Thursday, March 29, 2012

You get what you deserve

It's been a brutal week and a half, in more ways than one.

On St. Patrick's Day weekend, the New York Occupiers retook their Liberty Square to commemorate six months of the Occupy movement -- and predictably, the police swarmed in on them with vicious brutality. A video on the Occupy site shows the cops ramming a man's head into a glass door and cracking the glass. Another woman suffered a seizure, and the cops looked on and did nothing after tackling her and dragging her by the head to a holding area. (This is the same woman who, in an Occupy scuffle last year with the police, was called a "bitch cunt" by an officer of the law after he pepper-sprayed her, knocked her down, stepped on her head, and told her, "You get what you deserve.") In the aftermath, five members of the City Council decried the brutality, and activists are calling for the resignation of the police commissioner.

In passing, the Occupy site mentions that the media were not allowed to cover the events. Whose idea was it to nullify the First Amendment right to freedom of the press, and why would the media comply? Of course, it's obvious why the cops don't want any press coverage, given how they're moving in with their riot gear and arsenal of weapons, looking like military squadrons, and cracking down hard on even peaceful Occupy protests. No wonder so many cops around the country are trying to intimidate people into not videotaping them in action, sometimes claiming that recording them somehow violates wiretap laws. When you're a desperate thug, you'll apparently do anything not to get caught on camera. It's OK if the government constantly has cameras turned on you, of course. That's perfectly fine.

And naturally, they have to keep tabs on all of us, because doing so much as breaking out in goosebumps might mean you're a terrorist. That's what the New Jersey Office of Fatherland, er, Homeland Security says in a new release aimed at helping residents spot Bad Guys. Other signs you might be ready to blow up a building? Yawning, sweating, and fidgeting. Both pacing around and standing rigidly still should set off alarm bells, too. So basically, any action you might take, consciously or otherwise, in public can now mark you as a terrorist threat. This news, of course, follows earlier FBI guidelines telling merchants to watch out for people who pay with cash. If you're missing limbs, have more than seven days of food stored up, quote the Constitution, or support Ron Paul, you might be a terrorist, too.

Yeah, you know Ron Paul, right? The guy who has massive grassroots support but whose message is constantly blacked out by the media, and whose voters are disenfranchised in caucuses and primaries around the country by big-government neocons who are terrified of being exposed as the frauds they are. All you hear in the media is how also-ran Ron Paul lost again, if he's mentioned at all. Those of us paying attention hear instead the chilling words of Joseph Stalin: "I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this -- who will count the votes, and how."

The system is so corrupt that it's not even worth voting -- and most Americans are too lazy or stupid to care.

American expat blogger Fred Reed sees the rampant corruption and likens America to a Third World country, where bribery and graft are ubiquitous. But at least in those places, people are aware of it. In America, it takes place in a formalized setting, characterizing the relationship between corporations and government, among other things:
In the United States, corruption occurs at the level of policy and contracts, between corporations, special interests, and Congress. It is done gracefully and usually legally. For example, Big Pharma pays Congress to insert, in some voluminous bill that almost no one will read, a clause saying that the government will pay list price for drugs instead of negotiating for a better price. Over time, this is worth hundreds of millions, paid by you. Yet the clause is legal. Or military industry pays Congress to buy an enormously expensive and unneeded airplane. It's legal. Read the bill. Or agribusiness pays Congress to cough up large subsidies. Also legal.
But it's not limited to corporate/political back-scratching:
Large groups -- blacks, women, Indians, unions -- bribe or intimidate Congress into giving them special privilege: affirmative action, racial and gender set-asides, casinos, loans and preferences from the Small Business Administration according to sex and ethnicity. Corruption, plain and simple. But legal.
And why is it all happening?
In America, the Constitution is largely and increasingly ignored by the government. Constitutionally the three branches of government are co-equal, but in practice the Supreme Court is of little consequence and Congress is the action arm of a corporate oligarchy. Constitutionally Congress must declare war, but now the president sends combat troops wherever he pleases and Congress reads about it in the Washington Post. The president can order citizens murdered, ignore habeas corpus, monitor and store email. The government can search you at will with no pretense of probable cause. Third World.
Yet the one guy in the presidential race who wants to restore America to its limited-government constitutional principles is by turns ignored, denied votes, and labeled unelectable, too extreme, a fringe nutcase.

And Americans are too busy watching American Idol to care. No one cared when NDAA gave Obama the right to detain American citizens indefinitely without charges. No one cared when he signed HR 347 and essentially outlawed peaceful assembly. No one cares that he's allowed spy agencies to retain collected information on American citizens, without oversight, for up to five years, where the same information previously had to be immediately destroyed if no links to terrorism were discovered.

And now no one seems to care that he signed the National Defense Resources Preparedness executive order, which allows him to federalize any resource, including forcing citizens to fulfill needed "labor requirements," for the vague purpose of "national defense." In combination with the NDAA's declaration that the entire world is a battlefield in the never-ending War on Terror, this pretty much means we're under martial law, right now and indefinitely into the future.

