality, however, we are only as free as a government official may allow.

We only think we live in a constitutional republic, governed by just laws created for our benefit.

Truth be told, we live in a dictatorship disguised as a democracy where all that we own, all that we earn, all that we say and do—our very lives—depends on the benevolence of government agents and corporate shareholders for whom profit and power will always trump principle. And now the government is litigating and legislating its way into a new framework where the dictates of petty bureaucrats carry greater weight than the inalienable rights of the citizenry.

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our lives.

As Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone and an insightful commentator on human nature, once observed, “We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them—tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp—call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom.

Government surveillance, police abuse, SWAT team raids, economic instability, asset forfeiture schemes, pork barrel legislation, militarized police, drones, endless wars, private prisons, involuntary detentions, biometrics databases, free speech zones, etc.: these are mile markers on the road to a fascist state where citizens are treated like cattle, to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.

Freedom, or what’s left of it, is being threatened from every direction. The threats are of many kinds: political, cultural, educational, media, and psychological. However, as history shows us, freedom is not, on the whole, wrested from a citizenry. It is all too often given over voluntarily and for such a cheap price: safety, security, bread, and circuses.

This is part and parcel of the propaganda churned out by the government machine.

That said, what we face today—mind manipulation and systemic violence—is not new. What is different are the techniques used and the large-scale control of mass humanity, coercive police tactics and pervasive surveillance.

We are overdue for a systemic check on the government’s overreaches and power grabs.

By “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

For years now, we have suffered the injustices, cruelties, corruption and abuse of an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution or the rights of the citizenry.

We have lingered too long in this strange twilight zone where ego trumps justice, propaganda perverts truth, and imperial presidents—empowered to indulge their authoritarian tendencies by legalistic courts, corrupt legislatures and a disinterested, distracted populace—rule by fiat rather than by the rule of law.

Where we find ourselves now is in the unenviable position of needing to rein in all three branches of government—the Executive, the Judicial, and the Legislative—that have exceeded their authority and grown drunk on power.

We are the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government: from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

The predators of the police state are wreaking havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government doesn’t listen to the citizenry, it refuses to abide by the Constitution, which is our rule of law, and it treats the citizenry as a source of funding and little else.

The American kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) has sucked the American people down a rabbit hole into a parallel universe in which the Constitution is meaningless, the government is all-powerful, and the citizenry is powerless to defend itself against government agents who steal, spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in their sphere.

This dissolution of that sacred covenant between the citizenry and the government—establishing “we the people” as the masters and the government as the servant—didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen because of one particular incident or one particular president. It is a process, one that began long ago and continues in the present day, aided and abetted by politicians who have mastered the polarizing art of how to “divide and conquer.”

Unfortunately, there is no magic spell to transport us back to a place and time where “we the people” weren’t merely fodder for a corporate gristmill, operated by government hired hands, whose priorities are money and power.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, our freedoms have become casualties in an all-out war on the American people.

If we continue down this road, there can be no surprise about what awaits us at the end.

Source: https://bit.ly/3Mtx4fq

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“We are now speeding down the road of wasteful spending and debt, and unless we can escape we will be smashed in inflation.”—Herbert Hoover

This is financial tyranny.

The U.S. government—and that includes the current administration—is spending money it doesn’t have on programs it can’t afford, and “we the taxpayers” are the ones who must foot the bill for the government’s fiscal insanity.

We’ve been sold a bill of goods by politicians promising to pay down the national debt, jumpstart the economy, rebuild our infrastructure, secure our borders, ensure our security, and make us all healthy, wealthy and happy.

None of that has come to pass, and yet we’re still being loaded down with debt not of our own making.

Let’s talk numbers, shall we?

The national debt (the amount the federal government has borrowed over the years and must pay back) is $30 trillion and growing. That translates to roughly $242,000 per taxpayer.

Now the Biden administration is proposing a $5.8 trillion spending budget that notably includes $813 billion for national defense, $30 billion to “fund the police,” and a plan to reduce the national deficit by roughly $1 trillion over 10 years through additional tax hikes.

It’s estimated that the amount this country owes is now 130% greater than its gross domestic product (all the products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the citizens).

The U.S. ranks as the 12th most indebted nation in the world, with much of that debt owed to the Federal Reserve, large investment funds and foreign governments, namely, Japan and China.

Essentially, the U.S. government is funding its very existence with a credit card.

In 2021, we paid more than $562 billion in interest on that public debt, which according to journalist Rob Garver, “is more than the annual budget of every individual federal agency except for the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services (which manages the Medicare and Medicaid government health insurance programs), and the Department of Defense.”

According to the Committee for a Reasonable Federal Budget, the interest we’ve paid on this borrowed money is “nearly twice what the federal government will spend on transportation infrastructure, over four times as much as it will spend on K-12 education, almost four times what it will spend on housing, and over eight times what it will spend on science, space, and technology.”

Clearly, the national debt isn’t going away anytime soon, especially not with government spending on the rise and interest payments making up such a large chunk of the budget.

Still, the government remains unrepentant, unfazed and undeterred in its wanton spending.

Indeed, the national deficit (the difference between what the government spends and the revenue it takes in) remains at more than $1.5 trillion.

If Americans managed their personal finances the way the government mismanages the nation’s finances, we’d all be in debtors’ prison by now.

Despite the government propaganda being peddled by the politicians and news media, however, the government isn’t spending our tax dollars to make our lives better.

We’re being robbed blind so the governmental elite can get richer.

We’re not living the American dream. We’re living a financial nightmare.

In the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than pocketbooks waiting to be picked.

“We the people” have become the new, permanent underclass in America.

Consider: The government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes. Government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing. And the IRS insists on getting the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.

We have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.

We have no real say, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.

It wasn’t always this way, of course.

Early Americans went to war over the inalienable rights described by philosopher John Locke as the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”

Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.

On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.

It’s all gone downhill from there.

Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.

While we’re struggling to get by, and making tough decisions about how to spend what little money actually makes it into our pockets after the federal, state and local governments take their share (this doesn’t include the stealth taxes imposed through tolls, fines and other fiscal penalties), the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

To top it all off, all of those wars the U.S. is so eager to fight abroad are being waged with borrowed funds. As The Atlantic reports, “U.S. leaders are essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

Of course, we’re the ones who will have to repay that borrowed debt.

For instance, American taxpayers have been forced to shell out more than $5.6 trillion since 9/11 for the military industrial complex’s costly, endless so-called “war on terrorism.” That translates to roughly $23,000 per taxpayer to wage wars abroad, occupy foreign countries, provide financial aid to foreign allies, and fill the pockets of defense contractors and grease the hands of corrupt foreign dignitaries.

Mind you, that staggering $6 trillion is only a portion of what the Pentagon spends on America’s military empire.

The United States also spends more on foreign aid than any other nation, with nearly $300 billion disbursed over a five-year period. More than 150 countries around the world receive U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance, with most of the funds going to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. That price tag keeps growing, too.

As Forbes reports, “U.S. foreign aid dwarfs the federal funds spent by 48 out of 50 state governments annually. Only the state governments of California and New York spent more federal funds than what the U.S. sent abroad each year to foreign countries.”

Most recently, in response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the Biden Administration approved $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, with an additional $200 million for immediate military assistance.

As Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in a 1953 speech, this is how the military industrial complex will continue to get richer, while the American taxpayer will be forced to pay for programs that do little to enhance our lives, ensure our happiness and well-being, or secure our freedoms.

This is no way of life.

Yet it’s not just the government’s endless wars that are bleeding us dry.

We’re also being forced to shell out money for surveillance systems to track our movements, money to further militarize our already militarized police, money to allow the government to raid our homes and bank accounts, money to fund schools where our kids learn nothing about freedom and everything about how to comply, and on and on.

It’s tempting to say that there’s little we can do about it, except that’s not quite accurate.

There are a few things we can do (demand transparency, reject cronyism and graft, insist on fair pricing and honest accounting methods, call a halt to incentive-driven government programs that prioritize profits over people), but it will require that “we the people” stop playing politics and stand united against the politicians and corporate interests who have turned our government and economy into a pay-to-play exercise in fascism.

Unfortunately, we’ve become so invested in identity politics that pit us against one another and keep us powerless and divided that we’ve lost sight of the one label that unites us: we’re all Americans.

Trust me, we’re all in the same boat, folks, and there’s only one real life preserver: that’s the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution starts with those three powerful words: “We the people.”

There is power in our numbers.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, that remains our greatest strength in the face of a governmental elite that continues to ride roughshod over the populace. It remains our greatest defense against a government that has claimed for itself unlimited power over the purse (taxpayer funds) and the sword (military might).

Where we lose out is when we fall for the big-talking politicians who spend big at our expense.

Source: https://bit.ly/3KuoEDP

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”—Frank Zappa

We are no longer free.

We are living in a world carefully crafted to resemble a representative democracy, but it’s an illusion.

We think we have the freedom to elect our leaders, but we’re only allowed to participate in the reassurance ritual of voting. There can be no true electoral choice or real representation when we’re limited in our options to one of two candidates culled from two parties that both march in lockstep with the Deep State and answer to an oligarchic elite.

We think we have freedom of speech, but we’re only as free to speak as the government and its corporate partners allow.

We think we have the right to freely exercise our religious beliefs, but those rights are quickly overruled if and when they conflict with the government’s priorities, whether it’s COVID-19 mandates or societal values about gender equality, sex and marriage.

We think we have the freedom to go where we want and move about freely, but at every turn, we’re hemmed in by laws, fines and penalties that regulate and restrict our autonomy, and surveillance cameras that monitor our movements. Punitive programs strip citizens of their passports and right to travel over unpaid taxes.

We think we have property interests in our homes and our bodies, but there can be no such freedom when the government can seize your property, raid your home, and dictate what you do with your bodies.

We think we have the freedom to defend ourselves against outside threats, but there is no right to self-defense against militarized police who are authorized to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, and granted immunity from accountability with the general blessing of the courts. Certainly, there can be no right to gun ownership in the face of red flag gun laws which allow the police to remove guns from people merely suspected of being threats.

We think we have the right to an assumption of innocence until we are proven guilty, but that burden of proof has been turned on its head by a surveillance state that renders us all suspects and overcriminalization which renders us all lawbreakers. Police-run facial recognition software that mistakenly labels law-abiding citizens as criminals. A social credit system (similar to China’s) that rewards behavior deemed “acceptable” and punishes behavior the government and its corporate allies find offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

We think we have the right to due process, but that assurance of justice has been stripped of its power by a judicial system hardwired to act as judge, jury and jailer, leaving us with little recourse for appeal. A perfect example of this rush to judgment can be found in the proliferation of profit-driven speed and red light cameras that do little for safety while padding the pockets of government agencies.

We have been saddled with a government that pays lip service to the nation’s freedom principles while working overtime to shred the Constitution.

By gradually whittling away at our freedoms—free speech, assembly, due process, privacy, etc.—the government has, in effect, liberated itself from its contractual agreement to respect the constitutional rights of the citizenry while resetting the calendar back to a time when we had no Bill of Rights to protect us from the long arm of the government.

Aided and abetted by the legislatures, the courts and Corporate America, the government has been busily rewriting the contract (a.k.a. the Constitution) that establishes the citizenry as the masters and agents of the government as the servants.

We are now only as good as we are useful, and our usefulness is calculated on an economic scale by how much we are worth—in terms of profit and resale value—to our “owners.”

Under the new terms of this revised, one-sided agreement, the government and its many operatives have all the privileges and rights and “we the people” have none.

