The Underlying Issue: the War on the Constitution

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

The Republican and Democratic parties have accomplished an amazing feat with the red state/blue state paradigm. They’ve convinced everyone that regardless of how bad they are, the other guy is worse. So even with 11 percent of the public supporting Congress most incumbents will be returned to Congress. They have so structured and defined the question that people no longer look at the actual principles and instead vote on this false dichotomy.

John Cusack’s interview with Jonathan Turley is a good read if you like intelligent discussions by smart people who put what is important about an issue to the fore. This is in marked contrast with the Mainstream Media that puts trivial, ephemeral concerns front and center of any discussion and utterly ignore the underlying issues that do underlie all our major issues. In a way, it is not their fault since they see their job as merely to mirror the concerns of ordinary citizens who don’t want to think too deeply about anything whether it is the world of national and international affairs or even personal issues. Once there was a notion that the media would serve three important purposes, inform us on significant events that are bound to affect our lives, provide education about the world, and to keep track of the truth and hold politicians accountable. This has not even come close to be its role in recent years and is unlikely to be because the general consensus reality that this media has been presenting to us is the normal American consensus reality. This is the world we live in. Thus Obama is on the left and Romney is on the right. Never mind what left and right means or whether these people really fit the mold-they actually don’t because they are both opportunists-essentially, guns for hire who will pretty much represent their clients’ interest and guess what? We will never be their clients.

For a long-time I’ve commented here that, to be simple, the American people have made a collective decision to not interest themselves very much in the duties of citizenship and prefer to be passive participants in what Guy Debord called the Spectacle or, to put it another way, they want the blue pill not the red pill. This is sad. And one of the great tragedies of our time is that the U.S. Constitution been, essentially cancelled.

We have a treaty, actually a number of treaties, that obligate us to investigate and prosecute torture. We pushed through those treaties because we wanted to make clear that no matter what the expediency of the moment, no matter whether it was convenient or inconvenient, all nations had to agree to investigate and prosecute torture and other war crimes.

And the whole reason for putting this in the treaties was to do precisely the opposite of what the Obama administration has done. That is, in these treaties they say that it is not a defense that prosecution would be inconvenient or unpopular. But that’s exactly what President Obama said when he announced, “I won’t allow the prosecution of torture because I want us to look to the future and not the past.” That is simply a rhetorical flourish to hide the obvious point: “I don’t want the inconvenience and the unpopularity that would come with enforcing this treaty.”

If you don’t honor treaties and, in fact, do the precise opposite then you have just told everyone in the world and that it is ok to violate treaties and you tell all citizens that’s ok to violate the law if you have the power. And this has turned out to be true. This is, in part, what has allowed clearly fraudulent practices by Wall Street and the mortgage industry to go ahead and do their worst because they knew there would be no consequences to their actions. The powerful know what most of don’t know. There are countries that must obey the law and there are countries that don’t. There are citizens that must obey the law but other citizens are not required to. This started in the Bush administration but has gotten worse with Obama.

Well, a good example of it is that President Bush ordered the killing of an American citizen when he approved a drone strike on a car in Yemen that he knew contained an American citizen as a passenger. Many of us at the time said, “You just effectively ordered the death of an American citizen in order to kill someone else, and where exactly do you have that authority?” But they made an argument that because the citizen wasn’t the primary target, he was just collateral damage. And there are many that believe that that is a plausible argument.

Well, President Obama outdid President Bush. He ordered the killing of two US citizens as the primary targets and has then gone forward and put out a policy that allows him to kill any American citizen when he unilaterally determines them to be a terrorist threat. Where President Bush had a citizen killed as collateral damage, President Obama has actually a formal policy allowing him to kill any US citizen.

Ok, this goes pretty far, yet there’s very little interest in this society with the idea that a chief executive can kill anyone he wants to for any reason he wants. How is this possible? Not that a President would want to do that-makes sense to me, but that a people with a written Constitution created by men who have a long paper trail-who were very worried about just the kind of thinking that the Obama policy represents-how is this happening. As an old guy I can tell you that this kind of thinking, as a matter of law was unthinkable a half-century ago. The thinking then was, yes, you could go ahead and kill someone but don’t have it as part of law! Do it only when required as a secret mission no one would ever talk about. But that position did not completely trash the Constitution because it still had statutory standing-while criminal gangs in and out of gov’t could practice it.

James Madison is often quoted for his observation that if all men were angels, no government would be necessary. And what he was saying is that you have to create a system of law that has checks and balances so that even imperfect human beings are restrained from doing much harm. Madison and other framers did not want to rely on the promises of good motivations or good intents from the government. They created a system where no branch had enough authority to govern alone – a system of shared and balanced powers.

So what Obama’s doing is to rewrite the most fundamental principle of the US Constitution. The whole point of the Holder speech was that we’re really good guys who take this seriously, and you can trust us. That’s exactly the argument the framers rejected, the “trust me” principle of government. You’ll notice when Romney was asked about this, he said, “I would’ve signed the same law, because I trust Obama to do the right thing.” They’re both using the very argument that the framers warned citizens never to accept from their government.

