David Edwards & Muriel Kane
Wed 12th Nov, 2008
The Bush administration has been planning since last spring to issue a final burst of federal regulations just before leaving office. It was recently announced that over 90 new regulations would be finalized before November 22 — 60 days prior to the end of Bush’s term — making them difficult, though not impossible, for President Obama to reverse.
Although many of the regulations have to do with energy and the environment, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted on Tuesday that there’s also “one that’ll kick opponents of the Patriot Act right in the teeth.”
The proposed regulation “would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to collect intelligence on individuals and organizations even if the information is unrelated to any criminal matter,” Maddow explained. She added, “Even if they weren’t already watching you — they soon could be.”
Maddow was joined by the Nation’s sports correspondent, Dave Zirin, who began by complaining about Bush, “Hemorrhoids are more popular than this man. Why is he making laws?”
Zirin described how he had been involved in an episode where “the Maryland State Police sent people to infiltrate meetings I was in — a very seditious organization called the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, where we planned such horrifying acts like tabling at the local farmer’s market or planning rallies.”
“Why were they spying on us?” Zirin continued. “Because the governor at the time, Bob Ehrlich — a right-wing Republican who makes Sarah Palin look like Emma Goldman — I mean, he’s somebody who saw us as political opponents. He was for the death penalty, we were against the death penalty, therefore in his mind we deserved to be spied upon.”
“We were entered into a database the heading of which was ‘Terrorists/Anti-Government,’” Zirin noted angrily. “The person who organized all of this, the head of the Maryland State Police … called us ‘fringe people’ in the hearings. He said we deserved it because we were fringe people.’”
Zirin pointed out that the final report which exposed the state’s anti-constitutional behavior recommended future safeguards but held no one accountable. “We either have a Constitution or we don’t,” he stated. “Either our rights were violated or they weren’t.”
“They’re talking about expanding this nationwide,” Maddow commented, “and what they will say in order to argue for it is, ‘Oh, what’s the harm done?’”
“Here’s the harm,” Zirin replied. “It has a chilling effect on the Constitution. It has a chilling effect on our ability to assemble. … We need to be welcoming new people into community activism, welcoming new people into struggle. And what you have instead is people looking at each other in Maryland as if, ‘Is that person an enemy? Is this person a plant?’”
“And it has a horrible effect,” concluded Zirin, “right at a time where in the wake of the Obama victory we should be talking about solidarity, we should be talking about expanding our forces, we should be talking about fighting for the change that we all waited on line to vote for.”
This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Nov. 11, 2008.