Only in our case, sold on the idea that safety, security and material comforts are preferable to freedom, we’ve allowed the government to pave over the Constitution in order to erect a concentration camp.

The problem with these devil’s bargains, however, is that there is always a catch, always a price to pay for whatever it is we valued so highly as to barter away our most precious possessions.

We’ve bartered away our right to self-governance, self-defense, privacy, autonomy and that most important right of all: the right to tell the government to “leave me the hell alone.” In exchange for the promise of safe streets, safe schools, blight-free neighborhoods, lower taxes, lower crime rates, and readily accessible technology, health care, water, food and power, we’ve opened the door to militarized police, government surveillance, asset forfeiture, school zero tolerance policies, license plate readers, red light cameras, SWAT team raids, health care mandates, overcriminalization and government corruption.

In the end, such bargains always turn sour.

We asked our lawmakers to be tough on crime, and we’ve been saddled with an abundance of laws that criminalize almost every aspect of our lives. So far, we’re up to 4500 criminal laws and 300,000 criminal regulations that result in average Americans unknowingly engaging in criminal acts at least three times a day. For instance, the family of an 11-year-old girl was issued a $535 fine for violating the Federal Migratory Bird Act after the young girl rescued a baby woodpecker from predatory cats.

We wanted criminals taken off the streets, and we didn’t want to have to pay for their incarceration. What we’ve gotten is a nation that boasts the highest incarceration rate in the world, with more than 2.3 million people locked up, many of them doing time for relatively minor, nonviolent crimes, and a private prison industry fueling the drive for more inmates, who are forced to provide corporations with cheap labor.

We wanted law enforcement agencies to have the necessary resources to fight the nation’s wars on terror, crime and drugs. What we got instead were militarized police decked out with M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers, battle tanks and hollow point bullets—gear designed for the battlefield, more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year (many for routine police tasks, resulting in losses of life and property), and profit-driven schemes that add to the government’s largesse such as asset forfeiture, where police seize property from “suspected criminals.”

We fell for the government’s promise of safer roads, only to find ourselves caught in a tangle of profit-driven red-light cameras, which ticket unsuspecting drivers in the so-called name of road safety while ostensibly fattening the coffers of local and state governments. Despite widespread public opposition, corruption and systemic malfunctions, these cameras are particularly popular with municipalities, which look to them as an easy means of extra cash. Building on the profit-incentive schemes, the cameras’ manufacturers are also pushing speed cameras and school bus cameras, both of which result in hefty fines for violators who speed or try to go around school buses.

We’re being subjected to the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

With every new law enacted by federal and state legislatures, every new ruling handed down by government courts, and every new military weapon, invasive tactic and egregious protocol employed by government agents, “we the people” are being reminded that we possess no rights except for that which the government grants on an as-needed basis.

Indeed, there are chilling parallels between the authoritarian prison that is life in the American police state and The Prisoner, a dystopian television series that first broadcast in Great Britain more than 50 years ago.

The series centers around a British secret agent (played by Patrick McGoohan) who finds himself imprisoned, monitored by militarized drones, and interrogated in a mysterious, self-contained, cosmopolitan, seemingly idyllic retirement community known only as The Village. While luxurious and resort-like, the Village is a virtual prison disguised as a seaside paradise: its inhabitants have no true freedom, they cannot leave the Village, they are under constant surveillance, their movements are tracked by surveillance drones, and they are stripped of their individuality and identified only by numbers.

Much like the American Police State, The Prisoner’s Village gives the illusion of freedom while functioning all the while like a prison: controlled, watchful, inflexible, punitive, deadly and inescapable.

Described as “an allegory of the individual, aiming to find peace and freedom in a dystopia masquerading as a utopia,” The Prisoner is a chilling lesson about how difficult it is to gain one’s freedom in a society in which prison walls are disguised within the trappings of technological and scientific progress, national security and so-called democracy.

Perhaps the best visual debate ever on individuality and freedom, The Prisoner confronted societal themes that are still relevant today: the rise of a police state, the freedom of the individual, round-the-clock surveillance, the corruption of government, totalitarianism, weaponization, group think, mass marketing, and the tendency of mankind to meekly accept his lot in life as a prisoner in a prison of his own making.

The Prisoner is an operations manual for how you condition a populace to life as prisoners in a police state: by brainwashing them into believing they are free so that they will march in lockstep with the state and be incapable of recognizing the prison walls that surround them.

We can no longer maintain the illusion of freedom.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, “we the people” have become “we the prisoners.”

Source: https://bit.ly/3LcKAUS

“A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power.”—Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

If we haven’t learned by now, we should beware of anything the government insists is for our own good.

Take the Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Given the deteriorating state of the nation’s infrastructure (aging highways and bridges, outdated railways and airports, etc.), which have been neglected for years in order to fund America’s endless wars abroad, it would seem like an obvious and long overdue fix.

Yet there’s a catch.

There’s always a catch.

Tucked into the whopping $1 trillion bipartisan spending bill is a provision requiring automakers to prescribe a “federal motor vehicle safety standard for advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology, and for other purposes.”

As Jason Torchinksky writes for Jalopnik:

It’s pretty clear that the goals of this section of the law are to reduce drunk driving fatalities and crashes via still-undetermined technological tools that somehow are able to “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver may be impaired,” and/or “passively and accurately detect whether the blood alcohol concentration of a driver of a motor vehicle is equal to or greater than the blood alcohol concentration described in section 163(a) of title 23, United States Code,” and if either or both of these conditions are proven to be positive — if the car thinks you’re drunk, then it may “prevent or limit motor vehicle operation.

As expected, the details are disconcertingly vague, which leaves the government with a wide berth to sow the seeds of mischief and mayhem. For instance, nowhere does the legislation indicate how such a so-called “kill switch” would work, what constitutes a driver who is “impaired,” and what “other purposes” might warrant the government using such a backdoor kill switch.

