Is America Still The ‘Land Of The Free?’

Is America really the “land of the free?” We may have been initially founded and constructed as such; but each year, the land of the free becomes increasingly the land of the regulated, oppressed, disparaged, and dependent.

Gallup regularly conducts global polls to assess citizens’ perception of their levels of freedom around the world. In 2006, 91% of US residents were satisfied with their “level of freedom,” which was among the highest in the world. Last year’s iteration of the survey indicated only 79% of Americans are satisfied with their level of freedom. Such a precipitous drop in a few short years dropped the US to 36th place among the 120 nations sampled. Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Paraguay, and Rwanda are among the 35 nations more satisfied with their levels of freedom.

This seems to be confirmed by the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which has seen the U.S. slip to number 12 this year. Countries with greater economic freedom, based on ten criteria from personal property rights to personal financial freedom, include Chile, Estonia, and Mauritius, none of which could be considered bastions of liberty, as the U.S. historically has been.

America was founded differently than any other nation in human history, which is what we refer to as American exceptionalism. Our founding documents guaranteed rights of free exercise of religion, free speech, free association, freedom from government oppression and illegal searches and seizures, among others. These rights and freedoms, our founding documents asserted, were “inalienable rights” derived from God, not granted by government–that “all men are created equal,” and that among those precious rights were “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property).”

Every year, those liberties are assaulted afresh by an ever-expanding governmental reach into our personal lives. Even those fundamental rights that are codified by constitutional amendment as our Bill of Rights are under assault. Freedoms of religious expression, speech, assembly, arms, illegal search and seizure, and due process are eroded with every congressional, legislative, and council bill, act, and statute–and are increasingly rarely upheld through judicial review.

In short, it seems that the machinations of government, politicians, and the courts are arrayed broadly against the interests of individual liberty, personal accountability, and private freedoms. Our nation can only loosely be identified as a republic, where the enumerated powers of government are narrow and defined, with all non-enumerated powers residing in the states and the citizens, as the Tenth Amendment declares. The nation has morphed, and can be categorically and definitionally identified as a statist system, concentrating “extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty.”

This devolution of the republic and our individual liberties has only accelerated over the past several years, since the despicable attacks of 9/11. It was deemed necessary to relinquish some individual liberty for the defense of the realm, as the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism measures sliced away at individual liberties for security purposes. In spite of the sunset provisions incorporated into that measure, they were extended in 2011, and have been expanded by NSA surveillance, more expansive monitoring of financial transactions, and even more circumvention of the 4th Amendment with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA essentially classify the entire country as a battlefield, allowing extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and enhanced interrogation against U.S. citizens here on American soil.

The omnipotence of government today certainly contrasts sharply with what our founding fathers envisioned for this “land of the free.” As Thomas Jefferson said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.” Or, in the context of abrogation of 4th Amendment rights, any government that is powerful enough to do everything we allow it certainly is powerful enough to get away with everything it does.

This also brings to mind Ben Franklin’s astute observation, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Clearly, the more ground we cede collectively as a citizenry to security, the less freedom and liberty there is. And that applies not just to issues of national security, but also to domestic fiscal policies as well.

Patrick Henry famously mirrored that sentiment, when he said, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” I’m sure the good governor would be aghast at the sacrifice of liberty for thralldom to government that has ensued these past several years.

Every election from here on out is a referendum on the future of our republic. Will we choose to elect those who embrace our founding principles based on liberty and freedom, or will we continue to cede our liberty for “security” provided by a statist government that is increasingly less attune to the concerns and interests of the individual citizen?

For those of us who are lovers of liberty, there has never been a more critical time to reassert our founding principles and the constitutional limitations of governmental power than today. If we want to have anything even remotely resembling the American republic surviving for future generations, it’s time to quit being a doormat to the politically correct progressive and statist agenda, and to proactively engage in the political process. Most of the statist “accomplishments” can be unwoven, but we need the electoral majorities to do it. Passivity and acquiescence are no longer options for those who would concur with Patrick Henry, “…give me liberty, or give me death!”

