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This week’s news: many stories showing that the Constitution is dead

8 December 2010

Summary:  The last few weeks have produced news confirming that the Constitution is dead, the still heart of the Republic.  Realistic planning for reform must start with that grim fact or remain pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

From the mailbag:

“There is only one peaceful solution to our great crisis, form a third party, a Constitution Party, and expose these bastards for the frauds they are, and vote them out.”

That door closed years ago.  The US Constitution lived only in our hearts; recent events prove that it has died.  The structure of our political regime remains, but its power came from citizens committed to the responsibility of self-government.  Such people no longer command a majority in America.  That’s the great connecting theme of the stories in our daily news, as shown in the examples below.

Rebuilding will require a long effort to build public participation.  We’re where the Founders were when they formed the Committees of Correspondence in 1772.  Years of organizing lie ahead.  Somewhere in the future reformers will see ahead clearly enough to develop a strategy, then operational plans, and only then decide about tactics.

“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
— Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (lightly paraphrased)

“Telemachus, now is the time to get angry.”
— Odysseus telling his son that now is the time to deal with the Suitors (from the film The Odyssey (1997).

Current events showing the Constitution is dead

  1. Quantitative easing and the third fiscal stimulus
  2. The two minute hate against Julian Assange and Wikileaks
  3. The two minute hate against Anwar Al-awlaki
  4. The show trial of Ahmed Ghailani
  5. The sheep bleat at the security theater
  6. For more information:  comment from a reader; posts about solutions, ways to reform America

Remember, this only looks at the past few weeks.  We could easily assemble a longer list.

(1)  Quantitative easing and the third fiscal stimulus

“It’s all about power and the unassailable might of money.”
— E. P. Arnold Royalton, the great 21st century industrialist

After 18 months of recovery our leaders find that the economy needs extraordinary monetary stimulus (quantitative easing II) and a third round of fiscal stimulus (we accept the contradiction without blinking, sheep quietly accepting whatever we’re told).  The fiscal stimulus consists of a grab bag of measures, mostly ineffective but expensive tax cuts.  As the Christian Science Monitor said, “It combines the uncertainty of temporary tax law with the massive cost of never-ending tax breaks.”  And nobody in Congress or the White House calls it a stimulus program (maybe the Tea Party will not notice).

Despite promises by Obama and congressional Democrats, these disproportionately benefit the rich (see this explaining how Obama got rolled, again). Even replacing the Making Work Pay credit with reduced FICA tax is regressive; explanation here.  Some measures, like the lower estate tax rate, are just straightforward benefits to the mega-rich.  Despite the third incarnation of pay-as-you-go rules (signed into law by Obama in February 2010) and the Republican’s promises during the election to reduce the government’s debt, this measure will produce another round of massive deficits.

Our combination of greed and credulity makes us easily led, allowing such bills to pass.  Our leaders understand and exploit our unwillingness to pay for the services we demand from the government (for more about this see here, here, and here.  For the origin of this political weakness see here).

This grand compromise on a third round of stimulus does serve a valuable public purpose:  its shows us who controls both political parties, who have turned the government into an engine concentrating income at wealth at the top — weakening the foundation of our social and political systems.

(2)  The two minute hate against Julian Assange and Wikileaks

Even sheep occasionally need to blow off their accumulated frustration.  So we have orchestrated campaigns of lies against enemies of the State, like Wikileaks.  Such as fictional assertions that its leaks (the last set carefully vetted prior to release) have gotten people killed (see here), plus many more.  See Glenn Greenwald’s columns here and here for details; note that he shows the views of many journalists are identical to those of the government officials they serve.

The Wikileaks phenomenon may be our generation’s equivalent of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, whose main effect was helping Ronald Reagan become Governor of California.  The government’s response to Wikileaks probably will be

  • passing some form of the UK’s Official Secrets Act,
  • legitimation of discretionary extra-legal government action against those it dislikes (here and here) — without bothering with warrants or legal charges, and
  • intimidating many people who might oppose government actions.

