Distorted Pony

distorted_pony

It has been quite awhile since I said anything about other bands that I like. So, I guess that it is overdue for me to mention Distorted Pony. They are an industrial / noise rock group that began in 1986, then disbanded in 1993. I began listening to them in the early 1990’s, but frankly knew nothing about them except that I liked their music. I looked into their background many many years later, after they had long since broken up. Surprisingly, they are very similar to my ideal group to be in; two guitarists, a bassist, and a guy banging on oil drums & metal junk. They began with just two people, bass player Dora Jahr and guitarist David Uskovich, accompanied by a drum machine. Eventually, they were joined by London May on drums, Theodore Jackson on percussion, and Robert Hammer on guitar.

I was also unaware, for a long time, that London May had played in so many other well-known groups (Samhain, Dag Nasty, Circle Jerks) and is an actor.

They have briefly reunited a few times, since 2010, and began to perform reunion shows. But, I think that their current European tour will be for the last time. So, check them out, if you can.

20th Anniversary + Birthday

Happy 20th Anniversary Birthday

I forgot to mention in the video that I received a hard copy of the comic book I contributed to, finally. It is called Heartman and was written & published by David Leibe-Hart, of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! He invited 48 artists, including myself, to illustrate his story.

David Leibe-Hart - Heartman Comic

Further information can be found here.

I’m making a long-term creative decision, a new policy:

  • Say nothing.
  • Get it done, first.
  • Talk about it, later

This was something that Thomas Edison learned, the hard way, after making promises about his new inventions that took longer than expected for him to bring to fruition. He eventually stopped doing that and just surprised people, after the fact.

Since I am often delayed by external forces (money, supplies, equipment, etc.), as well as personal issues, it makes me look bad. It looks to everyone else like all I that do is talk about what I’m “gonna do” and not actually get anything done. I can’t really blame anyone for having that perception. Since I don’t show everything that I do and I discard unfinished work. Stress exacerbates my mental health problems. That cuts into a lot of my productivity, too. Finding internal balance is a personal high priority, if I want to get out of my own way. Managing where I focus my attention, I have found, is much more important than when I schedule it. Although, having a schedule is important, too, or I wouldn’t get ANYTHING done.

Another new policy that I am implementing is:

  • No collaborations without a deadline.

I was told that this is one of my mistakes when working with others. It is too open-ended. People require deadlines to get them off of their ass, apparently. That might be true. Unless someone says something to me, I will probably work alone and take forever doing it. There is that problem with focusing, again. I am still open to collabs. Don’t get me wrong. But, I think establishing a time frame for projects would make them go along faster. I’m usually easy to schedule because I have more free time available than everybody else. We just need to work around the other commitments of interested participants.

I am figuring out how to go about collaborations, using my new policies.
I don’t want to pressure anyone too much.
Keep it fun.
But, still have a predictable process on a schedule.
So, okay, here is what I have got:

I will keep on doing what I do, alone.
I shouldn’t say any more about that.
The less the better.
When it is done, you will know.

If someone wants to work on a track with me I will set my thing aside and work on the collab, instead.
Somehow, I will turn it into something.
I will try to take no longer than a week to finish it, more or less, and return a copy of the finished mix.
You can do whatever you want with it.
The finished track will go into the next Island of Misfit Noise video or album project.
I haven’t figured out how I’m gonna do that, yet
I guess when we have enough completed material gathered, it will just go out.

What do you think?
Does it sound like a plan?

 

What Working-class and Poor White People Need to Understand About Rich White People

Rich people do not care about you.

No, I’m not talking about your cousin who drives a Mercedes, has his own insurance business, and always picks up the tab when you go out for beers. I’m talking about super-rich people: the Walton family, the Koch brothers and, yes, the Trumps. I’m talking about people who continue to make money off the backs of the poor while convincing those same people to remain loyal no matter what. But the truth is they are never going to share or trickle down their money to you — regardless of how white you are, how loyal you are, or how much you support their companies or their politicians.

