More than an uncomfortable trend

I shouldn’t read the news before breakfast — it’s bad for the happy digestion of my food. These Acts, Bills and Executive Orders keep piling up. It reminds me of the scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Professor Dolores Umbridge took over as Head Master, and the walls of Hogwarts were being smothered in edicts. The latest item is just one in many, which creates a more than uncomfortable trend. It’s now a disturbing reality. Let’s see, now we have:

Be able to sieze the property of anyone who is deemed to “have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing” actions that will block the “stabilization” of efforts in Iraq. The recent Executive Order notes that there need be no warning for such:

Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order.

Er, does that apply to protesting the war? Probably, if George W. Bush wants it to. The Patriot Act was all about enlarging the government’s ability to act against anyone, steamrollering over previously-established civil rights. Even amendments to the Act in reaction to those damages are watered down or ignored.

The current US President has shown a consistent disregard for believing that laws apply to him or his cronies. He has repeated added “signing statements” to the bills he signs, more so than any other president, indicating his prerogative on bills. Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage offers the following examples:

When reauthorizing the Patriot Act last year, “…Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law’s requirements, he could withhold the information …”

After The New York Times disclosed in December that Bush had authorized the military to conduct electronic surveillance of Americans’ international phone calls and e-mails without obtaining warrants, as required by law, Bush said his wartime powers gave him the right to ignore the warrant law.

And when Congress passed a law forbidding the torture of any detainee in US custody, Bush signed the bill but issued a signing statement declaring that he could bypass the law if he believed using harsh interrogation techniques was necessary to protect national security.

Oh yes, it’s that old “protect national security” mantra. Keep repeating it and those pesky citizens will clam up and quit complaining. One way or another.

But boy, when that national security emergency happens, the president must be able to take control of everything!

Be able to declare a state of national emergency for any reason to take control. The National Security Presidential Directive/ NSPD 51 & Homeland Security Presidential Directive/ HSPD-20 gives the president the ability to declare a state of national emergency for any reason,

(1)(b) “Catastrophic Emergency” means any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions;

without needing any previous warnings or public awareness of such:

(4) Continuity requirements shall be incorporated into daily operations of all executive departments and agencies. As a result of the asymmetric threat environment, adequate warning of potential emergencies that could pose a significant risk to the homeland might not be available, and therefore all continuity planning shall be based on the assumption that no such warning will be received.

Of course, it’s the President who gets the power to run things,

(6) The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government.

and to decide what constitutes a state of national emergency:

(12) In order to provide a coordinated response to escalating threat levels or actual emergencies, the Continuity of Government Readiness Conditions (COGCON) system establishes executive branch continuity program readiness levels, focusing on possible threats to the National Capital Region. The President will determine and issue the COGCON Level.

Naturally, if something happens to President Bush, then Vice-President Dick Cheney will be in control:

20) This directive shall be implemented in a manner that is consistent with, and facilitates effective implementation of, provisions of the Constitution concerning succession to the Presidency or the exercise of its powers, and the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 (3 U.S.C. 19), with consultation of the Vice President and, as appropriate, others involved. Heads of executive departments and agencies shall ensure that appropriate support is available to the Vice President and others involved as necessary to be prepared at all times to implement those provisions.

Isn’t that comforting.

Don’t worry, during that time of martial law we’ll have lots of camps to concentrate the hundreds or thousands of dangerous people threatening our country.

Build detention camps. VP Cheney’s old company, Halliburton, got the $385 million contract. Somehow they were the only company bidding. (Oh who cares if they’re prone to overcharging?) Ostensibly the detention centers are for aliens, but that handy disaster scenario is mentioned again, too.

“KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space, company executives said.”

Actually, we already have rather nasty concentration camps in our country. (That is, we have them again — during World War II, Japanese-Americans were held in such.) The T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor, Texas keeps children and families in prison conditions. A report by the American Civil Liberties Union states,

“At the time of the ACLU’s initial court filings, child detainees had to wear prison garb. They received one hour of recreation per day and opportunities to spend this hour outdoors were very rare. Children were detained in small cells for about 11 or 12 hours each day, and were prohibited from keeping food and toys in these cells, which lack any privacy. Although some of these conditions have improved slightly, they are still far from adequate.

In addition, access to adequate medical, dental, and mental health treatment is severely limited and, as a result, many children suffer from chronic ailments that worsen as they are left undiagnosed and untreated. Children are not afforded meaningful educational opportunities. Guards frequently discipline the children by threatening to separate them from their families.”

Thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, our country is safe from the dangers of small, under-educated children.

But these things just quietly slide under the news radar. Instead, we get distractors to divert our attention from matters of real importance. Why else would the news be full of fluff stories about celebrities who are famous for merely being famous, rather than about ways to reduce carbon footprints, reductions in civil rights, lack of health care, or other critical concerns?

Distraction is only part of it. Not only is important to have a populace that is content with its bread and circuses, but one that only knows what it ought to know, including how to be good drones and consumers. Our future citizenry won’t be well-informed because the whole NCLB focus is upon “educating” students by way of training them to parrot back the desired standardized test answer, rather than understand how to think independently and critically. How can we create an informed and effective future citizenry unless they can create original and clear writing? How can we create an informed and effective future citizenry unless they can calculate budgets and understand the perils of debt loads?

How can we create an informed and effective future citizenry unless they can understand the process and concepts of science that explain and create our world. Science is all about imaginative enquiry, testing, critical thinking, and pushing the boundaries of knowledge. No wonder that science as a subject, and science teachers and scientists are under attack by conservative groups who feel their closed world-views are under attack. Letting people think for themselves is dangerous, because they might question our great leaders. Obviously our elected (?) leaders find science threatening, as they stifle or water-down the messages of scientists, whether they are disseminating news about public health issues, world environment issues, or even how the universe came about. It’s dangerous for the citizens to know about or to believe ideas contrary to the administration’s beliefs.

Having an informed, thinking citizenry has always necessary to a functional democracy. But nowadays, instead of teaching subjects, teachers are being pressured to train students how to pass standardized tests. Good teachers are retiring and quitting in droves, and the collective school administrations end up selecting for those who can work under such a mindless system. Sure, we want good schools — but the NCLB and its testing regimens are really just more distractors.

Freedom and security must be balanced, and when governments start selling more and more national security, this means that they are denying their citizens have fewer and fewer individual freedoms.

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
~ Hermann Goering

~~#~~

I have added a new piece to my blog sidebar, the quote box. I’ll try to update it daily.

3 Comments

  1. 31 July 2007 at 12:45

    Counting down the days to November 2008…

  2. Rose said,

    30 July 2007 at 20:37

    They say the best thing that could happen for this administration is for America to be attacked again. Then the man who would be able to live under a dictatorship as long as he was the dictator, President Bush, would have free rein once again.

  3. 30 July 2007 at 18:40

    You know, Andrea… Finland’s a shitty place at the best of times…

    But I wouldn’t be in the US while ever there’s a Bush family there.


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