Friday, September 22, 2006

Can't Stand the Heat Dept.

Some Americans are upset that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called George Bush "the devil" during his speech Wednesday before the United Nations. Well, that's the First Amendment, folks.

The next issue is how many of these incensed Americans have read the full text of Chavez' speech. Most likely zero to none. I found my copy at

It is appropriate to acknowledge that Mr. Bush has for some years freely thrown about the word "evil" as an adjective and noun in reference to other nations. I am sure the 70 million citizens of Iran were not overjoyed with the President Bush calling their nation, and therefore themselves, a key compass point in an "Axis of Evil." -- Evil with a capital "E" being understood by anyone of the religious persuasion as pertaining to an alliance or dalliance with Satan.

Let's not forget the word "Axis" in Mr. Bush's phrase, was an intentional reference to the Axis powers of Hitler, Mussolini and Japan during World War II. Thus, an entire nation and its citizens, such as Iran, were implicitly compared by Mr. Bush to Hitler's Nazi Germany -- the standard historic benchmark of Evil -- as well as Mussolini's murderous fascists and the murderous, raping Imperial Japanese forces in China and Southeast Asia of the 1930s and 1940s.

From a purely factual standpoint, Mr. Bush has availed himself the luxury and freedom of branding entire nations, their citizens, and leaders with an appellation synonymous with that used by Mr. Chavez this week to describe Mr. Bush the man. The difference between calling a nation "Evil" with a capital "E" and calling a President the "Devil" is so small as to be irrelevant -- a difference without a distinction.

In contrast to Bush's language usages since 2001, Mr. Chavez described only Mr. Bush in an Hadean manner -- not American citizens or the nation itself. In contrast, Mr. Bush did not make this distinction in his "Axis of Evil" declaration referred to the nations themselves and therefore all of their citizens -- many of whom may disagree with the policies of their leaders.

I would have preferred Chavez had not used the phrase for which he is now being criticized. However, following a scientifically neutral "shoe fits" model, some of Mr. Bush's top policy actions point him more toward the Plutonic than the Platonic.

For example: advocating and authorizing and defending a policy of torturing citizens of other countries; kidnapping and "rendition" of citizens to other nations for the express purpose of torturing them; operating top secret gulags in other nations where torture can be conducted free from US constitutional prohibitions; offering no apology or remorse for innocent people caught up within this secretive kidnapping and torture web or for what appears to be scores of kidnapped nationals of other nations who have died in US custody in these gulags; and finally, Mr. Bush's active efforts to legally immunize from prosecution all US personnel responsible for the death of US kidnappees or victims of his torture programs.

None of these policies and practices -- which Mr. Bush publicly admits to with pride -- convey to himself and his supporters the badge of self-righteous indignation they now seek to wear so prominently. Or in more colloquial terms, payback's a bitch.

It could be said on the one hand that Mr. Chavez' use of the Luciferan tense in describing Mr. Bush distracted attention from the substance of this speech to the United Nations. It could equally be said that without Mr. Chavez' utterance of this phrase, few outside the UN hall would have given any attention to his speech.

A key component of Chavez' speech was his commitment to creating a community of nations where the policies of the United States are no longer so singularly dominant. Key to this process, Chavez asserted, was ending the post World War II veto power of the WW II allied nations in the UN Security Council. Chavez correctly stated that this veto power is a relic of WW II and the Cold War and should be revoked if the United Nations is to have any utility and meaning as a functioning body in the 21st century.

From the perspective of a nation like Venezuela, Mr. Bush's policy of "pre-emptive war" must not sit well either, given its premise that the United States reserves to itself the right to attack or invade any nation the US believes could become a potential threat in the future. Not only does this policy extend the Monroe Doctrine to the entire planet, it stretches the Monroe Doctrine itself to a doctrine indistinguishable from saying the US has the right to intervene in the policy deliberations of any country if the US believes those policies could result in future actions which the US believes may threaten whatever the US declares as its "security interests" at any moment. That's a pretty wide net.

This recent name-calling and its not unexpected reflexive reaction in the United States, says as much about those who claim to be offended as it does about the purported offender.