When a family like the Waltons, worth over $50 billion — that’s billion with a “b” — are fine knowing their employees are collecting food stamps to survive and they do nothing about it, that speaks volumes. It says loud and clear: I don’t fucking care about you!

When Donald Trump was willing to close down and bankrupt multiple small businesses because he couldn’t be bothered to pay his bills, all while living in a gilded penthouse and flying around New York City in a helicopter, that screamed: I don’t fucking care about you!

Creating jobs isn’t a thing to be praised.

Creating well-paying jobs is. Billion-dollar corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s don’t create healthy economies. They create mass poverty. Anyone can create a job. I’ll pay you $1 an hour to clean my house, do lawn care and general maintenance Monday through Friday for eight hours a day. There, I created a job. Have I contributed anything to society? No. Have I boosted the economy? No. All I’ve done is put one person in poverty.

“Job-creation” is nothing more than a catchphrase that politicians use to get votes. It doesn’t mean anything. Let’s say there is a small town with 500 people and a factory opens and pays minimum wage. If the company hires everyone in the area, the result will not be a thriving community. It will be a community of 500 poor people. Yes, the factory technically created jobs, but it also spread poverty. Never forget they need us more than we need them. Without us working their low-paying jobs, they have nothing. Make them pay fairly for your labor. Make them create well-paying jobs.

Black and Brown people are not the reason you’re poor, rich white people are the reason you‘re poor.

Corporations siphon money from profits to share with stockholders, upper management, and CEOs, leaving everyone else, regardless of color, scrambling at the bottom for crappy pay. The owner of the factory is the reason you are poor, not the person of color working beside you for the same wage. Don’t be angry at the immigrant trying to make a better life. Be pissed off at the company who exploits both of you so they can pay lower wages and maximize profits.

There is NO such thing as a “Welfare Queen.”

There never was. Politicians made this up. It is propaganda designed to make you think people of color are lazy and want a free ride at your expense. If you resent them, you are more likely to vote to eliminate programs that benefit them but could also benefit your own family. Generations and generations of white people have been programmed to be racist even if it’s to their own detriment. By helping to keep people of color down, you keep yourself down — and that’s how politicians want it. Consider how the GIF below uses racist propaganda to persuade you to think negatively about people who need government assistance. (And no, one example of a person buying steaks with food stamps does not prove the entire welfare system is corrupt.)

The “War on Drugs” and “The War on Crime” are fake.

These programs target minority communities and keep the private prison system making billions. As collateral damage, poor whites sometimes get sucked into the system, but not enough that anyone cares. Poor people are funneled through the prison system with plea deals. Incarcerated people work for pennies a day in a modern-day slave trade, making products for billion-dollar corporations.

The rehabilitation system has almost no programs for actual rehabilitation because the system wants ex-convicts to fail. It’s how they keep the money pouring in. The propaganda of these fake wars tries to convince white people that black and brown people commit more crimes, that white people should fear them, and that prison is where they belong. If you allow yourself to be brainwashed by racism, the system will continue to prey on poor people of all colors. Rich people hire lawyers to get out of prison time. Poor people are scared and pressured into plea deals. And no one cares until it happens to them.

Stop listening to people who say you need to boot-strap your way up, especially if they have never had to boot-strap their way anywhere.

This is a myth wealthy people have been telling poor people for centuries. It’s a way to keep poor and working-class people grinding away at jobs that create more wealth for them, not you. It’s a way to pit working class people and poor people against each other. Instead of showing each other compassion and joining together, we look down on anyone we see as “not working hard enough” — even when that mentality keeps us down too. Working hard is admirable; being made to feel lazy or less than because you lack equal opportunity is manipulation.

Rich people don’t have some magical way of thinking that makes them rich. They aren’t better, smarter, or more creative than poor people. They have more money, and more money offers greater opportunities. That’s it.

I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t try to better their lives. Never give up. What I’m saying is stop beating yourself up because you face a longer, tougher road to succeed than someone who was born into wealth and privilege. And try to have compassion for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Beating people down who are already exhausted isn’t just unfair — it’s cruel.

Wealthy white people love to see poor people fighting among ourselves.