(3)  The two minute hate against Anwar al-Awlaki

Bin Laden being MIA and al Qaeda exposed as little but a shadow, someone must replace him as the visible face of the enemy.  There must always be an Emmanuel Goldstein to hate.  While a self-admitted enemy of America, al-Awlaki requires considerable propaganda padding to fit the role.  The news media, servants of the government, do their best to publicize the government assertions about him.

While the military and intelligence agencies cannot do much about actual rivals (e.g., China) and threats (e.g., North Korea, the Taliban), they work well against us (see section 2 here).  Hence the government’s announcement that they’re attempting to assassinate Anwar al-Alaki.  The lawsuit filed by his father (with the ACLU’s assistance) was rejected by Judge John Bates on technical grounds (his father’s standing to file), but with pages of kowtowing to the power of the Executive (pp 63-83).  The Courts prefer to settle commercial disputes, judge criminal cases, referee intra-government spats, and decide about the proper places and circumstances for a guy to use his dick.  But they wash their hands when it comes to interfering in the assassination of citizens (and by inference any extra-legal use of the military and intelligence agencies against them).

For a summary of this amazing case see this article by the ACLU.   Please read the opinion here, especially note this (p.78):

“To be sure, this Court recognizes the somewhat unsettling nature of its conclusion — that there are circumstances in which the Executive’s unilateral decision to kill a U.S. citizen overseas is “constitutionally committed to the political branches” and judicially unreviewable.”

When our children build a tomb to hold the Constitution, this can be its epitaph.

(4)  The show trial of Ahmed Ghailani

After six years in prison, including two at a CIA black site, Ghailani gets his day in court.  But it didn’t matter, because here again we have a judge who doesn’t give a damn about the Constitution, but instead serves the government.  He openly admits it in his decision:

“Moreover … his status as an “enemy combatant” probably would permit his detention as something akin to a prisoner of war until hostilities between the United States and Al Qaeda and the Taliban end even if he were found not guilty in this case.”

It’s not clear that the al Qaeda still exists in any substantial form, let alone as a threat (having spawned countless imitators that might continue for generations).  And when the war in Afghanistan eventually winds down, the Pentagon plans to have new wars.  Yemen, the Philippines, etc.  For more about this case see Glenn Greenwald’s article here.

(5)  The sheep bleat at the security theater

It’s natural and healthy for sheep to bleat as they’re herded into the pens.  Similarly the government allows a certain amount of faux protest about the Transportation Safety Administration’s performances of security theater (although they can levy large fines, when they feel the need).  Our passive response to even outrageous incidents (e.g., the breast milk incident) shows the need for more intrusive and inconvenient measures.  The slow and steady pressure of arbitrary police search and seizure will tame people far feistier than Americans.

From superpower to butt of jokes in two generations!  The New York Times provides videos of our daily humiliation:  “America’s Funniest Airport Screening Videos.”   Laughter can cover shame, or pretend to.

(6a)  Update:  Comment from a reader

I would like to support your idea about organizing Committees of Correspondence, but I fear that we aren’t really up to the stage of 1772. I’d say we’re more looking at 1765 or so.  We know something is wrong and our efforts to legally address the issue are being thrown out without consideration, but we haven’t gotten around to fully recognizing the undeclared break between the governed and the government.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the advantage of being 3,000 miles away from the government, the state of surveillance technology has improved considerably, and the media is in bed with the government. This isn’t going to be as easy as last time.

(6b)  Posts about solutions — ways to reform America

  1. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
  2. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
  3. Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
  4. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
  5. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
  6. Are the new “tea party” protests a grass roots rebellion or agitprop?, 1 March 2009
  7. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
  8. The first step on the road to America’s reform, 29 May 2009
  9. Correction to my previous posts – not all citizen activism is good…, 16 October 2009
  10. The first step to reforming America (the final version), 7 December 2009
  11. Light the fireworks – the campaign starts today!, 9 March 2010
  12. Question of the Day, about reforming America, 12 March 2010
  13. The project to reform America: a matter for science, or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
  14. The Tea Party Movement disproves my recommendation for the path to reforming America, 20 April 2010
  15. About the Oath Keepers: boon or bane for the Republic?, 12 June 2010
  16. Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
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