Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos was outraged. He had just been disciplined after writing internal memos alleging that a police officer had blatantly lied in order to obtain a search warrant. But, when he continued to urge his supervisors to dismiss this pending criminal case because of the very specific police misconduct involved, Caballos's advice was not only rejected, but he was transferred to a lesser job farther from his home, and denied a promotion.
The result of Caballos's indignation with the apparent collusion between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Court System was a lawsuit against county officials in which he alleged that those county officials, including then district attorney Gil Garcetti, had retaliated against him for speaking out within his office.
As reported by David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times, the case did not fly in Los Angeles County, and, eventually, wound up at the Supreme Court.
So, what's the big deal about this kind of thing? Happens all the time: Employees find something either unethical or illegal being done by their employers, "blow the whistle," the problem gets fixed and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
Not this time: This time, the entire First Amendment was eliminated. When the Supreme Court was done with this case, the Constitutional Rights of the First Amendment which provides Americans with freedom of speech, was no longer available for public employees outraged by the misdeeds of their employers or co-workers.
As stated in Public Citizen on June 1, 2006, the Supreme Court came to a 5-4 decision in the case of Ceballos v Garcetti, deciding that, as of May 29, 2006, when this edict was handed down, government whistle-blowers will no longer be protected by the First Amendment
The Miami Herald, on June 5, 2006 said it all: "Informed, courageous workers who dare to point out malfeasance or dangerous conditions in their workplace do not have First Amendment protection for free speech in statements they make u2018pursuant to their official duties.' This includes reporting any and all levels of guilt in every governmental system, including police, courts, public education and healthcare, along with all the others. Now, if someone inside the government rips us off, oh well, we're just the taxpayers and therefore expendable.
Thus, for example, if a co-worker sees a public education official sexually abuse a child, or sees his cop cohorts stealing weed from the evidence room and then "lightin' up" in the cruiser, it's a no-go. And, if a worker within the welfare system witnesses the misappropriation of funds by a criminal employee, to the point that there is a significant cut in aid for the starving children of a homeless family, there will be no recourse. It is "put up with it and shut up about it" all the way.
Let's take a look at the Court which handed down this edict: In the majority were Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (the court's newest justice), as were Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.
The Bush administration, also, backed this decision wholeheartedly, citing "The U.S. Government's interest as u2018the nation's largest public employer.'"
Stephen Kohn, board chairman for the National Whistleblower Center, said, "It's a devastating decision that, in practice, obliterates protections for about 90% of public workers."
When Justices Scalia, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy and Thomas finalized the removal of First Amendment protection to over that 90% of public workers cited by Stephen Kohn, they effectively shut down all ability to bring to public knowledge any misdeeds whatsoever committed by our government and/or its employees.
So, why am I raising such a fuss about all of the above? Well, folks, once again, what is happening here and now in the United States of America our beloved democracy is exactly what happened in 1930's Germany. In their final step towards complete empowerment, the Nazi party managed to take over Germany's courts. Once that was done, no one, not anyone anywhere in that country, had recourse to the legal system to pursue individual rights.
Loyalty oaths take precedence: Do these oaths define loyalty to whatever branch of corporation or government has hired the person – no matter how insanely or criminally corrupt it becomes? Or do these oaths define loyalty to the ethics, truth and honor that make for a stellar and valuable employee?
In Nazi Germany, loyalty oaths meant choosing either blind obedience or choosing death. The SS (Schutzstaffe, translation: "Protective Squadron") was formed as an elite unit, with its own ranks, insignia and uniforms, the duties of which were to protect Adolf Hitler personally and also to administer the concentration camps. At enrollment into their deliberately secretive training, each new, young SS candidate was given a little German Shepherd pup to mentor, train, play with and nurture: Making these pups become trusted and beloved companions was more than encouraged, it was applauded by the commanders.
At graduation, after more than a year-long training period, these S.S. candidates were lined up, with their young dogs sitting obediently at their feet, and were ordered to shoot them. Right then and there. Shoot them dead. And why? It was a simple test of loyalty. Either you live up to your loyalty oath and shoot the damn dog, while – finally – understanding what is meant by "blind obedience" or we do away with you, since you are obviously not a good Nazi. No dogs ever survived. And, thus, when it came to killing kids in the streets, or torturing people in those concentration camps, these men simply followed orders. They had learned the lesson of blind obedience well.
Is this what we are fostering here? Loyalty to a government that is obviously no longer the democracy for the people and OF the people that it started out to be?
Fascism, like fog, creeps in silently till all views are obliterated. One tiny little step at a time, on those proverbial cat's feet which don't show claws until it's too late – until the courts are taken over and there is no further recourse for anyone.
All this began well before May 29, 2006. Free speech, for example, had been ruled as permissible only in designated "free speech zones" on pain of being arrested just prior to last election's party conventions. And now, the courts have been preempted. But the clincher for fascism, for dictatorship becoming a fact of life in America, has to do with those infamous "signing statements."
What is a "signing statement?" According to John W. Dean, former presidential counselor: "Suppose a new law requires the President to act in a certain manner – for example, report to the Congress on how he is dealing with terrorism. Bush's signing statement will flat out reject that law, and state that he will construe the law u2018in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.' The upshot? It is as if no law had been passed on the matter at all." (Findlaw.com, January 13, 2006)
Since coming into office, President Bush has negated well over 750 (!) congressional bills that have reached his desk, simply because he didn't like them. Using "signing statements" simply bolsters presidential powers. Are these powers now verging on dictatorship? Is the blatant arrogance of simply "signing away" laws of which he does not approve a rather significant "goose-step" in the march towards fascistic despotism? You decide.
And, just as in 1930's Germany, there is no protest. Some eyeball rolling perhaps – and then back to watching "American Idol." But that's what Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda maestro counted on: A nation of "Sheeple" whose primary value system is "NIMBY," ("Not In My Back Yard.") Meaning that, unless an individual employee is directly affected by not being able to speak up and inform others of governmental misdeed which he/she has directly witnessed and of which he/she has proof, it don't matter a bit.
What's next? Will persons be arrested for writing articles of dissent? Will persons be "disappeared" for exposing corruption la Patrick Fitzgerald in the Plame incident? Hey, why not? That is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany: Dissent, speaking out, became a crime. And bringing one's cause to court simply caused amusement for the judges. Just Google Pastor Niehmueller….(that is, if our courts decide that we will still be allowed uncensored access to Google within the foreseeable future.)
June 26, 2006