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Monday, 19 November 2007

Anti-ThoughtCrime Bill Campaign

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Opposition to H.R. 1955 is so important that I have created an index for it titled Thought Crime Bill which is linked on the right sidebar under TGB Features. That link goes to a page where all stories on H.R.1955 are listed and will continue to be collected in one place. There is also a link to the index at the end of each Thought Crime Bill story.]

category_bug_politics.gif Several readers left comments on my original post about the Thought Crime Bill – The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 – taking issue with the alarm bells the proposed legislation raises for many of us:

“Er, did anyone actually read this bill? It doesn't criminalize anything. It forms a commission to study a very real problem,” writes Zara.

“These comments are absurd. Until I got to Zara's I thought maybe I was taking crazy pills. The bill creates a commission. That's it. Doesn't create any new crimes, doesn't deprive anyone of anything, doesn't really do anything. It's a blue-ribbon panel, folks, which is easily observable to anyone who bothers to read the bill. Settle down,” writes Arejay.

Er, did Zara and Arejay actually read the post above the comments? Or the two subsequent posts? They make it abundantly clear that we all understand this legislation “only” creates a commission, why this is alarming and the reasons it should be stopped now – not later.

Another commenter, Brian Little, noted the clause in the legislation stating that any measure taken to prevent homegrown terrorism, etc. “should” not violate Constitutional rights, etc. (always beware of “should”)

“Perhaps folks are overreacting a bit,” wrote Brian.

I’m not going to rehash all the reasons these readers are mistaken (perhaps tragically so in the future) to be complacent about a bill that creates a thoughtcrime commission. But in regard to the supposedly protective clause on not violating guaranteed rights while preventing homegrown terrorism, here is just one example of many of how our government and the people sworn to uphold the law and the Constitution blatantly ignore that oath. From a New York Times editorial last week:

“White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, showed their utter disregard for Congress, the Constitution and the American people when they defied Congressional subpoenas in the United States attorneys scandal…”

“Invoking executive privilege, Ms. Miers refused to appear and Mr. Bolten refused to turn over critical documents.

“They had no right to refuse. Congress has the legal power to call witnesses to testify, and presidential advisers are not exempt. Conservative lawyers like Bruce Fein agree that the administration’s claims of executive privilege are baseless.”

If two of the highest officials in the land can ignore a legal subpoena from the highest branch of the people’s government without penalty, there is little hope for four lines of boilerplate to secure your or my civil rights if the government chooses to ignore them.

Another important point we haven’t made strongly enough here is that there is no need for this thoughtcrime commission or any future legislation based on it. As Cosmo Garvin writes at newsreview.com:

“The U.S. already has extensive laws on the books related to criminal conspiracy, which the Justice Department has been applying pretty broadly, many say far too broadly, in the so-called war on terror. But these definitions [in H.R.1955] swerve into Thoughtcrime territory. "Smash the state" bumper sticker? You're a homegrown terrorist. Self-proclaimed anarchist? Maoist poseur? Che Guevara T-shirt? Homegrown terrorist.”

Or maybe nothing more than “Impeach Cheney” or “Bring Home the Troops” on your car bumper…

Thank you to everyone who wrote about the thoughtcrime bill on your blogs, forwarded it to friends and called and wrote your elected representatives. Another thank you to my friend, Chris Nolan, who runs Spot On, an independent website on current events and politics, for listing the story in her “Hot Spots” section and linking to one of the thoughtcrime posts here.

Mainstream media still has not touched the story, but the number of blogs on top of it is growing and a handful of small-town newspapers have mentioned it. You can track who is writing about H.R.1955, if it appears online, at opencongress.org.

Thoughtcrime Bill Opposition
To keep the story in front of people’s noses and to pressure the Senate, I’ll post a new idea here each week, something we can all participate in – until I run out of ideas and then we start at the beginning again.

Ongoing: Update the story on your own blog once a week. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, but new readers come along all the time. Feel free to use anything about H.R.1955 from Time Goes By with or without attribution.

This week’s project: Let’s ask the six Congress people who voted against H.R. 1955 in the House for their advice on stopping this bill in the Senate. Here’s how:

  1. Choose one or more of the six to write, email or phone

  2. In your message, explain why you are alarmed about what this bill could mean for the future of our civil rights and the First Amendment

  3. Acknowledge that they must feel the same way to have voted against it

  4. Express your astonishment that there has been no reporting on this bill in any mainstream media

  5. Ask for their advice on how to fight this bill in the Senate

In this way, we are not just venting. We are keeping the six Congress people engaged in the issue, asking them for a real exchange of information with us - the people for whom they work. Plus, they might have some good instructions or ideas on making the Senate aware of our issues.

