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Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



George Orwell’s novel 1984 paints a disturbing scenario where one can be accused of a crime, arrested and prosecuted for his or her thoughts.

“The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed”¦ the essential crime that contained all others in itself.  Thought crime they called it”¦ sooner or later they were bound to get you.”

The Orwell scenario comes to mind when digesting a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a federal law that allows the indefinite civil commitment of federal prisoners who have completed their sentences, but are deemed “sexually dangerous.”Â This travesty of justice is based on the thought that a crime might be committed in the future

Now if you think the only dissenters expressing concerns over such a draconian ruling are bleeding heart liberals, think again. Add to that number the likes of Rush Limbaugh, and the two most conservative members of the Supreme Court, Justices Scalia and Thomas. The majority of the court cited that congress could pass such laws because it has “enumerated powers,” then conveniently failed to list any such powers or constitutional authority.  Hogwash, said Justice Thomas.  He pointed out that offenses allowing indefinite jail time need not even be a sex crime.  Someone serving time for mail fraud or tax evasion could be declared “dangerous”Â if a prosecutor feels he or she might have a “tendency” to commit further crimes, even if the sentence was not for a criminal conviction.

Sex crimes, violent crimes, property crimes, drug crimes ““ whatever the circumstances of the offense, one would think that when the sentence is done, it’s done. If there is a terrible crime involved, then the courts should hand out longer sentences.    It should be noted that three of the five defendants appealing their sentences to the Supreme Court were convicted of possessing pornography, not physically endangering any child.

I share the view that people who deal in this type of smut are vile and loathsome.  However, once a criminal sentence is completed, under our constitution, the criminal is “square with the house.”Â  But if the “thought police” then move in with, “what if” scenarios, we begin a slippery slope that starts with child predators, then accused terrorists, then anyone accused of murder, and a whole litany of crimes that may be committed in the future. And the protections and liberties of the country become relinquished ideals and faded memories.

This decision that undermines our constitutional protections is not all that surprising considering the pervasive chipping away of our individual freedoms over the past decade. Americans have been losing the protection of law for years.  The loss of constitutional protections accelerated under the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” where we were told that the job of the President is to keep us safe. Bush legal adviser John Yoo espoused a similar philosophy in a Wall Street Journal Op Ed article.  Simply put, he argued that the president, in the name of public safety, could cut down all laws written for the express purpose of restraining the President, because all that Americans expect is to be kept safe.  Under that logic, we revert to the Nixon philosophy that the president can do no wrong.  And as Jack Bauer, star of the Fox series “24” would argue, the end always justifies the means.

We live in a brave new world today.  Surveillance cameras monitor most areas of our lives. When the government chooses, it can listen in on our telephone calls and read our e-mails.  Government intelligence agencies have sophisticated computer technology that sweeps the Internet and our website activity to determine what we are thinking and saying.  The President can label anyone, including American citizens, “enemy combatants” and hold them indefinitely without access to family or an attorney.

As Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead recently wrote:  “The lesson is this:  once a free people allows the government inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny.  Nor does it seem to matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm anymore, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.”

Philosopher C.S. Lewis lectured at Cambridge in England when I was a student there in the mid 1960s.  His collection of essays and speeches titled God in the Dock second-guesses the notion that government is only working for our good.  He writes:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.  It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.  The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

For years we’ve been hearing, and saying ourselves, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore! Not much came from this populist anger.  But maybe there is a different wind in the air. Recent elections, including a congressional race here in the Louisiana’s  5th District, resulted in several successful candidates turning their backs on the two established parties.  They ran campaigns on a premise that precepts of our constitution were birthed by the rabble of all walks of life that got fed up and did risky things because, as writer Naomi Wolf observed, “they were captivated by the breath of liberty, and not consumed by government protection at all costs.”

Maybe there is a bit of desire to rein in those who stifle liberty and freedom in the name of national security. We all need to hope so.


“For your own good, for the good of your family and your future, grow a backbone. When something is wrong, stand up and say it is wrong, and don’t back down.”

Dave Ramsey

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

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