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Proposed Texas Law Requires Teachers To Psychologically Evaluate Students

A new bill proposed by a Texas state representative would require students to undergo mandatory mental health evaluations or face suspension, based on a psychological assessment of school teachers or school officials.

HB 985’s reporting provision states: “If an educator employed by a school district or open-enrollment charter school observes or is informed about conduct of a student or a statement made by the student that would cause a reasonable person to believe the student intends or is likely to commit sexual violence against another or intends or is likely to cause serious bodily injury to self or others, the educator shall provide notice to the school counselor.”

Once a student is flagged, the proposed legislation requires the parent or guardian to take the student to “the nearest local mental health authority or a physician specializing in psychiatry to receive a mental health screening and a certificate of medical examination for mental illness…that contains the examining physician’s opinion that the student is not a danger to oneself or others.”

During the evaluation period, or if suspended by the provisions of the law, students would be placed off campus in the Discipline Alternative Education Program. The program was established in 1995 by state legislation to address “virtually any disciplinary violation or certain criminal offenses specified in Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code,” according to Schooling a New Class of Criminals? by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Breitbart Texas reports that State Rep. Jason Villaba, R-Dallas, the bill’s sponsor, was:

inspired by the 2013 brutal rape-murder of six-year-old Alanna Gallagher by a troubled Dallas-Fort Worth neighborhood teen. The tragedy did not happen in a school setting. In the name of public safety; however, HB 985 would open that Pandora’s Box of overreach to include a student’s action or comments “on or off school property, and during or outside regular school hours.

Opponents of HB 985 fear that deputizing school personnel to make snap psychological evaluations will lead to stigmatizing students, when current law already empowers school officials and law enforcement to address credible threats made by students. The process provided for in HB 985, once initiated by teachers and school administrators, will lead to students’ personal information being submitted to mental health facilities and police departments. These actions can all take place without first consulting with the parents.

Villaba has introduced controversial legislation in the past, including making it a crime for bloggers and citizens to film law enforcement and forcing parents to have their children vaccinated–regardless of their religious convictions.

h/t: Free Patriot Post 

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

No Matter Who Wins The White House, The New Boss Will Be The Same As The Old Boss

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

The American people remain eager to be persuaded that a new president in the White House can solve the problems that plague us. Yet no matter who wins this next presidential election, you can rest assured that the new boss will be the same as the old boss; and we—the permanent underclass in America—will continue to be forced to march in lockstep with the police state in all matters, public and private.

Indeed, as I point out in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it really doesn’t matter what you call them—the 1%, the elite, the controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that no matter which party occupies the White House in 2017, the unelected bureaucracy that actually calls the shots will continue to do so.

Consider the following a much-needed reality check, an antidote if you will, against an overdose of overhyped campaign announcements, lofty electoral promises and meaningless patriotic sentiments that land us right back in the same prison cell.

FACT: For the first time in history, Congress is dominated by a majority of millionaires who are, on average, fourteen times wealthier than the average American. According to a scientific study by Princeton researchers, the United States of America is not the democracy that it purports to be, but rather an oligarchy, in which “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy.”

FACT: “Today, 17,000 local police forces are equipped with such military equipment as Blackhawk helicopters, machine guns, grenade launchers, battering rams, explosives, chemical sprays, body armor, night vision, rappelling gear and armored vehicles,” reports Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. “Some have tanks.”

FACT: Thanks to an overabundance of 4,500-plus federal crimes and 400,000-plus rules and regulations, it is estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. In fact, according to law professor John Baker, “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. That is not an exaggeration.”

FACT: The number of violent crimes in the country is down substantially, the lowest rate in forty years, while the number of Americans being jailed for nonviolent crimes such as driving with a suspended license is skyrocketing.

