I'm not among them.
Cheney's lust for executive power treats the will of the people as irrelevant, a laughable sideshow. And Bush, a man for whom vindictiveness is far more steeped in his soul than patriotism ever will be, finds getting his way by any means to be one of the few remaining pleasures of office.
That being said, we're seeing more victories lately than in the long dry spell of democracy that ran from January 2001 through October 2006. A case in point:
On July 4th, 2004, Jeffery and Nicole Rank attended an public Independence Day event in Charleston, WV where President Bush was to speak. Despite the fact that the event was open to the public and was held on public land, the Ranks were arrested for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts. On Monday’s “Hardball” the couple told their astonishing story of being arrested, the charges that were filed against them and eventually dropped and why they decided to sue the United States government — a suit they thankfully won.
(Crooks and Liars, as usual, has the video.)
Eighty thousand dollars must surely be welcome to the Ranks after their state-inflicted hardship, both as compensation and as a way of catching the attention of an administration which understands only a limited number of ways to keep score, one of which is dollar signs.
But it's chump change compared to the Bush administration's unrelenting assault on all those fusty old First Amendment freedoms like "speech," "assembly," and "petitioning the government for redress of grievances." They are, as the Bush Justice Department might say, quaint.
ABC News notes that the settlement, "in which the government admitted no wrongdoing, came after the disclosure of an allegedly 'sensitive' Presidential Advance Manual, which laid out the White House's meticulous efforts to protect the president and his public image from dissent."
Ah yes. The Presidential Advance Manual. If merit badges were given out in Suppression of Dissent, Cult of Leadership, and Authoritarian Know-Nothingism, this little wonder, issued a few weeks after 9/11, would be their Boy Scout Handbook--albeit a handbook with 96 of its 103 pages redacted.
Excerpts (actually, this is almost everything that wasn't redacted):
Ticket collection at events should take place prior to the magnetometer checkpoint. Volunteers should be used to form the crowd into lines, check for signs or protestors, and to remove the stubs on official tickets. Homemade signs are not allowed at events. [...]
Always be prepared for demonstrators, even if the local organization tells you there will not be any. It is the responsibility of the Lead Advance to have in place an effective plan for dealing with demonstrators.
As mentioned, all presidential events must be ticketed or accessed by a name list. This is the best method for preventing demonstrators. People who are obviously going to try to disrupt the event can be denied entrance at least to the VIP area between the stage and the main camera platform. That does not mean that supporters without tickets cannot be given tickets at the door and gain entrance to the event. It is also not the responsibility of the Secret Service to check the tickets of the people entering. They are concerned with whether the person is a threat physically to The President and not a heckler. It is important to have your volunteers at a checkpoint before the Magnetometers in order to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event. Look for signs that they may be carrying, and if need be, have volunteers check for folded cloth signs that demonstrators may be bringing to events. [...]
Preparing for Demonstrators
There are several ways the advance person can prepare a site to minimize demonstrators. First, as always, work with the Secret Service and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route. […]
The formation of "Rally squads" is a common way to prepare for demonstrators by countering their message. This tactic involves utilizing small groups of volunteers to spread favorable messages using large hand held signs, placards, or perhaps a long sheet banner, and placing them in strategic areas around the site.
These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators. The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protesters (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site. The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities.
For larger rallies, the squads should be broken up into groups of approximately 15-25 people. A squad should be placed immediately in front of the stage, immediately in front of the main camera plat form, close to the cut platform, immediately behind the stage area (if people are being used as the backdrop), and at least one squad should be 'roaming' throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems.
Being aware of Demonstrators
It is important for the Advance Team and all volunteers to be on the lookout for potential demonstrators. Volunteers should be instructed to contact the Advance person on site (whether it is the Lead, Press or Site Advance) when they see demonstrators. Always check with local police to inquire of any demonstration permits issued prior to a visit.
Once a group of demonstrators has been identified, the Advance person must decide what action to take. If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and that they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect.
Before reacting to demonstrators, the Advance person should inform the rest of the Advance Team, the Tour Director, and the Press Advance Director of the situation. Be prepared to give the number of demonstrators, location(s), a description, and their issue/organization.
If the demonstrators appear to be a security threat, notify the Secret Service immediately. If demonstrators appear likely to cause only a political disruption, it is the Advance person's responsibility to take appropriate action. Rally squads should be dispatched to surround and drown out demonstrators immediately.
Remember - avoid physical contact with demonstrators! Most often, the demonstrators want a physical confrontation. Do not fall into their trap! Also do not do anything or say anything that might result in the physical harm to the demonstrators. Before taking action, the Advance person must decide if the solution would cause more negative publicity than if the demonstrators were simply left alone.
[Emphasis in original.]
Every chance the Bushies get in the next to whittle away at our freedoms to challenge our government, they'll take. On the evening of January 19, 2009, they'll still be working at it just as diligently as they were in 2002, 2003, and up through today. They won't stop until their hands are removed from the levers of power, and not a moment before.
(Dissent button image via Northern Sun. Show them some love.)