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Linda LeTendre's Waging Peace
by Linda LeTendre

Waging Peace

A Daily Gazette community blog
Linda LeTendre fights for a peaceful world.

Send in the clowns (they're already here); Congress finally guts the First Amendment

Lately when I get a chance to write about peace and justice issues I think, “OMG, where to start?”

First, thanks to the 14 people who were arrested at the main gates of Vandenberg Air Force Base for witnessing against the launch of a Minuteman II intercontinental Ballistic Missile on Feb. 25. The ICBM will send poison to indigenous people in the Pacific. My friend John Amidon was among those taking the “Sacrament of the Handcuffs” as was, Daniel Ellsberg, Fr. Louie Vitale and Cindy Sheehan. Click HERE to see a video of the action:

As I was taking a two-week break to visit with my dad in Mexico (where God is still on the “A List”), I was keeping tabs on the side show that has become American politics. The Republican presidential field of candidates resembles one of those little cars that pulls up into the center ring of circus and the clowns just keep spilling out. My prediction is that the party leaders will pull in a dark horse candidate at the August convention to save their bacon. Jeb Bush seems the likely choice.

We have Rush Limbaugh on national radio use the language usually reserved for a keg party at a college fraternity to describe a woman who would like her insurance provider to cover birth control, and then in one of the most astounding Freudian slips ever to be broadcast live, invites her and all women of her ilk to submit videos of the act that requires them to use birth control in the first place.

Our feckless politicians, instead of calling his tirade childish, his request just plain creepy, and then moving on to issues like the economy and peace as it relates to the pending war with Iran, jump in with inane comments of their own. Like Mitt Romeny saying that he would not have used “that language” to describe her -- thus begging the question just what language would he use to call someone a slut? Our own Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand used the opportunity to do some fundraising. Class act.

By the way, as a social worker, my clinical term for someone using birth control is “personal responsibility."

Speaking of the less-than-honorable Gillibrand, on Feb. 6, she and every single other Democratic senator voted for H.R. 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, which effectively guts the First Amendment and will make it a felony to protest. House representatives passed it on Monday, Feb. 27.

I love the wording, “Grounds Improvement” -- making you think they're going to mow the lawn and plant flowers.

Gilibrand's vote does not surprise me. A few years back when she was still Congresswoman Gillibrand, I and two or three others quietly stood outside of the entrance to a fundraiser for her at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs: I was holding a poster detailing the number of dead and the amount of money spent in the Iraq and Afghan wars. Rather than have to walk past us, we watched her go in by a different entrance just up from the one to her event.

Under this pending law, the government has been granted the authority to bring charges against any American engaged in political protest anywhere in the country. Wow, just in time for both the DNC and RNC national conventions and the promised springtime resurgence of Occupy Wall Street. Who says our Congress can't organize and plan ahead?

As a friend of mine noted in an email: “holy crappers. I searched hr 347 on Google News and no major outlet carried this story....” Why isn't this front page news? And what restaurant is the Tea Party holed up in because obviously they're out to lunch.

Do an Internet search on H. R. 347 and you'll get an eyeful. HERE is a link to get you started.

This recent legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is present. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance."

The law is designed to spare any government official, including candidates running for office, from being protested against.

Any person protected by the Secret Service is covered under the bill, making it a federal offense to even accidentally disrupt an event attended by a person with Secret Service protection and essentially ends whatever precious little remains of the right to assemble and peacefully protest.

Mere hours after H.R. 347 passed, presidential candidate Rick Santorum was granted Secret Service protection and Mitt Romney has been getting this protection for some time now. Seeing as he is worth in excess of $250 million, I think he should take some “personal responsibility” and pay for his own bodyguards. Newt got in line to say, “Me too! Me too! I'm running too!”

This law is allowed to be used against anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so, with “grounds” being defined as any area where said protected person — be it President Obama, Sen. Santorum or Gov. Romney — will be temporarily visiting, whether or not it is public knowledge that said member of the protected permanent political class is on said premises. Don't forget that anyone getting Secret Service services is covered, former presidents, visiting dignitaries, etc.

If you intend on fighting such charges, remember that in the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, even at a public event, brings criminal charges in and of themselves. A “twofer” for their local constabulary.

Only three lawmakers voted against the act last Monday. One of them, Justin Mash, writes:
The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it's illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it's illegal.”

“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights.”

As he did with the NDAA, I'm sure President Obama will sign H. R. 347 with an apology condemning the very law which he is signing, letting us know that just because he's affixing his signature to paper to make the bill the law of the land doesn't mean he thinks it's right.

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