« Getting to Know More of the Elderbloggers List | Main | Lake Oswego House »

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

More on the Thought Crime Bill

category_bug_politics.gif The New York Times, the so-called “paper of record”, has still not written about H.R. 1955, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2007 (the thought crime bill) which I reported on last week.

The bill passed in the House on 23 October 2007, and was sent to the Senate where, sponsored by Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, it has been referred to Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs where Ms. Collins in the ranking member.

It is interesting that even though H.R.1955 was sent to the Senate more than three weeks ago, on the page at congress.org showing Collins-sponsored legislation, this bill is not listed.

Last Sunday, Frank Rich titled his New York Times Op-Ed column, The Coup at Home. Without mentioning H.R. 1955, he laid out the six-year, incremental subversion of the rule of law taken by the Bush administration that is resulting, says Rich, in a “quiet coup.” Some highlights from his piece:

“…our democracy has so steadily been defined down that it now can resemble the supposedly aspiring democracies we’ve propped up in places like Islamabad. Time has taken its toll. We’ve become inured to democracy-lite.”
“More Machiavellian still, Mr. Bush has constantly told the world he’s championing democracy even as he strangles it.”
“Rather than set a democratic example, our president has instead served as a model of unconstitutional behavior, eagerly emulated by his Pakistani acolyte.”
“To believe that this corruption will simply evaporate when the Bush presidency is done is to underestimate the permanent erosion inflicted over the past six years. What was once shocking and unacceptable in America has now been internalized as the new normal.

“This is most apparent in the Republican presidential race, where most of the candidates seem to be running for dictator and make no apologies for it. They’re falling all over each other to expand Gitmo, see who can promise the most torture and abridge the largest number of constitutional rights.”

“…only 24 percent of Americans believe their country is on the right track…Americans know the ideals that once set our nation apart from the world have been vandalized, and no matter which party they belong to, they do not see restoration anytime soon.”

Without mentioning Naomi Wolf and her book, The End of America, which I have been re-re-re-reading for the past several weeks, Frank Rich is on the same page although Ms. Wolf’s argument is more urgent and sharply etched. If you haven’t read her book, please do. If that’s too much for you or you want to get started right away, try the following.

Most of the book – ten of the 11 chapters – recounts, with historical and present-day examples, the ten steps Ms. Wolf has identified from her research that are taken by incipient dictators to turn democracies into fascist states. She wrote a short version of the ten steps on her blog at Huffington Post titled Ten Steps to Close Down an Open Society. It is a Must Read.

In addition, Ms. Wolf has made available the Preface and Introduction to her book in two parts at HuffPost: Part 1 here and Part 2 here. These too are required reading for the 76 percent of us who know something is terribly wrong in the United States.

In the final chapter of her book, “Conclusion: The Patriot’s Task”, Ms. Wolf writes:

“So it turns out we really are at war – a long war, a global war, a war for our civilization.

“It is a war to save our democracy.

“Each one of us needs to enlist. We have no one to spare.”

Equally pertinent for you and me is the following passage from Chapter 9 which is on freedom of the press:

“At a time such as this, it is up to U.S. citizens who are not part of the formal media world to publish online, research aggressively, check facts assiduously, expose abuses, file Freedom of Information Act requests, publish ‘zines, write op-eds, and take ownership of producing as much of the news and information stream as they can…

“Blogging has to lead the way, because this is the access point for citizen journalism. But bloggers must take their impact far more seriously, becoming warriors for truth and accountability: Citizens have to start to produce reliable samizdat. Opinion is important, but opinion alone is totally inadequate when the ground of truth itself is under assault.

“Bloggers must become rigorous and fearless documentarians and reporters – not just to critique the news, but also to generate the news. Citizens in every venue must now apply to their work the accuracy and accountability that news editors have traditionally expected of their writers and researchers.

“The locus of the power of truth must be identified not in major news outlets but in you. You – not “they” – must take responsibility for educating your fellow citizens.”

H.R. 1955 “only” establishes a commission to study violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and their prevention. It’s that “study” part that chills me; do they mean to find out how dictators, past and present, accomplished the closing of open societies to better apply the tactics to the U.S.? It is a reasonable question.

With no media attention, this frightening bill is so far under the public radar that it could become law and our blogs shut down before we realize what's happened. If we lose the freedom to speak freely, we lose everything else for it is the only way to protest other wrongs.

I telephoned the offices of the Senate bill’s sponsor, Susan Collins, to ask what her rationale is in supporting H.R. 1955. There was no answer, not even a message machine in her Bangor, Maine office.

There was a recording at the senator's Washington, D.C. office stating only that I, as a constituent, should leave a message with my “exact street address” so that Ms. Collins could answer. Given past experience in contacting congressional representatives, I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, please do the above reading. Although it is long, it is crucial for the future of our nation to understand what has been happening to our democracy while the administration and the media has diverted our attention elsewhere. And watch this space. I’ll have more to say each week.

Thought Crime Bill Story List

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, janinsanfran tells how 30 years of fear were finally lifted in Long Story, Good Ending.]


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 03:14 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I copied and pasted your last blog on this subject and sent it to everyone on my Email list. Only one person responded and he sent my Email to a Democrat club in Tucson. That's how it spreads, but it is disheartening that others don't seem to be taking this seriously. The apathy of the electorate is what will do Democracy in. I will try again by copying this post and send it to the same group along with a letter to the Editor. I did read that Frank Rich column. Perhaps an Email to him will produce results nationally and others will pick it up. One can hope.

Do you think a letter maybe a few hundred letters "to the editor" would help? I could do that.....the post from D. saddens me since she is correct about the apathy of the electorate. But where I live people are concerned about getting a decent pay check & getting a meal on the table. Perhaps we need a "million citizen" march on Washington. Let me tell you Ronni.......it's damned depressing. Dee

D and Dee:

I'm sending this story around to some people I know at media outlets and next week, I'll have some specific suggestions and plans that we can all be part of.

You are nailing it and the mainstream media is not on the side of the American people. If we never knew it before, or only suspected it, it's obvious now. It is a very scary time

Rep. Tom Allen, who is challenging Susan Collins in next year's Senate race, voted for H.R. 1955. As of yesterday, I couldn't find a mention of this vote on his website.

A couple of questions come to mind for both Collins and Allen: If you think a vote is right, why hide it? If you think a vote is wrong, why cast it?

In short, what the hell is going on here?

This information needs to stay front and center.

I am interested to see what your media outlet connections are saying about the bill and the under-reporting factor.

Ronni,

Thanks for the great work in bringing this matter to our attention. When our representatives do things on the sly and try to keep their actions secret, I get furious.

I emailed "The Anonymous Liberal," a lawyer who blogs about the actions of the government and the media that are definitely against the interests of the U.S. citizens. Hopefully, he will start a little action about this matter on his blog.

If anyone's interested in seeing what he has to say, he's at http://www.anonymousliberal.com/

Pete...

I get an email newsletter each week from one of the congressional sites that lists what bills came up in the House and Senate for votes in the previous week and how Tom Allen and the two Maine senators voted.

H.R.1955 was never listed in the email.

One must ask why this bill is being hidden in so many places.

Ronni, I join others in thanking you for getting this information out. The implications of this bill and its horrible "definitions" could have far worse consequences than even HUAC in the late '40s - early '50s or the FBI lists and files of the Vietnam era. I intend to pass it on, send email, write letters. And I agree with Rain...what the hell is going on?

I've tagged your post on del.icio.us - if others do likewise there and on any other similar systems it would raise visibility.

These are the tags I used - I suggest you use at least HR1955, but add any others that seem appropriate.

thoughtcrime democracy unconstitutional liberty corruption politics terror USA scary

Of course I missed HR1955 off my own list! - now added.

Apparently we'll need to regularly press to bring this bill to the forefront of attention, but with all other media avoiding the matter I'm alarmed as to whether or not the reach will be wide enough. Nevertheless, we must keep trying.

I never thought I'd live to see such a travesty of government in this country in my lifetime. Unfortunately, I think too many people complacently believe the theft of our rights could never happen here.

I think of Yahoo's founder testifying before Congress, how his company betrayed one of their users to the Chinese
government for exercising free speech rights.

Will Google be any stronger in the face of similar demands? What choices does the average Internet user have?

Ever since Yahoo!'s cooperation with the Chinese government was first reported several months ago, I have refused to visit the site. The only engagement I now have with Yahoo! is through email with people who have accounts there.

My private, little boycott doesn't amount to much, but it makes me feel better that I don't support Yahoo!

I am visiting this site once more to tell you I wrote a letter to the Editor and so far my paper hasn't responded. It's depressing and very scary. If I believed in conspiracies I would become paranoid. Incidentally, I am the D in the first post; guess I forgot to paste my name.

good work, people, now ramp it up, please. this weekend i photocopied TGB original post about HR1955. tucked it in my knitting bag: someone was going to get it from me.

gave it to a journalist i met at margaret meade film festival. she was aghast; on her blog today www.debbienation.com. not much knitting these days. looking forward to next idea from ronni.

I am profoundly concerned by the direction this country has taken. Musharraf's declaration of martial law has to be George Bush's wet dream, but I am a little puzzled by the concern over HR1955. The original sponsor of the bill Jane Harman D CA has historically been one of the more forward thinking representatives from a fairly liberal and politically active district. My reading of the summary of the bill seems to suggest that at least part of its purpose is to provide some checks on the Department of Homeland Security to whit: Prohibits the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically-based violence and homegrown terrorism from violating the constitutional and civil rights, and civil liberties, of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.. Of course the devil is in the details, and I am prepared to learn more, however of all the scary things going on right now in America this bill does not rise to the top of my personal heap yet.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Related Posts