Saturday, November 13, 2004

Judging the Judge

Many have expounded upon and much has been written, spoken, or set out upon the ether regarding the “living” vs. “original” Constitution. Few would argue that this document is not a marvelous and enduring piece of work, however much it currently may or may not be seen and used in an originalist sense. What seems little discussed is the distinction that should be made between the enduring characteristics of human behavior and the technological transformations that have catapulted the lives of even ordinary humans into realms never imagined in the days of our Founding Fathers.

For them transportation and communication moved at the same speed. What now appears to us as simultaneous was then sometimes separated by a matter of months. I am inclined to believe that our speed of transport would for them be easier to comprehend than the instanteousness of our communications. Even in their day humans had imagined flight but none ever spoke of moving thought at the speed of light. That dimension was from them hidden as others may be from us.

I agree with Mr. Napolitano that many engaged in the construct, enforcement and interpretation of the law have with little compunction or consequence chosen to ignore the Constitution and the rights thereby granted to the citizens of this fair land. But I seem to be getting the impression that the Judge would prefer that we all be strict constructionist. If now we still had only human foible, fallibility, greed, cruelty and ambition to consider I would concur. But we now have a much amplified capacity for misdeed to consider should we attempt a major revision of the Constitution. What’s interesting is that there is little if any of what the authors of the Constitution considered that we could, without peril, ignore. But we would be forced to incorporate into this “modernized” version how technology has manifoldly amplified our capacity to reek havoc upon ourselves and others.

We must therefore grant to ourselves access and use of the same means available to those who would criminally corrupt or destroy our society. I find it unlikely that a return, if we were ever there in the first place, to Constitutionally correct practices at all levels of our crime-combating and punishment-imposing institutions is either possible or even desirable. Surely some adjustments must be included in the rewrite. The question would be how to do it without entirely subverting the original intent. I am not wise nor erudite enough to offer suggestions.

But as we all know there is no free lunch. There is a price to pay for progress. We may be free from hunger, disease and pestilence but we are more interdependent and beholdin’ to others than our forefathers could have imagined possible. There are no more cowboys or mountain men unless they are practicing hermits. (I must here insert that I haven’t given much thought to the Amish and how shunning modern creature comforts may preserve their human dignity and integrity – wonder if bin Laden has exempted them from his Doomsday list.)

Would help to have some wise men and wise women to lead and assist with a modernization of the Constitution. Would we even recognize them if we saw them? I’ll let you know if I would like to nominate Mr. Napolitano.

Judging the Constitution

Visually, Andrew “The Judge” Napolitano is most notable for his advancing hair line. This frequent commentator on the Fox News cable channel has a new book out, his first, titled “Constitutional Chaos.” I’m several dozen pages into the copy I bought yesterday. It’s not that the book is slow reading, on the contrary, but the subject matter at times forces me to stop to catch my breath. With this book Mr. Napolitano has rendered starkly clear what for me had previously been inchoate perceptions regarding the non-constitutionality of many law enforcement and jurisprudential activities.

While the evidence at times may seem only anecdotal, the anecdotes are in many cases Supreme Court decisions that basically shred the Constitution. So much for trusting our robed guardians, the venerable Supremes. Their supposed wisdom often proves no more than a cruel joke when it comes to protecting and preserving even those rights that are constitutionally explicit.

“Breaking the law” to enforce it is the subject of part one. The Judge repeatedly drives home the hypocrisy and injustice of law enforcement agents at all levels of the system having little or no compunction about lying to convict those who, in some cases, they even know to be innocent - as was the man who spent thirty years in the clink for a mob hit that nearly all those prosecutorially involved knew he didn’t commit, including FBI agents who were busy protecting a known criminal.

America and the world were shocked, shocked I say, at the Abu Ghraib prison abuses portrayed as evidence of America’s barbarity. But once I learned about Janet Reno’s torture - literally torture - of a Dade county prisoner in an effort to “persuade” her to point an accusing finger at a man with whom Reno was obsessed to convict as a child abuser, well, I was convinced that we need the Red Cross and U.N. to start visiting our American prisons. Those pesky Iraqis and military types have nothing on our domestic incarcerators. No, indeed.

