has been paid to the "civil libertarian" aspects of this hideous
bill: it would permit indefinite
detention of non-citizens; and give the authorities carte blanche
to read email, open snail-mail, and eavesdrop on phone conversations
all without a warrant, and without having to answer
to anyone. The Orwellian possibilities of a national chip-implanted
ID card, and a national database to match, are pretty obvious,
and these, too, are promised in the bill. But one key yet
so far overlooked aspect of the "Patriot" Act is the draconian
controls it imposes on American business, both large transnational
mega-corporations and local mom-and-pop stores. Mr. and Mrs.
tend to be GOP types, but what will these stolid Republican
burghers say when they realize that they, too, are being "pressed
into service on the home front in the war on terrorism," as
the Boston Globe put it?
OF SUSPICIOUS TRANSACTIONS
In the name
of "patriotism" and the "war on terrorism," retailers are
being conscripted into an army of informants whose job it
is to spy on their customers. Under the terms of this legislation,
all businesses must report "suspicious transactions" to the
Treasury Department. What makes a transaction "suspicious"?
You can bet there will be a 500-page manual to answer all
your questions, and if you want to stay in business you had
better commit it to memory or find yourself accused of
aiding and abetting terrorism.
to the text of the Act, "any person engaged in trade or business"
must report all transactions over $10,000 to Washington bureaucrats:
failure to do so could result in punishment far worse than
a mere fine. Here is a perfect example of how the principle
of incrementalism works in favor of the expansion of state
the passage of the Bank
Secrecy Act of 1970, this requirement previously applied
only to pawnbrokers and car dealers, as a way to track down
stolen goods. The Banking Secrecy Act, passed in the name
of fighting the "war on drugs," extended the reporting system
to banking institutions of one sort or another. The USA PATRIOT
Act universalizes this surveillance, and, in the process,
gives government officials a key weapon that may be utterly
useless in fighting terrorism, but may prove invaluable in
the government's perpetual battle to expropriate wealth and
THE ROAD TO
If I buy
three $4,000 shipments of, say, tea imported from Japan, the
fight against terrorism is not going to be helped one whit
if I report it to the Economic Surveillance Unit of the Office
of Homeland Security. Who may be helped, however, is
my competitor in the tea trade who, perhaps, has a "friend"
in the bureaucracy with access to this information. To know
what the competition is buying, and how much they're paying
what business rival wouldn't pay through the nose to obtain
this vital information? If you think corruption is already
endemic, wait until you see what life in wartime is like….
'OPEN THE BOOKS!'
the corruption angle, this little-known aspect of the "Patriot"
Act practically fulfills one of the key demands in the old
Marxist program: back in the old days, the Commies would always
demand of "big business" that they "open
the books" that is, reveal the details of their
business operations. The idea was that once the profit margins
of the capitalists were exposed to public view, such a display
of wealth and greed would seem so obviously obscene and exploitative
that it would inevitably lead to a socialist revolution. What
the Commies never managed to pull off, George W. Bush and
his fellow Republicans have accomplished in a single day's
session of Congress and the stroke of a presidential pen.
The books of American business have been pried open, not by
the proletariat, but by the leaders of the world's leading
proclaim the glorious "liberation" of Afghanistan, as the
progress of our noble allies from one victory to another is
breathlessly analyzed and celebrated. Has Kunduz fallen? Will
the Northern Alliance keep Kabul? And what of Herat? The fate
of cities half a world away is trumpeted from the rooftops,
but news of another sort of sneak attack, this time against
our free enterprise system, is barely heard above a whisper.
"This is a big deal, and a big change, for the vast majority
of American businesses," says Joe Rubin, chief lobbyist for
the US Chamber of Commerce. "But I don't think anybody realizes
MARTYR TO WAR
I can't wait until they find out! Let us anticipate
the following scenario with unalloyed and unapologetic glee:
pro-war blowhard Joe Everyman, who runs a small electronics
business out of his home, is suddenly confronted with reams
of paperwork before he can purchase or sell anything of consequence.
As he encounters costly delays, and watches his small savings
melt away against the backdrop of a general economic downturn,
perhaps he'll stop railing against "ragheads" long enough
to realize he's been had.
again, if he's a real dumbo, maybe he'll just scream all the
louder that we have to start bombing Iraq, and perhaps Syria,
funneling his inchoate anger at an acceptably "patriotic"
target. This, at any rate, is what the War Party is hoping
for, as they gear up for "phase two" of Operation Enduring
Freedom not to mention phases three through three-hundred-and-ten.
