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Nightmare on Mainstreet

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Nightmare on Mainstreet

Unread postby Don Smith » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:20 pm

Nightmare on Main Street: More on Bush's Anti-Dissent Order
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 30 July 2007

I think we are in rats' alley
Where the dead men lost their bones

We wrote recently here of Bush's new executive order granting himself and his minions the arbitrary power to seize the entire assets of any American citizen – without warning, without any criminal charges whatsoever – solely by declaring that their victim somehow poses an unspecified threat to "the peace or stability of Iraq" or else is "undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq." In other words, Bush now claims the power to strip you of your assets if you oppose American policy in Iraq.

This latest tyrannical outburst from the Outrager-in-Chief has passed largely without notice. Even some of the Administration's fiercest critics have downplayed its significance. The always-admirable Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has been among the skeptics, on the reasonable grounds that right-wing militia groups were forever reading vast conspiracies into ordinary government decrees in the 1990s, and that one should wait for more informed legal analyses before leaping to scarifying conclusions. Fair enough – although Dave himself has done as much as anyone out there in detailing the extremism of the Bush Regime and its supporters. To his credit, Dave has kept an open mind on the question, and co-blogger at Orcinus, Sara Robinson, has taken a far darker view of the executive order.

Now Dave has featured a long – and highly disturbing – piece of informed legal analysis of the order from one of his regular commenters, attorney Den Valdron. who draws out the very dangerous implications of the order's wording in convincing detail. Perhaps most disturbing is Valdron's insight that the executive order doesn't even have to be formally invoked in order to have a chilling effect on political dissent. Just its mere existence – and the ever-present threat of social and legal obliteration that it represents – will be enough to quell all but the hardiest opponents of the Leader's criminal rampage in Iraq.

You should scoot on ever to Orcinus and read "That Executive Order" in full, but below is an excerpt about the "chill factor" that Valdron identifies:

Essentially, in this Executive Order the President is assuming unbelievably vast powers to simply sidestep normal criminal or civil procedure, and to operate quite explicitly on the basis of guilt by anticipation, guilt by pre-emption, guilt by association and guilt for any reason in the mind of the decider. There is literally no limitation on authority, except that the person's actual physical being is unaffected.

However, a person so designated by this Order could be rendered into a non-person literally instantaneously. They could be stripped of every asset, have every financial or commercial opportunity denied to them. Worse, this literally creates a power to shun. Anyone who employs this person, who hires them, who pays them for work, lends them money to tide them over, who rents them an apartment, or allows them to sleep on the couch, who drops them a few coins as they panhandle would be liable to becoming subject to this order. The only protection would be to fire this person, to not hire them, to not pay them, to not lend them money, evict them from your apartment, kick them off the couch, and look away if you see them begging on the street.

If the potential implications of this make you think of Jews in Nazi Germany, think again. The Jews pre-war had it good compared to the potential of this.

The most disturbing thing is that this Executive Order need not be actually used. Consider it as a weapon of intimidation. Most Americans are not rich. Most people live in apartments, they may have a house that the bank owns, they may have a car they're making payments on, they struggle with credit card debt, live paycheque to paycheque. We all live in these little islands of stability that can be so easy to disrupt.

So imagine that you are a dedicated, committed, politically active person. You're donating to the Green Party, perhaps active in local politics, going to demonstrations...Then one day, a person from the treasury department comes to visit. He shows you this executive order, and he tells you that you have been identified by your actions and associations as being a 'significant risk to commit acts of violence.' He says that by their lights, you may already be deemed to have committed acts of violence. He tells you that it has been concluded that these acts of violence undermine the Iraqi government and the reconstruction campaign...

You protest of course. He says it doesn't matter, these are the findings of the Secretary of the Treasury under the executive order. You challenge him to prove what act of violence they think you are about to commit. He replies that there's no particular act, only that you're a 'significant risk.'

Then he tells you, in very clear terms, what they can do. That they can and will take your house. That they can and will take your car and your bank account. That you will be fired from your job. That you will find it impossible to get another job, or find another place to live. That anyone who helps you will be similarly punished, so no one will help you. He tells you that if this isn't enough, they are prepared to take the same tactic against your parents, your children, your girlfriend, your friends, based on their association with you making them a 'significant risk of committing violence' or of 'providing support to you.'

He asks you if you are prepared to see your life erased? Are you really that brave? Do you really want to lose your job, your home, your nest, your savings, your income, your retirement...And if you are that brave, are you really prepared to see this done to your girlfriend, your parents, whoever is close to you...

You could take it to court and fight it, of course. All you need is a lawyer that will work for free, because you won't be able to pay him. And he'll have to be a lawyer willing to risk winding up in the same situation you'll be in…Fighting it will take two or three years. That's a long time to spend eating out of dumpsters and sleeping on heating grates. It's possible of course, that you'll win and be vindicated. Or you could lose.

Are you feeling lucky?

So most people in that situation, what would they do? They'll just shut their mouths, stop making waves, they'll do their jobs, collect their paycheques and mind their own business. They'll stay out of trouble.