I will take my time finishing this book and will report on more of its very disturbing but enlightening contents as I go along. But the pace must be slow as when one is eating a rich food. You just cannot take too much, too quickly. I’m afraid I would be in for a severe overload and shorting-out of my psyche if I pushed ahead at too undauntedly a pace.

Constitutional Chaos” – link to Barnes & Noble (I get no take!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Mr. Kerry, help us out here!

Lest we forget.

The single most important question of Election 2004 has, of course, been answered - the result for President is in. There are, however, questions left unanswered. Some are of no consequence. Some of little. But we don’t have to think too hard or too long to conjure up one or two an answer to which would provide a bit of satisfaction. And, in the course of resolving some pre-election battle, might we not help partially bridge the chasm dividing Red from Blue? Now, as the intensity of democracy-in-conflict recedes - at least for some of us - perhaps we can settle some issue, hopefully to the satisfaction of the bulk of the American electorate, that subjected us to a nearly interminable barrage of charge and countercharge. I assume that many involved in or hammered by the quadrennial election process would greatly prefer that all that be left behind, ne’r again to raise its ugly head – or at least not during the Constitutionally mandated hiatus. But for me, at least, the issues raised by the Swift Boat Vets regarding Kerry’s Vietnam combat record, war-protesting activities, and his integrity are not quite so easily discarded upon the political trash heap.

But what can we do, say or argue that hasn’t already seen the light? I would think that every Swifty charge must have already been addressed by Kerry, his campaigning supporters, as well as by his army of sympathetic media types. But there are a few items that the still-Senator has yet to address or expose to public scrutiny. He did not permit the re-publishing of his 1971 war protest book, “The New Soldier.” He has not released the entirety of his military or medical records. He refuses to make public the full content of his war diaries that were the basis of Mr. Brinkley’s hagiographic “Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War.” Why all this cat and mouse? What’s to hide? Why can’t we be shown the whole of Kerry, warts and all? Hmm?

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is comprised of about 250 Vietnam vets who served with, around, over, or contiguously with Kerry. They are not the ones responsible for spontaneously creating out of the Ether the young Kerry’s testimony before Congress. Testimony based upon what would later be proved naught but fiction. Nor did they invent his well-documented trips to consort with our then mortal enemy. Do official records of Lieutenant Kerry’s thrown-away or not-so-thrown-away decorations automatically and incontrovertably brand his detractors as scurrilous liars? Or are they men of honor who were determined to inject some truth and reality into what at times seemed no more than through-the-looking-glass political propaganda ploys? With the campaign rhetorical fires no longer being stoked, perhaps the Honorable Mr. Kerry will seize this opportunity to restore his military record to its previously unblemished state.

Don’t hold your breath.

Monday, November 08, 2004

What Went Wrong or, as Mr. Fudd would say, “Waiwing, weeping wiberals!”

Wailing and the gnashing of capped, straightened and whitened teeth is heard throughout the land. Designer clothes are rent in despair. Saks cloth and organic ash are donned in the darkness of despair and a sense of hopelessness seldom, if ever before seen. Thousands of obits for the once-land-of-the-liberals are penned with oceans of ink or posted as rivers of electrons. All is lost. The Barbarians have burst through the gates and are about to pillage and burn the pending Great Society. A hopefully-perfect-social-construct-in-the-works -- that had been so nobly defended and advanced by the lovers of diversity, the seekers of social justice, the defenders of the Butcher of Baghdad, the justifiers of the immolators of New Yorkers and Pentagonians, and those who sympathize with the downtrodden detonators and beheaders of innocents the world over – is on the Eve of Destruction.

And why? George Walker Bush was re-elected President of these United States! Oh, my!

