You are hereCivil Rights

Civil Rights

Protest Life-Imprisonment Without Charge or Trial: Thursday, December 15, Noon, Robert Hurt's Charlottesville Office

The National Defense Authorization Act, if it becomes law, will allow the U.S. president and military to lock you or anyone else up indefinitely without charge or trial. President Obama had threatened to veto, because he wanted even more power than that. He wanted the power to imprison or murder anyone with or without the military. The conference committee has modified the bill to accomodate him. Now the bill goes to a final vote in the House and Senate, and then to the President for a signature, a veto, or -- as long as we're trashing the Constitution anyway -- a possible law-altering signing statement.

This bill is a direct assault on the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth amendments. That's the majority of our Bill of Rights. Thursday, December 15th is Bill of Rights Day. Here's how we can celebrate:

Be at Congressman Hurt's office at noon to demand that he vote "No" (or to protest if he has already voted "Yes" by then).

This is part of a national effort and there is more information available at

Rep. Robert Hurt's Office

686 Berkmar Circle

Charlottesville, VA 22901

Phone: 434-973-9631 Fax: 434-973-9635

Phone for DC office: 202-225-4711

Imprisoning of Japanese Americans and the New Defense Authorization Act

I'm editing a book in which one of the contributors writes:

In 1971, Congress passed the Anti-Detention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 4001(a), which states that "no person shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress." Fred Koramatsu, who had brought the unsuccessful case before the Supreme Court, was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor. Congress apologized and provided for limited reparations for this heinous act.

Presumably this would be trashed by the bill now before the conference committee and soon headed to the President for a signature or veto. 

The criminal abuse of Japanese Americans for which Congress had to apologize and pay reparations, and for which there is a misleadingly pro-war looking memorial hidden between the U.S. Capitol and Union Station, will now be sanctioned by the current Congress/President. 

Can you feel the pride?

Are you fired up?

The more things CHANGE . . .

What to Replace the Imprison-Americans Bill With

The funny thing about the bill that the Senate just passed that lets presidents and the military lock you up without a charge or a trial — well, not funny ha ha but funny unusual — is that the basic bill to which that little monstrosity was attached is even worse. It's a bill to dump over $650 billion into wars and aggressive weaponry, continue the slaughter in Afghanistan, ramp up the creation and use of drones, and expand U.S. military bases around the globe.

Why We Need a Veto More Than Ever

The Merkley amendment calling for a swifter withdrawal from Afghanistan passed on Wednesday.  And a "compromise" was forced on Thursday over the section allowing process-free imprisonment of anyone, including U.S. citizens.

Sadly, the so-called compromise simply states that this new law will not change existing law.  Yet this new law's language is worse than existing written law, and the Obama Administration's view of existing law is worse still.

We must demand a veto of this bill more clearly and loudly than ever.

This meaningless compromise was reach after the Senate voted down both Udall's amendment stripping out the offending language and an amendment from Feinstein creating an exception for U.S. citizens to the newly codified presidential power to imprison people without charge or trial.

We simply cannot accept our government allowing the President and the military to lock us away in violation of our Constitutional rights.

The Two Occupations of DC

The occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC was planned for several months to begin on the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War.  It was planned prior to and quickly endorsed and supported the planning for Occupy Wall St.  In numerous blog posts through the summer I described it as an occupation.  Here is a video of me demanding an occupation of DC and George Galloway demanding an occupation of London.  This is from June:

I bring this up because there are now two occupations in DC, both of them wonderful.  I wish we had three!  For the most part they support each other and work together well.  But there are some persistent people in one of them, the occupation of McPherson Square, who -- rather than protesting the plutocracy -- have devoted themselves to the hopeless crusade of getting everyone to stop using the word "occupation" in connection with the occupation of Freedom Plaza.

Despite having planned an occupation for the better part of a year and described it with that word from Day 1, we tried to accomodate our brothers and sisters in the OccupyDC encampment in McPherson Square.  We repeatedly told all media outlets to call us October2011 or Stop the Machine or at least the Occupation of Freedom Plaza rather than of DC or even of Washington.  To no avail.  We will forever be understood as a spin off of Occupy Wall Street and as the Occupation of Washington, DC.

And, I'm sorry, but who the hell cares?  If the energy devoted to pestering me about the proper names for our two occupations were devoted to nonviolently resisting the work of the 1% government in Washington, we might pull this country and this world back from the brink.

Let's think of our priorities.

Let's work together.

Let's be glad they aren't calling us worse things.

Let's invent new things to be called.

Let's make them inclusive things.

If we are the 99% we are the 99% together as one movement, even if we have multiple general assemblies.



Troy Davis and Our Pro-Life Government

Wednesday evening, when the news was mistakenly announced that Troy Davis would not be killed, the crowd that I was with erupted with joy and with the enthusiastic realization that we all were capable of believing that something good had been done by our government.  I was at the dedication of the Howard Zinn room in the new Busboys and Poets restaurant in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Prisoners Have Nothing to Gain By Eating

Prisoners risking death by refusing food in the Pelican Bay supermax, and those hunger striking in solidarity in prisons around California are a judgment of our sickness. "The degree of civilization in a society," said Dostoyevsky, "can be judged by entering its prisons."

Civilization is something we no longer seem to aspire to. The United States locks up more people and a greater percentage of its people than anyone else. We lock them in training centers for anger and violence. We subject them to rape, assault, humiliation, and isolation. We throw the innocent in with the guilty, the young with the old, the nonviolent with the violent, the hopeful with those who've lost all interest in life.

John Dean Does Not Know How to Get Rid of Clarence Thomas

Am I the only one who noticed that ex-Nixon lawyer John Dean's article "John Dean Knows How to Get Rid of Clarence Thomas" concludes thus: "In short, nothing is going to happen to Clarence Thomas." Talk about false advertising!

But Dean left out of consideration one strategy, the same one that five years ago he argued against pursuing with Bush and Cheney, whom many of us at that time wanted removed from office. The strategy is the one now being advanced by RootsAction: Impeach Clarence Thomas.

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn Rorschach Test

There's a great deal of disappointment, even distress, in the air as news spreads that Dominique Strauss-Kahn might not be charged with rape (or attempted rape, or sexual assault). He's guilty, the victim's character is being attacked in order to protect him, and the Culture of Rape will emerge triumphant once again -- or so I'm being told by various Emails, Tweets, etc.

On the other hand, the whole thing was a conspiracy to facilitate the pillaging of the Greek people and the replacement of DSK at the IMF by a robber baron more loyal to the Austerity Agenda. Or so I have been assured.

King George III Won: Happy Fourth of July!

The Declaration of Independence is best remembered as a declaration of war, a war declared on the grounds that we wanted our own flag. The sheer stupidity and anachronism of the idea serves to discourage any thoughts about why Canada didn't need a bloody war, whether the U.S. war benefitted people outside the new aristocracy to whom power was transferred, what bothered Frederick Douglas so much about a day celebrating "independence," or what the Declaration of Independence actually said.