The more important question is this: does Hugo Chavez now get a cut from Noam Chomsky's book sales after his boffo plug at the UN Book Club and Reading Group?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Great Sinking

The Great Sinking

All nations, including the United States, undergo periods of sinking and capsize; when their governments and citizens abandon, trivialize and dismiss the principles which they profess to hold true. These sinkings most often arise from the temptation for expediency -- for taking the short cut -- without regard to its consequences on individual citizens and the nation itself.

One great sinking in United States history was the arrest and imprisonment of Japanese American citizens living in California during World War II. This action was taken due to the fear that "some" American citizens of Japanese descent living on the west coast could be spies for the Japanese government which attacked Pearl Harbor. Thus a "short cut" was taken. Rather than arrest individuals -- of any ethnicity -- suspected of spying, the US government took the short cut of arresting all Japanese-Americans in California and locking up them up in prison camps. During this same period, the US government did not conduct wholesale imprisonment of American citizens of German or Italian descent.

A second great sinking in American history was the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which declared it legal for state and federal governments to single out one group of American citizens -- citizens of African American descent -- and subject them to wholly separate standards of treatment, rights and liberties as compared to all other American citizens. Integral to the Supreme Court's enshrinement of Jim Crow in Plessy was the unstated fear that enforcing the Constitution might incite white southern mobs to armed insurrection. In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court surrendered the nation to mob rule and granted mob rule precedence over the Constitution itself.*

The third and most important Great Sinking in American history is the endless, repetitive violation of legal treaties signed by the United States with American Indians. In a series of events too numerous to be mentioned individually, the United States enacted legal treaties with American Indian tribes which delineated tribal territory from territory available for ownership and settlement by non-Indians. These treaties specifically recognized the primacy of Indian ownership and sovereignty of the lands in question. Yet as soon as settlers and corporate interests decided they "wanted" the territories legally held by American Indian nations, the United States broke its own treaties and gave the mob what it wanted.

These Great Sinkings were driven by expediency. They were short cuts. They were naked appeasements to the wishes of a mob. In all three of these sinkings, the mob made these demands because their own legal rights were not at risk. Whites of the Southern States had nothing to fear from Jim Crow since it applied only to people with black skin. European Americans had nothing to fear from the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II -- they were not of Japanese descent. European Americans had nothing to fear by demanding the US break its treaties with sovereign American Indian nations -- they weren't American Indians and stood to directly benefit from the Indians' sovereign lands being stolen.

It is very easy to demand radical curtailment of Constitutional rights for others, while reserving them for yourself. In all three of these cases, the US government bowed to the wishes of the mob and its courts gave these illegal actions the veneer of legal legitimacy. Each time, government and its courts made the rule of law and the Constitution secondary to the wishes of the mob.

The Great Sinking we witness today in the United States flows directly from these Great Sinkings of the past. The logic is the same, the rationale is the same, the excuses are the same, the motivators of expediency and taking short cuts are the same, the use of the courts to declare legal what is illegal is the same. The mob's desire to set aside the Constitution itself is the same. If Constitutional limits and protections stand in the way of what the mob wants, the mob demands the Constitution itself be set aside.

The United States Constitution was written to prevent our government from swaying and veering and back-tracking solely to satisfy the wishes and wants of a mob. While representatives in the House are apportioned to each state based on population, in the Senate each state has two Senators regardless of its population. Amendment procedures for the Constitution are onerous and difficult. The oaths of office taken by the President, House, Senate and Supreme Court members require each to publicly swear allegiance to the U.S. Constitution -- not the mob. These oaths are legally binding and enforceable. These measures were taken to prevent politicans from amending or suspending the Constitution every time it interfered with what a mob wanted.

These restrictions were written into the Constitution because its authors were acutely aware that elected leaders of the U.S. government would be constantly tempted to "break the rules just this once" to give the mob what it wanted. The founders knew that any law set aside at the whim of a mob ceases to function as a law. Not only does this render the law meaningless, it creates the viciously false impression that the nation lives under the rule of law while in fact it does not. The exception swallows the rule. The founders knew well that laws which do not mean what they say are worse than having no laws at all.

