Category Archives: Dictatorship/Military/Police

The Age of Petty Tyrannies

By John W. Whitehead
May 14, 2018
John Whitehead

“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 name of the national good by an elite class of government 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 are all around us: warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private phone and email conversations by the NSA; SWAT team raids of Americans’ homes; shootings of unarmed citizens by police; harsh punishments meted out to schoolchildren in the name of zero tolerance; 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 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 inflicted on an overtaxed, overregulated, and underrepresented populace that occasionally nudge a weary public out of their numb indifference and into a state of outrage.

Consider, for example, 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.

A current case before the Supreme Court, Niang v. Tomblinson strikes at the heart of this bureaucratic exercise in absurdity that has pushed overregulation and overcriminalization to outrageous limits. This particular case is about whether one needs a government license in order to braid hair.

Missouri, like many states across the country, has increasingly adopted as its governing style 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.

In Missouri, 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 has fined residents nearly $100,000 just for violating its laws against braiding hair without a government license.

In Oregon, the law is so broad that you need a license even if you’re planning to braid hair for free. The mere act of touching someone’s hair can render you a cosmetologist operating without a license and in violation of the law.

In Iowa, you can be sentenced with up to a year in prison for braiding hair without having attended a year of cosmetology school.

It’s not just hair braiding that has become grist for the overregulation mill.

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 technicianor 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.

John Yates, a commercial fisherman, was written up in 2007 by a state fish and wildlife officer who noticed that among Yates’ haul of red grouper, 72 were apparently under the 20-inch minimum legal minimum. Yates, ordered to bring the fish to shore as evidence of his violation of the federal statute on undersized catches, returned to shore with only 69 grouper in the crate designated for evidence.

A crew member later confessed that, on orders from Yates, the crew had thrown the undersized grouper overboard and replaced them with larger fish. Unfortunately, they were three fish short.

Sensing a bait-and-switch, prosecutors refused to let Yates off the hook quite so easily. Unfortunately, in prosecuting him for the undersized fish under a law aimed at financial crimes, government officials opened up a can of worms. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court in a rare (and narrow) flash of reason, sided with Yates, ruling that the government had overreached.

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.

Arnold Abbott, 90 years old and the founder of a nonprofit that feeds the homeless, faced a fine of $1000 and up to four months in jail for violating a city ordinance that makes it a crime to feed the homeless in public.

Under the city’s ordinance, clearly aimed at discouraging the feeding of the homeless in public, organizations seeking to do so must provide portable toilets, be 500 feet away from each other, 500 feet from residential properties, and are limited to having only one group carry out such a function per city block.

Abbott had been feeding the homeless on a public beach in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl., every Wednesday evening for 23 years. On November 2, 2014, moments after handing out his third meal of the day, police reportedly approached the nonagenarian and ordered him to “‘drop that plate right now,’ as if I were carrying a weapon,” recalls Abbott. Abbott was arrested and fined. Three days later, Abbott was at it again, and arrested again.

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

This is also the state that arrested Nicole Gainey for free-range parenting when she let her 7-year-old son walk to the park alone, even though it was just a few blocks from their house. If convicted, Gainey could have been made to serve up to five years in jail.

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.

In fact, the Sunshine State has become a poster child for how a seemingly idyllic place can be transformed into a police state with very little effort. As such, it is representative of what is happening in every state 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.

Just 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, parenting decisions, 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.

This transformation of the United States from being a beacon of freedom to a locked down nation illustrates perfectly what songwriter Joni Mitchell was referring to when she wrote:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

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, overregulation 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.

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.”

Justice Department figures indicate that as much as $4.3 billion was seized in asset forfeiture cases in 2012, with the profits split between federal agencies and local police. 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, 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 and devoid of responsibility—is really worth the ticket price: nothing less than your freedoms.

https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/the_age_of_petty_tyrannies

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If Any Other Country Was Shooting Civilians Like Israel, The US Would Be Calling For Invasion By Now

idf shooting civilians

The death toll in Gaza increased dramatically on Monday as Israeli Defense Forces opened fire on thousands of Palestinian civilians, killing 41 and injuring at least 1,700, and the United States’ response served as a reminder that if the governments in Iran, Syria, North Korea or Russia had done the same thing, the U.S. would be calling for a full-scale invasion right now.