If we dislike each other over things like race, sexual orientation, and religion, then we aren’t paying attention to what the billionaires and politicians are doing. They want you to get riled up over wedding cakes, who uses what bathroom, and what to say at Christmas time. By pumping out media stories that make you think you are losing something, or that your lifestyle is in danger, they can keep you focused on stuff that really makes no difference in your life.

I’ll put it like this: if I offered you $5 more per hour at your job on the condition you do not insert yourself in matters that don’t concern you, like gay couples getting married, would you accept it? Here’s another way to look at it: would you rather have a $100 Christmas bonus, or a $1000 Holiday bonus? When we take a step back, get honest, and ask ourselves if we genuinely care how other people live, the answer is usually no. We get fired up over the onslaught of shocking headlines, and that’s exactly what people in power want.

Rich people have convinced working class people that unions are bad.

Workers are stuck in low-paying jobs without the power to walk out and negotiate for better wages and benefits. News outlets (owned by rich people) frame stories of union walkouts as if workers are lazy or greedy. They often show workers of color on picket lines to reinforce the notion that black and brown people want “something for nothing.” That is one way to minimize wages for workers and maximize payouts to stockholders and CEOs.

If a CEO makes $120 million a year, in one year he or she has enough so they never have to work again for the rest of their life. They never have to work another day, and neither do their grandkids or great-grandkids. The entire family is set. Do you think they care if the company goes belly up? Why would they when they’ve got theirs? If you lose your job are you set? Corporations spend a great deal of time peddling fear in workers that the most important thing is the “health” of the company above all else. That’s just a tricky way to convince workers to take less, so those at the top can take more. What’s the best way to achieve that? Split up unions and take away workers’ power. There is power in numbers, and they know it, and do everything they can to keep us from seeing it. Remember: without your labor, they have nothing!

When the show Friends became a runaway hit it came time for the actors to renegotiate their contracts. David Schwimmer, who played Ross, went to the rest of the cast and suggested that, instead of negotiating individually, which could lead to resentment if some were paid more than others, they should negotiate as a single group. The result was the entire cast was paid the same for the run of the show. It was equal and fair, and no one left the show because of hurt feelings or resentment. That’s a union.

There is a myth that raising the minimum wage would allow unskilled workers to make as much as skilled workers and that wouldn’t be fair.

Again, this is more spinning of tales so that wealthy CEOs can keep worker pay at an all-time low while they make billions. The truth is if minimum wage went up, skilled wages would go up too. How? Let’s say you are an EMT working for $15.00 an hour and the minimum wage goes up. Now everyone working in retail and fast food is making the same as you. Pretty insulting, right? Wrong. That’s what corporations want you to think so you will fight to keep other poor people down. If the minimum wage rose to $15, you could get a job anywhere for the same pay. That would give you leverage to negotiate a higher wage by saying, essentially, “There is now an abundance of jobs paying what I make. I can leave and take one of those jobs unless you pay me more for my added skills.” Your skills are now worth more. Instead of $15, you may get $20, but you’ll never get the $20 if you keep fighting to keep others down. Lifting others lifts you up too.

Continuing to support politicians who give tax breaks to the rich is never going to make your life better.

When a company gains billions in tax breaks, the people at the top get multi-million-dollar bonuses. Workers at the bottom may (if they are incredibly lucky) get $1000 after 20 years of service. That’s $50 a year! A one-time bonus of a $1000 will do nothing to change a working person’s life. At best, it will alleviate a bit of stress for one month. One month for 20 years! Meanwhile, CEOs and other top executives are wondering if they should buy a yacht or another vacation home. While poor people are cheering over being thrown slop, the rich are pigging out at the buffet table.

If poor and working-class people stop fighting each other and band together, we have the numbers to make real change. Rich people know this, and it terrifies them. If we suddenly start demanding better wages, they may have to give up a bit of profit. If we start demanding health care and quality education, they may have to pay a bit more in taxes. If we start treating each other with respect and equality, they can no longer use fear, homophobia, racism, and propaganda to distract us.

We have the power. Now we need to stop giving it away.