Mob rule is the antonym of the Golden Rule. Mob rule teaches it is perfectly fine to treat others in ways you would not want to be treated. Mob rule preaches that any person or group of people can be treated in any fashion the mob wishes. Mob rule demands government and the courts bow to the mob's wishes no matter how irrational, illegal, unfair or violent those wishes may be. Mob rule demands immediate and blind obedience without questions to the motivations, wisdom or efficacy of the mob's demands. The Mob believes its sole sanction and justification for its demands is its own existence -- as a mob.

No American wishes to be tortured or imprisoned unjustly. No American wishes such treatment to occur to a member of their family or circle of acquaintances. Yet, when acting as a Mob, many Americans enthusiastically support the torture and unjust imprisonment of others. When acting as mob, many Americans demand their government commit such actions on their behalf. When acting as a mob, many Americans demand their elected officials violate their sworn oaths of office and support these actions -- or be voted out of office. When acting as a mob, many Americans and their elected leaders demand our judges and courts set aside the United States Constitution itself so as to give these actions the veneer of legality. When acting as mob, many Americans attack the "patriotism" and loyalty of any other citizen, elected official, judge or jury who questions the legality, morality or soundness of such actions. The mob takes as a personal insult and betrayal the voice of anyone who questions if or how torture and unjust imprisonment comport with the United States Constitution, the Golden Rule or any other foundational tenet of a civilized society. The Mob considers those who swear loyalty to the rule of law as disloyal traitors. To the Mob there can be only one loyalty -- to the whims and wishes of the Mob.

A mob is a collection of individuals who are undefined except through their allegiance to the mob itself. This sounds vague and nonsensical precisely because it is. Mobs do not have a well-defined head, tail, boundary or structure. Mobs arise spontaneously. Nobody can say precisely how mobs form or who formed them. From the exterior, mobs appear organized and willful -- yet from the inside they have no structure or center. The more powerful the mob, the more each person within it is powerless. The larger the mob, the smaller each person is within it.

Mobs are hostile to rational deliberation and diversity of opinion. Once debate and discussion occurs, the mob dissolves back into a collection of individual, distinct people. A mob is comprised of individuals but cannot tolerate individuals. One cannot be an individual and a member of a mob. Membership in your own body and in the body of the mob are mutually exclusive.

Unwittingly or not, the US President, many US elected leaders, many appointed civil servants and many US citizens employed in the news media are actively pushing the series of complex levers and buttons necessary to once again turn the American citizenry into the types of mob who demanded, created, allowed or stood idly by during the Great Sinkings of American history as described above. This is evidenced in several key ways:

1) The questioning of an individual's motives, loyalty and patriotism if that person expresses an opinion different from that of the mob. Mobs demand loyalty and seek to silence the personal expressions of their members and others. Without such strictures, mobs dissolve. Recent accusations by US officials up to the President that opposition to the President's policies are akin to aiding and abetting or appeasing the "enemy" are characteristic of mob behavior.

2) The supremacy of the Mob's wishes to the rule of law. Mobs believe that laws exist only to serve and further the mob and its wishes. When an elected official argues the Constitution must be "flexible" or must be set aside "just this once" -- what you are being told is that the Constitution must bow to the wishes of a mob. If the demands of the mob could be met through the rule of law, mobs would not exist.

3. Mobs inherently adopt the stance colloquially known as "Don't Confuse Me With the Facts." Objectively testable facts are considered irrelevant to the fervent wishes of the mob unless they support its wishes. "We don't need your steenking facts -- we've got our own" is the mantra of a mob.** Or as the musical group Black Flag sarcastically declared in the song "I've Heard it Before" -- "Don't need their bogus attitudes -- got enough of my own."

4. Mobs dismiss or diminish the rights and concerns of those who are not in the mob. If innocent people are killed, injured, tortured or unjustly imprisoned by the actions of the mob, the mob justifies these violations as being regrettable but necessary to achieve a "greater good for the whole" -- ie. the whole mob. A common mob mantra heard to today is that "even if just one life is saved, it is worth it." But this only refers to an innocent member of the mob. Mob psychology places primacy on membership. Southern white lynch mobs did not care if the black man they hung was guilty or not, since just the lynching itself sent a "message" to all blacks that this was their fate if they did not "behave." *** Massive civilian deaths in southern Lebanon by Israeli bombing in July were justified by claims that Lebanese lives were not "worth" as much as Israeli lives. The torture of innocents mistakenly held as terrorist suspects by the US CIA and military are rationalized as unfortunate but "necessary" to ensure Americans are not killed by terrorists. The message is simple: some innocent lives are worth much more than others; and other innocent lives are worthless. This is the message of a mob.

