Thursday, March 05, 2009

Yoo-thanizing Our Constitution
[The blog is crossposted at Blue Commonwealth.]

In an otherwise excellent post, as are most of his, Cvillelaw at Blue Commonwealth, says that the revoking of the Yoo Memos on January 15, 2009, was a triumph for the law. Here's the quote:
These memos have all been repudiated by OLC, and any doubt about their validity was removed when, on January 15, 2009, the OLC issued a new memo making clear that the logic contained in all of them had been abandoned. That is a belated triumph for the rule of law and for principled legal reasoning.

I respectfully disagree. There is no triumph of law here. This is the most sordid lawless period in US history. Worse, I think the Jan 15 exercise had more to do with "cya" than with the law. But there is much more to say. Over at Harpers Magazine, Scott Horton wrote:
We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.

But many of us did realize it. And we protested loudly. And as we warned others, we were demonized, even defamed, by watercarriers for the very ones who brought down the Constitution. We were told to "watch what you say." We were called "unpatriotic." We were harassed and shouted at by apologists for the authoritarians.

We hesitate to say, "I told you so." But we will say it nonetheless. It was an beginning of dictatorship. Of course, some of it was a figment of the imagination of a supposed scholar of the law, who'd do or say anything expected of him. But with a overly compliant populace and a willing military, that wouldn't matter. Rather than build national policies based on Constitutional law, the last administration justified itself based upon sophomoric "interpretations" of law by a worse-than-sophomoric in-house lawyer, who shamed his profession and our country. The legal "mind" sold out his country for ideology and ambition.

The situation was far more grave than many realize. Most knew there was torture, extraordinary rendition, and spying on Americans. But we may not have fully realized that we were not safe in our homes. From the Yoo memos, we now learn they perceived, or rather claimed, the right to attack domestic targets at will, to essentially do anything they wanted to instill tyranny. The Posse Comitatus Act and the First, and Fourth Amendments were dispensed with with the stroke of a memo. All that was missing was a big event to "justify it." We were saved by good luck. As Horton says:
Clearly such unlawful surveillance occurred. But the language of the memos suggest that much more was afoot, including the deployment of military units and military police powers on American soil. These memos suggest that John Yoo found a way to treat the Posse Comitatus Act as suspended.

Until the Republican Party purges itself of its authoritarian wing, we dare not entrust this county's leadership to it again. If the Democratic leadership does not take measures to hold those responsible accountable, Constitutional undoing could and likely would happen again. It will happen as surely as the hate radio talking heads spew their venomous rants, even now stirring up hate and repression.

It is our duty to push back against their sludge; their repressive inclinations; and their immoral appropriation of the rights, property, and even the lives of the majority of Americans. They had plans for anyone not seeing the world as they did--round them up and make them fodder for the prison-for-profit prison industrial complex. (They think we don't have enough in prison when the US imprisons 25% of those incarcerated around the world). We have 5% of the world's population. By any definition, we have a problem.

It was the one-two punch of Shock Doctrine: First, use catastrophe to impose a police state and, Second, confiscate the infrastructure and accumulated wealth of the 95% of Americans for the betterment of the 5%. Privatize everything in sight, even water systems (in some locales it's already too late). They were working on eliminating our safety net, the Social Security surplus, and everything else that wasn't nailed down. Those not incarcerated would be turned into minimum wage drones. That part is well underway. Make people work two, three even four jobs to make ends meet. And when they are sick, well -too bad. This version of America was rejected on Nov. 4 2008.

For the most part, Barack Obama is moving in a completely new and honorable direction. He is a good man. But there are warnings that we must be vigilant. Our president is under much pressure to feed the Shock Doctriners. There is no effort yet to stop the prisons in the desert, the concentration camps for immigrants, or prisons for profit. Rendition endures. The vestiges of infrastructure for spying on Americans remains in place. The wolves are howling for our infrastructure. Even the brother of the White House Chief of Staff seeks to shut off Medicare to new subscribers. The harbingers of the Shock Doctrine economic policy remain in place. We get to be grateful that Timothy Geitner at least blamed Bush for most of the current problems. And, of course, we'll still be stuck with Larry Summers. Those who are even worse have flooded the airwaves with their "free market" mythology (otherwise known as socialism for the wealthy and "free" enterprise for everyone else. Chris Matthew's inflammatory question, "Are we all socialists now?" misses the point. The government and corporate America are already deeply intertwined to the benefit of corporations, not citizens-at-large.

Every day Barack Obama does something to better what Bush left him. The question is can he work fast enough? Will Americans give him the support he needs to protect their interests? Town Halls will begin across America. Tell the President we'll back him up. But we need him to back us up. Tell him he has the support for single payer. Tell him he has the support to stand up against Max Baucus and Evan Bayh, who'd salve the rich on tax policy, but tell the rest of us --essentially, not literally--to go to hell. Remind him that the harbingers of Shock Doctrine lost Nov 4th and we want change, lots more of it.