As former Rep. Bob Barr explains:

Everything about this mandatory measure should set off red flares. First, use of the word “passively” suggests the system will always be on and constantly monitoring the vehicle. Secondly, the system must connect to the vehicle’s operational controls, so as to disable the vehicle either before driving or during, when impairment is detected. Thirdly, it will be an “open” system, or at least one with a backdoor, meaning authorized (or unauthorized) third-parties can remotely access the system’s data at any time.

This is a privacy disaster in the making, and the fact that the provision made it through the Congress reveals — yet again — how little its members care about the privacy of their constituents… The lack of ultimate control over one’s vehicle presents numerous and extremely serious safety issues… If that is not reason enough for concern, there are serious legal issues with this mandate. Other vehicle-related enforcement methods used by the Nanny State, such as traffic cameras and license plate readers, have long presented constitutional problems; notably with the 5th Amendment’s right to not self-incriminate, and the 6th Amendment’s right to face one’s accuser.

Once again, the burden of proof is reversed, and “we the people” find ourselves no longer presumed innocent until proven guilty but suspects in a suspect society.

These “vehicle kill switches” may be sold to the public as a safety measure aimed at keeping drunk drivers off the roads, but they will quickly become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to put the government in the driver’s seat while rendering null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Indeed, when you think about it, these vehicle kill switches are a perfect metaphor for the government’s efforts to not only take control of our cars but also our freedoms and our lives.

For too long, we have been captive passengers in a driverless car controlled by the government, losing more and more of our privacy and autonomy the further down the road we go.

Just think of all the ways in which the government has been empowered to dictate what we say, do and think; where we go; with whom we associate; how we raise our families; how we live our lives; what we consume; how we spend our money; how we protect ourselves and our loved ones; and to what extent our rights as individuals can be displaced for the sake of the so-called greater good.

In this way, we have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by such science fiction writers as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.

In keeping with Dick’s darkly prophetic vision of a dystopian police state—which became the basis for Steven Spielberg’s futuristic thriller Minority Report, which was released 20 years ago—we have been imprisoned in a world in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful, and if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams and pre-crime units will crack a few skulls to bring the populace under control.

Minority Report is set in the year 2054, but it could just as well have taken place in 2022.

Incredibly, as the various nascent technologies employed and shared by the government and corporations alike—facial recognition, iris scanners, massive databases, behavior prediction software, and so on—are incorporated into a complex, interwoven cyber network aimed at tracking our movements, predicting our thoughts and controlling our behavior, Spielberg’s unnerving vision of the future is fast becoming our reality.

Both worlds—our present-day reality and Minority Report’s celluloid vision of the future—are characterized by widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining, fusion centers, driverless cars, voice-controlled homes, facial recognition systems, cybugs and drones, and predictive policing (pre-crime) aimed at capturing would-be criminals before they can do any damage.

Surveillance cameras are everywhere. Government agents listen in on our telephone calls and read our emails. Political correctness—a philosophy that discourages diversity—has become a guiding principle of modern society.

The courts have shredded the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. In fact, SWAT teams battering down doors without search warrants and FBI agents acting as a secret police that investigate dissenting citizens are common occurrences in contemporary America.

We are increasingly ruled by multi-corporations wedded to the police state. Much of the population is either hooked on illegal drugs or ones prescribed by doctors. And bodily privacy and integrity has been utterly eviscerated by a prevailing view that Americans have no rights over what happens to their bodies during an encounter with government officials, who are allowed to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

We’re on the losing end of a technological revolution that has already taken hostage our computers, our phones, our finances, our entertainment, our shopping, our appliances, and now, our cars. As if the government wasn’t already able to track our movements on the nation’s highways and byways by way of satellites, GPS devices, and real-time traffic cameras, performance data recorders, black box recorders and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications will monitor our vehicle’s speed, direction, location, gear selection, brake force, the number of miles traveled and seatbelts use, and transmit this data to other drivers, including the police.

In this Brave New World, there is no communication not spied upon, no movement untracked, no thought unheard. In other words, there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Herded along by drones, smart phones, GPS devices, smart TVs, social media, smart meters, surveillance cameras, facial recognition software, online banking, license plate readers and driverless cars, we are quickly approaching a point of singularity with the interconnected technological metaverse that is life in the American police state.

Every new piece of technologically-enabled gadget we acquire and technologically-boobytrapped legislation that Congress enacts pulls us that much deeper into the sticky snare.

These vehicle kill switches are yet another Trojan Horse: sold to us as safety measures for the sake of the greater good, all the while poised to wreak havoc on what little shreds of autonomy we have left.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we’re hurtling down a one-way road at mind-boggling speeds to a destination not of our choosing, the terrain is getting more treacherous by the minute, and we’ve passed all the exit ramps.

From this point forward, there is no turning back, and the signpost ahead reads “Danger.”

Time to buckle up your seatbelts, folks. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

Source: https://bit.ly/3L2DBxD

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”—Albert Einstein

America is breaking down.

This breakdown—triggered by polarizing circus politics, media-fed mass hysteria, racism, classism, fascism, fear-mongering, political correctness, cultural sanitation, virtue signaling, a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness in the face of growing government corruption and brutality, a growing economic divide that has much of the population struggling to get by, and militarization and militainment (the selling of war and violence as entertainment)—is manifesting itself in madness, mayhem and an utter disregard for the very principles and liberties that have kept us out of the clutches of totalitarianism for so long.

In New York City, for example, a 200-year-old statue of Thomas Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence will be removed from the City Council’s chambers where it has presided since 1915. Despite Jefferson’s many significant accomplishments, without which we might not have the rights we do today, he will be banished for having been, like many of his day, a slaveowner. Curiously, that same brutal expectation of infallibility has yet to be applied to many other politically correct yet equally imperfect and fallible role models of the day.

