The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 16, 2016: Arrested; Development

After much public outcry, an arrest has finally been made in the terrorist occupation of public property by armed militants near Burns, Oregon. A 62-year-old misinformed man by the name of Kenneth Medenbach was arrested on charges of “suspicion of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.” As if things weren’t bad enough for the brain-addled wood carver, he was released pending charges of occupying federal land illegally on the condition that he not occupy any federal land in the future. Oops. And being caught driving around in a federally-owned vehicle reported as stolen is not one of the smarter things Medenbach has done. Two years ago, Medenbach was forced to vacate his business site when local town officials started enforcing solid waste disposal laws. Medenbach was not very good at keeping his property clean, which led to a settlement in which his landlords would agree to give up any hope of recovering the back rent he owed them if he would just leave their property. So he did.

It wasn’t the first time Medenbach had to leave his home. As he wrote in a Jan 28, 2014 Letter to the Editor:

I lost my job and got evicted from my house.

I’ve owned an acre of land in Crescent for about 10 years and decided to move there. It was either that or be homeless.

So I started clearing some areas and moving some storage sheds on the property, and then I saw these “Stop Work” signs on my storage sheds and the number of the Klamath County Code Enforcer. I called the Klamath County Code Enforcer, and he e-mailed to me the things I needed to do.
I found out I can’t do anything without a site plan review. I can’t even cut trees down to prevent a wildfire from going through my property.

I decided to do a little investigating, I googled in Klamath County Code. And one of the choices that popped up was Klamath Falls Land Use, Zoning and Planning lawyers. Some more investigating found a lawyer as a Klamath County Planning Commission member. Why?

Planning Commission members are volunteers. Lawyers don’t do anything for free. Then the light came on.

Confusing and strict county codes have to be passed, so bewildered citizens have to hire land use, zoning and planning lawyers. No doubt, a lawyer as a member of the Klamath County Planning Commission is there to pass as many ridiculous county codes as possible to keep lawyers employed and citizens of Klamath County broke or homeless.

Kenneth Medenbach

Crescent

While all that was going on, Medenbach was also trying to get his local state representative recalled for being a lawyer, and believing this was a conflict of interest. Having read his LTE above, one can begin to see that Medenbach does not grasp the role of government in our lives. As it turned out, out of the 4,980 signatures required to successfully get a recall petition on the ballot, Medenbach managed to file zero signatures. Apparently not even his own.

Medenbach is just one of many who believe in the sovereign citizen movement. These are dangerous people because they do not recognize the authority of the federal government (the very government that keeps them safe enough to protest the government keeping them safe) and they believe they have a right to use deadly force to defend themselves against any federal agent trying to deprive them of what they want, which is usually something they’re not legally entitled to have. Like our land. Medenbach once described himself to a newspaper reporter in 1997 as a Constitution Ranger. He’s never liked the government and even went to jail over a dispute over how he used his property. He feels that because he’s not allowed to accumulate junk on his property and build a “dream home” out of old refrigerators and water heaters, that the government is abusing its power and trampling his rights. (They’re not.) He doesn’t believe that building codes carry the weight of law. (They do.) He says, “The Constitution states simply that only the people can pass laws through the electorate.” (It doesn’t, and that doesn’t even make any sense since “the people” and “the electorate” are the same thing, and we don’t pass the laws.) He claims the federal government doesn’t have the right to own property. (It does.) Back then he said he refused to get a driver’s license because it was an infringement on his freedom. (It wasn’t.) BTW, I hope he changed his opinion on that before he was arrested for driving a stolen federal vehicle. At least back then he said he wanted the revolution to be non-violent. He said that eventually groups like his Constitution Rangers would appeal to the mainstream of American citizens. (They don’t.) And neither do his friends illegally occupying our wildlife refuge.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Ken Medenbach, the dangerous sovereign citizen movement, the actual US Constitution or anything else you want.

