In obvious panic and disarray, the GOP right has turned to a time-honored strategy---kill the messengers. While it slaughters Americans and Iraqis to "bring democracy" to the Middle East, it has made democracy itself public enemy Number One here at home.
The New Totalitarianism has become tangible in particular through a string of terrifying prosecutions against non-violent dissenters, an attack on open access to official government papers, and the attempted resurrection by right-wing "theorists" of America's most repressive legislation, dating back to the 1950s, 1917 and even 1797.
Bush's universal spy campaign is the cutting edge of the assault. The GOP Attorney-General has told Congress both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln engaged in electronic wiretapping. He has deemed the Geneva war crimes accords a "quaint" document and treats the Bill of Rights the same way.
Along with spying comes official secrecy. The Bush regime is reclassifying millions of pages of harmless, marginal documents to prevent public scrutiny. It demands access to the papers of the deceased investigative reporter Jack Anderson so they can be reclassified. It has moved to prosecute reporters, government officials and even lobbyists who have used documents in ways the administration doesn't like.
In Ohio, the official secrecy has entered the state level. Governor Bob Taft, the first sitting criminal governor in Ohio history, is moving to classify thousands of pages of state policy papers. Taft recently admitted to four misdemeanor crimes involved with Tom Noe, a Republican hack now under both state and federal indictment.
Should the trend expand, US citizens could find themselves shut out of access to even the most rudimentary official information at all levels, down to the smallest town.
Simultaneously, prosecutions against dissenters have dramatically escalated. Taft walked away from his convictions with a small fine and an apology. But a community organizer here has been sentenced to 119 days in jail for speaking out at a Columbus School Board meeting. A severe diabetic, Jerry Doyle has been temporarily turned away from his jail sentence due to life-threatening health problems. But authorities intend to imprison Doyle while Taft walks free.
Ironically, Doyle was initially charged with trespassing at the podium although he had an authorized speaker's slip. He was complaining about a school official, Sheri Bird-Long who stole some $200,000 from the school system, pleaded guilty to one felony count of having an unlawful interest in a public contract and one misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of property, a theft-related offense. Unlike Doyle, Bird-Long got no jail time upon conviction.
In Cleveland Heights, Carol Fisher has been charged with a major felony for putting posters on public lamp-posts. The posters are critical of the Bush attack on Iraq. Fisher, who is committed to non-violence, was assaulted by local police who ordered her to take down the posters, then threw her down on the ground and charged her with felonious assault.
"I am 53 years old," she says, "not exactly a spring chicken. A hand comes down to push my chin against the concrete. By this time there are four cops on the scene. My hands are tightly cuffed behind my back. They lift me up and shove me onto a park bench and shackle my legs. I am still calling out, telling people what this is about."
Fisher says the police cursed her, shouting "Shut up or I will kill you!...I am sick of this anti-Bush sh*t!...You are definitely going to the psyche ward." Fisher now faces years in prison and the loss of her livelihood.
Such gratuitous, mean-spirited and overtly repressive prosecutions against non-violent dissenters have proliferated throughout the Bush era, in which ordinary citizens with moderate bumper stickers or t-shirts have been turned away from or arrested at public events.
The clear and present purpose is to spread a climate of totalitarian fear aimed at reversing the sacred American freedoms embodied in the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
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