We Make Zines (Relocated Site)

Mike Nobody

We Make Zines

I forgot to update everybody on this. A few months ago, the website for We Make Zines had to relocate when they lost their web hosting provider. I had been a member since 2014. So, I reopened an account at the new site. All of my previous postings have been lost. So, aside from my profile, there isn’t much of mine to look at yet. Zinesters and enthusiasts can find plenty of other information there, though. The link is above.

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Happy New World Order Day

happy 9-11 cake

What We’ve Lost Since 9/11

PAUL J. RICHARDS VIA GETTY IMAGES

Taking Down the First Amendment in Post-Constitutional America

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

America has entered its third great era: the post-constitutional one. In the first, in the colonial years, a unitary executive, the King of England, ruled without checks and balances, allowing no freedom of speech, due process, or privacy when it came to protecting his power.

In the second, the principles of the Enlightenment and an armed rebellion were used to push back the king’s abuses. The result was a new country and a new constitution with a Bill of Rights expressly meant to check the government’s power. Now, we are wading into the shallow waters of a third era, a time when that government is abandoning the basic ideas that saw our nation through centuries of challenges far more daunting than terrorism. Those ideas — enshrined in the Bill of Rights — are disarmingly concise. Think of them as the haiku of a genuine people’s government.

Deeper, darker waters lie ahead and we seem drawn down into them. For here there be monsters.

The Powers of a Police State Denied

America in its pre-constitutional days may seem eerily familiar even to casual readers of current events. We lived then under the control of a king. (Think now: the imperial presidency.) That king was a powerful, unitary executive who ruled at a distance. His goal was simple: to use his power over “his” American colonies to draw the maximum financial gain while suppressing any dissent that might endanger his control.

In those years, protest was dangerous. Speech could indeed make you the enemy of the government. Journalism could be a crime if you didn’t write in support of those in power. A citizen needed to watch what he said, for there were spies everywhere, including fellow colonists hoping for a few crumbs from the king’s table. Laws could be brutal and punishments swift as well as extra-judicial. In extreme cases, troops shot down those simply assembling to speak out.

Among the many offenses against liberty in pre-constitutional America, one pivotal event, the Stamp Act of 1765, stands out. To enforce the taxes imposed by the Act, the king’s men used “writs of assistance“ that allowed them to burst into any home or business, with or without suspicion of wrongdoing. American privacy was violated and property ransacked, often simply as a warning of the king’s power. Some colonist was then undoubtedly the first American to mutter, “But if I have nothing to hide, why should I be afraid?” He soon learned that when a population is categorically treated as a potential enemy, everyone has something to hide if the government claims they do.

The Stamp Act and the flood of kingly offenses that followed created in those who founded the United States a profound suspicion of what an unchecked government could do, and a sense that power and freedom are not likely to coexist comfortably in a democracy. A balancing mechanism was required. In addition to the body of the Constitution outlining what the new nation’s government could do, needed was an accounting of what it could not do. The answer was the Bill of Rights.

The Bill’s preamble explained the matter this way: “…in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of [the government’s] powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added.” Thomas Jefferson commented separately, “[A] bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth.”

In other words, the Bill of Rights was written to make sure that the new government would not replicate the abuses of power of the old one. Each amendment spoke directly to a specific offense committed by the king. Their purpose collectively was to lay out what the government could never take away. Knowing first-hand the dangers of a police state and unchecked power, those who wrote the Constitution wanted to be clear: never again.

It needs to be said that those imperfect men were very much of their era. They were right about much, but desperately wrong about other things. They addressed “humanity,” but ignored the rights of women and Native Americans. Above all, they did not abolish the institution of slavery, our nation’s Original Sin. It would take many years, and much blood, to begin to rectify those mistakes.

Still, for more than two centuries, the meaning of the Bill of Rights was generally expanded, though — especially in wartime — it sometimes temporarily contracted. Yet the basic principles that guided America were sustained despite civil war, world wars, depressions, and endless challenges. Then, one September morning, our Post-Constitutional era began amid falling towers and empty skies. What have we lost since? More than we imagine. A look at the Bill of Rights, amendment by amendment, tells the tale.

