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.

10 thoughts on “A Patriot Acts

  1. 404 to 6! My question is, did everyone read the bill? Did anyone? Probably not!!!
    We need to kill this piece of crap. First, call and write your Senator’s.
    Second, pressure the Democtrats to announce right now that there will be NO “Free Speach Zone’s” at the convention next year. It’s ALL free speach!
    Third, find the real Democrat running for Congress in your area and throw your support behind him or her. Throw the Corporatist’s out. I know this sounds crazy, but Hell, you could even support a Republican sympathetic to democratic ideal’s, if any such creature still exists. Such people did once thrive. Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javit’s are but two examples. Those two might not even get elected as Democrat’s today. That’s how far the pendulum has swung to the right.
    2008 is the most important election in recent history – maybe ever. We either take our country back, or look back in our rear-view mirror as that which we once stood for fades in the distance.

  2. Jeebus, maha, I think this is the scariest post I’ve read on your site. Time to start reading up on this suicidal legislation, and figure out what to do about it.

  3. OK, I’ve read H.R. 1955 in its entirety. I have to be honest, I saw nothing in it that matched the descriptions by Dinelli or Nichols.

    First, the bill establishes a Commission, comprised of members of Congress, and empowers them to meet, hear testimony, receive evidence and administer oaths. It specifies a total of 19 months for the life of this Commission, which will issue reports that are required to be made public.

    The bill also establishes a permanent “Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the U.S.” This is where I’m uncomfortable. The Center’s activities sound mostly academic and innocuous, although the phrase “the Center shall utilize theories, methods and data from the social and behavioral sciences to better understand the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological aspects of violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism” sounds to me like it could include “waterboarding” as such a “method.”

    Now there’s a picture: Nancy Pelosi giving Eric Rudolph, the Christofascist terrorist, a dunking. Somehow I think, in practice, it wouldn’t look like that.

    Sec. 899F(a) of the bill states: “The Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to prevent ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism as described herein shall not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.”

    Of course, those of us who know better will respond, “Oh really?” But it does raise the question: is H.R. 1955 the first time that unequivocal statement has been codified into law?

    And if it is, isn’t that a good thing?

    Sec. 899B(7) states: “Individuals prone to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence span all races, ethnicities, and religious beliefs, and individuals should not be targeted based solely on race, ethnicity, or religion.”

    Granted, the should not as opposed to shall not worries me. Sounds less like a law than a “guideline.” Enough of that already.

    I would need someone to point out the language in the bill that authorizes criminal investigations, expands on law enforcement’s existing powers of investigation, or legalizes the current administrations illegal methods of investigation, because I didn’t see it. And Dinelli’s statement that the bill authorizes the arrest and imprisonment of anyone, for any reason, simply isn’t true.

    I only point these things out because one has to stretch the facts, in this case, to work up to a panic. I’m panicked about enough things where we don’t have to stretch the facts.

  4. Also… sorry, this was moonbat’s post, not maha’s. Apologies for the error in comment #3.

  5. joanr16, you had the marked advantage of actually studying the bill, and I confess, that beyond a superficial skim, I didn’t take the time. I was very aware as I researched this that some writers – maybe even ones quoted here – seemed to panic and stretch things, while others seemed more measured in their reaction. I tried to search for the latter, and shun the former – or at least limit their contribution here – but I think the results were mixed at best.

    There are two or three things that strike me about this bill, and I probably should’ve written more about this. One is simply the need for it at all, in light of the potential for abuse. I wonder what Harman (and her co-author) really have in mind, beyond the legal language and public statements.

    The other is the vagueness, the ability for some commision to define “extremism” however they want. There are other places where it’s vague, which could allow nearly anything to be fair game for the commission’s study and proposed regulation.

    Thirdly, and most alarmingly, this bill increases the trend in this country over the last few decades to shut down free speech, either directly or through intimidation or through legislation that favors, for example media concentration, effectly squashing dissenting opinion. It’s one more action by an entrenched, ossified system that is frightened by citizens actually exercising power – something that we’re all taught is a founding principle of this country, and yet is little more than empty words today. I would argue that the system actively fights against this citizen involvement at this point, and this bill, even if it’s as innocent as Harman maintains, is one more step in this wrong direction.

    But thanks for your criticism, it helps me do a better job. BTW, Dennis Kucinich was one of the six Congresspeople who voted against it.

  6. To understand what is happening today you must be able to understand why Jane Hartman sponsored this bill and the dems voted for it. Possibilities are:

    1. She was coerced by the Homegrown Terrorists who did the Anthrax attacks, and perhaps 9/11. Remember Chertoffs gut feeling last summer. At a conference she attended in July he was said to have speculated on the possibility of AQ setting off dirty bombs on the West Coast.

    2. The US has a 1 party system. Party X includes Democrats and Republicans, and the illusion of a 2 party system is maintained as it is a useful tool for Party X to Divide and Rule as they march toward global domination and one world totalitarian government. Totalitarian governments need bills like these to squash dissent and maintain control when people figure things out. MSM News is now officially a government psyops division making it all possible.

    3. The AIPAC and /or American business lobbies influence the votes to benefit Israel and/or US Homeland Security Industries that benefit from DHS and Defense spending.

    4. Democrats just happen to have gone nuts at the same time.

    5. A statistical abnormality where Dems just seem to have bad days when these bills come up for vote and the law of averages will smooth things out over time

    6. There is an unknown “stupid” virus going around that only infects Americans or it is just unexplained random behavior that might be explained by chaos theory and manifests itself with people voting in ways that are not rational.

    7. Aliens have taken over and our elected politicians are ET’s disguised as those whose identities they have taken over.

    8. The parallel universe and ours had a short circuit or something and some of our Democrats got exchanged with the other universe Democrats where they are the fascist party .

    9. CIA is utilizing their mind control devices and techniques to influence the votes.

    10. It’s just a bad dream.

    More than 1 choice is allowed.

  7. moonbat, the fact is, I’m glad you alerted us to the bill, which I’d never heard of before. I’m going to try to follow brave Mr. Nirenberg’s example, and be an active patriot by following the proceedings of this Commission. Will it occur to them, for example, that the oldest “Homegrown Terrorism” organization in the U.S. is the KKK? That two of the root causes of “Violent Radicalization” are poverty and the isolation of being a minority in a racist society?

    The permanent “Center for Excellence” (a bullshit name if ever I heard one) does alarm me, because it will be a permanent entity, and as you mention, its purpose and scope are defined only vaguely.

  8. SECTION I. Punishes combinations against United States government.
    1. Definition of offence:
    Unlawfully to combine or conspire together to oppose any measure of the government of the United States
    SECTION II. Punishes seditious writings.
    1. Definition of offence:
    To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite unlawful combinations against the government, or to resist it, or to aid or encourage hostile designs of foreign nations.

    Folks, this is the sedition act of 1798, passed under Adams, repealed under Jefferson. What we have being discussed is an updated version for the internet.. but EXACTLY the same issue.

    Deja’ Vu all over again.

  9. Moon, thanks a bunch for the post. My discussion group met tonight and I brought in portions of the bill from you link. A couple of things were speculated towards. Allan (Ari’s Freedom Switch and State of the Division) thought that there are a lot of security dollars in Harman’s district and that she was high-ho on this baby to further her stay in office and line her coffers. I am sure it melts the sugar on her hawk cookies as well.

    The other mention was that if you look up Thomas Jefferson quotes you will find him making statements that would get his hiney-bo thrown in the gulag–something about forming secret societies to resist tyrants, etc.

    There must be some kinda way out of here….(good ol’ Jimi!)

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