But sometimes, when they see the Sheriff driving down the street to evict someone, when there's a hiccup in their credit card, when they get a call from the bank, or a call into their boss's office... well, they'll get a cold sweat running down their backs, and their stomach will flutter, and they'll search their memories for anything that they might have done wrong, maybe said the wrong thing to the wrong person, had the wrong friend, went to the wrong place... And of course, most times, it'll turn out to be nothing. They'll recover from the scare, their life will go on. But the fear will remain somewhere, and the cold sweat, and the only choice they have will be to be good little citizens.

This is the dystopian thug-state that the Bush Administration is building before our eyes – often in broad daylight, with little or no pretense of masking their lust, their obsession, with authoritarian power. Yet every institution in American civic life that might act as a bulwark against these tyrannical encroachments seems completely paralyzed – or else thoroughly complicit in this monstrous mutation. Bush and his cronies are effecting a wholesale revolution in the American state, despite being one of the most discredited and widely despised administrations in the country's history. It's like a long and vivid nightmare, where you watch some hideous, filth-encrusted beast gnawing your child to pieces, in agonizing slow motion, while you stand mysteriously frozen on the spot, unable to move or scream

The few people I have talked to about this new gestapo tactic simply don't believe it will be used against the "innocent". Among my ever shrinking circle of friends there is a sense that this is something that is part of an "emergency" plan, which will be used to protect us from extraordinary threats. In short, they think that this sort of totalitarian force is not really going to be used here in the "land of the free."
I'm not so sure.
Don Smith

It'll Never Happen

Unread postby socrates » Thu Aug 02, 2007 5:41 pm

I think this is all hot air to prop up the crazy, internet websites and to discourage people from being active in trying to make it a better world.

It is bad enough now, where these fockers are probably prying through everyone's private business, going through journalists' e-mails, looking for insider info from all types of perceived enemies, from basically those in the media, political opponents, extra-governmental groups exercising their freedom of association, honest legal groups, to their business competitors, etc..

The biggest problem to me is the election fraud. That might sound a bit off with all the crap going on in the world. But, if we don't even have honest elections, how are we gonna get into power, we the people?

I think a guy like Kucinich could be elected. We are already very close to seeing the first woman or African-American President. Who'd a thunk that a few years back.

But back to your story, if really enforced, are we to believe that someone like Pat Tillman would have been given a court martial for his criticism of the Iraq War? From above:

We wrote recently here of Bush's new executive order granting himself and his minions the arbitrary power to seize the entire assets of any American citizen – without warning, without any criminal charges whatsoever – solely by declaring that their victim somehow poses an unspecified threat to "the peace or stability of Iraq" or else is "undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq." In other words, Bush now claims the power to strip you of your assets if you oppose American policy in Iraq....

But, uhm, I guess I'll throw in a link to a pissed-off Kucinich fed up with The Pentagon and this Administration hiding so much about what really happened to Tillman, and how his murder was distorted for political gain.

Kucinich grills Rumsfeld on 'cover up' at Tillman hearing

But anyways, Don, you trying to ruin this forum with commie by association? Just Kidding! :lol:

These right wingnuts are always trying to dim down the educational system so people won't see that we do need some socialism. Do people want to spend 12 bucks for a box of cereal? Should peoples' healths depend on money? Should not every frickin school be equal?

end of rant. 8)
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Unread postby Don Smith » Tue Aug 07, 2007 5:04 am

Danse Macabre: An Apology to Democrats
Written by Chris Floyd
Sunday, 05 August 2007
I would like to apologize to the leaders of the Democratic Party for implying in my previous post that they are political cowards. I confess that I was carried away, rhetorically, in the heat of the moment, and was completely mistaken in ascribing their actions on the recent warrantless wiretapping bill to "spineless acquiescence" to the Bush Administration's authoritarian proclivities.

As one of Empire Burlesque's readers pointed out, that phrase was inconsistent with the rest of the piece, for it implied that the Democratic elite were actually opposed to the essence of Bush's authoritarian/corporatist/militarist agenda, and were somehow acting against their will in surrendering to Bush time and again during the past six years. As the reader noted, drawing on Arthur Silber's analysis (more on this below), the Democrats "are not spineless or weak. Nobody pushes them to do what they don't want (no matter how much the Digbys would like to explain away their actions that way.). They're completely corrupt and fully, volitionally complicit." The reader also pointed me to a comment they'd left on Glenn Greenwald's takedown of the vote: "It doesn't take any courage to do what you want to do. Just the opposite. They WANT all these things, but can hardly reveal that to their often sincere but easy-to-dupe followers, so they hide behind the 'we were threatened, Bush made us do it, we're spineless, and we don't want to look weak,' meme. They cop a plea to the lesser charge but the truth is, tragically, far more dark."

I think that's exactly right. They cop to cowardice to cover up complicity. As I said in the previous post, the Democratic elite are spawned by the same corrupt system that produces the Republican leadership. They serve, essentially, the same interests. Because no human organization is a complete monolith, there are of course differences in emphasis, different approaches to policy, different constituencies to be served (or snowed) etc. between the two parties. And it may well be, as Noam Chomsky noted before the 2004 election, that even minute mitigations in the operation of vast power structures can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people, simply due to the scale on which such structures operate. For example, it is almost certain that no Democratic administration would have cut off aid to women's health clinics around the world as the Bush Administration has done -- a heinous act that has resulted in death and suffering for untold thousands of the world's most vulnerable people. That is no small thing.