Mob psychology is well known, well studied and readily open to fresh examination and research. Suppression of free expression, calls for "temporary" suspensions of Constitutional protections, denigration of objective factual analysis, and dismissal of the rights of individuals in order to achieve a "greater good" are all hall marks of the dynamics and psychology of a mob. These dynamics are now underway in the United States of America.


* A half century later, the Supreme Court abolished the "separate but equal" concept in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring it to be in violation of the Constitution. However, even in the Brown decision, the Court bowed down to white Southern mobs by refusing to require immediate desegregation of public schools and instead said desegregation should occur "with all deliberate speed" -- weasel words the Court would quickly and deeply regret. Interpreting this phrase as a sign of weakness (which it was), the white Southern mobs and their white elected officials argued for the next 20 years that "with all deliberate speed" could also mean doing nothing at all. In Cooper v. Aaron, the State of Arkansas argued to the Court that because white mobs had pledge to take up arms against desegregation, the Court should allow segregation to continue indefinitely despite the Court's ruling that it was unconstitutional. In this landmark case, the Attorney General of Arkansas actually asked the Supreme Court in oral argument to suspend the US Constitution in Arkansas solely because violent white mobs demanded it.

** I discovered an example of #3 last week when I told a person that the phrase "Islamofascism" to describe the diffuse terrorist group al Qaeda is completely inconsistent with the definition of "fascism" and supplied that person with several dictionary and encyclopedia definitions of the word. The person replied: "That is your definition -- I have my own."

*** The classic and most sick application of "Don't Confuse Me With the Facts" was promulgated during the 80 year epidemic of lynchings of black American citizens by white American citizens in the United States from after the Civil War up to World War II. In nearly all of these instances, the white mobs who hung, tortured and burned to death black American citizens openly reasoned that if even if the black American man they were killing was innocent of the crime for which they were seeking vengeance, he would probably have done it eventually, had probably done it in the past, and if neither, his death would "send a message to any nigger who might think of doing it," or "this one nigger here won't never do it again."

Monday, September 18, 2006

War Pigs

"Why should they go out and fight? They leave that to the poor."

-- Black Sabbath, War Pigs.

Secret US black site gulags in unidentified countries.

Torture being promoted and defended by the US President in the White House Rose Garden.

More than 100 "detainees" known to be killed during captivity by the US in secret prisons.

An Associated Press photographer held in a US military prison in Iraq for 5 months thus far without any charges against him.

Nearly 2,700 US soldiers killed thus far in Iraq for a "war" based on outright lies.

A 14 year old boy held in prison in Guantanamo Bay Cuba since 2002 without charges against him. He is now 18 years old . He is still in Guantanamo Bay and nobody can say when or if we will ever be released.

Leading US citizens and elected officials speaking out in favor of torture and its full legalization.

An American citizenry that changes the channel, does nothing and says nothing.

But they get very upset about flag burning.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

US admits to secret Gulags

Bush Acknowledges Secret CIA Prisons
Sep 06 1:59 PM US/Eastern

Associated Press Writer

President Bush has transferred 14 key terrorist leaders from secret CIA custody to the U.S. military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be prepared for eventual trials, a senior administration official said Wednesday.


So now we have Presidential confirmation that the US has been operating completely secret, off-shore prisons for at least the past five years.

Nobody knows where these prisons are, how long they have existed, who has been held in them, how many people are in them, the charges against them, how many people have been tortured, how many have died, how many of these prisons still exist, how many people are still in them, who they are, what they have been charged with, if they are being tortured, how they have been tortured and when if ever they will be released.