Advertisements

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 19, 2014: The Men Without A Country

There are people in this country (both men and women) who have gone completely off the deep end. No, I’m not talking about the state of Florida (though if there is a God, the people of Florida who voted for Rick Scott to be Governor will have some explaining to do), but of something called the Sovereign Citizens Movement. It has no organized structure and no leader. There are people, well known to other sovereign citizens, who go around the country training people in how to become one. They vary in some of the specific beliefs, but in general they feel the United States government, and just about any level of government, is not legitimate. Some of them believe…well, I think it might sound better coming from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit:

Sovereign citizens believe the government is operating outside of its jurisdiction and generally do not recognize federal, state, or local laws, policies, or governmental regulations. They subscribe to a number of conspiracy theories, including a prevalent theory which states the United States Government (USG) became bankrupt and began using citizens as collateral in trade agreements with foreign governments. They believe secret bank accounts exist at the United States (US) Department of the Treasury. These accounts can be accessed using Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Universal Commercial Code (UCC), and fraudulent financial documents. Sovereign citizens are known to travel the country conducting training seminars on debt elimination schemes. The seminars focus on obtaining funds from a secret “Strawman” account using legitimate IRS forms, UCC forms, and fraudulent financial documents. Sovereign citizens believe once the documentation is filed, they gain access to their “Strawman” account with the Treasury Department.

Like I said, completely off the deep end. A search of the FBI website for “sovereign citizens” yields 122 results. A search on the Southern Poverty Law Center website yields “over 2,500 results.” These are not people to be ignored. The SPLC has this to say about them and the origins of their movement:

The ideas of the “sovereign citizens” movement originate in the ideology of the Posse Comitatus, an anti-Semitic group that raged through the Midwest in the late 1970s and 1980s. Sovereign citizens claim that they are not subject to most taxes, are not citizens of the United States (but instead are “non-resident aliens”), cannot be tried for crimes in which there is no complaining victim (zoning and professional licensing violations, for instance), and are only subject to “common law courts,” a sort of people’s tribunal with no lawyers. Most refuse to obtain Social Security cards, register their vehicles, carry driver’s licenses or use zip codes; many refer to UCC-107, a part of the Uniform Commercial Code, to justify their bizarre claims; and some use weird forms of punctuation between their middle and last names in all kinds of documents. Sovereign citizens also often distinguish between so-called “14th Amendment citizens,” who are subject to federal and state governments, and themselves, who are also known as “organic citizens” — an ideology that causes adherents to claim that black people, who only became legal citizens when the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War, have far fewer rights than whites. Some of the more famous adherents of sovereign citizens ideology include Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and members of the Montana Freemen.

Just how crazy are they? Get a load of this.

The sovereigns all say it started sometime during the Civil War (or its aftermath) or maybe after events in 1933 when President Roosevelt wisely took our nation off the gold standard. They’re not sure when, but they say the government that was set up by the Founding Fathers, which operated under a system of Common Law, was replaced by a secret government operating under Admiralty Law, the law of the sea and international commerce. They believe that under common law, they are free men. But under admiralty law, they are slaves and that secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping things this way. They claim that all judges are aware of this set-up, and have been deliberately denying the sovereign citizens’ legal motions, which often include placing liens on property owned by judges and government officials. But don’t worry, we haven’t gotten to the crazy part yet.

When our nation was taken off the gold standard and our money was backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States, this meant to the sovereigns that its citizens were pledged as collateral, and that our future earnings were sold to foreign investors thus, in essence, making slaves of us all. The sale happens when you are born and your birth certificate is issued and your Social Security Number obtained. The government uses the birth certificate to set up a corporate trust in the newborn’s name (a secret Treasury account), and this account is funded with anywhere form $600,000 to $20,000,000. (Again, no clear agreement about the amount.) Setting up the account is what splits the baby’s rights between its flesh-and-blood body and its corporate shell account.

So what’s their evidence for such a bizarre belief system? Well, if by “evidence” you mean “proof; something plain or clear to the sight or understanding,” they have none. What they have is another bizarre theory – the name on your birth certificate. Notice in this sample birth certificate that the name is spelled out in all capital letters. The sovereigns say this is the name of the shell corporation (or “straw man”; yes, the Sovereign Citizens Movement is based on a straw man argument), while your name spelled with normal upper and lower case letters is your “real name.” Any legal documents that refer to you in all capital letters (such as your birth certificate, driver’s license, marriage certificate, car registration, criminal court records, cable and utility bills, and even correspondence from the IRS rejecting your sovereign citizen claims) are actually referring to your corporate shell identity, and not your sovereign self. Through a process called “redemption” you can free yourself sovereign self from your corporate shell and gain access to those millions of dollars the government has in your corporate account. Though no one has ever successfully done this, they believe the secret lies in coming up with just the right words in your legal documents.

While sovereign citizens do not typically resort to actual, physical violence or gunfire, they do employ what they call “paper terrorism.” They file false liens against the property of government officials and nonsensical court documents that accomplish nothing but waste taxpayer dollars having to process them. For example, when one sovereign citizen was asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea, she responded, “I accept for value in returning for value for settlement in closure of this accounting.” (If I were the judge, I would take that as “guilty.”) After the husband was involved in a car crash, a Florida couple (who claim to be members of the Moorish Science Temple) was under investigation for filing false liens and other documents under false names. And a Michigan man is claiming that his rights do not come from the Constitution but from the Creator, and that the search warrant bearing his name in all capital letters did not refer to him. He was a convicted felon, so he wasn’t allowed to have the guns they found stashed throughout his house. At least, according to our laws, but not according to his.

Claiming to be a sovereign citizen by itself does not make one incompetent to stand trial. I’ll let the legal experts explain it:

Most psychologists and researchers believe that a sovereign citizen is not incompetent to stand trial simply by virtue of being a sovereign citizen. Although sovereign citizens’ beliefs appear to be delusional, they typically are not considered delusions sufficient for the diagnosis required for incompetence. Delusional disorder, the mental illness with which a sovereign citizen would most likely be diagnosed, requires that the belief be a non-bizarre delusion. The types of delusions that qualify for the diagnosis are personally held and could possibly happen in real life, and generally relate to the person’s perception of life events. Common examples of qualifying delusions include believing that someone is conspiring against you, or that people are talking about you. However, widely held and culturally sanctioned beliefs that might be considered delusional in other cultures, but are recognized in one’s own culture, often do not qualify for a diagnosis of delusional disorder. For example, many commonly held religious beliefs may sound delusional to some people. Although they may sound delusional, they are culturally non-native beliefs shared by many individuals and therefore not delusions. Because sovereign citizen beliefs are shared by up to, and maybe exceeding, 300,000 people, the psychologists and researchers who have studied the subject conclude that the sovereign citizen’s odd, seemingly delusional beliefs have been sanctioned and accepted by too many to be considered delusions.

To summarize, because so many people believe this nonsense, it’s not, for legal purposes, considered delusional. Just like Religion. So if not believing yourself subject to the laws of the country in which you’re standing, whose protection you’re currently enjoying, and whose public services you are using daily, is not considered delusional because the laws only apply to your corporate shell entity, which was set up by the government after you were born, as evidenced by the capital letters used to spell your “name”, then what is?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss sovereign citizens, delusions in general, or anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 7th, 2014: Crazy Talk

Thanks to commenter BruinKid at Daily Kos for these two libertarian wingnuts’ words:

First, a quote from Libertarian Kevin Gutzman, who is currently a “neighbor” of ours living in Danbury, Connecticut (In the olden days when Wayne and I were growing up in Brewster, New York, Danbury was considered a ‘local’ call, and we didn’t have to dial the 203- area code.) It’s kind of scary that he is a professor of history at Western Connecticut State College, or as we have always called it, “WestConn.” (My sister attended for 3-1/2 years.)