FACT: Despite the fact that women only make up 8 percent of the prison population, they are more likely to be strip searched, though not more likely to carry contraband.

FACT: Despite the fact that we have 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food, and at least 900,000 veterans relying on food stamps, enormous sums continue to be doled out for presidential vacations ($16 million for trips to Africa and Hawaii), overtime fraud at the Department of Homeland Security (nearly $9 million in improper overtime claims, and that’s just in six of the DHS’ many offices), and Hollywood movie productions ($10 million was spent by the Army National Guard on Superman movie tie-ins aimed at increasing awareness about the National Guard).

FACT: Since 2001, Americans have spent $10.5 million every hour for numerous foreign military occupations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s also the $2.2 million spent every hour on maintaining the United States’ nuclear stockpile, and the $35,000 spent every hour to produce and maintain our collection of Tomahawk missiles. And then there’s the money the government exports to other countries to support their arsenals, at the cost of $1.61 million every hour for the American taxpayers.

FACT: It is estimated that 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison, whether it be a local jail or a state or federal penitentiary, due to a wide range of factors ranging from overcriminalization and surprise raids at family homes to roadside traffic stops.

FACT: At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Indeed, Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. Americans are 110 times more likely to die of foodborne illness than in a terrorist attack.

FACT: Police officers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be made financially liable for their wrongdoing.

FACT: On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams.There has been a notable buildup in recent years of SWAT teams within non-security-related federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Education Department.

FACT: The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) facial recognition system, which is set to hold data on millions of Americans, will include a variety of biometric data, including palm prints, iris scans, and face recognition data. The FBI hopes to have 52 million images by 2015. NGI will be capable of uploading 55,000 images a day, and conducting tens of thousands of photo searches a day.

FACT: Comprising an $82 billion industry, at least 30,000 drones are expected to occupy U.S. airspace by 2020.

FACT: Devices are now being developed that would allow police to stop a car remotely, ostensibly to end police chases.

FACT: Everything we do will eventually be connected to the Internet. By 2030, it is estimated there will be 100 trillion sensor devices connecting human electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, etc.) to the Internet. Much, if not all, of our electronic devices will be connected to Google, which openly works with government intelligence agencies.

FACT: In 2015, mega-food corporations will begin rolling out high-tech shelving outfitted with cameras in order to track the shopping behavior of customers, as well as information like the age and sex of shoppers.

FACT: If knowledge is power, it’s no wonder Americans are in hot water. According to a study by the National Constitution Center, 41 percent of Americans “are not aware that there are three branches of government, and 62 percent couldn’t name them; 33 percent couldn’t even name one.”

FACT: The United States is one of the highest TV viewing nations. According to a Nielsen report, the average American over the age of two “spends more than thirty-four hours a week watching live television . . . plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.”

FACT: Only six out of every one hundred Americans know that they actually have a constitutional right to hold the government accountable for wrongdoing, as guaranteed by the right to petition clause of the First Amendment.

FACT: According to a Gallup poll, Americans place greater faith in the military and the police than in any of the three branches of government. However, when asked to name the greatest problem facing the nation, Americans of all political stripes ranked the government as the number one concern. In fact, almost eight out of ten Americans believe that government corruption is widespread.

Perhaps the most troubling fact of all is this: we have handed over control of our government and our lives to faceless bureaucrats who view us as little more than cattle to be bred, branded, butchered, and sold for profit.

If there is to be any hope of restoring our freedoms and reclaiming control over our government, it will rest not with the politicians but with the people themselves. When all is said and done, each American will have to decide for themselves whether they prefer dangerous freedom to peaceful slavery.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Court Orders DHS To Explain Legality Of Secret Plan To Shut Down Cell Service

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The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has given the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security 15 days to explain why it cannot reveal further details about its contingency plan (SOP 303) to shut cell service to localities and potentially entire regions.