Apparently, we are not entitled to this information. After all we are only paying for all of this. And whatever has and is being done is only being done in our name, on our behalf, on behalf of our "ideals," is wholly funded with our money, and is happening on our watch.

Oh ... our watch? Like you or me ? That kind of "our watch" ? Is this some kind of ship ?

You know people I'm not black but there's a whole lot of times I wish I could say I'm not white.

-- Frank Zappa, 1965.


I must admit I have now lost whatever faith and belief I had in this country since I was a child. Not because of these secret gulags. But because I know that nobody in the US is even going to bat an eyelash about them. Even this revelation will be immediately consumed and subsumed by meaningless debate, discussion, spin and analysis that quickly veers to ancillary and trivial topics. Then the new message and debating point of the day will be marched forward onto the Plain of Jars like the Trojan rabbit in Monty Python's Holy Grail. Knowing History as it happens has not been forbidden. Instead, we have reduced US History as it happens to one potato chip in a very large bag -- to be grasped, crunched, swallowed and forgotten. And then the next chip is grasped.

This is not, as my brother says, a general human problem. This is an American problem. Humans, as a species, are not now operating secret gulags. Inuits in the Yukon Territory are not. Micronesians are not. People from Solon, Maine are not. People from South Africa are not. People from Sweden are not. Right now, the only now we know, this is a problem unique to Americans since we have elected into high office the people who have created these secret gulags. It is our problem and nobody else's. It will not be solved until we solve it. If we do not solve it, then we are fully and solely responsible for its consequences.

No Americans were allowed to vote on whether the US should operate secret prisons in other parts of the world. No Americans were given the chance to vote on whether they support US personnel torturing and killing people in these secret prisons. Yet for the past five years, apparently, this has been done under our sanction and with our tacit permission, even though we never granted it. This is like a bird where the head attacks the claws and the claws attack the head. They are connected but do not have any communication with one another. In this sense, my brother is correct. This organism, the American one, is now eating itself alive through the myth that one can feed itself by consuming its own flesh and blood.

It is not a pretty sight. I Tispaquin, now dead and head-severed for 330 years, can view this scene somewhat dispassionately. Few today know what happened to me, my relatives and my people or that they once existed. I now look at this series of events and wonder if my fate is now overtaking those I see from afar in 2006 and if they will become as forgotten as me.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Exception Swallows the Rule

President Bush's latest argument for "winning" in Iraq is that unless the government and society of Iraq is made stable and secure, the country will become a base for terrorists. Fair enough.

Who created the conditions which now exist in Iraq -- which must be fixed by US troops in an occupation with no endpoint -- which has allowed Iraq to become a potential staging ground for terrorists?

What was the President's stated purpose for invading Iraq in 2003 which led to the conditions there which now must be "fixed" by 140,000 US troops?


"To have a democracy that allows people to have sovereignty over their lives is something that we think is so powerful, and that the yearning for freedom is so natural, that that is going to send a powerful signal throughout the region. People are going to want more of it. And that's why the president is determined to stay the course." -- White House spokesman Tony Snow, 8/16/06 press briefing.

"The idea that somehow we're staying the course is just wrong. It is absolutely wrong." -- White House spokesman Tony Snow. 9/5/06 press briefing.

Well that clarifies everything.


"There have been some in the Democratic Party who have argued against the Patriot Act, against the terror surveillance program, against Guantanamo. In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda. In other words, they're all for winning the war on terror, but they're all against -- they're against providing the tools for winning that war." -- White House spokesman Tony Snow. 9/5/06 press briefing.

Americans are not opposed to arresting al Qaeda members. Many are opposed to the US torturing them or anyone, for that matter. Many are upset that detained prisoners at Guantanamo are deprived of all rights as either prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions or as criminal suspects under the US Constitution. Many are upset that the "legal theories" used by the President and US Attorney General are a mockery of international law, treaties and the US Constitution. Many are upset that the US has apparently established secret prisons in unnamed countries for the detention and torture of "suspects" that due to their secrecy are outside the oversight or knowledge of the American people, its Congress and its Judiciary. Many Americans believe that if the US captures or arrests people suspected of plotting to commit terror acts against the United States, those people should be tried in a US Court of law, just like Timothy McVeigh, or any suspected airline hijacker. Many Americans are opposed to a secret "terror surveillance" program which spies on American citizens, taps their phones, reads their mail and e-mail in a manner which violates federal law and the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Here's a fact. If you were an American citizen, like Timothy McVeigh, and deliberately blew up a US federal office building and killed hundreds or even thousands of people, you would be fully protected under the US Constitution from the moment you were arrested to the moment your sentence was carried out. If you were a non-American citizen arrested on US soil attempting to kill Americans on US soil you would be afforded the same legal rights as afforded Mr. McVeigh. This is what the US Constitution mandates and requires.

One need only review the U.S. Supreme Court transcript in the case United States v. Richard Nixon, President of the United States (418 U.S. 683) to see a parallel instance where the President declared he had the right to interpret the US Constitution in any way he wished. In this 1974 case, aides to President Nixon were indicted by a federal grand jury for obstructing justice after the botched break-in and wiretapping of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Special Prosecutor for this case, Leon Jaworski, issued a subpoena for tape recordings made in the White House Oval Office where plans were discussed to thwart and limit an FBI investigation of the break-in, including the payment of hush money to one of the break-in organizers, Howard Hunt, to encourage him to perjure himself to the Grand Jury. President Nixon refused to turn over the Oval Office tape recordings and appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In oral argument, the President's attorney, James St. Clair, informed the U.S. Supreme Court that the President, according to the President's interpretation of the Constitution, was not required to comply with the subpoena and turn over the tapes to a US court. In essence, Mr. St. Clair stated that the Supreme Court had no Constitutional authority to question the President's judgment of what the Constitution means.

Justice Thurgood Marshall reasoned that if St. Clair's argument was correct -- that the President was free to ignore a decision of the US Supreme Court -- why was Mr. St. Clair even standing before the Court? The court transcript reads:

Marshall: You're still leaving it up to this Court to decide it?

St. Clair: Well, yes, in a sense.

Marshall: Well, in what sense?

St. Clair: In the sense that this court has an obligation to determine the law. All right? The president also has an obligation to carry out his constitutional functions.

Marshall: You are submitting it to this Court for us to decide whether or not executive privilege is available in this case?

St. Clair: Well, the problem with the question is even more limited than that. Is the executive privilege absolute or is it only conditional?

Marshall: I said 'in this case.' Can you make it any narrower than that?

St. Clair. No, sir.

Marshall: Well, do you agree that that's what is before this Court, and you are submitting it to this Court for decision?

St. Clair: This is being submitted to this court for its guidance and judgment with respect to the law. The president, on the other hand, has his obligations under the Constitution.

Marshall: Are you submitting it to this Court for this Court's decision?

St. Clair: As to what the law is, yes.

Chief Justice Burger: If it were not so, you would not be here?

St. Clair: I would not be here.


The US Supreme Court case heard July 8th, 1974 reaffirmed that the US Constitution reserves to the Judiciary, not the President, the authority to "say what the law is" -- including the Constitution itself. The Supreme Court reasoned that without this authority being reserved to the Judiciary, the entire system of checks and balances built into the Constitution would cease to function, ie. the President or Congress could simply ignore a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court because they are free to interpret the Constitution in their own way. The Court wrote:

"[T]he 'judicial Power of the United States' vested in the federal courts by Art. III Section 1 of the Constitution can no more be shared with the Executive Branch than the Chief Executive, for example, can share with the Judiciary the veto power, or the Congress share with the Judiciary the power to override a Presidential veto. Any other conclusion would be contrary to the basic concept of separation of powers and the checks and balances that flow from the scheme of a tripartite government."


In recent months, the Bush Administration has defended many of its actions and policies, including secret surveillance on American citizens, on the same grounds used in 1974 by attorney James St. Clair in United States v. Richard Nixon. Key among these arguments is that the President's Constitutional powers allow him to violate various federal laws; and no Court can prevent the President from doing so if he wishes. This argument, extended logically, means the President may interpret his powers under the Constitution in any way he wishes. This argument then means that the US Supreme Court has no authority to determine if the President's actions, or actions authorized by the President, are lawful or not. The President alone makes the call.