OH SO CONVENIENT
is oh so convenient for so many people that it is no wonder
they're telling us it could last a whole generation. If we
ask the key question "Who benefits?" the results are
doing a Google-search on the phrase "grassy knoll"
the results are too numerous to even list, let alone describe.
One overlooked political benefit to the current administration
is that the war is an excellent diversion from the bad economic
news on the home front. An economic downturn that can always
be blamed on Osama Bin Laden would have come, anyway: the
"almost official" declaration that we
are in a recession hardly comes as news to the markets,
which have been in a radical downswing that shows no signs
of abating anytime soon. And here we come to the economic
uses of this war, as the real meaning of what our rulers have
in store for us becomes all too apparent.
THE WWII ANALOGY
& ITS USES
Party is fond of referring to what is essentially a police
action against a ragtag band of fanatics as the moral and
military equivalent of World War II: the propaganda purposes
of this sort of hyperbole are manifold. Not only does it demonize
the other side as the modern-day equivalent of Hitler and
the Nazis "Islamic
fascism," you'll recall, is the source of the New Popular
Front's ire but it also gives a sense of scale
to the struggle.
in their minds, this is a gigantic battle that must not be
confined to the wilds of Afghanistan, or Somalia, or wherever
they decide to go next. It must permeate every aspect of American
life: we must be perpetually "on alert," and not only against
young Middle Eastern-looking men and their ubiquitous box-cutters.
We must also be on guard against "suspicious transactions"
and those who fail to report them. Oh, what a field day
politically-connected business interests are going to have
against their less influential competitors! In addition to
the toll-free "Report-a-Raghead" hotlines opened up by the
FBI and Homeland Security, we'll have an economic saboteur
hotline, where stool pigeons can rat on their rivals and the
whole system of bribery and outright thievery that characterized
the Clinton era can metastasize into a permanent condition.
A 'CAPITALIST' FACE
regulations enshrined in the "Patriot" Act have more to do
with the government's war on American business than with any
"war on terrorism." The war spirit, transferred to the economy,
gives us socialism, or something damn near it. Who
can doubt that this information encoded, of course,
in a national database will be put to other uses, such
as "economic planning"? That the Sovietization of the American
economy was accomplished, not by a Leninist vanguard party,
but by two ostensibly capitalist parties, the Republicans
and the Democrats, is an irony that few will note until
it is too late.
A SOVIET AMERICA
don't let them tell you that these are only "emergency" measures,
and will be repealed once the war is over. To begin with,
if we take the overblown rhetoric of the War Party at face
value, we may not live to see the end of this war. Secondly,
since when has any government ever surrendered power
voluntarily?: a government prerogative, once granted during
wartime, tends to stay encoded in law. Look at New York City's
rent control laws, enacted as an emergency wartime measure,
still in force after all these years. No, the longer the "Patriot"
Act is allowed to subvert the Constitution, and trample on
our liberty, the more likely it is to become a permanent feature
of American life. Congress must be forced forced by a popular
outcry to take a second look. This onerous legislation,
which lays the foundations for a Soviet socialist America,
must be repealed.
As the first
phase of a campaign to get rid of this Orwellian monstrosity,
and warn our rulers that we won't put up with it, it is high
time to turn the propaganda of the War Party on its head:
that is, to use their own tactics against them. Our ruling
elites are overjoyed, of course, that patriotism is "in,"
and do their best to ensure that any expression of dissent
is angrily dismissed as disloyalty or worse. The popularity
of displaying the American flag is being touted as proof of
the blind loyalty of the masses to anything the government
says or does, when, of course, it is nothing of the kind.
hangs outside my door, and I am certainly not giving
the US government a blank check to go on a rampage, either
at home or abroad. People are literally waving the flag out
of sheer defiance, and legitimate anger at the sheer unspeakable
horror of the 9/11 attack, not out of knee-jerk support for
any particular government policies. One way to visibly register
dissent from the all-out assault on our civil liberties is
to bring out another, older flag, the one that preceded Old
Glory. A banner showing a coiled snake the Gadsden
flag was popular during the American Revolution,
because it was emblazoned with a message to King George and
any potential oppressor or attacker: "Don't Tread on Me"!
exactly the right slogan at exactly the right moment, to whomever
may care to take heed. There's a shortage of American flags,
due to the flag craze, and you can be
the first on your block to show your colors by displaying
the revolutionary flag right next to Old Glory. "Don't Tread
on Me" and that goes for you, too, John Ashcroft.
of $50 or more will get you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print
classic study of Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the
Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism.
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