A Patriot Acts

Air Force veteran and former: social studies teacher, college professor, and organizational consultant John Nirenberg patiently explains why he’s walking 480+ miles from Boston’s Faneuil Hall to Speaker Pelosi’s office to encourage her to put impeachment “back on the table.”

Scott Ritter, explains below why there is so little overt opposition to an attack on Iran. His words might also explain why Nirenberg decided to hit the road to get an audience with Pelosi (in December, no less):

…very few Americans actually function as citizens anymore. What I mean by that are people who invest themselves in this country, people who care, who give a damn. Americans are primarily consumers today, and so long as they continue to wrap themselves in the cocoon of comfort, and the system keeps them walking down a road to the perceived path of prosperity, they don’t want to rock the boat. If it doesn’t have a direct impact on their day-to-day existence, they simply don’t care.

There’s a minority of people who do, but the majority of Americans don’t. And if the people don’t care — and remember, the people are the constituents — if the constituents don’t care, then those they elect to higher office won’t feel the pressure to change.

The Democrats, one would hope, would live up to their rhetoric, that is, challenging the Bush administration’s imperial aspirations. Once it became clear Iraq was an unmitigated disaster, one would have thought that when the Democrats took control of Congress they would have sought to reimpose a system of checks and balances, as the Constitution mandates. But instead the Democrats have put their focus solely on recapturing the White House, and, in doing so, will not do anything that creates a political window of opportunity for their Republican opponents.

The Democrats don’t want to be explaining to an apathetic constituency, an ignorant constituency whose ignorance is prone to be exploited because it produces fear, fear of the unknown, and the global war on terror is the ultimate fear button. The Democrats, rather than challenging the Bush administration’s position on the global war on terror, challenging the notion of these imminent threats, continues to play them up because that is the safest route toward the White House. At least that is their perception.

…They don’t have the courage of conviction to enter into that debate and stare at whoever makes that statement and say they’re a bald-faced liar. They’re not going to go that route…

I don’t know what the last straw was for Nirenberg. Meanwhile, H.R. 1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act recently and quietly passed the House by 404 to 6, and is under consideration by the Senate. John Nichols of the Capital Times:

…H.R. 1955 would establish the framework for an Orwellian network charged with policing not the actions but the thoughts and statements of Americans. It would establish a commission with broad investigative powers and an official charge to propose legislation and regulatory moves to bar whatever thoughts or words the commission identifies as “homegrown terrorism.”

With its authority to call hearings and compel testimony, the commission would invite a return of the days of inquests into “thought crimes” by the likes of Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy and California Sen. Richard Nixon….

Under H.R. 1955, investigators would be authorized to examine Web sites and online communications with an eye toward controlling the free flow of ideas and information that is the lifeblood of the digital age. Indeed, the National Lawyers Guild and the Society of American Law Teachers warn: This legislation “will likely lead to the criminalization of beliefs, dissent and protest, and invite more draconian surveillance of Internet communications.”

…Backers of the bill claim they only want to address what they describe as “threatened” force. But what they identify as a “threat” might be nothing more than an expression of the deep frustration Americans feel with politicians…who show so little respect for freedom of speech.

This legislation suggests that a danger that must be officially addressed — “violent radicalization” — is characterized by the embrace of an “extremist belief system.” But who defines extremism? Didn’t the British label Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine extremists? Didn’t the supporters of World War I attack anti-war campaigners such as Robert M. La Follette and Eugene Victor Debs as extremists? Weren’t supporters of women’s suffrage dismissed as extremists? Weren’t the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin attacked because powerful figures considered their advocacy on behalf of civil rights to be extremist?…

I don’t need to remind you, that the on-air “talent” of Fox News, as well as many voices on the AM dial routinely label many of us reading and writing blogs like this one as “extremists”. Jeff Dinelli at the Left Coaster:

…The cleverly worded law would allow the government to arrest and imprison anyone who speaks out against the Bush administration, the Iraq occupation, the Department of Homeland Security or any other government agency, including the FDA….It is the latest in a long line of fear-mongering legislation that stretches back to the birth of our nation, as pointed out in a fine post by Phillip Giraldi at HuffPo.

Forget that this is going to be specifically aimed at Muslim organizations. This is the beginning of the end to Free Speech in America. If this law passes, every information source you know and trust could be shut down and its authors arrested…

Would you have believed thirty years ago that there would be Free Speech Zones in America? H.R. 1955 was co-authored by not by some far right nutcase, but by Jane Harman, a California Democrat, chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence. The fact that she’s considered mainstream, and that the bill passed while the news was occupied with massive fires in her home state, helped the bill dodge public attention. Harman’s district contains a number of defense contractors and borders the district that’s home to the RAND Corporation, which IMO would be a beneficiary of this legislation

You can feel what’s left of our democracy, “ossifying up”, as the bill’s thought police will likely chill what’s left of Free Speech in America. Its intent and vague language is a step toward putting web sites like this one out of business.

Join John Nirenberg, either in person on US Route 1, or via his website March in My Name.