In practice, this means for example, that the President could refuse to obey or enforce any and all laws passed by the Congress. That a President could veto a bill just by refusing to compel the Executive Branch from enforcing and carrying it out. That a President could order Executive Branch employees to carry out directives that are in violation of federal law.

After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision against President Nixon in 1974, many feared Nixon would ignore the Supreme Court's decision and precipitate a Constitutional crisis. Accounts indicate that Nixon considered doing this, but events quickly overtook him. Three days after the Court's decision, the US House of Representatives voted to impeach Nixon for obstructing justice. Only after a personal visit by Republican Senators to Nixon, who told him there were insufficient votes in the Senate or House to block the impeachment, did Nixon reconsider this course of action. Instead of defying the US Supreme Court, Nixon resigned the Presidency on August 8, 1974.


The details of United States v. Nixon are important today because President Bush and his Administration are now testing the same legal waters as Richard Nixon in 1974. The modus is simple. The President may interpret the laws he is sworn to uphold in any way he sees fit. The Constitution vests in the Executive Branch the responsibility to enforce laws. The Judiciary exists to interpret laws. Congress exists to write and amend laws. All three branches are required to obey all of the laws. The Judiciary cannot write or enforce laws. It cannot prosecute people for breaking laws. The Judiciary can only hear cases which are brought before it. The Judiciary cannot bring up its own cases, even if it believes they should be brought up. So long as no one challenges the refusal of the Executive Branch to obey or enforce a law, the Judiciary is powerless to review or hear it.

If for example, a prisoner at Guantanomo Bay, is refused the physical ability to file a writ of habeus corpus to a US Court, no US Court can respond to the prisoner's plea. If for example, a person captured by the US is being held in a foreign country in secret, and not allowed any contact with family or an attorney, that person is unable to ask a US Court to review whether he is being held lawfully or unlawfully. If an American citizen living in the US is not aware they are being spied on by the US government, that their mail and phone calls are being intercepted, and the entire spying program itself is secret, that person has no way to ask a US Court to determine if the spying activities on them are lawful under the US Constitution. And a US Court has no way of potentially assisting them.

The US system of tripartite government, of checks and balances between the Congress, Judiciary and President, is very durable because it was carefully designed to prevent any one branch from lording over the others. The weak link in this structure is the Executive Branch, which is specifically charged with law enforcement and militarily protecting the United States. What happens if the Executive Branch exercises its powers to preserve itself -- not the United States? What happens if the Executive Branch exercises these powers to undermine the Constitutional powers designated to the Judiciary and Congress? Who decides?

These are the questions US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall asked attorney James St. Clair on July 8, 1974. Thurgood Marshall asked, in essence, if the President does not recognize our Constitutional authority then why is the President now before us?

The Bush Administration has taken up St. Clair's argument. There are certain circumstances, which only the President is allowed to define, in which the President may do whatever he pleases for whatever reasons he wishes. But this time, the Bush Administration has resolved to not repeat the mistake made by President Nixon and Mr. St. Clair. If they can keep their activities out of the reach of the Courts, the Courts are rendered moot.

There is a phrase used by lawyers which states, "the exception swallows the rule." In its simplest sense, this expression means that if one admits a sufficiently large and broad enough set of exceptions to a rule or law, the rule or law ceases to exist for practical purposes. The law might still exist on paper, but it can never be used or enforced in the real world. A fundamental concept of laws is that they are enacted to operate in the real world -- not to just sit nobly, prettily and ineffectually on a piece of parchment or paper. All Soviet Bloc Communist governments in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s had long, nobly worded constitutions which guaranteed various freedoms and rights to their citizens -- they just weren't enforced. But they existed on paper for whenever the appointed leaders wanted to cite them as proof that theirs was a just, fair and free society. After all, the leaders said, it's all written right there on paper. In large, flowing letters.

The current Administration, like the Nixon Administration and others prior, wishes to create for the President an exception to the US Constitution which swallows the rule, ie. the Constitution itself.

All you fascists bound to lose ...
All you fascists bound to lose ...
You're bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose.

-- Woody Guthrie

Friday, September 01, 2006

Clueless in Crawford

GWB speech 8/31/06 -- BBC News Service.

