Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

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Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Senate Judiciary Committee

Attorney General Gonzales testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings investigation of Bush's claim that the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda provided Bush with the power to bypass restrictions of the domestic surveillance imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Conservative Republican Lindsey Graham said: "I'll be the first to say, when I voted for it, I never envisioned that I was giving to this president or any other president the ability to go around FISA carte blanche."

Regarding the argument that Bush has the power under the Constitution to authorize the warrantless wiretapping, Senator Graham stated: “Such a view would undermine the principle of checks and balances. Taken to its logical conclusion, it could basically neuter the Congress and weaken the courts. When the nation's at war, I would argue you need checks and balances more than ever."

Under questioning by Democrat Joseph Biden it became clear that Bush's domestic spy program isn’t contributing anything to protecting Americans from al Qaeda type terrorism. Senator Biden asked whether the program had achieved any results. Attorney General Gonzales claimed, it had helped identify would-be terrorists here in the United States. Biden asked: "Have we arrested those people we've identified as terrorists in the United States?" Gonzales replied: "When we can use our law enforcement tools to go after the bad guys, we do that." Senator Biden concluded: “It kind of worries me because you all talk about how you identify these people, and I've not heard anything about anybody being arrested."

The reason Gonzales was reluctance to discuss the achievements of Bush's domestic spying program was revealed on the front page of The Washington Post. The articles stated: "Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use."

Republican members of Congress accept being neutered, in order to continue to receive reelection support from a culture of corruption.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Definition of tyranny

Unable to convince Congress to give him the power he wanted, Bush secretly initiated illegal eavesdropping, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother.

Democrats and Republicans alike fear our Constitution is in grave danger by the actions of the Bush regime to expand executive power. Bush had approved eavesdropping on many American citizens and declared that he has the unilateral right to continue disregarding established law. Congress had specifically enacted laws to prevent such abuses.  Respect for the rule of law must be restored, and we had hoped that Congress would put aside partisan differences and demand the Constitution be preserved. 

While this spying was still secret, Bush went out of his way to reassure the American people that constitutional safeguards were still in place. After the domestic spying program was uncovered, Bush not only confirmed that the story was true, but declared that he has no intention of ending the eavesdropping.

A president that breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.  Our Founding Fathers were convinced that they had established a government of laws and not men.  They structured a form of government, which provided a system of checks and balances specifically designed for the purpose of ensuring that our nation would be governed by the rule of law.  

Congress has failed to honor their oath of office and defend the Constitution. Under its current leadership, Congress is operating as if it is entirely subservient to the executive branch of government, and has failed to function as a coequal, separate and independent branch of government.

In the words of James Madison, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many... self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Executive

The rule of law controls power. Any government given unlimited power will abuse it, and that includes our government. Bush’s disrespect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights is deeply troubling to of Americans in both political parties. Most recently, we learned that he had approved eavesdropping on citizens and claims a unilateral right to continue without regard for established law.

In the name of protecting our nation, Bush has assumed the power to imprison any American citizen that he determines to be a threat. Since, he can’t go to a court with information gathered by an illegal wire tap, he declares the citizen an enemy combatant and sends him to a military brig. This has been done without an arrest warrant, without notifying them of the charges filed against them, without a lawyer and without informing their families.

Furthermore, Bush maintains that he has the authority to have individuals kidnapped in foreign countries and have them deliver for imprisonment and interrogation to regimes that are infamous for cruel torture techniques. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture. If Bush has authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens, kidnap and torture, then what can’t he do? 

Normal safeguards to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power have failed. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Bush regime has followed a determined strategy of withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so, which frustrates the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore a constitutional balance.

Bush’s unprecedented assertion of unilateral power has put our civil liberties at risk.  The risk to our country’s representative democracy is far greater than acknowledged by most politicians. These claims of unilateral authority of the executive branch of government is a step toward totalitarianism and must be corrected immediately.

Legislative

Al Gore finds the decline of congressional autonomy in recent years shocking. He believes that Congress under its current leadership is operating as an obedient, docile and compliant accessory to the executive branch of government.

Authorization committees lack stature, because annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed. Everything is lumped into a single giant measure that is not even available for members of Congress to read before they vote on it.  Members of the Democratic party are excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely not allowed during floor consideration of legislation.

Our Senate used to pride itself on being the greatest deliberative body in the world. Under, the current congressional leadership meaningful debate in the Senate is a rarity. On the eve of the vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd asked: “Why is this chamber empty?” Congress abdicated its constitutional responsibility to decide whether our nation would go to war, by authorizing Bush to use force against Iraq.

Incumbents believe that the key to continued access to the money for reelection is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give. In the case of the Republican party, the whole process is mostly controlled by Bush and his political organization.  Consequently, Republican members of Congress are unlikely to challenge Bush. 

The role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the diminished role for reasoned debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to institutionalized corruption. The “Duke” Cunningham and Jack Abramoff scandals are the tip of an iceberg, which threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government. 

Members of Congress should start to uphold their oath of office and defend the Constitution, and conduct themselves as the independent and coequal branch of government their are supposed to be.

Judiciary

Unchecked power will inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses.  In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes and dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.  The Bush regime has sought to cover up the mistakes it has already made by proposing that it be given more power.

The judicial branch should serve as the constitutional arbitrator to ensure that the executive branch of government observed civil liberties and adhered to the rule of law.  Unfortunately, this administration has thwarted the judiciary, by keeping controversies out of its hands.

Bush’s decision to ignore Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court.  Congress established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap.  To ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, Bush did not take request for wiretaps to it and did not let the court know that it was being bypassed.

Bush has unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal. The Supreme Court disagreed, but the executive branch engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing meaningful content to the rights of its citizens. 

The President’s judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure that the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power.  Both Chief Justice Roberts and Judge Alito are longtime supporter of a powerful executive, and will assist Bush in circumventing the judicial and legislative branches of government.

The Bush regime has supported the assault on an independent judiciary by the Republican majority in the Senate. The Senate Republicans have threatened “ the nuclear option”, which would permanently change the Senate rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President’s judicial nominees.