Monday, December 05, 2011

touching the third rail - the beginnings of a second civil war?

Down in the land of the free and the home of the brave, there is some scary shit going on.

Not the five (or six? or seven?) countries the United States is currently bombing - or the 120 countries in which it is conducting military operations.

Not the more than $8,000,000,000,000 the government has happily stuffed into the already bulging wallets of the nation's bankers, whose illegal business practices will lead to the repossession of more than 6 million homes by 2013.

This something that would effectively destroy even the lingering pretense that the United States is a democratic country.

The US Senate will cast a final vote this week on a bill that, if passed, would designate the entire nation (including your back yard) as a "battlefield" in the War of Terror™ and grant the president the unquestioned power to use the military to detain indefinitely anyone he chooses - without evidence, without charge, and without trial. In an initial vote, the Senate supported the bill 93-7.

The National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1867) was drafted by both parties and passed in secret, without any public debate. The bill would necessitate the need for permanent concentration camps, like the ones in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (A collection of news articles and discussion is here.)

Barack Obama has said he will veto the bill if it passes, but I have my doubts. Since taking office, Obama has "affirmed, continued and expanded almost all of the draconian domestic civil liberties intrusions pioneered under the Bush administration" – while casually authorizing the murder of American citizens. And being awarded - and accepting - the Nobel Peace Prize, of course.

Why is the government doing this? One reason is the Occupy movement.

This anti-capitalism movement has been articulate, despite media reports to the contrary, listing its concerns in a way that nearly all Americans can understand. The powers that be know that ignoring the movement and allow it to grow would invite a host of problems. The movement may wane in parts of the country during the winter months, but it will likely roar back to life in the spring. Writer Ted Rall says "2012 is shaping up to be our Year of Revolution."
Naomi Wolf, the author of The End of America (a short book; essential reading) recently recounted a number of assaults by police against the Occupy movement and came to a conclusion that echoes what I have been thinking. The Occupy movement, the crackdowns against it, and S. 1867 could be the opening salvos in a second US Civil War.
US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk." ...

[T]he Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests. ...

Why this massive mobilization against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. ... I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted. ...

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organized suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.
The political and corporate class is taking no chances, and is attempting to pass legislation under the guise of fighting terrorism - but can also be used against any political movement that threatens the status quo.

Some people have insisted the bill would not apply to Americans, but John McCain was quite clear that it applies to anyone: "An individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat."

The bill, if passed, would allow the president to detain such persons indefinitely without trial, or try them before a military court, or transfer them "to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity".

Please note that last "or" clause. My reading of that - and Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive, agrees - is that any American citizen could be taken into custody from anywhere in the United Battlefield of America and transferred to any foreign entity in the world, presumably to be "disappeared".

The system is crumbling and the owners of that system are doing whatever they can to keep it standing as long as possible. But, as William I. Robinson writes that:
the immense structural inequalities of the global political economy can no longer be contained through consensual mechanisms of social control. The ruling classes have lost legitimacy; we are witnessing a breakdown of ruling-class hegemony on a world scale.
And things are going to get much, much worse before they get better.

Chris Hedges reports that the Arab Spring uprisings had a lot to do with increased food prices. Wheat prices had risen 100% over an eight-month period, making it next to impossible for Egyptians to feed their families. That same concern could spark more unrest in the US in 2012. On the day before thanksgiving, the Financial Times reported that more than 40% of food producers plan on increasing prices in the next few months. A week before that, it was reported that 100 million Americans - one-third of the country - is considered poor or near poor. If there is not already an agreed-upon definition of "third world country", that level of poverty, while the net worth of the richest citizens is skyrocketing - might serve as one.

Jared Diamond, the author of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, has studied the collapse of societies once thought to be indestructible. In 2005 he wrote:
I drive by gated communities guarded by private security patrols, and filled with people who drink bottled water, depend on private pensions, and send their children to private schools. If conditions deteriorate too much for poorer people, gates will not keep the rioters out.
Ted Rall, on the US's "Fuck You System of Government":
Governments are supposed to fulfill the basic needs of their citizens. Ours doesn't pretend to try.

Sick? Too bad.

Can’t find a job? Tough.

Broke? Can't afford rent? We don't give a crap.

Forget "e pluribus unum." We need a more accurate motto.

We live under a f— you system.

Got a problem? The U.S. government has an all-purpose response to whatever ails you: f— you. ...

Doctors [have] noted a new phenomenon called "Zuccotti cough." Symptoms are similar to those of "Ground Zero cough" suffered by 9/11 first responders.

Zuccotti is 450 feet away from Ground Zero.

Which brings to mind the fact that the collapse of the World Trade Center towers released 400 tons of asbestos into the air. It was never cleaned up properly. Could Occupiers be suffering the results of sleeping in a should-have-been-Superfund site for two months?

We'll never know. As under Bush, Obama's EPA still won't conduct a 9/11 environmental impact study.

Sick? Wanna know why? F— you. ...

When people who lost their homes because their government said "f— you" to them rather than help turn to the same government to look for safe shelter, again they are told: "f— you."

And then, after days and years and decades of shirking their responsibility ... our "f— you" government has the amazing audacity to blame us, victims of their negligence and corruption and violence, for messing things up.

Which is why we are finally, at long last, starting to say "f— you" to them.
Frank Luntz, a leading GOP Strategist:
I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death. They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.

No comments: