The slide into our particularly American brand of fascism is not total. There still are areas that, at least for a time, remain relatively free. And dissent is tolerated -- up to a point. (That point, by the way, is when that dissent starts becoming effective; watch the number being done on MoveOn.org, for example.)
On the issues that really matter, America is fast moving itself into an authoritarian, militarist, imperial state, one that has more in common with Stalinist Soviet Union and Hitlerian Germany than with traditional American society. There are show trials planned, massive propaganda assaults on the populace, a huge bureaucratic system designed to pry and violate personal privacy (including phone calls, emails and institutions from where you get information, be it libraries or bookstore or websites), and a constitutional system of laws that simply are ignored or violated whenever the federal government chooses to do so.
Many of us on both the right and left have been sounding the alarm for years about how Bush and his legal-toadies like Alberto Gonzales were fashioning a near-dictatorship under the cockamamie theory that whenever a president claims to be acting as "commander-in-chief" during "wartime," he can do whatever he wants, violate whatever laws he wants, in "defense of the homeland."
But now, with the passage by the Republican-controlled Congress of laws authorizing torture, domestic electronic eavesdropping and military tribunals -- with no opposition Democrat stepping up to filibuster any of these desecrations of the Constitution and human rights -- America has gone into an unknown world of unconstitutinal rule, might-makes-right and lie-back-and-accept-it. Habeas corpus? Eight hundred years old -- it's "quaint" now, and no longer applies.
Along these lines, Gonzales has sent out a clear warning to judges ( www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/29/AR2006092900511.html ) not to interfere with this assumption of total Executive control. One can hope that the Supreme Court, even with two new FarRight brethren now on the bench, will be incensed by this abrogation of their authority and smack him upside the head for his dangerous power-grab.
THE TRUTH WILL OUT
Thankfully, countervailing forces are still at work in our society. So, in the same week when the torture, domestic spying and military tribunal bills were passed, we also have:
* Bob Woodward's new insider book "State of Denial" ripping the facade off the Administration's lies and deceits (especially with regard to Iraq and 9/11) and in-house feuds and corruptions; it's likely that the dynamite revelations in this book will reinforce the decision made by many traditional conservatives to abandon the GOP for this midterm election;
* The Abramoff money-for-access scandal going straight into the White House, often right through Karl Rove's door;
* A reprehensible cover-up is revealed in the House Republican scandal of knowing of and tolerating for at least a year the sexual harassment and perhaps abuse of teenage House pages by at least one predatory, highly-placed Republican Congressman;
* The president of Pakistan disclosing that he was threatened by the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State that his country would be placed at grave risk unless he signed up for Bush's "war on terror" and his Iraq War (so much for the "coalition of the willing");
* Various leaked national-security documents revealing that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al. were warned about the coming debacle in Iraq but did nothing.
On the last point, this is how far we've come: Bush, convinced he is acting as an agent of God in the Middle East, says he won't change his course in Iraq ( www.rollingstone.com/nationalaffairs/?p=559 ) even if everyone abandons him except his wife and dog. In short, he's prepared to take the country down with him since apparently he's psychologically incapable of admitting that he made a mistake.
The lesson for the rest of us: Beware of those expressing absolute certainty, about anything, especially if couched in religious terminology. But especially beware when that absolute certainty is expressed by a leader of a major superpower loaded with nuclear weaponry and convinced that he can alter the world through his mighty crusade. The ramifications of such zealotry, unless thwarted or overthrown, often lead to disaster and mass slaughter.