It is hypocrisy at its finest, especially considering the fact that the U.S. has a history of cheering on and aiding protests against foreign governments. In fact, when the mainstream media began sharing reports of protests in Iran in December 2017, President Trump took to Twitter to cheer on the dissidents.

“The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism,” Trump wrote, claiming that the United States was “watching very closely for human rights violations!

 

Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!

Does that same logic not apply when thousands of Palestinians are standing up for their rights on the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli government is committing human rights violations? Trump’s silence is deafening, and it also serves as a reminder he has fallen into line with the same U.S. foreign policy standards that have been adopted and expressed by his predecessors.

When the U.S. launched its campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it went beyond just cheering on protesters, and it began launching multi-million-dollar programs to arm and train the protesters, even with the knowledge that many of them were extremists who would go on to strengthen radical groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. has also looked the other way in Saudi Arabia where the government is accused of a host human rights violations—including fueling genocide in the poorest country in the Middle East—and it regularly executes civilians who have been accused of protesting, after denying them a fair trial.

The United States only seems to care about oppressive governments who commit human rights violations when those governments are not considered “close allies.” The double-standard is painfully evident in Gaza as the bloodiest day in months comes to a close.

Reports from the Health Ministry in Gaza claimed that several of the 41 Palestinians killed on Monday were teenagers, and as many as 1,700 civilians are now left suffering from injuries after Israeli Defense Forces opened fire on protests near Israel’s border fence.

This comes in addition to the dozens of Palestinians who have been killed and the thousands who have been wounded by Israeli sniper fire in recent weeks. While Israel has falsely claimed that every man or teenage boy who participated in the protests was a “militant” for Hamas, and deserved to die, there was one civilian death that was particularly notable.

Yaser Murtaja, a Palestinian photojournalist, was wearing a jacket that clearly said “PRESS” when he was shot in the chest and killed by an Israeli sniper on Friday. As The Intercept noted,

Either the Israeli sniper could not clearly see who was in the rifle scope—in which case the claim that the use of live fire is precise is shown to be untrue—or the soldier intentionally fired at a journalist, which is a war crime.

While Israel has justified the killings by claiming that their soldiers opened fire because the suspects “attempted to infiltrate” the Israel-Gaza border, a disturbing video was leaked last month that showed multiple Israeli men celebrating after a sniper targeted and shot a non-threatening man who was standing in a field on the other side of their border fence.

A man is seen standing motionless on the other side of the barrier as another man and a small child walk past him. Another man remarked, “I can’t see because of the wire” and then said, “there’s a little boy there,” noting the presence of the child.

The sniper then pulled the trigger and fired one shot, striking the Palestinian man who was standing still and was making no attempt to do anything that could have threatened the soldiers who had been observing him from a distance.

Cheers erupted from the Israelis after the Palestinian man was shot and then collapsed on the ground. The man filming the shooting can be heard saying, “Wow, what a video! Yes! Son of a bitch. What a video, here, run and get him out of there. Of course, I filmed it.”

Rachel Blevins is an independent journalist from Texas, who aspires to break the false left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives. Follow Rachel on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Steemit and Patreon. This article first appeared at The Free Thought Project.

http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/?p=170209

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France Can Only Maintain its Status with the Exploitation of its Former Colonies

Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten Newsletter — Translated by Le Sphinx Hebdo

Click to enlarge

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The French State annually collects from its former colonies, 440 billion Euros in taxes. France relies on revenue from Africa not to sink into economic insignificance, warns former (French) President, Jacques Chirac. The case shows that a just world is difficult because the former colonial powers have become dependent on exploitation.

In the 1950s and 60s, France’s African colonies requested their independence. Although the Paris government formally accepted the declarations of independence, she called on African countries to sign a so-called “pact for the continuation of settlements”. In it, they committed to use the French colonial currency, FCFA (“Francs for the French colonies in Africa”), to maintain the French school and military system and to establish French as the official language.