In Washington, DC, a tribunal of nine men and women spoke with one voice to affirm that the government and its henchmen can literally get away with murder and not be held accountable for their wrongdoing. The Supreme Court’s latest rulings are yet another painful lesson in compliance, a reminder that in the American police state, “we the people” are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to ‘serve and protect.”

All across the country, from California to Connecticut and every point in between, men and women who have worked faithfully and diligently at their jobs for years are being terminated for daring to believe that they have a right to bodily integrity; that they should not be forced, against their conscience or better judgment, to choose between individual liberty and economic survival; and that they—and not the government, or the FDA, or the CDC, or the Corporate State—have dominion over their bodies. Conveniently enough, this COVID-19 pandemic has created yet another double standard in how “we the people” navigate this country: while “we the middling classes” are subjected to vaccine mandates and denied even the right to be skeptical about the origins of the COVID virus, let alone the efficacy of the so-called cure, the government, corporations and pharmaceutical companies have been shielded from liability with blanket immunity laws that ensure we are little more than guinea pigs for their questionable experiments.

And then in Pennsylvania, a man traveling on a commuter train harassed, assaulted and then raped a woman over the course of 40 minutes and more than two dozen train stops while fellow travelers, watching and filming the attack, did nothing. Not a single witness called 911. Not a single bystander intervened to help the woman. Despite the fact that the man was outnumbered and could have been overwhelmed by those on the train, no collective effort was made to ward off the attack. Only when it was too late, when the damage had been done and the train had pulled into its last stop, did police show up to intervene.

There is an allegory here for what is happening to our country and its citizens, who have also been waylaid by a madman (the Deep State), stripped of their safety nets (their rights undermined and eroded), and savaged out in the open by a fiend (the American Police State and its many operatives—the courts, the legislatures and their various armies) that is devoid of humanity while those not in the immediate crosshairs watch safely from a distance without making a move to help.

This is madness, yet there is a method to this madness.

This is how freedom falls and tyranny rises.

Remember, authoritarian regimes begin with incremental steps: overcriminalization, surveillance of innocent citizens, imprisonment for nonviolent—victimless—crimes, etc. Bit by bit, the citizenry finds its freedoms being curtailed and undermined for the sake of national security. And slowly the populace begins to submit.

No one speaks up for those being targeted.

No one resists these minor acts of oppression.

No one recognizes the indoctrination into tyranny for what it is.

Historically this failure to speak truth to power has resulted in whole populations being conditioned to tolerate unspoken cruelty toward their fellow human beings, a bystander syndrome in which people remain silent and disengaged—mere onlookers—in the face of abject horrors and injustice.

Time has insulated us from the violence perpetrated by past regimes in their pursuit of power: the crucifixion and slaughter of innocents by the Romans, the torture of the Inquisition, the atrocities of the Nazis, the butchery of the Fascists, the bloodshed by the Communists, and the cold-blooded war machines run by the military industrial complex.

We can disassociate from such violence. We can convince ourselves that we are somehow different from the victims of government abuse. We can continue to spout empty political rhetoric about how great America is, despite the evidence to the contrary.

We can avoid responsibility for holding the government accountable.

We can zip our lips and bind our hands and shut our eyes.

In other words, we can continue to exist in a state of denial. Yet there is no denying the ugly, hard truths that become more evident with every passing day.

  1. The government is not our friend. Nor does it work for “we the people.”
  2. Our so-called government representatives do not actually represent us, the citizenry. We are now ruled by an oligarchic elite of governmental and corporate interests whose main interest is in perpetuating power and control.
  3. Republicans and Democrats like to act as if there’s a huge difference between them and their policies. However, they are not sworn enemies so much as they are partners in crime, united in a common goal, which is to maintain the status quo.
  4. The lesser of two evils is still evil.
  5. Some years ago, a newspaper headline asked the question: “What’s the difference between a politician and a psychopath?” The answer, then and now, remains the same: None. There is virtually no difference between psychopaths and politicians.
  6. More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, the U.S. government has become a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us
  7. The government knows exactly which buttons to push in order to manipulate the populace and gain the public’s cooperation and compliance.
  8. If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.
  9. America’s shadow government—which is comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes right now and operates beyond the reach of the Constitution with no real accountability to the citizenry—is the real reason why “we the people” have no control over our government.
  10. You no longer have to be poor, black or guilty to be treated like a criminal in America. All that is required is that you belong to the suspect class—that is, the citizenry—of the American police state. As a de facto member of this so-called criminal class, every U.S. citizen is now guilty until proven innocent.
  11. “We the people” are no longer shielded by the rule of law. By gradually whittling away at our freedoms—free speech, assembly, due process, privacy, etc.—the government has, in effect, liberated itself from its contractual agreement to respect our constitutional rights while resetting the calendar back to a time when we had no Bill of Rights to protect us from the long arm of the government.
  12. Private property means nothing if the government can take your home, car or money under the flimsiest of pretexts, whether it be asset forfeiture schemes, eminent domain or overdue property taxes. Likewise, private property means little at a time when SWAT teams and other government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, wound or kill you, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family
  13. We now find ourselves caught in the crosshairs of a showdown between the rights of the individual and the so-called “emergency” state, and “we the people” are losing.
  14. All of those freedoms we cherish—the ones enshrined in the Constitution, the ones that affirm our right to free speech and assembly, due process, privacy, bodily integrity, the right to not have police seize our property without a warrant, or search and detain us without probable cause—amount to nothing when the government and its agents are allowed to disregard those prohibitions on government overreach at will.
  15. If there is an absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off.
  16. Our freedoms—especially the Fourth Amendment—continue to be choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.
  17. Forced vaccinations, forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases: these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials.
  18. Finally, freedom is never free. There is always a price—always a sacrifice—that must be made in order to safeguard one’s freedoms.

We cannot remain silent in the face of the government’s ongoing overreaches, power grabs, and crimes against humanity.

