Archive for January, 2010

Hysteria Attends Election Law Decision

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

If you’re worried that the latest Supreme Court ruling on political expenditures will make corporations the dominant force in US politics, you’re a little late. Because of peculiarities in our constitution, corporations already reign sovereign in every sphere, and this decision won’t change that.

The case involved a movie vilifying Hillary Clinton. The producers, a corporation, wanted to show it on cable TV during the 2008 election season, but federal law makes it a felony for a corporation (or labor union) to spend money advocating the election or defeat of a candidate within a specified number of days preceding an election. The film couldn’t be shown until after the 2008 election, and so the producers sued the government. Five justices of the Supreme Court agreed with the film-makers and declared the law unconstitutional, overruling a 20-year-old precedent.

Advocates of “limits” on political expenditures are grieving hysterically over this decision. Democrats in Congress (whose main concern is the accumulation of money for re-election) are deriding the ruling as an invitation to corruption, as if they weren’t already up to their necks in corporate money from financiers, insurance companies, and war profiteers of various descriptions. Political correctness seems to demand that members defend their duly enacted laws, even illegal ones, but precious few would support a measure that actually curtailed the right of rich folks–corporate or individual–to influence public policy. Not that an act of Congress would necessarily reverse the court’s decision.

Here’s the problem: the Bill of Rights. It guarantees the rights of individuals to be secure from certain kinds of intrusions on the part of the national government. We can say what we please, print what we please, associate with whomever we please, and enjoy our lives, liberties and properties subject to due process of law. We can do these things individually or in groups. A corporation is a group of individuals, as courts have found time and again. If the provision challenged in the lawsuit were allowed to stand, the opinion tells us, the following acts would all be felonies:

  • The Sierra Club runs an ad, within the crucial phase of 60 days before the general election, that exhorts the public to disapprove of a Congressman who favors logging in national forests;
  • The National Rifle Association publishes a book urging the public to vote for the challenger because the incumbent U. S. Senator supports a handgun ban;
  • The American Civil Liberties Union creates a Web site telling the public to vote for a Presidential candidate in light of that candidate’s defense of free speech.

The decision does not, as some are saying, allow corporations to pour money into political campaign treasuries, and it continues to require that political messages like the Clinton film disclose the names of the sponsors. Corporations that want to give money directly to political candidates have always been able to do so through political action committees, and this ruling doesn’t change that. The bribery of public officials by the “haves” at the expense of the “have-nots” will continue normally.

The court took passing notice of the obvious fact that the speech of an aggregate of people will always be louder than the speech of an individual. When a corporation (or any other association) speaks over an individual, the individual’s right to speak is curtailed. It’s an infirmity (or a strength) of our constitution, and it requires us to band together to be heard, as is our right. We also have the right to teach ourselves and our children how to resist political advertising (along with other forms of mind-control), something we’ve never even tried to do. As long as we act like livestock, we’ll be bought and sold like livestock.

Realistic legal observers like Ralph Nader understand that we need to amend our constitution if we want to rein in the corporate state and reverse this decision. Constitutional freedoms should be reserved for those who bear legal and moral responsibility for their acts and obligations–the people–and curtailed for those that accumulate vast treasuries to exploit and oppress without personal accountability. A constitutional amendment might even provide for capital punishment of felonious conduct, requiring the confiscation or dissolution and liquidation of organizations whose misdeeds cause widespread human suffering.

Don’t be conned when Barack Obama and NPR tell you that we have to keep the current system afloat at all costs. If these sophists have their way, your meager allotment of legal rights will be degraded further, consolidating the power of the tiny minority that owns this system. A class war is under way, the people are losing, and the laws are powerless to help. Only a mass movement to radical change can restore our damaged republic.

Our “War” is Murder

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The organized acts of violence committed by the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan do not constitute a war. The accepted definition of war is armed conflict between or among states or nations. The armed conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan involves a military alliance of nations, on one side, and, on the other, an unknown number of armed individuals acting on behalf of no nation, and neither sanctioned nor sponsored by any nation.