Under this law, 14 African countries are still forced to store around 85 percent of their currency reserves in the French central bank in Paris. They are under the direct control of the French Treasury. The affected countries have no access to this part of their reserves. If their remaining 15 percent reserves are insufficient, they must borrow additional funds from the French Treasury at market rates. Since 1961, Paris controls the currency reserves of Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

In addition, these countries must transfer their “colonial debts” each year for the infrastructure built by France, to Paris, as Silicon Africa reported in detail. France takes around 440 billion euros every year. The government in Paris also has a right of first refusal on all newly discovered natural resources in the former African colonies. Finally, French companies must be given preferential treatment in the allocation of contracts in ex-colonies. As a result, most services in the areas of utilities, finance, transport, energy and agriculture are in the hands of French corporations.

The ruling elite in each country has no choice but to meet these demands. African leaders who refuse are threatened with assassination or the overthrow of their government. In the last 50 years, a total of 67 coups took place in 26 African countries. 16 of these 26 countries were former French’s Colonies.

An example of this is the case of Sylvanus Olympio, the first president of the West African country of Togo, ousted in a coup. He had refused to sign the “Pact for the continuation of settlements”. But France insisted that Togo pays compensation for the infrastructure that the French had built during the colonial era. The annual sum was about 40 percent of Togo’s budget in 1963 and quickly brought the newly independent country to its economic limits.

Furthermore, the new president of Togo had decided to abolish the French colonial currency, FCFA and print its own national currency. Only three days after this decision, the new government was overthrown by a group of former foreign legionnaires (French Special Forces) and the president was killed. The legionaires’ leader, Gnassingbe Eyadema, received the equivalent of 550 euros from the local French Embassy for the assassination, according to the British’s Telegraph. Four years later, Eyadema became the new president of Togo with support from Paris. He established a tyrannical dictatorship in the West African country and remained in power until his death in 2005.

In the following years, the government in Paris repeatedly resorted to former foreign legionnaires to forcibly remove from power unwanted governments in its former colonies. This is how the first president of the Central African Republic, David Dacko, was overthrown in 1966 by former members of the Foreign Legion. The same happened to Burkina Faso’s president, Maurice Yaméogo and Benin’s President, Mathieu Kérékou. And even the first president of the Republic of Mali, Modiba Keita, fell victim to a coup by former members of the Foreign Legion in 1968. Only a few years earlier, he had decided to abolish the French colonial currency.

By contrast, the other colonial powers have abandoned such measures. Great Britain learned its lesson in the wake of the American Revolution of 1763. The revolution’s trigger was Britain’s decision to impose the costs of the recently ended French and Indian wars on American colonies. The protest, however, culminated in the “Boston Tea Party” and finally in the War of Independence and the founding of the United States in 1776. In 1778, the British Parliament passed the “Taxation of Colonies Act” and Great Britain got rid of taxes and duties on sales in the “British America” and “British West Indies” colonies.

The same applies to the former British colonies of Australia and Canada. Although these countries are still part of the “Commonwealth of Nations” and thus formally subject to the British royal family, since the declaration of independence of the countries at the beginning of the 20th century, they do not pay taxes to England.

The former Dutch colonial power no longer levies any taxes on its former spheres of influence in South America and Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, at the beginning of the 20th century, finances had been so disastrous due to devastating wars that the Netherlands had to provide regular financial support for their colonies. At the beginning of the 19th century, the kingdom was already getting rid of a large part of its colonies. Most recently, the Netherlands Antilles left the kingdom in October 2010. Only the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Saint Maarten are still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The political elite of France, on the other hand, has no intention whatsoever of eliminating the relics of the colonial era and of liberating the former colonies into complete independence. Rather, in Paris, the fear seems to prevail that you could sink to economic insignificance without the revenue from Africa. Even, the former French President Jacques Chirac said in March 2008: “Without Africa, France would slip into the rank of third country “.

Article originally published in German under the title of Frankreich kann seinen Status nur mit Ausbeutung der ehemaligen Kolonien halte.

Source: Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten Newslett

Translated by Le Sphinx Hebdo

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