What exactly is a right?

Over the last few days, I’ve had conversations with a couple of my more progressive friends in which they lamented the fact that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t give the American people enough rights.

They echo sentiments expressed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Last February, the Supreme Court justice made a similar argument when advising the Egyptians to not look solely to the U.S. Constitution when drafting their own.

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” Ginsburg said in an interview on Al Hayat television. “I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, have an independent judiciary. It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done.”

Both friends seemed quite shocked when I told them in a sense they were correct. In fact, the Constitution doesn’t really give Americans any rights at all.

But what about the Bill of Rights, they both protested. “It gives us the right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press…”

Of course, the Bill of Rights does no such thing. Yes, it does protect those basic rights from interference from the federal government, but it does not “give us” those rights.

Look at the language of the Bill of Rights.

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Takoma Park, MD passes resolution opposing NDAA

Originally posted at the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition

Last night, May 21, 2012, the Takoma Park City Council voted 5 to 2 in favor of a resolution that condemns the controversial “indefinite detention” provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). These provisions allow indefinite military detention – without charge or trial — of anyone, including a citizen of the United States, who merely has been accused of supporting an alleged terrorist group.

The Takoma Park resolution against indefinite detention passed following a citizen’s campaign led by the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC). “The Takoma Park City Council tonight stood up for its residents and the rule of law, and sent a strong message to Congress that they should clean up the mess they created,” said Thomas Nephew of the MCCRC, “The indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA are unconstitutional and threaten our rights to due process and the ability to confront our accusers.”

In testimony before the City Council last night, Jim Kuhn, also a member of the MCCRC noted that “a local vote tonight comes at a very opportune moment in the national debate.” Congress began debate last week on the 2013 NDAA, but the House of Representatives rejected an amendment that would have overturned the indefinite detention/no trial provisions (Representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards who represent Takoma Park voted for the amendment). Instead, the House passed an amendment that further narrowed the Constitutional rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. The NDAA now moves to the Senate.

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Police State Clashes with Protesters in Chicago

With the recent outburst of Police-State action in Chicago, while we’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this – we can’t say we didn’t know it was coming. With images coming not out of Iran or Egypt, but out of some of the Tenther communities own back yard, we’re witnessing a literal army of state and federal funded police, in riot gear bloodying faces, shoving people – and according to some reports – even running people over. So it’s understandable that the Liberty community is a little apprehensive that what we’re witnessing isn’t yet another exception to the rule – but a sign of things to come for every-day Americans in the near future.

And regardless of where Tenthers choose to stand on the Occupy movement, the escalating action on the part of the local, State and Federal Government is certainly worthy of condemnation in regards to obvious first-amendment Constitutional violations. Besides, with the majority of the protestors remaining peaceful, there’s only been a select number acting with violent intent – who according to Bernie LaForest, member of the Tenther Community, stated was “mostly from the anarchist crowd from the G8 summits.”

This illustrates that with very little provocation (and in some cases none at all), our Government no longer seems interested in protecting our constitutional rights, but willing to reduce us to a “commodity” status where individual freedom has been reduced to a foot-note in the Fed’s 20 volume set of Red-Tape laws.

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