Now that the Patriot Act, otherwise known as the Police State Act,
has passed hands down, with nary a bleat of protestation on the part of our
cowed and bought-off Congress critter-whores, we can expect the Straussian neocons
to be emboldened to further carve up the Bill of Rights, slathering barbeque
sauce on large sections, and roasting the document wholesale. In fact, thanks
to the NSA’s vacuum cleaner approach to snooping at the very portals of
the electronic communication grid—with enthusiastic telecom participation—the
Bill of Rights is more or less a dead letter, little more than a “g.d.
piece of paper,” as our court appointed ruler declared a few weeks ago
with little corporate media commentary.
No longer do the people enjoy the right to “peaceably assemble”—unless
you consider being corralled
in a “free speech zone” encircled in concertina wire a right—and
the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” is effectively
down the tubes, as the above mentioned vacuum cleaner approach makes painfully
obvious, a subversive plot completely destroying the concept of “probable
cause” (our rulers and their minions believe this has mysteriously vanished
from the Fourth Amendment, as Gen.
Michael Hayden actually attempted to argue at the National Press Club in
Washington in January, a fact ignored by the corporate media, not that it particularly
Americans know more about the Simpsons than the First Amendment).
Considering the widespread violations of the Bill of Rights literally spanning
over many decades and numerous presidents, the renewal of the Patriot Act is
no big deal and may even be considered anti-climatic. Forget the Sedition Act,
the Palmer Raids, the Smith Act, COINTELPRO, Operation Chaos, Cable Splicer,
Operation Garden Plot, Rex-84, ad nauseam—the Bill of Rights was tenuous
from the beginning. Thomas Jefferson, away in France in December 1787, wrote
James Madison that he was concerned about “the omission of a bill of rights….
providing clearly…. for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection
against standing armies, and restriction against monopolies.” Jefferson
was worried “that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers” would
eventually subvert the Bill of Rights because all governments seek an “augmentation
of power at the expense of liberty.” Fact of the matter is our rulers
harbor a deep hatred and mistrust of natural rights, social contracts, and universal
rights, disagreeing with John Locke that these rights are integral to the very
idea of what it means to be human.
It didn’t take long for “artful and ambitious rulers” to
begin chipping away at the Bill of Rights. In 1798, Congress passed the Sedition
Act, abridging the freedom of speech and the press and devising prison sentences
for people criticizing the government. The U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 9,
states the “privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended,
unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require
it,” but during the “Civil War” (or the invasion of the South
by the North) Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus without consulting
Congress, allowing the military to arrest and imprison thousands of civilians,
including Clement L. Vallandigham, a Jacksonian Democrat and later a Peace Democrat,
an outspoken advocate of states’ rights and a vociferous critic of Lincoln’s
war against the South.
In 1917, Congress passed the Espionage and Sedition acts that provided heavy
sentences for Americans criticizing the war. “The great liberal Oliver
Wendell Holmes himself wrote the opinions affirming the constitutionality of
the Espionage Act, sending a man named Schenck to jail for distributing a leaflet
criticizing the war and the draft. Two thousand people were prosecuted for speaking
or writing against the war, including Eugene Debs,” writes Howard Zinn
(the Zinn Reader, Seven Stories Press). It didn’t take long for A. Mitchell
Palmer, attorney general under Woodrow Wilson, to use the Espionage and Sedition
acts to arrest over 10,000 people, many held for long periods without trial—think
José Padilla—and in early 1920 round up an additional 6,000 people
and also hold them without due process. Many of these radicals were shipped
off to Russia as potential traitors and Stalin had them shot.
In 1940, Congress passed the Smith Act, a law making it illegal to advocate
or belong to a group that advocated the violent overthrow of the government,
never mind that Thomas Jefferson said the “tree of liberty must be refreshed
from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” and called
for a revolution every ten or so years to purge the “artful and ambitious
rulers” who inevitably squash liberty.
There is little time or space to go into later attacks against the Bill of
Rights, as enumerated partially above. Suffice it to say the Bill of Rights
has weathered attacks since the very inception of the nation. Bush’s Patriot
Act is simply the latest outrage against liberty, albeit a potentially fatal
one, the final coup de grâce, although no mercy is intended for the Constitution,
as tyrants, plutocrats, and autocrats sincerely hate and fear the idea of liberty
for common men and women, occasionally rising up and throwing off dictators.
Unfortunately, we now have a sincerely ignorant public, more than likely
incapable of Jeffersonian revolution because most people, frightened by manufactured
boogiemen and cartoonish Muslim villains, have no idea their birthright is suffering
the throes of death. Homer, Marge, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper, Bart,
Snowball, and Lisa Simpson have more relevance.
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