The First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment was meant to make one thing indisputably clear: free speech was the basis for a government of the people. Without a free press, as well as the ability to openly gather, debate, protest, and criticize, how would the people be able to judge their government’s adherence to the other rights? How could people vote knowledgeably if they didn’t know what was being done in their name by their government? An informed citizenry, Thomas Jefferson stated, was “a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

That was how it was seen long ago. In Post-Constitutional America, however, the government strives to “control the message,” to actively thwart efforts to maintain a citizenry informed about what’s done in its name, a concept that these days seems as quaint as Jefferson’s powdered wig. There are far too many examples of the post-9/11 erosion of the First Amendment to list here. Let’s just look at a few important ones that tell the tale of what we have lost since 9/11.

(Lack of) Freedom of Information

In 1966, an idea for keeping Americans better informed on the workings of their government was hatched: the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Strengthened in 1974, it began with the premise that, except for some obvious categories (like serious national security matters and personal information), the position of the government should be: everything it does is available to the public. Like the Bill of Rights, which made specific the limits of government, FOIA began with a presumption that it was the government’s duty to make information available — and quickly — to the people, unless a convincing case could be made otherwise. The default position of the FOIA switch was set to ON.

Three decades later, the FOIA system works far differently. Agencies are generally loath to release documents of any sort and instead put their efforts into creating roadblocks to legitimate requests. Some still require signatures on paper. (The State Department notes, “Requests for personal information cannot be submitted electronically and should be submitted by mail.”) Others demand hyper-detailed information like the precise dates and titles of documents whose dates and titles may be classified and unavailable. The NSA simply denies almost all FOIA requests out of hand, absent a court order.

Most federal agencies now regard the deadline mandated for a response as the time period to send out a “request received” note. They tend to assign only a few staff members to processing requests, leading to near-endless delays. At the State Department, most FOIA work is done on a part-time basis by retirees. The CIA won’t directly release electronic versions of documents. Even when a request is fulfilled, “free” copying is often denied and reproduction costs exaggerated.

In some cases, the requested records have a way of disappearing or are simply removed. The ACLU’s experience when it filed an FOIA-style request with the Sarasota police department on its use of the cell phone surveillance tool Stingray could be considered typical. The morning the ACLU was to review the files, Federal Marshals arrived and physically took possession of them, claiming they had deputized the local cops and made the files federal property. An ACLU spokesperson noted that, in other cases, federal authorities have invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of records.

John Young, who runs the web site Cryptome and is a steadfast FOIA requester, stated, “Stonewalling, delay, brush-off, lying are normal. It is a delusion for ordinary requesters and a bitch of a challenge for professionals. Churning has become a way of life for FOIA, costly as hell for little results.”

Sealed Lips and the Whistleblower

All government agencies have regulations requiring employees to obtain permission before speaking to the representatives of the people — that is, journalists. The U.S. Intelligence Community has among the most restrictive of these policies, banning employees and contractors completely from talking with the media without prior authorization. Even speaking about unclassified information is a no-no that may cost you your job. A government ever more in lockdown mode has created what one journalist calls a “culture where censorship is the norm.”

So who does speak to Americans about their government? Growing hordes of spokespeople, communications staff, trained PR crews, and those anonymous “senior officials” who pop up so regularly in news articles in major papers.

With the government obsessively seeking to hide or spin what it does, in-the-sunlight contact barred, and those inside locked behind an iron curtain of secrecy, the whistleblower has become the paradigmatic figure of the era. Not surprisingly, anyone who blows a whistle has, in these years, come under fierce attack.

Pick a case: Tom Drake exposing early NSA efforts to turn its spy tools on Americans, Edward Snowden proving that the government has us under constant surveillance, Chelsea Manning documenting war crimes in Iraq and sleazy diplomacy everywhere, John Kiriakouacknowledging torture by his former employer the CIA, or Robert MacLean revealing Transportation Safety Administration malfeasance. In each instance, the threat of jail was quick to surface. The nuclear option against such truthtellers is the Espionage Act, a law that offended the Constitution when implemented in the midst of World War I. It has been resurrected by the Obama administration as a blunt “wartime” tool for silencing and punishing whistleblowers.

