A $63 fine for parking at an expired meter might cost Los Angeles its entire system of parking fines.
In February, Jesus Pimentel brought a lawsuit after getting slammed with what he says is an unconstitutional punishment. He ended up having to pay $175 on the ticket in question after missing the two-week deadline to pay and having various non-statutory fees added on top of the initial fine. He’s suing to prove such a large figure ought to be treated as a violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines (and of a similar provision in California’s constitution).
Because the state threatened to take Pimentel’s car or make it illegal for him to drive it if he didn’t pay, he considers such a threat without a chance for a fair adversarial process a violation of his constitutional right to due process as well.
As the lawsuit notes, what the city expected Pimentel to pay amounted to 175 percent of the daily median per capita income of a Los Angeles resident. For Latinos in Los Angeles such as Pimentel, it’s 336 percent of daily median income. The lawsuit also points out the disparate impact on the poor. “Imposition of these penalties is particularly onerous and disproportionately affects low income workers.”
Barack Obama rarely indulges in public displays of dictatorial arrogance. He leaves this to underlings like Eric Holder, Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In testimony before separate congressional committees on the same day (March 7), Panetta and Mueller made clear the president’s view that his power to kill people – both at home and abroad – is not subject to congressional checks or legal restraints of any kind.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta pointedly refused to recognize that Congress, not the president, has the constitutional authority to commit the United States military to war overseas. Panetta provoked outrage among conservatives by claiming that the UN Security Council or NATO could authorize military intervention abroad. However, less attention was paid to the fact that Panetta’s formulation cut Congress out of this matter entirely – a logical and predictable extension of the Bush administration’s claim that the president, in his role as Grand and Glorious Decider, has plenary authority to wage war wherever he chooses, against whatever target he selects.
On the same day, FBI Director Robert Mueller was asked about Holder’s claim – made before an audience of law students at Northwestern University a few days earlier – that the president can order the execution of American citizens without trial or due process of any kind. Mueller was specifically asked if that applies to Americans living at home, as well as abroad. He artlessly ducked the question by claiming he would “have to go back” and check if it was addressed in administration policy.
The president has not been granted authority to order the assassination of anyone, of course. Doing so is (in descending order of seriousness) an act of criminal homicide and an impeachable offense. Or at least it would be considered as much by anybody other than those who subscribe to the perverse idea that the president is a figure who transcends the law, who “unassailable holds onto his rank,” irrespective of the moral nature of his actions.
This was the essence of Eric Holder’s detestable claim that a presidential kill order, made in secret on the recommendation of an anonymous, unaccountable panel of underlings, satisfies the requirement of “due process.” That vile notion was reiterated by Senate Majority Leader Reid in a March 11 CNN interview. …
Louis XIV’s famous self-description was "L’etat, c’est moi" (“I am the state”). His final pre-Revolution successor, Louis XVI, offered a similar summation of his view of the law: “C’est legal parce que je le veux" ("It’s legal because I will it"). Royal absolutism of this kind, after being refined in the crucible of revolution, was eventually remolded into the basic tenets of totalitarianism – a system, Lenin said, that rested on "Power without limit, resting directly on force, restrained by no laws, absolutely unrestricted by rules."
Lenin would recognize in value of Holder’s sophistical distinction between “due process” and “judicial process” an effort to abolish any remaining legal limits on the lethal power of the State, as incarnated in the Dear Leader. He would admire the audacity displayed by the Obama administration (as well as its predecessor) in asserting the unlimited power of the executive to kill, torture, and imprison people at whim. He would covet the instruments of mass annihilation wielded by the executive branch, and its equally destructive apparatus of mass indoctrination. And he might even spare a moment of incredulous pity for a population that is ruled by such a system while clinging to the illusion of freedom.
This is a must read for all those who are clamoring to defend Obama for changing some language in the bill to remove its dangerous teeth.
Condemnation of President Obama is intense, and growing, as a result of his announced intent to sign into law the indefinite detention bill embedded in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). These denunciations come not only from the nation’s leading civil liberties and human rights groups, but also from the pro-Obama New York Times Editorial Page, which today has a scathing Editorial describing Obama’s stance as “a complete political cave-in, one that reinforces the impression of a fumbling presidency” and lamenting that “the bill has so many other objectionable aspects that we can’t go into them all,” as well as from vocal Obama supporters such as Andrew Sullivan, who wrote yesterday that this episode is “another sign that his campaign pledge to be vigilant about civil liberties in the war on terror was a lie.” In damage control mode, White-House-allied groups are now trying to ride to the rescue with attacks on the ACLU and dismissive belittling of the bill’s dangers.
