Thursday, February 9, 2012

What is there to be afraid of?

Iran greater threat as al-Quaida slips, US saystrumpeted a headline in yesterday's paper. At first I thought this was one more competition: the Patriots versus the Giants, Mitt Romney versus Newt Gingrich, Iran against al_Quaida. Iran is up in scariness; al-Quaida is down. One more hyped competition to keep us amused.
Is it also one more competition set up to confuse us about real issues, real threats? As the RomneyGingrich competition is orchestrated to deceive us about who holds the real power in our country, this competition is meant to confuse us about the real threats to our liberties and our lives.
Yes terrorism is a threat. 9/11 was just a particularly gruesome example of that.
But here is what scares me: Mitt Romney has released the names of some of the donors to the super PAC supporting him. Among them is a hedge fund manager who last year supported an advertising campaign against building an Islamic center near ground zero. Also represented is a Texas builder who financed theSwift Boatcampaign against Sen. Kerry. Then there is John Paulson who sold securitized subprime mortgages and then bet that they would fail. Also on the list is one of the Koch brothers, among other things an opponent of the wind power project on Nantucket. Both brothers stand to gain heavily from the transcontinental Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Should Romney win, and be the next president, he would be surrounded by racists, by people who do not hesitate to stoop to dirty politics, by others whose views are designed to hasten environmental Armageddon, by investors who shamelessly enriched themselves at the expense of millions of Americans. That's something to be really scared about.
But there is more.
Joshua Fox, a little while ago made a documentary againstfracking.He is working on a sequel to this documentary. He was in the audience when a House subcommittee held a hearing about the EPA's report about fracking. When he pulled out his camera to film the proceedings, he was handcuffed and arrested. No free speech rights for him while millionaires may literally spend a million dollars in support of their favorite political candidate. To limit that spending, the Supreme Court said, would limit their 1st Amendment rights.
Anyone who takes a picture of police in action will have the same problems as Joshua Fox. It is illegal in the Land of Abraham Lincoln to take a picture of on-duty police—especially when they beat up on people.
We may be worried about Iran, but we are getting to be more like that country every day.
Does that scare me? It makes me think of moving.
And finally there is the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act. This act annually authorizes the budget of the Department of Defense. But here is how Counterpoint describes this year's version of the National Defense Authorization Act:
This years legislation contains highly controversial provisions that empower the Armed Forces to engage in civilian law enforcement and to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus, as well as other rights guaranteed by the 5th and 6th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, for terror suspects apprehended on U.S. soil. The final version of the bill passed the House on December 14, the Senate the following day (ironically, the 220th birthday of the Bill of Rights). It was signed into law by President Obama on New Years Eve. With his signature, for the first time since the Internal Security Act of 1950 and the dark days of the McCarthy era that followed, our government has codified the power of indefinite detention into law.
If they call you a terrorist, the military can lock you up and throw away the key. That's just a step away from Syria where the government calls its opponents “terrorists” and bombs them in their houses and kills significant numbers of them.
The US government has a secret no-fly list of people who should not be allowed on airplanes. How do you get to be on that list? No one knows. If you are on it, can you go to court and confront your accusers? Don't hold your breath but send a contribution to the ACLU anyway. They are trying to fight this.
Worse, the government has a secret kill list. They have already assassinated two American citizens in Yemen with drone strikes. Who else is on the list? Is there a way of getting off it? Again, there is very scant information.
The Constitution and its implementation is getting a bit frayed around the edges.
For those of us who have lived under totalitarian governments, the idea of secret government lists of people to be kept off planes, out of Congressional hearing rooms, and perhaps to be killed, is profoundly frightening. The provisions of the National Defense Appropriations Act add to the fear.
When constitutional law professors, turned President, are willing to kill citizens without their day in court, and send others to the military brig indefinitely, no one is safe.