The Obama administration has already charged six people under that act for allegedly mishandling classified information. Even Richard Nixon only invoked it once, in a failed prosecution against Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

Indeed, the very word “espionage” couldn’t be stranger in the context of these cases. None of those charged spied. None sought to aid an enemy or make money selling secrets. No matter. In Post-Constitutional America, the powers-that-be stand ready to twist language in whatever Orwellian direction is necessary to bridge the gap between reality and the king’s needs. In the Espionage Act case of State Department contractor Stephen Kim, a judge departed from previous precedent, ruling that the prosecution need not even show that the information leaked to a Fox news reporter from a CIA report on North Korea could damage U.S. national security or benefit a foreign power. It could still be a part of an “espionage” charge.

A final question might be: How could a law designed almost 100 years ago to stop German spies in wartime have become a tool to silence the few Americans willing to risk everything to exercise their First Amendment rights? When did free speech become a crime?

Self-Censorship and the Press

Each person charged under the Espionage Act in these years was primarily a source for a journalist. The writers of the Bill of Rights chose to include the term “press” in the First Amendment, specifically carving out a special place for journalists in our democracy. The press was necessary to question government officials directly, comment on their actions, and inform the citizenry about what its government was doing. Sadly, as the Obama administration is moving ever more fiercely against those who might reveal its acts or documents, the bulk of the media have acquiesced. Glenn Greenwald said it plainly: too many journalists have gone into a self-censoring mode, practicing “obsequious journalism.”

For example, a survey of reporters showed “the percentage of U.S. journalists endorsing the occasional use of ‘confidential business or government documents without authorization,’ dropped significantly from 81.8% in 1992 to 57.7% in 2013.” About 40% of American journalists would not have published documents like those Edward Snowden revealed.

And the same has been true of the management of newspapers. In mid-2004, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau uncovered George W. Bush’s illegal warrantless eavesdropping program, but the New York Times held the story for 15 months, until after Bush’s reelection. Executives at the Times were told by administration officials that if they ran the story, they’d be helping terrorists. They accepted that. In 2006, the Los Angeles Times similarly gave in to the NSA and suppressed a story on government wiretaps of Americans.

Government Efforts to Stop Journalists

Reporters need sources. Increasingly, the government is classifying just about any document it produces — 92 million documents in 2011 alone. Its intelligence agencies have even classified reports about the over-classification of documents.  As a result, journalistic sources are often pressed into discussing, at great personal risk, classifiedinformation. Forcing a reporter to reveal such sources discourages future whistleblowing.

In one of the first of a series of attempts to make journalists reveal their sources, former Fox News reporter Mike Levine stated that the Justice Department persuaded a federal grand jury to subpoena him in January 2011. The demand was that he reveal his sources for a 2009 story about Somali-Americans who were secretly indicted in Minneapolis for joining an al-Qaeda-linked group in Somalia. Levine fought the order and the Department of Justice finally dropped it without comment in April 2012. Call it a failed test case.

According to Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell, who defended Stephen Kim, significant amounts of time have been spent by the Department of Justice in the search for a legal rationale for indicting journalists for their participation in exposing classified documents. A crucial test case is James Risen’s 2006 book, State of War, which had an anonymously sourced chapter on a failed CIA operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. When Risen, citing the First Amendment, refused to identify his source or testify in the trial of the former CIA officer accused of being that source, the government sought to imprison him. He responded that the “Obama administration… wants to use this case and others like it to intimidate reporters and whistleblowers. But I am appealing to the Supreme Court because it is too dangerous to allow the government to conduct national security policy completely in the dark.”

In June 2014, the Supreme Court refused to take Risen’s case on appeal, essentially ratifying a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that the First Amendment didn’t protect a reporter from being forced to testify about “criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in.” That decision makes clear that a reporter receiving classified information from a source is part of the crime of “leaking.”