Here's a sample of the post-mortems, ah…post-election analyses by the aforementioned purveyors of punditry –

Peter Beinart, “What Went Wrong?”, New Republic Online –

“Our despair, on the other hand, is undiluted. American liberalism is going into a deep internal exile. This will be, at least with regard to our public institutions, Tom DeLay's America--craven toward the economically powerful and vicious toward the economically weak, contemptuous of open debate and thuggish toward an increasingly embittered world.”

Maureen Dowd, “Rove's Revenge”, New York Times –

“America has always had strains of isolationism, nativism, chauvinism, puritanism and religious fanaticism. But most of our leaders, even our devout presidents, have tried to keep these impulses under control. Not this crew. They don't call to our better angels; they summon our nasty devils.”

John Nichols, “Rove’s Race”, The Nation –

“After every imaginable revelation about the missteps, misdeeds and lies that the Bush administration used to steer the country into the Iraq misadventure, and after all the news about the quagmire it had become, America effectively said to George W. Bush: We trust you to manage the mess more than we trust John Kerry.“

Katrina vanden Heuvel, “Small but Sweet Victories”, The Nation –

“I admit that it's hard in these post-election days to maintain a sense of hope in the face of the grief, anger and outrage over the prospect of a second Bush term. But millions of us spent these last months agitating, organizing, educating and mobilizing with an intensity, cooperation and discipline rarely seen. We're not going away. I don't know about you, but everyone I've spoken with understands that this isn't the time to retreat, that their commitment is needed now more than ever and that we need to build on the energy unleashed and the structures put in place.”

David Corn, “Dark Days Ahead”, The Nation –

“There will be hard and dreadful days ahead for both the Democrats and the nation. The only good news is that the final tally--51 to 48 percent--demonstrates that there remains a great split in America. Praise that divide and prepare for the worst.“

Gaby Wood, “Those New York blues”, The Observer –

“Certainly one of the most salient ironies of this election was the discovery of how selfless most Americans are. In great swathes across the country, people who would have been economically better off under Kerry have selflessly voted for Bush. With Bush in the White House, they might lose their jobs, they might die because they can't afford health insurance, but it's worth it in order to ensure the unhappiness of others: gay people who want to get married, for example, or women who need an abortion.”

Eleanor Clift, “Nader Was Right”, Newsweek –

“Many religious people are upset that moral values are defined so narrowly around reproductive rights and sexual identity when the Bible pays far more attention to issues of poverty. A Blue State Catholic friend says the biggest immorality is that Bush took the country to war on a lie that is costing thousands of lives—American and Iraqi. He half jokes that he will retire in a few years, buy a gas station and sell $80 a barrel oil. Customers who fill up their tank will get a free Bible. ‘Bush’s presidency is like a church revival,’ he says. Maybe so, but if the Democrats want to win elections, they’ll have to figure out a way to fill up the pews.”

Wendy E. Smith, “Can we save country from its leaders?”, Seattle Post-Intelligencer –

“The next caller was a woman from Pennsylvania. She had been busting her butt for Kerry for weeks and was now in despair. She stated that she simply couldn't understand the people who had voted for Bush: "These people want to control what happens in my bedroom, in my body, but they are A-OK with us having killed 100,000 Iraqis, and mounting. I just don't get them."

That was when the bricks hit. I felt lost. I knew what I was planning to do in the case of a stolen election (civil disobedience in the service of saving our democracy). I knew what I was going to do if Kerry won (give him three days to rest and then start pounding on his door with complaints about his Middle East policies). But, I had no idea what to do now.

For months, Kerry has been conspicuously going to church all over the country and shooting ducks and geese like crazy in between -- all in an effort to convince the people in the red states that he "gets them."

It was all in vain. No amount of avian carcasses would have helped.

Half the people in this country believe in a god who forbids stem cell research but seems to have forgotten his own First Commandment.

In the other America, we believe that killing all those Iraqis (not to mention Afghanis and, indirectly, Palestinians) is not only wrong but also terribly hazardous to our own security. We have different "moral values." And we don't give a rat's ass what other people do in their bedrooms.

But we, my friends, are not in the majority.”

Praise the Lord for that!