I could write a form letter for us all to use, but it would be better to come from a lot of people each in his or her own words. Below are links to the contact pages for the six House Patriots who voted against H.R. 1955.

Be aware that all our representatives are heavily shielded against contact with constituents or anyone else. Snailmail does not reach individual representatives in Congress for up to two weeks after mailing and is opened by security officials before being forwarded. Phone calls almost always go to an answering machine where you are required to leave a message. Email goes to a general house.gov inbox for each representative with no notice on whether they are read or answered.

It may be more productive to snailmail district offices or to fax all communications. Here are links to each Representative's contact page:

Rep. Jeff Flake [Rep-AR]

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [Rep-CA]

Rep. Neil Abercrombie [Dem-HI]

Rep. Jerry Costello [Dem-IL]

Rep. Dennis Kucinich [Dem-OH]

Rep. John Duncan [Rep-TN]

Thought Crime Bill Story List

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia's recipe for enduring a cousin's wedding to an ill-matched spouse includes the family "Auntie Mame" - in Wishing Someone Better.]


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:49 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Thank you, Ronni, for keeping this legislation at the forefront. The naivete of those who think "it's just a commission" amazes me. I tried to explain it's importance to several people and they don't seem to get the idea that Big Brother will be watching us. I left a short note about it on my blog and will be posting more soon. I wrote my Senators as well my Congressman and will be dropping Dennis Kucinich a note soon. Our legistators are there to protect our rights under the Constitution not make legislation that would take them away. What really scares me is that the Supreme Court is firmly planted in Bush's pocket and could possibly uphold this piece of cr . . . er . . . legislation -- yeah, that's it -- legislation if passed by both house of Congress.

I am discouraged. I wrote a letter to the Editor of my morning paper and they ignored it. I just tried to e-mail Jeff Flake and discovered that his office does not accept e-mail if you don't live in his district. I then wrote to Gabrielle Giffords, my representative, and would have to pay to have it delivered. I have already called her office and I still see no mention of this bill anywhere.

Good reminder and people who don't find this of concern are ignoring not only Bush's signing statements but how he sneaks through appointments of individuals that would never be approved in open Congressional hearings and likely not by Democrats or Republicans. Reid had to hold open the Senate through the holidays to avoid more of these people foisted into government positions of power. Bush won't be the end of this practice. Any Republican running will be eager to continue with this usurpation of the power of the people and likely so would some of the Democrats. This is a critical time and those who deny it either want power taken away from voters (which is who placed Congress in position) or are blind.

will be including above in post on nyc event where eve ensler, of V-day fame--wore a black tee with "Arrest Cheney First" on front. yes.

As far as I see, neither Republican nor Democrats are saying that they will recall any of the detrimental legislature (e.g., Patriot Act) the Bush government has introduced. If the H.R.1955 Act is implemented, wouldn't pass history more or less predict that it would then be there to stay?

Comments that the Bill H.R. 1995 only creates a committee are naive in the extreme and fail to recall our history. The notorious House Unamerican Activities Committee was given similar tasks to root out Nazi, KKK and then communist activities. The lives of many innocent citizens were destroyed and their livelihoods denied by accusations and innuendo. Later, Senator Joseph McCarthy, emboldened by the activities of HUAC began a campaign to root suspected communists from our country. Civil liberties that should have protected people from these zealots were ignored. Inquiry has a way of becoming inquisition from "just a committee."

We really must wonder where our media are in not bringing forth information and the issues on this bill which should clearly be worthy of pro and con open discussion in our democracy.

In conjunction with the media being relatively silent on the matter, we should also be concerned about the policies being hastily pushed forth by our Federal Communications Commission Chairman Martin threatening to consolidate the media even more. If he has his way, he'll sneak that through by the end of December.

We need to continue expressing our views and opposition in both of these areas.

Hi Ronni, I just came across your blog today and am incensed about this legislation that passed while no one was looking. I'm so glad I found you. I just posted on my blog about it and linked to your blog, and hope to get more people involved. I wrote to my congressman as well, as I was very disappointed to see he voted for this legislation.

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