The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Monday, July 23, 2007

In which the atrocities come thicker and faster

Criminalizing Dissent Watch

David Neiwart at the blog Orcinus is one of the most important journalists at work today. His past work on hate crimes and the psychology behind them, on scapegoating and Japanese internment, on the tyranny of the majority against a minority, on proto-fascism and violence and right wing authoritarianism, makes him one of the most important and authoritative voices on the web concerning this country’s slow decent into darkness.

Neiwart’s co-blogger Sara Robinson has taken a look at that Executive Order that we saw last week, the one that seemed to make it legal for the President to take away your property if you “undermine efforts” to have Iraq become a land flowing with peace and honey. This executive order looks like it could be justified as being written to confiscate the property of “terraists” who are at work in Iraq. But there is certainly nothing in it that exempts American citizens. Robinson comments:

This government has now asserted -- without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress -- its right to take away our houses, cars, savings accounts, the stuff of our lives, on the say-so of the President and his Treasury Secretary. They are not kidding. What we do here, what I am doing right now (unless I choose my words very carefully) is being done in defiance of the Law According to George Bush.

For the past four and a half years, Dave has carefully and thoughtfully argued that there's a difference between proto-fascism -- the sprouts that are present in the garden, but have not yet borne flower or fruit -- and the real thing.

When the President can take away your life's savings without due process, under authority of a law no people's legislature ever approved, for simply disagreeing with his policies and publicly stating your intentions to do something about them, we are treading so close to that line that it's hard to tell whether we're actually over it.

And, worse, we've reached the point where these outrages seem to occur weekly -- bigger and more blatant every time, but by now we've seen so many so often that we're inured. We don't even know where to start fighting. In any other administration we've ever had, this one act on its own would be an impeachable offense. In this one, it's just another drop in an overflowing bucket.

She then quotes from Milton Mayer’s book “They Thought They Were Free”, in which Mayer describes how, as long as each successive outrage is just incrementally worse than the last, and the populace doesn’t have a history of protesting each step, that protest never comes. The “frog cooked in slowly heating water” analogy comes to mind. If I had a dollar for every “this (insert Bush administration atrocity) will be the thing that finally gets people marching in the street” email or post I’ve read in the last six years, I would be rich indeed. But Mayer’s description seems to indicate that having not protested the first steps (the PATRIOT act, for example), we can’t really expect Americans to ever protest, until:

The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed.

Robinson concludes:

The America that would accept this kind of edict in silence is not the America that we grew up in. Something has changed. We are poised to accept this like we've accepted every other insult. It's hard to imagine that, even when bloggers and other dissenters start losing their property, that there will be tens of thousands in the streets to protect us. As long as the forms are still there, and the system continues to do what it must to sustain itself, we will simply be collateral damage.

If we accept the forcible removal of our property without due process, forcible removal of our lives will not be far behind. And there are people eager to accomplish this: according to Barna Research, there are about 50 million hardcore fundamentalists who have been eagerly awaiting the day, training and planning and praying for the chance to do just that -- to take out their frustrations on the liberal traitors whom they have been taught to believe are responsible for everything that's wrong with their lives. They believe, in their bones, we have stabbed God's America in the back; and they are out for vengeance. This is the edict that will provide "legal" support and justification for their first tentative steps toward mob rule.

Are we there yet? Not quite. But Bush has just put the capstone on the doorway leading to the coming fascist state. Whether your own B clause is a passport or a gun, it's probably time to make sure both are in good working order.

Unchecked Authoritarians Watch

Speaking of ever-increasing atrocities, the Whitehouse has declared that as long as it keeps repeating “executive privilege”, then Congress can never hold them in contempt for not obeying Congressional subpoenas. From a Washington Post article:

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, added: "It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys."

So, if the executive branch commits a crime, and the Congress tries to investigate it by issuing subpoenas for witnesses and documents, and the executive branch tells Congress to go Cheney itself, the Congress would need a US attorney to bring contempt citations forward. The Bush administration has pulled this little conjuring trick: not only have they fired all the US attorneys who aren’t “loyal Bushies”, but they’ve now forbid any member of the Justice Department from bringing those charges forward.

Therefore, according to Cheney, Congress has no power whatsoever over the executive. Our Emperor is about to dissolve the Roman Senate. This is an atrocity, again along the sliding scales of atrocities we find ourselves on. There are quotes in the article from a number of professors and Democratic senators, all protesting this latest power grab by an executive holding itself COMPLETELY above the law, untouchable in all that it does. But that will be the extent of it. As the quote from Milton Mayer above shows, while this move would have been unthinkable 3 or 4 years ago, now it is just one more atrocity which will be allowed by a sleeping populace and a gelded Congress.

Here’s a footnote about how the sins of our past come back to haunt us. The Post article mentions that contempt charges can only be brought on behalf of Congress by the US attorney in Washington DC. The only precedent for something like this is during the Reagan administration, in 1982 during the Gorsuch-EPA scandal, when Anne Gorsuch refused to turn over documents to Congress and the Washington DC US attorney declined to pursue contempt charges. That attorney? Fred Fielding, now a Whitehouse counsel. He was aided in his strategy by John Roberts, who is now our Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. So, you can imagine how well this will go for the interests of the people if it ever gets to the SCOTUS. The water is simmering, little froggy.

Top Ten Conservative Idiots Watch

I highly recommend this week’s TTCI at Democratic Underground, which features not 10, not 20, not 25, but 30 Conservative Idiots, a bumper crop. Number one on the list? George W. Bush:

The key judgments of the new National Intelligence estimate were released last week. In a nutshell, Al Qaeda has apparently "regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" and will "leverage the contacts and capabilities" it has gained since the U.S. invaded Iraq. That's Al Qaeda in Pakistan, by the way, since according to Baghdad reporter Michael Ware "al-Qaeda would be lucky to make up 3 percent of the insurgency" in Iraq.

But pay no attention to all that! Our Great Leader thinks that a resurgent Al Qaeda outside of Iraq is nothing to worry about, and announced last week that, "Al-Qaida would have been a heck of a lot stronger today had we not stayed on the offensive." Er, right. And maybe if you'd gone on the offensive against Osama Bin Laden instead of instead Saddam Hussein, it would all be over by now.

So to the few remaining Bush supporters out there: given the fact that George W. Bush seems to have failed to prevent Al Qaeda from regaining strength, which of the following do you think represents reality?

a) The president has spent five years pursuing wrong-headed policies which have directly damaged our national security, weakened our defense capability, and threatened our safety, or

b) The world works like the Dukes of Hazzard, where the U.S. plays bumbling but lovable Roscoe P. Coltrane who week after week manages to show up just as those terroristic Dukes are getting away.

I mean, do you really think that George W. Bush is doing the absolute best job he can, but those pesky terrorists are always just one step ahead of him? If you honestly don't believe Commander Guy bears any responsibility for making the world a more dangerous place, fair enough - but in that case you must believe that try as he might, he simply isn't quite as competent as the terrorists. Either way, don't we deserve a president who'll be more competent than the terrorists? Could we at least try to rise to that level, for fuck's sake?

Warmongering Redux Watch

The cartoon at the top is a This Modern World that describes the very serious way our news media gets us into wars.


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