Risen has said he will go to prison rather than testify. It is possible that, having secured the precedent-setting right to send Risen to jail, the government will bring the suspected leaker to trial without calling on him. Attorney General Eric Holder recently hinted that his Justice Department might take that path — a break for Risen himself, but not for reporters more generally who now know that they can be jailed for refusing to divulge a source without hope of recourse to the Supreme Court.

The Descent Into Post-Constitutionalism

As with the King of England once upon a time, many of the things the government now does have been approved in secret, sometimes in secret courts according to a secret body of law. Sometimes, they were even approved openly by Congress. In constitutional America, the actions of the executive and the laws passed by Congress were only legal when they did not conflict with the underlying constitutional principles of our democracy. Not any more. “Law” made in secret, including pretzeled legal interpretations by the Justice Department for the White House, opened the way, for instance, to the use of torture on prisoners and in the Obama years to the drone assassination of Americans. Because such “legalities” remain officially classified, they are, of course, doubly difficult to challenge.

But can’t we count on the usual pendulum swings in American life to change this? There were indeed notable moments in American history when parts of the Constitution were put aside, but none are truly comparable to our current situation. The Civil War lasted five years, with Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus limited in geography and robustly contested. The World War II Japanese internment camps closed after three years and the persecuted were a sub-set of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast. Senator McCarthy’s notorious career as a communist-hunter lasted four years and ended in shame.

Almost 13 years after the 9/11 attacks, it remains “wartime.” For the war on terror, the driver, excuse, and raison d’être for the tattering of the Bill of Rights, there is no end in sight. Recently retired NSA head Keith Alexander is typical of key figures in the national security state when he claims that despite, well, everything, the country is at greater risk today than ever before. These days, wartime is forever, which means that a government working ever more in secret has ever more latitude to decide which rights in which form applied in what manner are still inalienable.

The usual critical history of our descent into a post-constitutional state goes something like this: in the panic after the 9/11 attacks, under the leadership of Vice President Dick Cheney with the support of President George W. Bush, a cabal of top government officials pushed through legal-lite measures to (as they liked to say) “take the gloves off” and allow kidnappingtortureillegal surveillance, and offshore imprisonment along with indefinite detention without charges or trial.

Barack Obama, elected on a series of (false) promises to roll back the worst of the Bush-era crimes, while rejecting torture and closing America’s overseas “black sites,” still pushed the process forward in his own way. He expanded executive power, emphasized drone assassinations (including against American citizens), gave amnesty to torturers, increased government secrecy, targeted whistleblowers, and heightened surveillance. In other words, two successive administrations lied, performed legal acrobatics, and bullied their way toward a kind of absolute power that hasn’t been seen since the days of King George. That’s the common narrative and, while not wrong, it is incomplete.

Missing Are the People

One key factor remains missing in such a version of post-9/11 events in America: the people. Even today, 45% of Americans, when polled on the subject, agree that torture is “sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public.” Americans as a group seem unsure about whether the NSA’s global and domestic surveillance is justified, and many remain convinced that Edward Snowden and the journalists who published his material are criminals. The most common meme related to whistleblowers is still “patriot or traitor?” and toward the war on terror, “security or freedom?”

It’s not that Americans are incorrect to be fearful and feel in need of protection. The main thing we need to protect ourselves against, however, is not the modest domestic threat from terrorists, but a new king, a unitary executive that has taken the law for its own, aided and abetted by the courts, supported by a powerful national security state, and unopposed by a riven and weakened Congress. Without a strong Bill of Rights to protect us — indeed, secure us — from the dangers of our own government, we will have gone full-circle to a Post-Constitutional America that shares much in common with the pre-constitutional British colonies.

Yet there is no widespread, mainstream movement of opposition to what the government has been doing. It seems, in fact, that many Americans are willing to accept, perhaps even welcome out of fear, the death of the Bill of Rights, one amendment at a time.

We are the first to see, in however shadowy form, the outlines of what a Post-Constitutional America might look like. We could be the last who might be able to stop it.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A TomDispatch regular, he writes about current events at his blog We Meant Well. His new book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now.  In future pieces at TomDispatch he will consider other amendments being dismantled in the post-9/11 era.

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