Weather Report: The Hard Chill Begins to Bite
Written by Chris Floyd   
Thursday, 26 January 2006 14:26
Originally published in The Moscow Times on Nov. 9, 2001

It won't come with jackboots and book burnings, with mass rallies and fevered harangues. It won't come with "black helicopters" or tanks on the street. It won't come like a storm – but like a break in the weather, that sudden change of season you might feel when the wind shifts on an October evening: everything is the same, but everything has changed. Something has gone, departed from the world, and a new reality has taken its place.

As in Rome, all the old forms will still be there; legislatures, elections, campaigns – plenty of bread and circuses for the folks. But the "consent of the governed" will no longer apply; actual control of the state will have passed to a small group of nobles who rule largely for the benefit of their wealthy peers and corporate patrons.

To be sure, there will be factional conflicts among this elite, and a degree of free debate will be permitted, within limits; but no one outside the privileged circle will be allowed to govern or influence state policy. Dissidents will be marginalized – usually by "the people" themselves. Deprived of historical knowledge by an impoverished educational system designed to produce complacent consumers, not thoughtful citizens, and left ignorant of current events by a media devoted solely to profit, many will internalize the force-fed values of the ruling elite, and act accordingly. There will be little need for overt methods of control.

The rulers will often act in secret; for reasons of "national security," the people will not be permitted to know what goes on in their name. Actions once unthinkable will be accepted as routine: government by executive fiat, the murder of "enemies" selected by the leader, undeclared war, torture, mass detentions without charge, the looting of the national treasury, the creation of huge new "security structures" targeted at the populace. In time, all this will come to seem "normal," as the chill of autumn feels normal when summer is gone.

It will all seem normal...President George W. Bush signed an executive order last week overturning a law requiring the release of presidential papers 12 years after the end of an administration, The Associated Press reports. Bush officials say the President has "reinterpreted" the law – ordinarily the job of the Supreme Court under the old Republic – to mean that no papers can be released unless both the current president and the former president in question agree to it.

Historians, journalists or ordinary citizens seeking information about the actions of past administrations will have to file suit to show a "demonstrated, specific" need for access to the blocked material. The mere assertion of a "right to know" about governmental affairs will not be sufficient. Such a right no longer exists.

A Bush spokesman acknowledged that anyone requesting to see such documents will be tied up in expensive court battles for years. However, the use of executive fiat to abrogate the function of the Supreme Court and overturn a law passed by the people's representatives was necessary in order to protect "national security," the spokesman said.

Of course, a sitting president already has the authority to withhold any past documents that might endanger national security. But Bush's new edict will allow the quashing of presidential papers that might be politically embarrassing or reveal criminal behavior by past administrations.

Coincidentally, the papers of the Reagan-Bush administration would have been the first released under the now-gutted law.

Seem normal... Former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr predicts that the curtailment of civil liberties, including the use of torture, will be approved by "at least five Supreme Court Justices," the Washington Post reports. (No points for guessing which five.) The Quiescent Quintet will gladly give "heightened deference to the judgements of the political branches with respect to matters of national security," says Starr.

Indeed, the Bush administration is now openly considering the use of torture to compel testimony from suspected terrorists – or anyone designated as a suspected terrorist, reports. True, a few girlie-men are still fretting about "constitutional rights," but the clever dicks in the Oval Office have that one sussed: recalitrant prisoners can always be exported to friendly regimes, like Egypt or Kenya, where they don't bother with such prissy concerns. Information "extracted" there can then be used in U.S. trials.

Wouldn't evidence acquired by such heinous and unconstitutional methods be thrown out by the courts? Ordinarily, yes – under the old Republic. But in America's new weather, the judiciary will no doubt "give heightened deference to the judgements of the political branches," etc. And if all else fails, a handy executive order can always "reinterpret" the Constitution to accommodate the needs of "national security."

Normal.... Armed with the sweeping new powers of the "USA Patriot Act" passed late last month, the Bush administration is acting to "shift the primary mission of the FBI from solving crimes to gathering domestic intelligence," the Washington Post reports.

In other words, the feds will move from protecting the people to spying on them. The CIA has also been given authority to take part in domestic surveillance and investigation for the first time. These domestic "black ops" will be overseen by a secret court appointed by the Chief Justice – William "Top Quint" Rehnquist.

Like the chill of autumn.... This week President Bush demanded that Congress pass his "economic stimulus" bill by the end of the month, the New York Times reports. The bill would give $25 billion in federal money directly to the nation's wealthiest corporations, including IBM, GM and GE, refunding taxes they paid over the last 15 years. In all, the bill will give $112 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and corporations over the next two years....

It won't come like a storm. It will all seem normal. Like a break in the weather, a shift in the wind.