"The war we fight today is more than a military conflict," Mr Bush said. "It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st Century."

He said those who brought down the World Trade Center in New York five years ago were united with car bombers in Baghdad, Hezbollah militants who shot rockets into Israel, and terrorists who had recently attempted to bring down flights between Britain and the US.

"Despite their differences, these groups form the outline of a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology," he said.

"And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam."


Sorry Mr. President. The one Islamic society which best fits your definition of being totalitarian and in opposition to a free society is Saudi Arabia. Its hereditary, authoritatian, theocratic ruling family are longtime personal friends of your family.

Iran has elections and its citizens vote to elect a President. Saudi Arabia does not. Saudi Arabia is a hereditary monarchy and intends to stay that way. A profile of Saudi Arabia prepared by the U.S. Library of Congress states in part:

Political System: Saudi Arabia essentially operates as a near-absolute monarchy. It has no national legislative body, political parties, or democratic elections. The king does not have unfettered power, however. The Basic Law, which was introduced in 1993, articulates the government’s rights and regulations and sets forth the civil rights, system of government, and administrative divisions by which the state is run. Foremost, the Basic Law mandates that Islamic Law come before all other considerations. The Koran and sunna (Islamic custom and practice based on Muhammad’s words and deeds) are the state’s constitution, and both the government and the society as a whole dismiss the notion that separation should exist between
church and state. The king must not only respect Islamic Law and tradition but also build consensus among members of the royal family and religious leaders (the ulama). The king can be removed if a majority of the royal family calls for his ouster. When a king dies, the royal family and ulama choose the new king.

"Religion: Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia, and the country's legal code and constitution are based on Islamic law. Largely distinguishing Saudi Arabia from its neighbors, 95 percent of Saudis follow the Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam. Five percent, based mostly in the eastern portion of the country, are Shia Muslims. Public worship of other religions is prohibited by law, and is regulated and punished by the state's Committees for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (mutawwiin). Proselytizing by non-Muslims and by non-Sunni Muslims is strictly prohibited. Conversion from Wahhabi Islam to another religion is a crime. The government controls all mosques and is the direct employer of imams. It also operates centers designed to facilitate the conversion of foreigners to Islam. Non-Sunni Muslims are largely eliminated from consideration for government employment and educational opportunities."

(see entire profile at:

The President's self-described "Freedom Agenda" for the Middle East conspicuously omits reference to the above facts about Saudi Arabia. It would not be far from literal truth to say that a key strategic goal of the President's "Freedom Agenda" in the Middle East is to protect and maintain the totalitarian, theocratic character of Saudi Arabia. A "Freedom Agenda" which has one of its goals to protect the least free and most totalitarian nation in the Middle East is not a freedom agenda -- it is a US oil security agenda.


The President's comment that "[This] is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st Century" is so sweeping it demands a proportionally sweeping amount of evidence, especially because 94 percent of the 21st century has yet to occur. How is this different than saying in 2006 that the 21st century will be the rainiest century?

Clearly Bush's speechwriters would like to equate (insert whatever) with the Cold War and communism. Countries falling one by one like dominoes and all that. But the facts don't fit the model. Bush can't even define the threat. On one hand he cites totalitarianism. Well, Iran has an elected government and an elected president. Saudi Arabia does not. In Bush's view the elected government of Iran is part of the Axis of Evil. In Bush's view the totalitarian, theocratic monarchy of Saudi Arabia is a trusted, friendly ally. So this is really about certain countries and certain leaders of those countries and not about a broad ideology which has as its goal the extinction of citizens' rights and the right of countries to have representative democracies.

Therefore, there is no "decisive ideological struggle."

What about a "twisted view of Islam"? Again, Saudi Arabia is the most non-democratic, conservative, die-hard Islamic theocracy on the planet. According to the Library of Congress, Saudi Arabia forbids all non Muslim citizens and all Muslims except Sunni Muslims from "consideration for government employment and educational opportunities."

Yet Saudi Arabia is the key ally and friend of the US in this "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."

It would be a lot easier to swallow a claim that the US is engaged in the "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century" if the President could actually define it.