By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 13, 2017
Two events conspired this past week to force us to reassess if America can ever find its way home; (home being a nation that honors its citizens’ Bill of Rights — the amendments to the U.S. constitution that preserve the individual’s freedoms and protect the individual from abuse of power.)
We have been contemplating how the best and the brightest could serve in Washington in dedicated service to the citizens of their country by watching Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, the television series that ran on NBC from the fall of 1999 to the spring of 2006. (It perhaps speaks to where we are as a nation that its citizens must turn to fictional writing to imagine sanity in government.) There is a memorable scene in one West Wing episode where Jed Bartlet, the fictional President of the United States played by Martin Sheen, is sitting in the Situation Room listening to recommendations from his military advisers on how to respond to American citizens coming into harm’s way at the hands of a foreign power. Bartlet tells the room the following:
Bartlet: “Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis Romanus — I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens…”
The next epiphany of where we once were as a nation came this past weekend while leafing through an antique book which had scraps of newspaper and book clippings from the late 1800s tucked within its pages. One document scrap read as follows: “The first step taken by President McKinley upon assuming the duties of his office was for the protection and release of American citizens in Cuba held in Spanish prisons.” McKinley took office on March 4, 1897.
Today, the greatest threat to the rights and freedoms of American citizens derives not from a foreign power but from a corporate/billionaire controlled government in Washington. Because most members of Congress and the President must rely on corporate money and billionaires to finance their political campaigns, citizens’ rights have given way to the advancement of corporate rights to abuse the citizenry.
Nothing better illustrates this than what has happened to the Bill of Rights’ Seventh Amendment which guarantees the right of the individual citizen to access the nation’s courts. It reads:
“In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
Today, U.S. citizens increasingly find that corporations and their lackeys in Congress have locked shut the doors to the courthouse, except for billionaires and corporations. Wall Street, in fact, has instituted a private justice system that bars both its customers and its employees from accessing the nation’s courts. (See related article below.)
The willingness of Americans to continue to do business with these Wall Street firms that have repeatedly gutted their rights enables this tyranny to grow and flourish.
The Declaration of Independence on which America was founded specifically cited the tyranny of King George III and his infringement of access to the courts. The founding fathers wrote in that historic document that King George III “has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries” and, furthermore, he was “depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.”
Wall Street is also at the center of a sprawling surveillance state in which the Federal government has joined hands with the New York Police Department, outrageously using the taxpayers own dollars, to spy on the comings and goings of innocent people in the streets of Manhattan. As we first reported in 2012:
“On September 25, 2011, just eight days after the Occupy Wall Street protests began in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, the much acclaimed CBS News program, 60 Minutes, aired a fawning look at the thousands of surveillance cameras affixed to buildings and lampposts throughout New York City. The cameras feed live images of people going about their everyday lives to a $150 million computer center equipped with artificial intelligence to integrate and analyze the daily habits of what are, for the most part, law-abiding Americans…the center is jointly staffed and operated by the NYPD along with the largest Wall Street firms – the same firms under investigation in 50 states for mortgage and foreclosure fraud and widely credited with causing the Nation’s economic collapse. The Wall Street firms that were involuntarily bailed out by the 99% are now policing the 99%…
“Unfortunately, electronic surveillance of individuals at the snap of a finger is exactly what New York State law prohibits. New York Code, Section 700.15, requires a warrant for video surveillance and the warrant is only issuable ‘Upon probable cause to believe that a particularly described person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a particular designated offense.’ Blanket surveillance of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens with cameras that pan, tilt and rotate to track individuals to the doorsteps of their psychiatrist, debt counselor, Alcoholics Anonymous, or prosecutor’s office – shared with corporations that employ hundreds of thousands of these same individuals, is breathtaking in its blatant disregard for privacy rights.”
In 2013 U.S. Federal Court Judge Richard Leon humiliated the Obama administration with a ruling on its Orwellian spy tactics against citizens about whom it did not have the slightest suspicion of wrongdoing. The case was Klayman v. Obama and grew out of the disclosures made by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, Edward Snowden.
Judge Leon came down on the side of Larry Klayman and Charles Strange, two of the plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit against the government for its indiscriminate collection of tens of millions of phone records of law abiding citizens, which it had secretly given itself the right to probe and analyze for a period of five years. Judge Leon found the program to be in violation of the Bill of Rights’ Fourth Amendment, writing that he could not “imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systemic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.”
The Fourth Amendment requires “probable cause” prior to a search as opposed to a vast dragnet more akin to a surveillance state. It reads:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Today, tens of millions of Americans have been seduced through propaganda to believe that their enemy is the other political party. But these egregious abuses to the Bill of Rights and the vast erosion of citizen protections are occurring regardless of which political party is in power in Washington.
Just how long will it take for Americans to wake up to the undeniable reality that there is only one political party now in America and that’s the Moneyed-Interest Party of the One Percent.