Last Friday, March 16, President Obama issued a creepy Executive Order.

Entitled “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” it authorizes the President and cabinet officials to take over crucial aspects of the national economy not only during emergencies but also in peacetime.

The order relies on a Korean War-era statute, the Defense Production Act of 1950, to further entwine the domestic industrial economy with the military. It talks of fostering “cooperation between the defense and commercial sectors.”

The stated purpose is to strengthen “the domestic industrial and technological base” so as “to ensure it is capable of responding to the national defense needs of the United States.”

This amounts to putting the economy on permanent war footing, even when there isn’t an emergency.

For instance, the Executive Order talks of the need for the economic base “to satisfy [defense] requirements in peacetime and times of national emergency.” And cabinet officials are authorized to “issue regulations to prioritize and allocate resources . . . to promote the national defense, under both emergency and non-emergency conditions.”

It amounts to a sweeping reassertion of Presidential authority. It reasserts the President’s authority “to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders . . . to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders.”

And it then delegates this extraordinary power to cabinet heads.

The Secretary of Agriculture has this authority “with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and fertilizer.”

The Secretary of Energy has this authority “with respect to all forms of energy.”

The Secretary of Defense has this authority “with respect to water resources.”

The Secretary of Health and Human Services has this authority “with respect to health resources.”

The Secretary of Transportation has it “with respect to all civil transportation.”

And the Secretary of Commerce has it “with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities.”

Perhaps scariest of all, the Executive Order grants to the Secretary of Defense the authority to force a private person to assist in making chemical and biological weapons. Section 204, entitled “Chemical and Biological Warfare, states: “The authority of the President conferred by section 104(b) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2074(b) is delegated to the Secretary of Defense.”

Here is section 104(b):

“No provision of title I of this Act [sections 2071 to 2078 of this Appendix] shall be exercised or interpreted to require action or compliance by any private person to assist in any way in the production of or other involvement in chemical or biological warfare capabilities, unless authorized by the President (or the President's designee who is serving in a position at level I of the Executive Schedule in accordance with section 5312 of title 5, United States Code) without further redelegation.”

So now not only may the President conscript scientists. The Secretary of Defense may, too.

This executive order extends the power of the Presidency along lines similar to those sketched out by George W. Bush in his "National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51" and "Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20” of May 2007.

Obama’s executive order, like Bush’s, demonstrates the enormous accretion of power in the Executive Branch.

And Obama’s order, in particular, shows how the entire economy is now in service to the military.

This is the military-industrial complex on steroids, and it’s devouring our democracy.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Romney May Fall Into Trap of Picking Santorum for VP."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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