The court order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) when DHS failed to fully respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in 2011. EPIC’s original request to DHS came after authorities shut down the cell service in the San Francisco subway system during a protest.

EPIC asked DHS to release the document that gives the agency the authority to take this action. DHS responded to the request by turning over a highly redacted document for a procedure called SOP 303. The plan was adopted by DHS following the 2005 subway attacks in London, during which terrorists used cellphone signals to activate bombs.

When DHS refused to turn over more details about the program, EPIC sued the department and won at the district court level, but lost when DHS appealed the ruling to the DC Circuit Court.

The court ruled this past February that a FOIA exemption applies if the government determines that releasing the information “could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.”

EPIC next petitioned the DC Circuit Court to revisit the case En Banc, meaning that all the justices of the court, rather than the normal three justice panel, will rehear the case.

The DC Circuit Court order to DHS on Friday indicates that EPIC and the American public may yet get further details about the SOP 303 plan.

h/t: The Blaze and ARSTechnica

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Kick Open The Doorway To Liberty: What Are We Waiting For?

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“The greatness of America lies in the right to protest for right.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

Everything this nation once stood for is being turned on its head.

Free speech, religious expression, privacy, due process, bodily integrity, the sanctity of human life, the sovereignty of the family, individuality, the right to self-defense, protection against police abuses, representative government, private property, human rights—the very ideals that once made this nation great—have become casualties of a politically correct, misguided, materialistic, amoral, militaristic culture.

Indeed, I’m having a hard time reconciling the America I know and love with the America being depicted in the daily news headlines, where corruption, cronyism, and abuse have taken precedence over the rights of the citizenry and the rule of law.

What kind of country do we live in where it’s acceptable for police to shoot unarmed citizens, for homeowners to be jailed for having overgrown lawns (a Texas homeowner was actually sentenced to 17 days in jail and fined $1700 for having an overgrown lawn), for kids to be tasered and pepper sprayed for acting like kids at school (many are left with health problems ranging from comas and asthma to cardiac arrest), and for local governments to rake in hefty profits under the guise of traffic safety (NPR reports that police departments across the country continue to require quotas for arrests and tickets, a practice that is illegal but in effect)?

Why should we Americans have to put up with the government listening in on our phone calls, spying on our emails, subjecting us to roadside strip searches, and generally holding our freedoms hostage in exchange for some phantom promises of security?

As I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it doesn’t matter where you live—big city or small town—it’s the same scenario being played out over and over again in which government agents ride roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.

In such an environment, it’s not just our Fourth Amendment rights—which protect us against police abuses—that are being trampled. It’s also our First Amendment rights to even voice concern over these practices that are being muzzled. Just consider some of the First Amendment battles that have taken place in recent years, and you too will find yourself wondering what country you’re living in:

  • Harold Hodge was arrested for standing silently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building, holding a sign in protest of police tactics.
  • Marine Brandon Raub was arrested for criticizing the government on Facebook.
  • Pastor Michael Salman was arrested for holding Bible studies in his home.
  • Steven Howards was arrested for being too close to a government official when he voiced his disapproval of the war in Iraq.
  • Kenneth Webber was fired from his job as a schoolbus driver for displaying a Confederate flag on the truck he uses to drive from home to school and back.
  • Fred Marlow was arrested for filming a SWAT team raid that took place across from his apartment.

And then there were the three California high school public school students who were ordered to turn their American flag t-shirts inside out on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) because school officials were afraid it might cause a disruption and/or offend Hispanic students. Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court actually sided with the school and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, affirming that it might be disruptive for American students to wear the American flag to an American public school.

While there are all kinds of labels being put on so-called “unacceptable” speech today, from calling it politically incorrect and hate speech to offensive and dangerous speech, the real message being conveyed is that Americans don’t have a right to express themselves if what they are saying is unpopular, controversial, or at odds with what the government determines to be acceptable.