“As Americans celebrate the Fourth today, remember this: the statists are the intellectual descendants of those who did not celebrate the Fourth in the 1790s, celebrating Washington’s birthday instead:

“In the Founders’ day, the 4th of July was a partisan holiday. It was celebrated in the 1790s and 1800s by Jeffersonian Republicans desirous of showing their devotion to Jeffersonian, rather than Hamiltonian, political philosophy. If you were a Federalist in the 1790s, you likely would celebrate Washington’s Birthday instead of the 4th of July. If you believed in the inherent power of the Executive in formulating foreign policy, in the power of Congress to charter a bank despite the absence of express constitutional authorization to do so, and in the power of the federal government to punish people who criticized the president or Congress, you would not celebrate the 4th. The 4th was the holiday of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, those great states’-rights blasts at federal lawlessness. It was the anti-Hamilton, anti-Washington, anti-nationalist holiday.”

Next, from Jeffrey A. Tucker, who, according to Wikipedia, describes himself as “a dedicated anarchist” (he may also have been involved in the racist newsletters that got Ron Paul in some trouble):

“Now that 4th of July celebrations are over, let’s take the Declaration of Independence seriously and abolish the United States. It’s a cobbled together empire based on nothing but 19th century political ambitions. The results have been a menace to the world and certainly a menace to its own people. If the U.S. devolved to hundreds or thousands of small countries, or even became the great 21st century experiment in P2P legal institutions with no overarching geographically contiguous legal structure, that would even be better. The nation state is an anachronism, and the largest surviving case in point really should set the example, in the spirit of the principles that gave it birth, and be the first to go.”

Last, according to Salon’s July 1st article by Elias Isquitch, Governor Paul LePage of Maine has apparently been “pallin’ around with terrorists.” Author Mike Tipping, who covers local politics in Maine, has a book out about Governor LePage’s several meetings with a group called “Sovereign Citizens”, who are purportedly allied with the “Constitutional Coalition”, who are on the FBI terrorist watch list. LePage’s staff have verified that the meetings did occur. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:

“Among the things reportedly discussed at these meetings was whether or not to seek violent retribution against key political opponents. A Coalition member named Jack McCarthy described the meeting on a radio program hosted by a small group of sovereign citizens calling themselves the Aroostook Watchmen:

“We also discussed this there, that as far as I know, the penalty for high treason has not changed in 100 years. And, I did not say it, but the governor said it. I never – I never opened my mouth and said the word. The governor looked at us and looked at his buddy and said they are talking about hanging them.”

LePage has vehemently denied that he ever discussed executing anyone, let alone his Democratic opponents, with the group, and a spokesperson characterized the meetings as a benign effort by the governor to listen to people across the political spectrum…

The topics of these meetings evidently revolved around classic antigovernment “Patriot” movement conspiracy theories, including the belief that American dollars are phony “fiat” money and that the Federal Reserve is a hoax. One of the meetings was dominated by discussion, led by noted conspiracy theorist Michael Coffman, revolving around the notion that the United Nations is out to seize Americans’ private property rights and impose a New World Order environmentalist regime.”

From the “Constitutional Coalition” website:

“Our Constitution established specific powers of the federal government, powers that are limited and enumerated. The founders believed that the government exists to perform only those services that the people cannot provide for themselves, such as the national defense. Local and state government powers were also to be limited and enumerated with the people self governing in all other areas.

The founders held that only a moral people – a nation of godly people with common spiritual and social values – were capable of self government.”

Here, to take the bad taste out of your mouths, just watch any one of these “comedy vs anti-science videos” that “show how humor can make a difference.” (Which I found as part of “more related stories” after the Paul LePage story, right next to one described as “Comedy can’t change the world: why Russell Brand is dead wrong about politics and humor…” – heh) Or, you can celebrate the fact that Pink Floyd is coming out with a new ‘album’ in the fall. Yay!

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?