Evil disguised as bureaucracy is still evil. Indeed, this is what Hannah Arendt referred to as the banality of evil.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, such evil happens when bureaucrats (governmental and corporate) unquestioningly carry out orders that are immoral and inhumane; obey immoral instructions unthinkingly; march in lockstep with tyrants; mindlessly perpetuate acts of terror and inhumanity; and justify it all as just “doing one’s job.”

Such evil prevails when good men and women do nothing.

By doing nothing, by remaining silent, by being bystanders to injustice, hate and wrongdoing, good people become as guilty as the perpetrator.

There’s a term for this phenomenon where people stand by, watch and do nothing—even when there is no risk to their safety—while some horrific act takes place (someone is mugged or raped or bullied or left to die): it’s called the bystander effect.

It works the same whether you’re talking about kids watching bullies torment a fellow student on a playground, bystanders watching someone dying on a sidewalk, passengers on a train filming a fellow traveler be raped without intervening to help, or citizens remaining silent in the face of government atrocities.

We need to stop being silent bystanders.

It’s time to stand up for truth—for justice—for freedom—not just for ourselves but for all humanity. Tomorrow may be too late.

Source: https://bit.ly/3vFnOOl

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus—the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers’ enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.”—Simone Weil, French philosopher and political activist

We labor today under the weight of countless tyrannies, large and small, carried out in the so-called name of the national good by an elite class of governmental and corporate officials who are largely insulated from the ill effects of their actions.

We, the middling classes, are not so fortunate.

We find ourselves badgered, bullied and browbeaten into bearing the brunt of their arrogance, paying the price for their greed, suffering the backlash for their militarism, agonizing as a result of their inaction, feigning ignorance about their backroom dealings, overlooking their incompetence, turning a blind eye to their misdeeds, cowering from their heavy-handed tactics, and blindly hoping for change that never comes. 

The overt signs of the despotism exercised by the increasingly authoritarian regime that passes itself off as the United States government (and its corporate partners in crime) are all around us: COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates that strip Americans of their freedom of movement and bodily integrity; censorship, criminalizing, shadow banning and de-platforming of individuals who express ideas that are politically incorrect or unpopular; warrantless surveillance of Americans’ movements and communications; SWAT team raids of Americans’ homes; shootings of unarmed citizens by police; harsh punishments meted out to schoolchildren in the name of zero tolerance; armed drones taking to the skies domestically; endless wars; out-of-control spending; militarized police; roadside strip searches; roving TSA sweeps; privatized prisons with a profit incentive for jailing Americans; fusion centers that spy on, collect and disseminate data on Americans’ private transactions; and militarized agencies with stockpiles of ammunition, to name some of the most appalling.

Yet as egregious as these incursions on our rights may be, it’s the endless, petty tyrannies—the heavy-handed, punitive-laden dictates inflicted by a self-righteous, Big-Brother-Knows-Best bureaucracy on an overtaxed, overregulated, and underrepresented populace—that illustrate so clearly the degree to which “we the people” are viewed as incapable of common sense, moral judgment, fairness, and intelligence, not to mention lacking a basic understanding of how to stay alive, raise a family, or be part of a functioning community.

It’s hard to say whether we’re dealing with a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves), a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens), or if we’ve gone straight to an idiocracy

This certainly isn’t a constitutional democracy, however.

This overbearing Nanny State despotism is what happens when government representatives (those elected and appointed to work for us) adopt the authoritarian notion that the government knows best and therefore must control, regulate and dictate almost everything about the citizenry’s public, private and professional lives.

The government’s bureaucratic attempts at muscle-flexing by way of overregulation and overcriminalization have reached such outrageous limits that federal and state governments now require on penalty of a fine that individuals apply for permission before they can grow exotic orchids, host elaborate dinner parties, gather friends in one’s home for Bible studies, give coffee to the homeless, let their kids manage a lemonade stand, keep chickens as pets, or braid someone’s hair, as ludicrous as that may seem.

Consider, for example, that businesses in California must now designate an area of the children’s toy aisle “gender-neutral” or face a fine, whether or not the toys sold are traditionally marketed to girls or boys such as Barbies and Hot Wheels. California schools are prohibited from allowing students to access websites, novels or religious works that reflect negatively on gays. And while Californians are free to have sex with whomever they choose (because that’s none of the government’s business), removing a condom during sex without consent could make you liable for general, special and punitive damages.

Up until a few years ago, Missouri required that anyone wanting to braid African-style hair and charge for it must first acquire a government license, which at a minimum requires the applicant to undertake at least 1500 hours of cosmetology classes costing tens of thousands of dollars. Tennessee was prepared to fine residents nearly $100,000 just for violating its laws against braiding hair without a government license. In Oregon, the law was so broad that you needed a license even if you were planning to braid hair for free. The mere act of touching someone’s hair could render you a cosmetologist operating without a license and in violation of the law.

It’s getting worse.

Almost every aspect of American life today—especially if it is work-related—is subject to this kind of heightened scrutiny and ham-fisted control, whether you’re talking about aspiring “bakers, braiders, casket makers, florists, veterinary masseuses, tour guides, taxi drivers, eyebrow threaders, teeth whiteners, and more.”

For instance, whereas 70 years ago, one out of every 20 U.S. jobs required a state license, today, almost 1 in 3 American occupations requires a license.

The problem of overregulation has become so bad that, as one analyst notes, “getting a license to style hair in Washington takes more instructional time than becoming an emergency medical technician or a firefighter.”

This is what happens when bureaucrats run the show, and the rule of law becomes little more than a cattle prod for forcing the citizenry to march in lockstep with the government.

Overregulation is just the other side of the coin to overcriminalization, that phenomenon in which everything is rendered illegal and everyone becomes a lawbreaker.

This is the mindset that tried to penalize a fisherman with 20 years’ jail time for throwing fish that were too small back into the water.

That same overcriminalization mindset reared its ugly head again when police arrested a 90-year-old man for violating an ordinance that prohibits feeding the homeless in public unless portable toilets are also made available.