Whether it’s through the use of so-called “free speech zones,” the requirement of speech permits, the policing of online forums, or a litany of laws and policies that criminalize expressive activities, what we’re seeing is the caging of free speech and the asphyxiation of the First Amendment.

Long before the menace of the police state, with its roadside strip searches, surveillance drones, and SWAT team raids, it was our First Amendment rights that were being battered by political correctness, hate crime legislation, the war on terror, and every other thinly veiled rationale used to justify censoring our free speech rights.

By suppressing free speech, the government is contributing to a growing underclass of Americans who are being told that they can’t take part in American public life unless they “fit in.” Mind you, it won’t be long before anyone who believes in holding the government accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law is labeled an “extremist” and is relegated to an underclass that doesn’t fit in and must be watched all the time.

It doesn’t matter how much money you make, what politics you subscribe to, or what God you worship: we are all potential suspects, terrorists, and lawbreakers in the eyes of the government.

In other words, if and when this nation falls to tyranny, we will all suffer the same fate: we will fall together. However, if it is possible to avert such an outcome, it will rest in us remembering that we are also all descendants of those early American revolutionaries who pushed back against the abuses of the British government. These people were neither career politicians nor government bureaucrats. Instead, they were mechanics, merchants, artisans, and the like—ordinary people groaning under the weight of Britain’s oppressive rule—who, having reached a breaking point, had decided that enough was enough.

The colonists’ treatment at the hands of the British was not much different from the abuses meted out to the American people today: they too were taxed on everything from food to labor without any real say in the matter, in addition to which they had their homes invaded by armed government agents; their property seized and searched; their families terrorized; their communications, associations, and activities monitored; and their attempts to defend themselves and challenge the government’s abuses dismissed as belligerence, treachery, and sedition.

Unlike most Americans today, who remain ignorant of the government’s abuses, cheerfully distracted by the entertainment spectacles trotted out before them by a complicit media, readily persuaded that the government has their best interests at heart, and easily cowed by the slightest show of force, the colonists responded to the government’s abuses with outrage, activism, and rebellion. They staged boycotts of British goods and organized public protests, mass meetings, parades, bonfires, and other demonstrations, culminating with their most famous act of resistance, the Boston Tea Party.

On the night of December 16, 1773, a group of men dressed as Indians boarded three ships that were carrying tea. Cheered on by a crowd along the shore, they threw 342 chests of tea overboard in protest of a tax on the tea. Many American merchants were aghast at the wanton destruction of property. A town meeting in Bristol, Massachusetts, condemned the action. Ben Franklin even called on his native city to pay for the tea and apologize. But as historian Pauline Maier notes, the Boston Tea Party was a last resort for a group of people who had stated their peaceful demands but were rebuffed by the British: “The tea resistance constituted a model of justified forceful resistance upon traditional criteria.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Yet it’s a history we cannot afford to forget or allow to be rewritten.

The colonists suffered under the weight of countless tyrannies before they finally were emboldened to stand their ground. They attempted to reason with the British crown, to plea their cause, even to negotiate. It was only when these means proved futile that they resorted to outright resistance, civil disobedience, and eventually rebellion.

More than 200 years later, we are once again suffering under a long train of abuses and usurpations. What Americans today must decide is how committed they are to the cause of freedom and how far they’re willing to go to restore what has been lost.

Nat Hentoff, one of my dearest friends and a formidable champion of the Constitution, has long advocated for the resurgence of grassroots activism. As Nat noted:

This resistance to arrant tyranny first became part of our heritage when Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty formed the original Committees of Correspondence, a unifying source of news of British tyranny throughout the colonies that became a precipitating cause of the American Revolution. Where are the Sons of Liberty, the Committees of Correspondence and the insistently courageous city councils now, when they are crucially needed to bring back the Bill of Rights that protect every American against government tyranny worse than King George III’s? Where are the citizens demanding that these doorways to liberty be opened … What are we waiting for?

What are we waiting for, indeed?

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom