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Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Thought Crime Bill – It’s Worse Than It Seems

category_bug_politics.gif A few more mainstream publications are gradually picking up on S.1959, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (full text here). The more I read from others, along with related protests against our criminal administration, the more I am convinced that the moment is now. If we do not stand up and demand the return of our liberties, we will soon see the end of America. So…

There will be more posts here about S.1959 and other terribly troubling acts and events, and fewer about aging. But as Marian Van Eyk McCain of Elderwomanblog pointed out to me in an email, this IS elders’ job.

Who else, Marian asked, has the foresight, long memories and ability to see the big picture? Certainly not young folks who, in recent decades, have been deprived in our failing schools of the more in-depth teaching our elder generations received on how precious and fragile our freedoms are.

To maintain a democracy takes a lot more work than voting. It is our responsibility as citizens to be constantly vigilant and to oppose government’s drift toward fascism. Fighting this assault on our civil liberties is the most important thing we can do with our time now to preserve the American way of life for our children and grandchildren.

S.1959 is only the latest in the growing arsenal of unconstitutional legislative tools our government has granted itself that make it possible to shut down our open society. On Monday, 26 November, Phillip Giraldi, writing at Huffington Post on S.1959, succinctly laid out the build-up of these tools. Read it and be very afraid:

“…there has been the post 9/11 creation of a virtual avalanche of legislation and commissions designed to protect the country at the expense of the Bill of Rights. The two Patriot Acts of 2001 and 2006 and the Military Commission Act of 2006 have collectively limited constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of association, freedom from illegal search, the right to habeas corpus, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom from the illegal seizure of private property.

“The First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments in the Bill of Rights have all been disregarded in the rush to make it easier to investigate people, put them in jail, and torture them if necessary.

“A recent executive order of July 17th, 2007 goes even farther, authorizing the President to seize the property of anyone who ‘Threatens Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.’ The government's own Justice Department decides what constitutes ‘threatening stabilization efforts’ and the order does not permit a challenge to the information that the seizure is based on.”

Mr. Giraldi is a more careful reader of legislative bills that I am, obviously more experienced (his HuffPost bio describes him as “a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues”) and my new reading of the bill after a careful read of his piece reveals reasons to fear not just the potential legislation that may result from S.1959, but the new Commission itself which, writes Giraldi:

“…will be empowered to hold hearings, conduct investigations, and designate various groups as ‘homegrown terrorists.’ The commission will be tasked to propose new legislation that will enable the government to take punitive action against both the groups and the individuals who are affiliated with them.

“Like Joe McCarthy and HUAC in the past, the commission will travel round the United States and hold hearings to find the terrorists and root them out. Unlike inquiries in the past where the activity was carried out collectively, the act establishing the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Commission will empower all the members of the Commission to arrange hearings, obtain testimony, and even to administer oaths to witnesses, meaning that multiple hearings could be running simultaneously in various parts of the country.”

The HUAC hearings were my childhood political awakening. The committee's denunciations, based on not a whit of evidence, that I watched on my family’s first television were set against simultaneous civics classes at school each day about such past travesties to the Constitution as The Alien and Sedition Acts and how the Bill of Rights protects us.

I was getting whiplash from the discrepancies between school and current events, and it broke my naive, young heart to see on television and read in the newspapers - just as I was beginning to understand the amazing accomplishments of our founding fathers - that the government cannot be trusted to follow the law. The anger I felt back then in my early teens that government subversion of the Constitution was not just history, but happening again in front of my eyes has never left me.

Here is Edward R. Murrow's famous statement against Senator Joseph McCarthy's tactics and HUAC as portrayed by David Straithorn in the movie, Good Night and Good Luck. It is as pertinent now as then.

Given how slowly things move in Congress, I have believed that we had a good amount of time to fight back against S.1959, but then Mr. Giraldi writes this:

“It is believed that approval by the committee will take place shortly, to be followed by passage by the entire Senate.”

It is our responsibility as citizens, each and every one of us as the first small step toward restoring the rule of law, to prevent passage of this bill. It won't be easy. It means each of us keeping up the pressure on our senators, again and again. We cannot afford to be, in Thomas Paine's words, "sunshine patriots."

Naomi Wolf’s book, The End of America, explains how easily democracies can be shut down by fascists who would destroy our liberties, and how close those people are to achieving it now. It is our job to educate ourselves, our friends and neighbors, and our blog readers to the danger our country faces. If you have not read this book yet, I believe you have a duty to do so and if I could afford it, I would buy one for every one of you.

Since I can't, here is an interview with Ms. Wolf that should scare the pants off you and push you to more urgent action. It will take 30 minutes out of your life to watch and would be worth ten times that much.

Pay heed at the end to her suggestion of one thing more we can and should all do.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today Susan Gulliford, inspired by Linda Jordan's Secret Love contribution here last week, gives us a story titled Thoughts on a Veteran.]


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:36 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

yesterday learned that senator obama is on the committee for Senate bill 1959.

This is so frightening. I'm sitting here with chills and the beginning of a panic attack. I've suspected a lot of this for a long time and no one seems to care. The more I see and read tells me that we are truly at risk. I watched "Zeitgeist" (www.zeitgeist. com) the other night and it really put the handwriting on the wall. I advise everyone to take the time to watch it. I would also advise everyone to take a look at the current crop of presidential candidates and see who believes in the sanctity of the Constitution and is serious about such things as ending the war in Iraq. We need to stand up en masse and tell our legislators that as Peter Finch said in his Oscar-winning performance in "Network", "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

I used to feel safe. I don't anymore. And it's making me ill.

I have read Naomi Wolf's book. It is meticulously footnoted and full of current examples. It is chilling. Too many people think "I'm not a terrorist so that won't apply to me." WRONG.

This book is succinct. It's not a 700 page textbook that you would labor to finish. If your local library doesn't have it, ask them to get it on interlibrary loan.

I have not read the book, but be assured I will very soon.
I wanted to alert you that I feel as strongly about this issue as you do and that my blog tomorrow (Thursday) is devoted to this, with links back to your blog, because you explained it all way better than I could.
Thank you SO much, Ronni, for making us aware. I intend to keep this issue on the front burner at my blog.

Ronni, added my online protest of this bill on my blog. Also linked to your Thought Crime Bill page. As Terri said, "because you explain it all way better than I could."

I, too, am talking about this issue and linking to these posts. I am also calling the offices of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. If your library doesn't have Noami Wolf's book, ask them to get it. It isn't just this bill that matters (though it certainly does)--it's the whole issue. Listening to the Wolf interview (linked on this post) was well worth my time, even though I am reading her book. I will be checking out www.americanfreedomcampaign.org

Ronni: when I see victims of elder abuse have court appointed guardians chosen with out any feedback from the family, as to their qualifications , other than being a lawyer which automatically qualifies them to take over the elder's estate.
This leaves the victim's families destitute.
My mother has not been able to benefit from her social security income ever since the guardian took it over six months ago. This makes me suspect that our freedoms are quickly being taken away. I am glad that more and more americans are waking up to the fact that facism is rearing its ugly head once more.

"to maintain a *democracy* takes a lot more work than voting. It is our responsibility as citizens to be constantly vigilant and to oppose government’s drift toward fascism."

I could not agree more that we have to be vigilant about ANY move toward fascism, socialism, communism and other ideologies destructive to our constitution.

Our freedoms are precious.

I would point out however that the USA is a REPUBLIC and NOT a democracy.

This bill scares the hell out of me. I blogged one of my longest blogs about it here:
http://www.sueklaus.com/chronicmalcontent/blog/archive/2007_11_01_archive.html

I NEVER go on that long, but I couldn't help it!

Only four House Reps voted against it. One of them was Dennis Kucinich.

I read Wolf's book cover to cover. Glad that I turned off the TV and read it. Sobering. Yes, it is meticulously footnoted. Easy read, too. She did a wonderful job of writing. I also watched her video at AlterNet.

I wrote a reply to a Boston Globe columnist who was attempting to trash the book. I've also written to both my senators. I already wrote to my congressional rep asking him why he voted for the house version. No answer. Guess who's not getting my vote come reelection time.

I hope that everyone writes to their senators and to newspaper editors. Feel free to read the post in my blog.

I have been unaware of what you are writing about, but I will definitely educate myself about this bill. Thanks, Ronni.

I literally feel sick to my stomach contemplating what is happening to our country. It's not like many of us haven't seen what was happening, made an effort to make others aware. It's just that so few seem to be listening or attempting to stem that tide undermining our democracy. The numbers beginning to recognize the nature of the problems do seem to be growing, seeing the need to take meaningful action and doing so. That's what we have to continue doing.

I am 79 and still teaching college courses in the humanities. I am appalled at the lack of interest in world, national or local affairs that directly impact my students' lives. I have seen the wars and the cycles, always hoping for a true leader to emerge and for a return of hope. With few exceptions, only people in my age group seem to understand the peril.

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