It’s no coincidence that both of these incidents—the fishing debacle and the homeless feeding arrest—happened in Florida.

Despite its pristine beaches and balmy temperatures, Florida is no less immune to the problems plaguing the rest of the nation in terms of overcriminalization, incarceration rates, bureaucracy, corruption, and police misconduct.

A few years back, in fact, Florida officials authorized police raids on barber shops in minority communities, resulting in barbers being handcuffed in front of customers, and their shops searched without warrants. All of this was purportedly done in an effort to make sure that the barbers’ licensing paperwork was up to snuff.

As if criminalizing fishing, charity, and haircuts wasn’t bad enough, you could also find yourself passing time in a Florida slammer for such inane activities as singing in a public place while wearing a swimsuit, breaking more than three dishes per day, farting in a public place after 6 pm on a Thursday, and skateboarding without a license.

In this way, the Sunshine State is representative of the transformation happening across the nation, where a steady diet of bread and circuses has given rise to an oblivious, inactive citizenry content to be ruled over by an inflexible and highly bureaucratic regime.

America has gone from being a beacon of freedom to a locked down nation. And “we the people,” sold on the idea that safety, security and material comforts are preferable to freedom, have allowed the government to pave over the Constitution in order to erect a concentration camp.

The problem with these devil’s bargains, however, is that there is always a catch, always a price to pay for whatever it is we valued so highly as to barter away our most precious possessions.

We’ve bartered away our right to self-governance, self-defense, privacy, autonomy and that most important right of all—the right to tell the government to “leave me the hell alone.”

In exchange for the promise of an end to global pandemics, lower taxes, lower crime rates, safe streets, safe schools, blight-free neighborhoods, and readily accessible technology, health care, water, food and power, we’ve opened the door to lockdowns, militarized police, government surveillance, asset forfeiture, school zero tolerance policies, license plate readers, red light cameras, SWAT team raids, health care mandates, overcriminalization, overregulation and government corruption.

In the end, such bargains always turn sour.

We relied on the government to help us safely navigate national emergencies (terrorism, natural disasters, global pandemics, etc.) only to find ourselves forced to relinquish our freedoms on the altar of national security, yet we’re no safer (or healthier) than before.

We asked our lawmakers to be tough on crime, and we’ve been saddled with an abundance of laws that criminalize almost every aspect of our lives. So far, we’re up to 4500 criminal laws and 300,000 criminal regulations that result in average Americans unknowingly engaging in criminal acts at least three times a day. For instance, the family of an 11-year-old girl was issued a $535 fine for violating the Federal Migratory Bird Act after the young girl rescued a baby woodpecker from predatory cats.

We wanted criminals taken off the streets, and we didn’t want to have to pay for their incarceration. What we’ve gotten is a nation that boasts the highest incarceration rate in the world, with more than 2.3 million people locked up, many of them doing time for relatively minor, nonviolent crimes, and a private prison industry fueling the drive for more inmates, who are forced to provide corporations with cheap labor.

A special report by CNBC breaks down the national numbers:

One out of 100 American adults is behind bars — while a stunning one out of 32 is on probation, parole or in prison. This reliance on mass incarceration has created a thriving prison economy. The states and the federal government spend about $74 billion a year on corrections, and nearly 800,000 people work in the industry.

We wanted law enforcement agencies to have the necessary resources to fight the nation’s wars on terror, crime and drugs. What we got instead were militarized police decked out with M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers, battle tanks and hollow point bullets—gear designed for the battlefield, more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year (many for routine police tasks, resulting in losses of life and property), and profit-driven schemes that add to the government’s largesse such as asset forfeiture, where police seize property from “suspected criminals.”

According to the Washington Post, these funds have been used to buy guns, armored cars, electronic surveillance gear, “luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.” Police seminars advise officers to use their “department wish list when deciding which assets to seize” and, in particular, go after flat screen TVs, cash and nice cars.

In Florida, where police are no strangers to asset forfeiture, Florida police have been carrying out “reverse” sting operations, where they pose as drug dealers to lure buyers with promises of cheap cocaine, then bust them, and seize their cash and cars. Over the course of a year, police in one small Florida town seized close to $6 million using these entrapment schemes.

We fell for the government’s promise of safer roads, only to find ourselves caught in a tangle of profit-driven red light cameras, which ticket unsuspecting drivers in the so-called name of road safety while ostensibly fattening the coffers of local and state governments. Despite widespread public opposition, corruption and systemic malfunctions, these cameras—used in 24 states and Washington, DC—are particularly popular with municipalities, which look to them as an easy means of extra cash.

One small Florida town, population 8,000, generates a million dollars a year in fines from these cameras. Building on the profit-incentive schemes, the cameras’ manufacturers are also pushing speed cameras and school bus cameras, both of which result in heft fines for violators who speed or try to go around school buses.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, this is what happens when the American people get duped, deceived, double-crossed, cheated, lied to, swindled and conned into believing that the government and its army of bureaucrats—the people we appointed to safeguard our freedoms—actually have our best interests at heart.

Yet when all is said and done, who is really to blame when the wool gets pulled over your eyes: you, for believing the con man, or the con man for being true to his nature?

It’s time for a bracing dose of reality, America.

Wake up and take a good, hard look around you, and ask yourself if the gussied-up version of America being sold to you—crime free, worry free, disease free and devoid of responsibility—is really worth the ticket price: nothing less than your freedoms.

Source: https://bit.ly/3BAhgT2

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

“Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away. They’re privileges.”—George Carlin

You think you’ve got rights? Think again.

All of those freedoms we cherish—the ones enshrined in the Constitution, the ones that affirm our right to free speech and assembly, due process, privacy, bodily integrity, the right to not have police seize our property without a warrant, or search and detain us without probable cause—amount to nothing when the government and its agents are allowed to disregard those prohibitions on government overreach at will.