For that reason, it is very worthwhile to briefly examine — and debunk — the three principal myths being spread by supporters of this bill, and to do so very simply: by citing the relevant provisions of the bill, as well as the relevant passages of the original 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), so that everyone can judge for themselves what this bill actually includes (this is all above and beyond the evidence I assembled in writing about this bill yesterday):
[Click the link in the title to read details of each myth.]
Myth # 1: This bill does not codify indefinite detention …
Myth #2: The bill does not expand the scope of the War on Terror as defined by the 2001 AUMF …
Myth #3: U.S. citizens are exempted from this new bill …
In sum, there is simply no question that this bill codifies indefinite detention without trial (Myth 1). There is no question that it significantly expands the statutory definitions of the War on Terror and those who can be targeted as part of it (Myth 2). The issue of application to U.S. citizens (Myth 3) is purposely muddled — that’s why Feinstein’s amendments were rejected — and there is consequently no doubt this bill can and will be used by the U.S. Government (under this President or a future one) to bolster its argument that it is empowered to indefinitely detain even U.S. citizens without a trial (NYTEditorial: “The legislation could also give future presidents the authority to throw American citizens into prison for life without charges or a trial”; Sen. Bernie Sanders: “This bill also contains misguided provisions that in the name of fighting terrorism essentially authorize the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without charges”).
And to those who simply use the tu quoque canard that this is simply what the government’s been doing since Bush was in power…
Even if it were true that this bill changes nothing when compared to how the Executive Branch has been interpreting and exercising the powers of the old AUMF, there are serious dangers and harms from having Congress — with bipartisan sponsors, a Democratic Senate and a GOP House — put its institutional, statutory weight behind powers previously claimed and seized by the President alone. That codification entrenches these powers. As the New York Times Editorial today put it: the bill contains “terrible new measures that will make indefinite detention and military trials a permanent part of American law.”
What’s particularly ironic (and revealing) about all of this is that former White House counsel Greg Craig assured The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer back in February, 2009 that it’s “hard to imagine Barack Obama as the first President of the United States to introduce a preventive-detention law.” Four months later, President Obama proposed exactly such a law — one that The New York Times described as “a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free” — and now he will sign such a scheme into law.
Today marks the 220th anniversary of the day the Bill of Rights were officially added to the Constitution.
Ironically [or, rather, tragically], the U.S. Senate is set to kill the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th amendments of that Bill of Rights later today.
Last night, the U.S. House approved the Conference Report version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes provisions that would allow the President to throw American citizens in jail [without due process] and keep them there indefinitely.
The Senate is set to vote on this bill around 4 pm eastern today, so I need your immediate help if we are to stop this dangerous legislation.
Give ‘em hell.
This would be one of the most egregiously liberty-crushing laws to ever pass. If we don’t stop them now, solutions may turn ugly.
Click below for what I sent the Senators who represent the State of California this morning. Feel free to use it as a template to send to your “representatives.” Of course, since the vote is imminent, I recommend bombarding them with phone calls.
Those who founded this country knew quite well that every citizen must remain vigilant or freedom would be lost. This is the true nature of a patriot—one who sounds the clarion call when the Constitution is under attack. If, on the other hand, the people become sheep-like, it will lead to a government of wolves. This is what we are faced with today as Congress marches in lockstep with the White House to renew the USA PATRIOT Act.
The PATRIOT Act drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments—the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments—and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well. The PATRIOT Act also redefined terrorism so broadly that many nonterrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations, and civil disobedience were considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.
The PATRIOT Act justified broader domestic surveillance, the logic being that if government agents knew more about each American, they could distinguish the terrorists from law-abiding citizens—no doubt an earnest impulse shared by small-town police and federal agents alike. According to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow Jr., this was a fantasy that had “been brewing in the law-enforcement world for a long time.” And 9/11 provided the government with the perfect excuse for conducting far-reaching surveillance and collecting mountains of information on even the most law-abiding citizen. …
Despite campaign promises to the contrary, Barack Obama has proven to be little better than George Bush in terms of civil liberties. For example, on Feb. 27, 2010, just a little over a year after taking office, Obama quietly signed into law three controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were set to expire. The “roving wiretaps” provision allows the FBI to wiretap phones in multiple homes without having to provide the target’s name or even phone number—merely the possibility that a suspect “might” use the phone is enough to justify the wiretap. The “lone wolf” provision allows intelligence gathering of people not suspected of being part of a foreign government or known terrorist organization. And Section 215 allows court-approved seizure of records and property in antiterrorism operations.
Then, one year later, in February 2011, Congress approved a 90-day extension of those very same provisions, which Obama once again signed into law. Now, rather than expiring quietly, those provisions are once again up for reauthorization on May 28, thanks to the handiwork of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, with backing from Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairmen of the judiciary and intelligence committees, respectively. Unfortunately, not only are Sensenbrenner and his cohorts pushing to extend the first two controversial provisions (allowing “roving wiretaps” of phones used by terror suspects and allowing federal investigators to compel production of business records) for six more years, they have also proposed making permanent the “lone wolf” provision, allowing the government to monitor individuals who they believe are terrorists even though they might not have ties to a specific group.
With or without the help of the PATRIOT Act, the American government, never a staunch advocate of civil liberties, has been writing its own orders for some time now. Indeed, not long after 9/11, I had an FBI agent say as much to me, suggesting that my efforts to oppose the PATRIOT Act were pointless. And, in fact, as the McCarthy era and the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. illustrated, the government’s amassing of power, especially in relation to its ability to spy on Americans, predates the passage of the PATRIOT Act in 2001.
Yet what the PATRIOT Act and its subsequent incarnations did was legitimize what had previously been covert and frowned upon as a violation of Americans’ long-cherished privacy rights. Thus, what began with the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in the fall of 2001 has snowballed into a massive assault on our constitutional freedoms, our system of government, and our fundamental philosophies and way of life…
Let’s focus on Rhode Island for a moment…
Let’s just suppose that hypothetically, you get pulled over with eight ounces of marijuana in your car. You’re 18 years old. It’s your first offense in Rhode Island, and you plea bargain down to avoid prison time. You’re sentenced to five years of supervised probation.
Six years later, things are better, you’re done selling weed, but you’re having money trouble. You pass a bad check over $500, and you’re convicted. You spend two months in a minimum security prison and are released.
Four years later, things are good in life. You’ve got a good job. You get a fast car and decide to do something you think doesn’t matter. On a deserted freeway at 3AM, you accelerate your brand new sports car up to 125 miles per hour. It’s stupid for sure, thoughtless, and potentially life endangering, but no one else is around. The only problem is this: A cop catches you on radar. You’re pulled over and charged with reckless endangerment. It’s your third felony.
Ultimately, this is your third strike in Rhode Island. That means you’ve just been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. You’re 28 years old, and your entire life is over. You’ve been declared a menace to society.
However, Michael Woodmansee is getting out of prison in a few days. He murdered and ate the flesh of a five year old boy in Rhode Island in 1975. He only did 28 years after being sentenced in 1982. But since it was his first offense, he’s subject to those sentencing guidelines.
In Rhode Island, you can go to prison for life after possessing weed, writing a bad check, and driving too fast. However, if you cannibalize a five year old boy, you’ll serve 28 years.
Please, go ahead and defend our criminal justice system.
“Manning has been charged with unlawfully downloading classified information and transmitting it “with reason to believe that the information could cause injury to the United States.” He has been incarcerated at Quantico for five months and has yet to receive the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing.
Nevertheless, Manning is in “maximum custody.” Also, under a “Protection of Injury” order, he is confined to his cell for 23 hours a day, even though his lawyer says a psychologist has determined he isn’t a threat to himself. His lawyer also says that Manning is denied sheets and is unable to exercise in his cell, and that he is not allowed to sleep between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he is made to sit up or stand by his guards.
Some speculate that by treating Manning harshly, officials hope to induce him to implicate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (though Assange would be subject to civilian, not military, justice). But a desire to secure his cooperation isn’t a justification for protracted imprisonment under the conditions imposed on Manning.
…regardless of one’s view of his alleged conduct, the conditions under which he is being held are indefensible.”
This editorial really doesn’t even go far enough in emphasizing how absolutely disgusting it is that, in the United States of America, the supposed “land of the free,” we have a man in solitary confinement, being denied bail, being treated as one might expect the government to perhaps treat Osama Bin Laden, and no one gives a flying rat’s ass.
But let me remind the various cheerleaders of statism of a certain document called the Constitution.
Specifically, the Sixth Amendment:“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
Also, the Fifth Amendment:“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Lastly, the Eighth Amendment:“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Is all that clear enough for you? Because it’s pretty damn unambiguous to me. I am just repulsed.