By Robert Hawes
It is one thing to know something intellectually, and quite another to see it suddenly happen before your eyes. I experienced such a moment in 2005, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when I watched (via the Internet) as police officers went door-to-door in New Orleans neighborhoods, forced law-abiding citizens into the streets, cuffed them, and then searched their homes for firearms before leaving them bewildered and helpless. There were no warrants involved. No probable cause was mentioned. No charges of wrong-doing were filed. Intimidation and brute force were the order of the day. And as much as I wish I could believe otherwise, I’m afraid that what we saw in New Orleans is merely a preview of coming attractions.
Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has been busily advancing preparations for the day when it might impose martial law throughout the United States, thus presenting us with the specter of the sort of thugery we witnessed in New Orleans being carried out all across this “land of the free.” A quasi-legal apparatus has already been put into place for this, via such legislation as the PATRIOT Act, the John Warner Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the National Security and Homeland Security Directive. But legislation, although important in creating the illusion of legitimacy, is only one of the two boots with which the authoritarian state tramples freedom; the other is propaganda, and it is even more essential than force because it allows the state to conquer by stealth, and thus with a minimum of effort.
The state that employs only force to achieve its aims will rule only as long as it can subdue the people; but if it can successfully use propaganda, it can rule indefinitely because the people will subdue themselves. Propaganda deludes the slave into seeing his servitude as sacrifice, even as an honor. It transforms political prisoners into the enemies of the people, turns massacres into purgings, makes partisanism look like saintly perseverance, sells torture as retribution, portrays dissent as sabotage, and masks aggression in the guise of crusading. As Adolf Hitler observed in Mein Kampf, “By an able and persistent use of propaganda heaven itself can be presented to the people as if it were hell and, vice versa, the most miserable kind of life can be presented as if it were paradise.”
by Peter Dale Scott
January 7, 2008
Paulson’s Financial Bailout
It is becoming clear that the bailout measures of late 2008 may have consequences at least as grave for an open society as the response to 9/11 in 2001. Many members of Congress felt coerced into voting against their inclinations, and the normal procedures for orderly consideration of a bill were dispensed with.
The excuse for bypassing normal legislative procedures was the existence of an emergency. But one of the most reprehensible features of the legislation, that it allowed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to permit bailed-out institutions to use public money for exorbitant salaries and bonuses, was inserted by Paulson after the immediate crisis had passed.
According to Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vermont) the bailout bill originally called for a cap on executive salaries, but Paulson changed the requirement at the last minute. Welch and other members of Congress were enraged by “news that banks getting taxpayer-funded bailouts are still paying exorbitant salaries, bonuses, and other benefits.” In addition, as AP reported in October, “Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. questioned allowing banks that accept bailout bucks to continue paying dividends on their common stock. `There are far better uses of taxpayer dollars than continuing dividend payments to shareholders,’ he said.”
Even more reprehensible is the fact that since the bailouts, Paulson and the Treasury Department have refused to provide details of the Troubled Assets Relief Program spending of hundreds of billions of dollars, while the New York Federal Reserve has refused to provide information about its own bail-out (using government-backed loans) that amounts to trillions. This lack of transparency has been challenged by Fox TV in a FOIA suit against the Treasury Department, and a suit by Bloomberg News against the Fed.
The financial bailout legislation of September 2008 was only passed after members of both Congressional houses were warned that failure to act would threaten civil unrest and the imposition of martial law.
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted.
National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51), signed by Bush and released without comment by the White House on May 9, 2007 has given George W. Bush and subsequent presidents the dictatorial powers hinted at in NSPD-51. To quote from NSPD-51: “This policy establishes ‘National Essential Functions,’ prescriptive continuity requirements … that will enhance the creditability of our national security posture and enable a more rapid and effective response to and recovery from a national emergency.”
Under NSPD-51, only limited of government will continue, which may or may not include Congress and the courts. NSPD-51 assures us: This which usually refers to the informal and voluntary recognition of jurisdiction among courts, is a troublesomely ambiguous phrase in this context wherein the president determines this as he “coordinates.”
Unfortunately, NSPD-51 provides limited “guidance” to state and local governments, as “This directive…shall be protected from unauthorized disclosure, provided that, except for Annex A, the Annexes attached to this directive are classified and shall be accorded appropriate handling, consistent with applicable Executive Orders.” In other words, all the details are secret and even the non-secret “Annex A” remains undisclosed by the White House.