This is the grim reality of life in the American police state.

In fact, in the face of the government’s ongoing power grabs, our so-called rights have been reduced to mere technicalities, privileges that can be granted and taken away, all with the general blessing of the courts.

This is what one would call a slow death by a thousand cuts, only it’s the Constitution being inexorably bled to death by the very institution (the judicial branch of government) that is supposed to be protecting it (and us) from government abuse.

Court pundits, fixated on a handful of politically charged cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term dealing with abortion, gun rights and COVID-19 mandates, have failed to recognize that the Supreme Court—and the courts in general—sold us out long ago.

With each passing day, it becomes increasingly clear that Americans can no longer rely on the courts to “take the government off the backs of the people,” in the words of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. When presented with an opportunity to loosen the government’s noose that keeps getting cinched tighter and tighter around the necks of the American people, what does our current Supreme Court usually do?

It ducks. Prevaricates. Remains silent. Speaks to the narrowest possible concern.

More often than not, it gives the government and its corporate sponsors the benefit of the doubt, seemingly more concerned with establishing order and protecting government interests than with upholding the rights of the people enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Rarely do the concerns of the populace prevail.

Every so often, the justices toss a bone to those who fear they have abdicated their allegiance to the Constitution. Too often, however, the Supreme Court tends to march in lockstep with the police state.

As a result, the police and other government agents have been generally empowered to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance.

In recent years, for example, the Court has ruled that police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits; police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips; Secret Service agents are not accountable for their actions, as long as they’re done in the name of “security”; citizens only have a right to remain silent if they assert it; police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes,” justifying any and all police searches of vehicles stopped on the roadside; police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime; police can stop, search, question and profile citizens and non-citizens alike; police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense”; police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home; and it’s a crime to not identify yourself when a policeman asks your name.

Moreover, it was a unanimous Supreme Court which determined that police officers may use drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops. That same Court gave police the green light to taser defenseless motorists, strip search non-violent suspects arrested for minor incidents, and break down people’s front doors without evidence that they have done anything wrong.

The cases the Supreme Court refuses to hear, allowing lower court judgments to stand, are almost as critical as the ones they rule on. Some of these cases have delivered devastating blows to the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

By remaining silent, the Court has affirmed that: legally owning a firearm is enough to justify a no-knock raid by police; the military can arrest and detain American citizens; students can be subjected to random lockdowns and mass searches at school; police officers who don’t know their actions violate the law aren’t guilty of breaking the law; trouble understanding police orders constitutes resistance that justifies the use of excessive force; and the areas immediately adjacent to one’s apartment can be subjected to warrantless police surveillance and arrests.

Make no mistake about it: when such instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution, one can only conclude that the system is rigged.

By refusing to accept any of the eight or so qualified immunity cases before it last year that strove to hold police accountable for official misconduct, the Supreme Court delivered a chilling reminder that in the American police state, “we the people” are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to ‘serve and protect.”

This is how qualified immunity keeps the police state in power.

Lawyers tend to offer a lot of complicated, convoluted explanations for the doctrine of qualified immunity, which was intended to insulate government officials from frivolous lawsuits, but the real purpose of qualified immunity is to rig the system, ensuring that abusive agents of the government almost always win and the victims of government abuse almost always lose.

How else do you explain a doctrine that requires victims of police violence to prove that their abusers knew their behavior was illegal because it had been deemed so in a nearly identical case at some prior time?

It’s a setup for failure.

A review of critical court rulings over the past several decades, including rulings affirming qualified immunity protections for government agents by the U.S. Supreme Court, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order, protecting the ruling class, and insulating government agents from charges of wrongdoing than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Indeed, as Reuters reports, qualified immunity “has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights.”

Worse, as Reuters concluded, “the Supreme Court has built qualified immunity into an often insurmountable police defense by intervening in cases mostly to favor the police.”

For those in need of a reminder of all the ways in which the Supreme Court has made us sitting ducks at the mercy of the American police state, let me offer the following.

As a result of court rulings in recent years, police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless searches. Police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless arrests based on mere suspicion. Police can claim qualified immunity for using excessive force against protesters. Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back. Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a mentally impaired person. Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. Police can stop, arrest and search citizens without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.  Police officers can stop cars based on “anonymous” tips or for “suspicious” behavior such as having a reclined car seat or driving too carefully. Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime.  Police can use the “fear for my life” rationale as an excuse for shooting unarmed individuals. Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes.” Not only are police largely protected by qualified immunity, but police dogs are also off the hook for wrongdoing.

Police can subject Americans to strip searches, no matter the “offense.” Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. Police can use knock-and-talk tactics as a means of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment. Police can carry out no-knock raids if they believe announcing themselves would be dangerous. Police can recklessly open fire on anyone that might be “armed.” Police can destroy a home during a SWAT raid, even if the owner gives their consent to enter and search it. Police can suffocate someone, deliberately or inadvertently, in the process of subduing them.

To sum it up, we are dealing with a nationwide epidemic of court-sanctioned police violence carried out with impunity against individuals posing little or no real threat.

So where does that leave us?

For those deluded enough to believe that they’re living the American dream—where the government represents the people, where the people are equal in the eyes of the law, where the courts are arbiters of justice, where the police are keepers of the peace, and where the law is applied equally as a means of protecting the rights of the people—it’s time to wake up.

We no longer have a representative government, a rule of law, or justice.

Liberty has fallen to legalism. Freedom has fallen to fascism.

Justice has become jaded, jaundiced and just plain unjust.

And for too many, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the American dream of freedom and justice for all has turned into a living nightmare.

Given the turbulence of our age, with its government overreach, military training drills on American soil, domestic surveillance, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, wrongful convictions, profit-driven prisons, corporate corruption, COVID mandates, and community-wide lockdowns, the need for a guardian of the people’s rights has never been greater.

Source: https://bit.ly/3a6Dlwz

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

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