I just read two stories over at the excellent TechDirt.com website about the unexplained (and, I argue, unconstitutional) takedown of a popular website, JotForm.com. The first story is titled "US Government 'Suspends' JotForm.com Over User Generated forms; Censorship Regime Expands," and the second is the followup, titled "US Returns JotForm.com Domain; still refuses To Say What Happened." Here are the URL's for those interested in reading them:
First story: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120215/18044017773/us-government-suspends-jotformcom-over-user-generated-forms-censorship-regime-expands.shtml
Second story: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120216/17043717784/us-returns-jotformcom-domain-still-refuses-to-say-what-happened.shtml
I decided to share moderately lengthy comment (about 700 words) I made there in this space, and I hope it elicits comments from you -- and action BY you.
It's now about 11:00 P.M. (EST) Sunday, February 19th and I just tried to go to the company's web site, but got the message "The connection was rest." Then I tried jetform.net, and got a 403 Forbidden error message. And I tried both several times each, with the same results every time.
I don't have any idea if this is relevant, but I am in Bangkok, not the U.S. However, I didn't get any messages from any Thai government agency, though I sometimes do. (Internet laws here are broad and liberally used by the authorities.)
This takedown is just one more in an increasing parade of "Sins of Shame" by our government. (Yes, I'm an American long resident abroad.) My Thai friends sometimes ask me if the American government is striving to "out-Thai Thailand," or even to surpass China. I have no answer. With each new act of sheer idiocy -- this one apparently at the behest of the *Secret Service* for gawd's sake! -- it appears increasingly likely that I'm going to have to start answering those questions from my local friends with a mournful, disgusted "HELL yes!"
I've e-mailed both my Senators and my Congressman (Texas). One Senator is that rarest of creatures, a fairly moderate Republican, but she'll be retiring, so I don't look for any meaningful help from her. The other is a staunchly conservative Republican and not favorably disposed towards such complaints. My Congressman, though he has served since well before the Tea Party movement arose, has since closely identified with that movement and is even less likely than my conservative Senator to look on any such complaint with anything other than pure disdain. I've also written the White House and the FCC. I've also commented far and wide in forums such as this, and e-mailed countless letters-to-the-editor. I write an irregular, infrequent blog and have railed against this sort of cr*p there.
I would do more, if I could figure out just what that might be, given that I'm on the other side of the planet.
It's bad enough that these takedowns happens entirely "approval-free" as far as our judicial branch is concerned, since it has been excluded from even an ounce of review, never mind any actual, meaningful oversight of such nefarious activities. It's even worse that various amendments to the Constitution apparently have been unilaterally declared by the Executive branch not to be applicable in such cases:
Fourth Amendment: the entire amendment -- "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Fifth Amendment: the penultimate sub-provision therein -- "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
Sixth Amendment: if the reason behind the government's action was based on alleged *criminal* activity, then the entire amendment applies, particularly the "Confrontation Clause" -- the right to face one's accusers. This right was enshrined even in *Roman* law. In looking up the texts for these amendments, I was reminded that the Supreme Court has justified this right by citing the Bible itself -- Acts of the Apostles 25:16 (commonly, "The Book of Acts," or, simply, "Acts"). The right's thread continues unbroken right up to our contemporary law. Or did.
I hope my fellow Americans continue to bring pressure to bear on both elected and other governmental representatives at *all* levels of government of this abominable, unjustifiable behavior. In the instance of such officials mouthing platitudes about "I'm a Christian," remind him or her of that passage from Acts as well as the Constitutional amendments. And I urge any of my fellow Americans who haven't done anything to start becoming engaged in our public civil life, and not just in this instance, but across the board.
Where is the basis in the Constitution for the Executive or Legislative branches of government to make end runs around the Constitution itself, effectively neutering it?
No, I'm not some sort of constitutional lawyer or scholar. In fact, I'm not a lawyer at all. But I CAN read.
Please act now. Raise holy hell.
The time is right for Americans to act. Our country is scaring off foreign investors with some of the crap our governments -- use, the plural, as some states are participating in these excesses with great gusto -- are throwing around like crazed children tossing water balloons with wild abandon. Except the folks in government are -- theoretically -- responsible adults, and tossing around sh*t instead of water balloons. AND making it stick.
In my comment, I mentioned the party affiliations of my Congress Critter and Snorators -- I mean "Senators." But my comment isn't partisan; the Obama administration has pretty much not only followed in the gross Constitutional missteps of the Bush II one, but expanded upon them with disturbing enthusiasm. (For a related read, see the excellent Playboy interview with eminent economist and New Your Times colunist Paul Krugman in its current issue, in which Krugman is unsparing, even merciless, in his criticisms of Obama, although for other reasons than those with which I'm concerned here: http://www.playboy.com/magazine/playboy-interview-paul-krugman. There's also an excellent HuffPo piece about the interview here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/paul-krugman-playboy-interview_n_1284417.html. Call me "a Krugman liberal" -- which is actually rather conservative, in ways, in keeping with my lifelong mixed philosophy.)
No, these excesses aren't the sole province of even the grossly-perverted contemporary GOP and its Tea Party extremists -- there's plenty of blame left of the divide, too. As Krugman notes, Obama is more of a traditional Beltway guy than anything, despite the hype of his campaign (which I happily watched, reveling all the way). If the President has shown any propensities towards excesses, then they're in the direction of fascism (which, yes, is just another word for Stalinist so-called "communism," itself pure fascism through and through -- making it downright funny when I hear some dim lightbulbs on the rightscreaming he's a "commie" or "socialist"). After all, even when the Donkey Party held majorites in both chambers of our less-than-august Congress and, for two years, the White House, they happily (mostly) signed off on crap such as the Patriot Act renewals.
"Treason" is one of the most serious words in the English one; as such, it is not to be thrown around lightly. Yet I'm beginning to wonder, if not -- yet -- to actually believe that maybe our elected representatives in Washington are moving, however unwittingly, in that direction.
We need to stop them. Now. Again, raise hell. More importantly, VOTE. (I do NOT support even a mild call to armed revolt. When Americans start shooting Americans, then we may as well call it a day and say goodbye to the once-proud country of America, then remember it fondly as a noble, failed experiment.)
Okay. I'll shut-up now.