But the fact that one mafia boss gives groceries to Grandma while another one steals her blind and leaves her out on the street doesn't change the fact that both bosses are part of the same criminal system, operating on the same principles of violence, extortion, arbitrary rule and lawlessness.

Similarly, if someone other than Stalin had gained ascendancy in the Soviet Union, it is likely that millions of lives would have been spared -- but millions of others still would have been caught up in the maw of the state machine, because the system itself was based on violence, repression and lawlessness -- all in the name of "preserving the Revolution," a phrase which served the same function for the Kremlin as "national security" does for the American elite, or the "higher law" of God does for religious extremists of every stripe.

Beyond the nuances -- which, again, are not always negligible in their practical effects -- there are no essential differences between the two major parties as they are now constituted. They are, as Gore Vidal noted decades ago, two wings of one party: the Property Party, the Money Power Party, the Empire Party, the Permanent War for Endless Profit Party, call it what you will. Together, the two wings of this party have set in motion monstrous processes of corruption and military aggression of such scale and reach and overwhelming danger that they increasingly dwarf whatever small differences might exist between Democratic and Republican elites. The Bush Regime is the pus-filled imposthume which shows that the long-running sickness of the system is now at the crisis; and the Democratic complicity in the Bushists' violence, extortion, lawlessness and repression shows that we can expect very little in mitigation if the Dem wing temporarily reoccupies the White House on behalf of the Money Power Party. (Witness the truly moronic -- and truly sinister -- "debate" now raging among Democratic "leaders" on the need to threaten any nation in the world, including US allies, with a nuclear strike if they don't jump to Washington's tune on the "War on Terror.")

In short (as Gogol used to say, after spinning out a single sentence for two or three pages), it is wrong to imply that the Democratic leaders are acting out of cowardice in their capitulations to the Bush Regime. They are, in fact, acting out of deep conviction, and the earnest desire to serve their true constituents -- the Money Power -- with fidelity and honor. They are dancing with the one what brung 'em.


But as usual, Arthur Silber has dealt far more rigorously and eloquently with this theme. Not content with the masterful analysis linked to above, he has now added two more pieces on the Democrats' connivance with war and tyranny.

First, he savages the excuses given by "moderate" Democrats like ex-Reagan apparatchik Jim Webb for supporting the new warrantless wiretapping law. Noting that Webb's justification for his approval were the "intelligence reports" he'd seen and the bill's backing by other big-shot Dems with "extensive experience on intelligence matters," Silber lets rip:

You might think that individuals elected to national office would know that intelligence and "secret information" is almost always incorrect. You would be wrong.

You might think that our political leaders would know at least a smattering of history, and would be aware that appeals to intelligence are almost always used to justify otherwise indefensible actions. Again, you would be wrong.

You might understandably think that, after the calamitous, incomprehensibly destructive disasters of the last six years, Washington politicians would evince just a touch of reluctance when asked to take action on the basis of "what the intelligence shows" -- especially when that action involves the obliteration of the rights and protections contained in the Fourth Amendment. Tragically, you would be wrong still one more time.

Without exception, in the past, in the present, and unto the future forevermore, all a government official needs to do is offer appeals, suitably limned with panic and desperation, to "the threat of international terrorism" and "the urgent demands of national security," and almost everyone in Washington will rush to tear up the Constitution on national television.

I just love the additional appeal to "extensive experience on intelligence matters..." I mean, that's worked out so well.

You get what you ask for, and what you deserve: a government of idiots, by idiots, and for idiots.

Be sure to read the whole piece to get the full force of Silber's demolition job. He then moves swiftly to yet another outrage, which has been almost totally overlooked: the Democrats' eager support for the record Pentagon budget, a $40 billion increase over current levels which the Dems ushered through the pipeline at breakneck speed so they could all blow the joint and take a long break. (Yes, precisely the same kind of long, do-nothing recess that these same Congressmen are denouncing the Iraqi Parliament for taking.) As Silber notes, leading "anti-war" Dems like John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi larded the bill with "earmark" pork for their local patrons, while Murtha obligingly dropped amendments to close the concentration camp at Gitmo and properly train and equip soldiers before sending them off to kill and die in Babylon. Seems Big Ole John didn't want to make "partisan" waves -- especially with so much hometown pork on the line, and that jumbo beach towel calling his name.

Silber quotes Robert Higgs on the deeper reality underlying these "sell-outs" and "deadlocks" in the Beltway:

As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Then Silber closes with some some harsh home truths (or Homeland truths):

Endless war, an increasingly oppressive surveillance state, the evisceration of individual freedom and civil liberties, and ongoing chaos and destruction are all what they want.

None of this is an "error," or a "mistake in judgment," or "good intentions" gone awry. This is what they want.

Never, ever forget it.

Don Smith

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