Later Turley and Cusack address the issue of the assassination of OBL. Here’s a situation that is so obvious and was completely unremarked on except by the handful of people left in the country who can actually think straight. Osama was clearly “hit” and there was, obviously, no attempt to capture him and bring him to trial. I can assure you that the reason for that is that they did not want him to talk-and this is so obvious I was stunned that no one wondered that perhaps if we had captured him he might have given us some valuable information that would help us fight Al-Qaida-kind of makes sense don’t it? No, it seems to have occurred to no one at all. So the only conclusion is that Osama was killed because he knew something that the authorities did not want the public to know about. The other thing is that now that you don’t need a trial to institute the death penalty there is no need for proof that anyone has committed a crime. And, there is no evidence that I’ve seen, other than government and media assertions, that Osama ran the operation. But that’s another question.

So where are the “liberals” and “progressives” who were a bit in a tizzy about the Patriot Act?

Well, the question, I think, that people have got to ask themselves when they get into that booth is not what Obama has become, but what have we become? That is, what’s left of our values if we vote for a person that we believe has shielded war crimes or violated due process or implemented authoritarian powers. It’s not enough to say, “Yeah, he did all those things, but I really like what he did with the National Park System.”

That’s it in a nutshell-I’ll lay it out more plainly. The left which by world standards is barely left, simply sold out its principles and the principles which those of us from my generation who grew up in the 1950s and 60s all accepted as sacrosanct. These people, as well as so-called conservatives, gave up on the whole project of the United States. Whether we have good national parks of legal abortion are important issues but do they trump the whole basis of our political system? Do we give up on the whole inheritance we received from Madison/Jefferson/Franklin/Hamilton just to have an auto-bailout or a half-assed health-care reform?

This is an important question and it has nothing to do with political practicality. Yes, I’ve stated that, at the very least, it may be worth voting for Obama because at least he recognizes the need for reason, science and so on and will probably not institute a new Holy Inquisition or whatever it is the Rs have in store for us. He accepts the general trend of Western Civilization even though he has trashed the U.S. political system and that may be enough for me to vote for him. But this is because I have no hope that the Constitution will be restored or that democracy itself will last much beyond my lifetime if that. I have no hope that the needs of the average person will be considered in public policy as an important component of policy. I have no hope that there will be, ever again, “equal justice before the law.” I blame not the right, not the bankers I blame the American progressive movement for condoning the beheading of the Constitution, for condoning our slide to the right by living in the politics of fantasy and that complaining and sermonizing are effective political acts. I blame progressives for living in material and psychic comfort and watching the world go to hell. I blame the progressives for swallowing the 9/11 story hook, line, and sinker and demonizing anyone who questioned the unproven assumptions of the government and the media. We have, collectively, failed the American people by not offering a courageous alternative to business as usual media-driven propaganda. We have not been politically sophisticated enough to engage with the only real opposition movement the libertarian and Ron Paul right who outnumber is numbers and in courage but are sadly misinformed.

I want to repeat here what is at stake. You cannot have anything that is not an authoritarian/totalitarian regime in the future. When the state has the power to legally kill anyone it pleases without warning, without recourse to law, without mercy that means that we live in an authoritarian regime. Right now our friends are in power (well not my friends) tomorrow who knows who’ll be in power and if you’re on the wrong side how are you going to protect your family?

I challenge anyone reading this to give me one reason to think that a Constitutional Republic based on a system of laws with democratic institutions exists. I say it does not exist anymore than the Roman Republic existed under the Emperor Augustus Caesar. All the forms were largely intact but the power was with Caesar. The difference in our system is we are ruled by a network with emergent properties that is developing a life of its own-a kind of virtual dictator.

3 comments

    • banger on September 3, 2012 at 12:29 am
      Author

    Should we even bother?

    • banger on September 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm
      Author

    The people with no country don’t need to be limited to no Constitution. They’ve gruated. It’s our job to make sure people understand this.

    Romney . . . is a perfect representative of one side of the ominous cultural divide that will define the next generation, not just here in America but all over the world. Forget about the Southern strategy, blue versus red, swing states and swing voters – all of those political cliches are quaint relics of a less threatening era that is now part of our past, or soon will be. The next conflict defining us all is much more unnerving.

    That conflict will be between people who live somewhere, and people who live nowhere. It will be between people who consider themselves citizens of actual countries, to which they have patriotic allegiance, and people to whom nations are meaningless, who live in a stateless global archipelago of privilege – a collection of private schools, tax havens and gated residential communities with little or no connection to the outside world….

    Obama ran on “change” in 2008, but Mitt Romney represents a far more real and seismic shift in the American landscape. Romney is the frontman and apostle of an economic revolution, in which transactions are manufactured instead of products, wealth is generated without accompanying prosperity, and Cayman Islands partnerships are lovingly erected and nurtured while American communities fall apart. The entire purpose of the business model that Romney helped pioneer is to move money into the archipelago from the places outside it, using massive amounts of taxpayer-subsidized debt to enrich a handful of billionaires. It’s a vision of society that’s crazy, vicious and almost unbelievably selfish, yet it’s running for president, and it has a chance of winning. Perhaps that change is coming whether we like it or not. Perhaps Mitt Romney is the best man to manage the transition. But it seems a little early to vote for that kind of wholesale surrender.

  1. Do you think the corporatists want a minority population who thinks they are so entitled to stuff screwing up their resource allocation future profit margins projections?

    Here in American there are vast segments of the population who are not internet savy.  Their lives are “established” so a great deal the neuvo-fascism has not touched their personal lives to a great deal, YET.  Plus, since most are plugging into lamestream solidly?

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