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July 13, 2003 - Opinion

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This week: Is it Time to Head Off for Paris?
This last week, on Wednesday the 9th, Ted Rall published his latest syndicated essay.  As a political analyst, and political cartoonist, he is a bit to the left of most everyone - the author of Gas War: The Truth Behind the American Occupation of Afghanistan, an analysis of the underreported Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project and the real motivations behind the war on terrorism.  Real motivations?  One sniffs conspiracy theory here.
A link to this most recent essay is here - http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=127&ncid=742&e=7&u=/030709/7/4mj9k.html - but who knows when it will expire?
This essay - Authoritarians Gone Wild - suggested this:
Frightened by Bush's rapidly accruing personal power and the Democrats' inability and/or unwillingness to stand up to him, panicked lefties worry that he might use the "war on terrorism" as an excuse to declare a state of emergency, suspend civil liberties and jail political opponents.
People who have spoken out against Bush are talking exit strategy--not Alec Baldwin style, just to make a statement, but fleeing the U.S. in order to save their skins. "Do you or your spouse have a European-born parent?" is a query making the rounds. (If you do, you can obtain dual nationality and a European Union passport that would allow you to work in any EU member nation.)  Those whose lineage is 100 percent American are hoping that nations like Canada and France will admit American political refugees in the event of a Bushite clampdown.
What?  Ted is being a bit over-the-top again, perhaps.  He discusses folks who are thinking of leaving here for good, sensing dissent will soon be punished.  But the idea of of folks applying for political asylum in France or Canada seems a bit far-fetched. 

Yes, the Bush administration has drafted legislation that would allow the president, alone, with no hearing of any sort, to strip anyone of their citizenship and have them deported once he decides to designate them as an "enemy combatant".  This would include not just naturalized citizens but those born here.  Orin Hatch, the Utah senator, has pledged his support for this.  And Rall presents a possible case for how it would be possible for the Bush administration to claim a national emergency and cancel the next presidential election, and jail his political opponents.  Not likely - this would be bad public relations.

But Rall claims, "It's easy to come up with a scenario in which canceling the 2004 election could be made to appear reasonable.  Imagine that, a few weeks before Election Day, "dirty bombs" detonate simultaneously in New York and Washington.  Government, media and political institutions and personnel lie ruined in smoking rubble and ash; hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered.  The economy, already teetering on the precipice, is shoved into depression.  How could we conduct elections under such conditions?"

Let's look at the situation.  What is the current zeitgeist?
The Patriot Act, passed a few months before 2001 came to a close, does grant the government here the right, without warrant (in the legal sense), to read and collate all electronic communication, to demand of libraries they provide the history of what books one has borrowed without telling the borrower, along with the right to gather records of book sales, video rentals and the like - without informing the customer being tracked.  This, it seems, will keep us safe.  Oh, and by the way, much to dismay of the powers in Washington some librarians are shedding all book borrowing records, of course.  Darned subversives!  Librarians giving aid and comfort to our enemies!  
And what one commits to the electronic mail can be dangerous.  There are tools in place to track and collate it all.  And then there is this website too.
It's not just Ted Rall bumming me out.  Ernest Partridge had a piece too a day earlier in The Crisis Papers - see  <http://www.crisispapers.org/Editorials/mid-century.htm> - on what America could be like in 2050.  That was dispiriting - predicting economic collapse and a fascist theocracy.  Too bad it was just extrapolation for current events.  A friend in Paris passed that second essay along to a few American expatriates there, to Americans who have hauled off and moved to Paris.  I must admit I was monumentally disturbed by what I read there, and disturbed that none of it surprised me.
After I sent it along I spent some time considering whether it was, now, indeed time to leave.  I sipped the rest of my morning coffee and surfed http://www.abodesabroad.net/ and found a few Paris properties that I perhaps could afford.
My friend in Paris then sent this along:
Last evening, sitting around the Café Bouquet, one the Daguerreotypistas mentioned that it is an old law student gag to print up the US Bill of Rights and pass it around to citizens for comment without telling them exactly what it is.  The citizens, I was told, mostly think it is 'Red Commie Propaganda.'
It might be a useful reminder to know exactly what is at stake with your USA republic.  Somebody is going to have to fight to get the republic back, so you could start out with a knowledge of the original 'rules.'  Also, comparing the Bill of Rights to the UN's 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights,' will do no harm.
The Bill of Rights ruse I remember from the late sixties - and indeed, in mid-Ohio were I was at the time, most folks saw that list as a dangerous set of ideas.  By the way, my friend refers to the "Daguerreotypistas" by which he means the folks of his neighborhood, Rue Daguerre.  Interesting street, a big McDonalds (le McDo) at the one end, and Agnes Varda's place at the other.  Been there.  Liked the place.
But is it time to leave?  I do remember all the folks who bailed out of central Europe when it was clear Jews weren't very welcome there.  Einstein in the 1930's hauled his ass off Princeton, New Jersey.  And Thomas Mann, Bertold Brecht, Arnold Schoenberg and others came out here to Hollywood.  They moved on.  They knew.
Time to leave?  I fear the contents of my own website will someday get me in trouble.  But as my friend in Atlanta knows, I am rather fond of the Caribbean, so being held incommunicado at that most eastern tip of Cuba for the rest of my life would be okay, sort of.  I could work on my tan and chat with Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean.  I fear, however, I do not yet have, and may never have, a sufficient number of readers for that Ashcroft fellow to bother with me.  Oh well.
No, this is alarmist.  Ted Rall and Ernest Partridge may have it all wrong.  Or not.
And a note on my neighborhood, by the way.  I live in the 1600 block of North Laurel Avenue.  F. Scott Fitzgerald was living at 1403 North Laurel Avenue when he died in 1940, while working on The Last Tycoon.  Nathaniel West - Days of the Locust and Miss Lonelyhearts - lived a few blocks east, on North Ivar Street and was a friend of Fitzgerald.  Well, they're real dead now.
Man Ray lived at 1245 Vine Street (six blocks east).  Igor Stravinsky lived at 1260 North Wetherly Drive - a mile or less to my west.  Thomas Mann, Bertold Brecht, Arnold Schoenberg lived around here somewhere.  And there's now a Arnold Schoenberg hall on the UCLA campus a short drive west of here.
They moved on.  They knew.
There are strange things in the air these days.

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13 July 2003

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