What's frightening is that Obama hasn't even taken the gloves off yet. Discussing foreign policy with Russia's prime minister, he was caught on an open mic saying that he'll have "more flexibility" to deal with hot-button issues once he's re-elected and can't run for office again. In other words, once he's no longer accountable to the voters, it's really going to get fun.

Here's a taste of what NDRP has in store for you:

It's been noted that this executive order is an update of previous ones dating back several decades, with the revised version putting Fatherland Security -- which didn't exist during the last iteration -- in charge of carrying out the orders within. But there are two things to note here: (1) An unconstitutional power grab isn't OK just because it's already existed for years, and (2) there is one major difference in the rewrite, in that the implementation of the provisions of the executive order are no longer restricted to wartime or states of emergency -- they can be put into action during for purposes of "national defense," which could be pretty much anything the government wants it to be. Language new and exclusive to this version specifically states that these actions can be taken "under both emergency and non-emergency conditions."

Obama signed the order on a Friday afternoon, which is what legislators do when they don't want anyone paying attention to what they're doing. He similarly signed NDAA into law on New Year's Eve, when everyone was out partying. Seemed to work like a charm in both cases, since the mainstream press dutifully ignored both actions.

And if anyone doubts just how much the media regularly manipulates public opinion and shapes what people care about, look at the endless chatter about this black kid who was shot and killed by Someone Who Wasn't Black. Sadly, people kill people every day. Whites kill whites. Blacks kill blacks. Blacks kill whites. But when a half-white guy kills a black kid, the media blows it up into front-page news with screaming headlines and turns it into a tired lecture on race relations. And the public dutifully plays right into their hands. One online petition calling for the killer's prosecution (he apparently says he was acting in self-defense, and there were no witnesses) has garnered more than 400,000 signatures, and marches are being organized all over the country. Hell, I never even heard of this kid until my Facebook page lit up with it in the aftermath. It's amazing how much power the "off" button on your TV has.

Now, imagine if people got this stirred up about things that really mattered. Imagine if the media beat the drum this hard over a guy who predicted the housing meltdown, a guy who called out the corruption and lack of accountability in the Federal Reserve long before it was printing money to bail out the banks that caused the meltdown (and secretly sent cash overseas), a guy who called "blowback" while everyone else was focused on engaging in more of the activity that led to the blowback in the first place. They could tell you there's a guy running for president who has a plan to rein in out-of-control spending and work on our massive, crippling national debt. They could mention that he embraces the Constitution and the limits it places on the government in defense of personal liberty. The dutiful public's reaction to the current feeding frenzy over the murdered kid proves how easy it is to lead people around by the nose and manipulate public opinion. If they wanted to, the press could make the Ron Paul Revolution the biggest story in this election cycle, and viewers would lap it right up.

But they don't. And they don't because the media and the major political parties are both slaves to the corporations and special interests that own them. And they're not about to draw attention to the guy who threatens to tear down their power structure. As Fred Reed observes:
Many Americans I suspect will insist that the press is free, because they are repeatedly told that it is, because they have nothing to which to compare it, and because the control is most adroitly managed. But it exists.

In America control does not work as it did in the USSR, by savagely punishing the least expression of undesired ideas; this would be obvious and arouse opposition. American control works on the principle of fooling enough of the people, enough of the time.

Strictly speaking, the US does have a free press. You can easily buy the books of David Duke, Karl Marx, Hitler, or Malcolm X. The trick is that few read. Television and newspapers rule, and they are owned by large corporations concerned with furthering the interests of large corporations.
Those interests are maximizing the viewership for advertising, which is where the money comes from; keeping the lid on in a country in which various groups would be at each other's throats if demagogues were allowed to provide the spark; keeping corporations from suffering any sort of control, and furthering the political agendas of the media.
Thus you never, ever, allow serious criticism of Israel, and you never, ever, allow an articulate Palestinian to offer his views. You do not allow any coverage of crime by blacks, which might lead to social upheaval. You do not allow distressing reportage of the wars -- a little girl looking in puzzlement at her bowels hanging out thanks to shrapnel. You do not do any serious investigative reporting of corporate corruption. And so on. Keep it bland. Keep it reassuring.

Don't let, say, a cop talk about what really goes on, or a GI to talk about what soldiers really do in Afghanistan, and don't let political debates touch on substance. Don't allow, for example, unrehearsed questions: "Mr. Santorum, can you name in order the countries that border on Iran?" Oh no. One mustn't reveal to the voters that neither they nor the candidates know what they are talking about. Better to maintain the illusion of Informed Citizens Engaging in Democracy.
We will pay a price for refusing to take off our blinders and see what's going on all around us in plain sight. As H.L. Mencken once said, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." And "good and hard" is exactly how it'll feel when an overbearing cop has his boot on your head, telling you that you're getting what you deserve.

By that time, even if you finally do wake up and realize that this isn't what America is supposed to be, it may well be too late to do anything about it.

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