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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/1/11

Is Protest Still Optional?

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When our government no longer represents us, its actions inevitably cause us to suffer.  This is the importance of democratic representative government.  This same reality motivated the American Revolution and its organizing slogan "No taxation without representation". 

Eleven years ago, we couldn't have imagined how quickly damaging structural changes would be made.  Under GWB we saw: 

1- The routine use of Presidential signing statements (These are written statements issued when signing a popular law passed by Congress which statements declare reasons the President does not feel bound to carry out some, perhaps most, of the law he is signing. Unlike a veto these prevent Congress from insisting on the provisions by passing the law again.  Obama has continued this borderline unconstitutional practice.) 

2- Privatizing and computerizing vote-counting and refusing to correct the resulting lack of transparency and security of the count; 

3- Routinizing widespread warrantless surveillance of the ordinary communications of everyone in the U.S. (telephone & Internet providers are pressured to allow sifting of all communications for long lists of key words--today, as far as we know, they revolve around "terrorism", tomorrow they could relate to legitimate political organizing) 

4- A majority of public functions like war, prisons, many schools, water & sewers, etc., becoming privatized to funnel unfathomable amounts of public money into the coffers of mega-corporations and other politically connected insiders
5- Reversing the tradition of posse comitatus by enlisting the military to help "manage", i.e. harass, large demonstrations, as well as bringing weapons that maim, such as sound cannons, strong chemical agents, & "beanbag" projectiles, to bear against legitimate political dissidents. (Where is the ACLU on these civil liberties issues?) 

6- The frequent use of unlawful detention and torture of people loosely defined by the Executive branch as enemies of the state, aka "terrorists" or terrorist enablers.  Perfectly adequate legal judicial methods exist to deal w/ real terrorists.  The insistence on the use of extra-judicial means appears to be an effort to cow the populace by destroying Constitutional protections.  Obama's Justice Dept. has expanded this practice, in his treatment of truth teller Bradley Manning, and by rounding up peace activists in St. Paul, MN and Chicago for attempting to engage brutal organizations like Hamas for the purpose of influencing them in a positive direction.  Jimmy Carter has publicly objected to this policy.  When questioned, Obama has stood behind these detentions. 

7- The politiciztion of the Justice Dept., done by firing without cause many U.S attorneys who would not carry out persecutions of the Republican Party's political enemies and rivals, and their replacement w/ those who would.  Obama took no action regarding this staffing and left these unscrupulous fanatics in place without investigation. 

8- Resumption and expansion of the old, ugly habit of thinly veiled resource wars, continuing them for previously unheard of lengths of time without obtaining a Congressional Declaration of War.  Privatization of many aspects of war has made also made these wars much more expensive than ever before.

Then in Jan. 2010 we got the Supreme Court's devastating "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission" decision, legalizing corruption by striking down any law that attempts to distinguish the legally distorted politically activities, especially donations, of for-profit corporations (state laws of incorporation require that all use of a for-profit corporation's funds be for the purpose of generating return on shareholder investment, w/o regard to consequences unrelated to the bottomline) from those of individual citizens and not-for-profit issue organizations.  It was followed this year by a decision that made publicly financed state and local elections illegal!
Until most of these changes are reversed, we have only the trappings of representative gov't without the substance.  In this environment traditional lobbying is futile, especially for the purpose of reversing the very changes which have transferred power from the many to the few who now have such a tight hold on the members of Congress.  Who in Congress would try to legislate, for instance, the break-up of Goldman Sachs knowing that w/i a few months all the large banks would finance TV smears against him/her and supportive ads for the opponent?  Or, if necessary, would make a call to the CEO of the company maintaining the election tabulation equipment and the vote numbers would become very odd.  The campaign that unseated Russ Feingold was an object lesson members of Congress won't forget.
Our Constitutional government, the artfully crafted instrument for ensuring that the interests of the many are addressed and that we are not reduced to slaves of the most powerful few, has had all its levers and gears broken off and been snatched from us and used as a cudgel with which to beat us.  The answer is not, as Fox News disingenuously repeats, to permanently destroy the damaged instrument of government, making our disempowered situation also permanent.  We don't want to morph into something like Brazil with a gov't containing many avowed progressives, but with such limited powers and such tenuous control over the military and private paramilitaries that the oligarchs run unfettered over the many and large numbers of citizens are reduced to a brutish existence in their desperate struggle for survival.   Instead, if we want civilized, reasonably comfortable lives for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, we need to find any way we can to wrest our government back and rebuild it even better than before.

It looks as though, if our current course is not altered, in a few years, young people will be trying to raise their families under "China Lite".  U.S. fascism will be rationalized by American-style, Fox News type disinformation, but it will be no less damaging to the well-being of citizens than any other form of fascism.
This is a true "which side are you on?" moment.  What option besides public protest has a chance of making a difference?  It is in your interest to help however you can.

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Like this country's founders, I believe that the widest political empowerment under the rule of law is the surest way of having its resources work for the long term best interests of us all. The longer I live, the more I see that supports that (more...)
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