Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Interesting reads

Some items that caught my attention:

The New Enabling Act:

The Enabling Act, officially known as the “Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and Realm,” was short and simple. Its operative provisions were as follows:
Article 1

In addition to the procedure prescribed by the constitution, laws of the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich….

Article 2

Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.

Article 3

Laws enacted by the Reich government shall be issued by the Chancellor and announced in the Reich Gazette….

That, seasoned with only a soupзon of legalistic detail, was it. What it meant was that the executive was empowered by the legislature to decide what the law was. He was empowered to ignore the constitution. Neither the courts nor the legislature would have means to check executive power.

When the world saw the logical conclusion of that social experiment, it promised, “never again.”

As the saying goes, never say never:

Forget, for the moment, that the proposed “compromise” torture legislation effectively abrogates the Geneva Conventions. Forget that it effectively licenses torture in the name of every American. Focus instead on the fact that itvests in the administration the singularly most tyrannical power that exists – namely, the power unilaterally to decree someone guilty of a crime and to condemn the accused to eternal imprisonment without having even to charge him with a crime, let alone defend the validity of those accusations.” Focus on this language from the proposed law:
…(N)o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever, … including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions under this chapter.

No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

The language of the new Enabling Act is a bit more baroque than that used seventy years ago. And, to be sure, it is not as far-reaching as that of its predecessor. But make no mistake: Just as the 1933 Enabling Act created the context for dictatorship, so does this one. The German legislature told the executive that it had the power to make law and ignore the constitution. If Congress passes this bill, the American legislature will second the motion.

It is just one bill, you may object; it only applies to terrorists, you may say; we are not Nazi Germany, you may insist. And yet. The forthcoming FISA bill extends Enabling Act thinking to additional unreviewable executive powers. The slippery slope has been well-oiled. The Niemцller poem stands waiting.

On a related vibe, this from Sara Robinson:
We have a brand-spanking-new torture bill that allows the President to arrest and torture anyone (American or not) whom he believes may be giving any kind of aid or comfort to "the enemy" -- and, for the perfect tyrannical touch, leaves the definition of such enemies at his sole discretion. If recent trends continue uninterrupted -- and that's really up to us, and the outcome of this election -- the Bush Administration will almost certainly use these new powers to expand the ranks of the condemned well beyond the 14,000 languishing in the American gulag now.

Four years ago, when Mr. R and I started planning to our exodus from America, we had a scenario in our minds that we found so preposterously unlikely at the time that we didn't even discuss it with close friends, because we knew they'd think we were crazy. "This is how it happened to my grandparents," he kept telling me. "It was frogs in pots. The Czar came, and their rights were abrogated. The Cossacks came, and there were progroms. Isadore and Bessie left Kiev around that time -- but for their relatives who stayed, the Nazis came, and there was Baba Yar and Auschwitz. Frogs. In. Pots. It may only feel tepid now -- and I'm not going to hang around, adapting and denying, until the day comes that we're cooked." In the privacy of our own conversations, the potential for disaster was enough to keep us going, one foot in front of the other, until we found ourselves all the way up in the Great White North.

And so, from our sunny perch on a hillside in western Canada, we've watched the pot get warmer down there in the lower 48, as every horror that seemed so insane to imagine in those early days has come to pass. Remember how outraged we were when just 1400 Muslims were rounded up and held in the days after 9/11? Now, we've got an order of magnitude more such prisoners, in far worse conditions -- and we passed that stupid law anyway. Which, as long as we're drawing trendlines, means that the next order of magnitude -- 140,000 -- will be reached by 2010, and their conditions will be far more dismal yet. And the next -- 1.4 million -- will be just a couple years beyond that. As the numbers increase, and more people become complicit with and invested in the evils being committed, the travesty we unleashed week will only gather momentum -- and become far harder to stop.

We may, in fact, be watching our last easy, bloodless chance to avoid this outcome slip by us this fall. If you reward the people who passed this outrage by returning them to Congress, my beloved ones, you will officially be on boil.


Maybe this is how monotheistic fanaticism ends -- not with a whimper, but the biggest possible bang. Maybe it will consume itself in a reign of terror, a global clash against Islam and the domestic infidel, that rises up to wield more power and create more havoc than the world has ever seen -- for 15 or 20 years, anyway. And then, like the Nazis, their thousand-year Millennialist Reich will fall to ashes, spent at last, despised by its victims in every time zone, remembered and revered only by a few unstable people on the lunatic fringe.


After the fall, what will be left to history is a few new names for ultimate evil to be inscribed next to "Nazi" in the history books. When our grandchildren speak of the basest instincts of humankind and the unleashing of unimaginable horror, the shorthand word they will use might be "Christian." Or "Muslim." Or "fundamentalist." For, of course, these 21st Century fascists will make sure that everything done -- the burning, the torture, the killing, the bombing -- will be done in the name of Our Lord, with the cross of Jesus or the crescent of Muhammed going on before. Nobody will be allowed to forget it. After they're done ravaging the planet, nobody will be able to -- not for centuries to come.

As our grandparents did, this future generation will spend decades in a searching inquiry of What Went Wrong, reconstructing (perhaps even from blogs like this one) the path that led to the future they'll be living in. Where WWII taught us about the dangers of child abuse, the banality of evil, the true costs of political and economic instability, and the perils of authoritarianism, the scholars of our grandchildren's generation will look at the effects of religious fanaticism, and decide with a unanimous certainty that such delusions are a luxury neither the Earth nor her people can continue to afford.

In this scenario, they'd probably pin a good share of the blame on our generation -- the Boomers and Xers who now hold power. If we allow history's greatest democracy to degenerate into a rough fascism in a fraction of our lifetimes, our most-remembered legacy will not be weaving the Web or decoding the genome, but our complicity in the epochal evil about to occur. More pointed yet will be the blame belonging to liberal, moderate, and evangelical Christians who fully understood the true meaning of "whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me" -- and still kept their silence while a fearful, violent minority rose up and walked off with their good name.
Of course there are plenty of folks in these here United States who are born again with fascist cravings. In addition to an increasingly authoritarian government that has grown to gargantuan proportions during the course of my lifetime, we've got our various dominionist organizations who've willingly linked themselves with the basest of racist hate groups (think, KKK, etc.). It's a damned good idea to educate ourselves and continue by whatever means necessary to be vocal, as it is the dominionist & white supremacist crowd that seem to get a free pass from our ruling elites and it is no doubt they who will be doing the "dirty work" of any ensuing fascist regime.

As it is now, I suspect that as I write my memoirs that I intend to pass to my kids & eventual grandkids (I keep assuming a long life), I will be extending an apology for whatever contribution I made to the mess that they will be inheriting and realizing that apology won't even begin to make a dent in terms of healing their suffering. Just as the phrase "Good Germans" is used as a pejorative, I have little doubt any more that the phrase "Good Americans" along with "Boomers" & "Gen X" will also be viewed as terms not of endearment but of indictment. Quite a legacy, indeed.

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