Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jail time for video-taping police

by Michael Billy, Helium

On May 24 Brian D. Kelly of Carlisle, Pennsylvania was arrested for violating a state wiretapping law. Kelly, 18, videotaped police officers during a routine traffic stop. His camera was immediately confiscated and he was taken to jail. He spent 26 hours in county prison until his mother posted her house as collateral for his $2,500 bail.

What act was Mr. Kelly perpetrating which the great state of Pennsylvania saw as wiretapping?

Well, it turns out that there is an obscure state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent. The arrest apparently relates to the sound that Kelly's camera picked up, not the video.

Some people would claim that ignorance of the law is no excuse', but I would have to whole-heartedly disagree. How could someone possibly know that it is illegal to record an on-duty officer while on public property? It is not a law that one would assume exists based on common sense, such as murder or theft.

The only way that Kelly could have possibly known about this law would be if he actually read it. But lets be realistic, it could not honestly be expected that every citizen reads the tomes of laws that are passed, on state, local, and federal levels, every year, a process which would likely take an entire lifetime.

Kelly said that if he knew about this law before the incident occurred he would not have recorded the officers. What he does not seem to understand is that this is a law that does not make any sense and is blatantly unconstitutional. And bad laws, quite frankly, are meant to be broken.

Let me remind you of the text of the fourth amendment. 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" The word unreasonable allows for some gray area, but I am sure that most people (a jury of our peers, perhaps) would agree that it was unreasonable for the police to take his camera.

The only crime' Kelly is guilty of is recording the officers doing their jobs, an act that should never be illegal in a free society. Is it not our duty as citizens to make sure that the police and all other government employees for that matter are doing their jobs properly? If not, then whose responsibility is it? And who watches them?

This law is an enemy of Liberty and needs to be repealed. It may have been passed with good intentions, i.e. prevention of blackmail, but we all know how to pave the road to hell. Only Police Officers and others who seek to abuse their powers truly benefit from laws like this one.

Realize this: Any protest that ever takes place in Pennsylvania can not legally be recorded by bystanders. This allows the police, who can potentially abuse their power, to confiscate the cameras of anyone who records them, essentially eliminating evidence of any possible wrong doing.

We are losing civil liberties in this country everyday and I don't know about you but I'm getting sick and tired of it.

If you still do not believe that the country we live in resembles a police state, I have a simple question for you: What will it take for you to open your eyes?

Yesterday they stole away habeas corpus. Today we can not record the police. Tomorrow they remove our right to a trial by jury. Then they take away our guns. What will we have then? Only a hollow shell of the republic that our Founders once envisioned.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Racism Implodes Tea Party

Can the NAACP Rise to the Challenge?

Man what a short weekend.  On Thursday the Tea Party was setting up a bigger tent.  By Sunday their center pole was cracked in half.  Suddenly we live in a country where the NAACP is on the rise, again.

Naturally the racist framing of the past month was drawn and squared by Rush Limbaugh who charged that the President had only his race to offer as the reason for his political success.  Limbaugh forgets how much the Obama factor was empowered by a widespread social yearning to get out of the frame that Limbaugh, Fox News, and Bush had locked us into.  Perhaps Obama's Black heritage lent some credibility to the hope that he could lead us out of that cave instead of right back into its depths.

Limbaugh's ability to profit commercially from racism as "entertainment value" probably had some mentoring influence upon Mark Williams.  When NAACP President Benjamin Jealous dared the Tea Party to repudiate its racism, Williams decided to try a little minstrel style mockery which, come to think of it, pretty much connects Williams to the commercial history of American radio as well.  The main mistake Williams made according to the culture code of contemporary social reality is that he forgot to go into show biz before he acted out.

Williams is guilty of what up North people call "stupid" racism, because right up until he put on his blackface the Tea Party had been playing its racism "smart".  Of course, nobody should be taken in by the Tea Party's rehab.  Their economic model is practically racist as was the Reaganomics upon which it is built.

Now is the time for the NAACP to step into the opportunity that it created and offer some workable disaster relief plan that even the President can't evade.  It's been at least a decade since we've seen any real vision with half a chance of winning anything but a ballot count on election day.  And of course odds could be better this time around.

Progressives have pretty much stranded themselves in the shallow waters of the Democratic Party, exactly where the ballast of the NAACP is lodged.  Just as we can't afford to be fooled by the Tea Party's vapid denials of racism, neither can we afford to believe that the NAACP has this week made a significant dent in the racist structure of the economic crisis or the racist paralysis that prevents all progressive advance.

Whether or how much progressives can afford to waste on another round of Congressional balloteering is a dandy question.  But it would be too cynical to bet the movement on the iron weight of the system's internal contradictions crashing.

Yes, that crash is upon us.  And as it continues to thunder down, the NAACP could stake ground for that other tent city, the one where those of us who have never trusted the Tea Party can gather for some badly needed refreshment.

Greg Moses is editor of TexasWorker.org and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence.  He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Fall of Obama...

Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch

It is not Obama's fault that for 30 years America's policy – under Reagan,
both Bushes and Bill Clinton – has been to export jobs permanently to the
Third World. The jobs that Americans now desperately seek are no longer
here, in the homeland, and never will be. They're in China, Taiwan,
Vietnam, India, Indonesia.

No stimulus program, giving money to cement contractors to fix potholes
along the federal interstate highway system, is going to bring those jobs
back. Highly trained tool and die workers, the aristocrats of the
manufacturing sector, are flipping hamburgers – at best – for $7.50 an
hour because U.S. corporations sent their jobs to Guangzhou, with the
approval of politicians flush with the money of the "free trade" lobby.

It is not Obama's fault that across 30 years more and more money has
floated up to the apex of the social pyramid till America is heading back
to where it was in the 1880s, a nation of tramps and millionaires. It's
not his fault that every tax break, every regulation, every judicial
decision tilts toward business and the rich. That was the neoliberal
America conjured into malign vitality back in the mid 1970s.

But it is Obama's fault that he did not understand this, that always, from
the getgo, he flattered Americans with paeans to their greatness, without
adequate warning of the political and corporate corruption destroying
America and the resistance he would face if he really fought against the
prevailing arrangements that were destroying America. He offered them a
free and easy pass to a better future, and now they see that the promise
was empty.

It's Obama's fault, too, that, as a communicator, he cannot rally and
inspire the nation from its fears. From his earliest years he has schooled
himself not to be excitable, not to be an angry black man who would be
alarming to his white friends at Harvard and his later corporate patrons.
Self-control was his passport to the guardians of the system, who were
desperate to find a symbolic leader to restore America's credibility in
the world after the disasters of the Bush era. He is too cool.

So, now Americans in increasing numbers have lost confidence in him. For
the first time in the polls negative assessments outnumber the positive.
He no longer commands trust. His support is drifting down to 40 per cent.
The straddle that allowed him to flatter corporate chieftains at the same
time as blue-collar workers now seems like the most vapid opportunism. The
casual campaign pledge to wipe out al-Quaida in Afghanistan is now being
cashed out in a disastrous campaign viewed with dismay by a majority of