Most of these individuals are ordinary people who have taken up arms against soldiers they see as invaders. Many are members of local militias, some pressed into service at gunpoint, and some are common criminals. The application of US armed force to restrain, capture or kill such individuals may look like war, involving, as it does, the destruction of life and property, but it fits no commonly understood definition of war, as we accept that term to justify killing. If the killing is not war and has been executed without due process of law, it cannot be justified, and it is unlawful.

In our government of laws, war is a legal term. Article One of the Constitution is clear. Congress has the authority to declare war. If there is no declaration, there is no war. Ours is a government of enumerated powers, and under such government, a common solder or a president who kills without a declaration of war is killing without legal justification. The fact that the judiciary has so far declined to intervene to curb instances of illegal killing by US forces is more a reflection of the cowardice of lawyers and judges than the state of the law. The Constitution remains the supreme law of the land, and the Constitution requires a congressional declaration for killing to be justified as warfare. The killing in Afghanistan by our armed forces is murder.

The basis for the US and NATO mobilization was a tissue of lies. There is no evidence that anyone in Afghanistan or Pakistan, certainly not any of those killed or made homeless by our bullets and missiles, had any hand whatsoever in the events of September 11, 2001, and there is no evidence—none—t hat there is an imminent threat to us from that part of the world. The men who are alleged to have hijacked the crashed airplanes were Arabs, not Afghans, and most of their training and preparation was undertaken, not in Afghanistan, but in Florida. Retribution against Afghanistan proceeded without due process of law and without reasoned debate. There never was and there is not now a risk to us from Afghanistan sufficient to justify violent armed force, the occupation of cities by our soldiers, the assassination of individuals, the installment of warlords in government posts, and the payment of bribes and blood money. If the actions undertaken by our armed forces in Afghanistan were committed against people in the USA, they would certainly be crimes. They are no less criminal for having been committed against dark-skinned, illiterate foreigners.

The conflict in Afghanistan is a racket. It fits the criteria of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and the organizers of the effort would certainly be prosecuted under RICO if they were not US government officials. The crimes committed by our officials are patent—torture, murder, bribery, extortion, obstruction of justice—and, like most criminal enterprises, this one’s been a money-maker, for government officials and for their patrons and contractors. Some of the crimes have been altogether public—the fabrication of a coverup of Pat Tillman’s murder, for example—but most lie buried in shallow graves. That the generals and civilian authorities have used the cloak of military protocol to hide their crimes would, in a government of laws, be deemed to compound their culpability.

All law, even the rule of law itself, is undermined by government illegality. If the US government can kill without legal authority, so can any gang, any mob, any self-appointed posse or militia. Decent, loyal, law-abiding Americans would be well advised to repudiate—with extreme prejudice—the criminals that govern this nation before it collapses around us.

Who’s the Enemy?

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The Jordanian physician who blew himself to smithereens while meeting with a team of US intelligence agents in Afghanistan probably thought he was doing a good thing. As best we can determine, the dead agents were engaged in selecting targets for unmanned bombers in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, attacks that would certainly kill many innocent people, as such attacks have done time and time again. The tactic itself would be reckoned cowardly by just about anyone, since it evaporates so many noncombatants. Its victims are people who might well have survived a conventional military engagement, in which soldiers shoot at other soldiers, always trying to avoid hurting innocents. They die because we have superior technology that removes the soldier and his conscience from the field of battle, valor being the first casualty of this updated, US-brand of warfare. Unless you’re one of us, it’s got to be hard to take our side.

I’m one of us–I wore a uniform every day for four years–but when I try to put myself in the shoes of those intelligence agents, I can’t seem to manage it. In my book, their job was a war crime, and that must have taken a toll on them, too. There are videos on YouTube of people being killed by American remote-controllers, and they are chilling, stomach-turning. Being at the controls has to leave permanent scars on any normal person, and choosing targets for this sort of mayhem seems a prescription for suicide. Unless the Air Force and CIA are recruiting psychos for this campaign, they’re destroying the attackers as certainly as they’re blowing up hapless Afghans and Pakistanis.

The commander-in-chief who orders these remote-controlled raids gave two speeches in which he tried to justify the attacks–one, ironically, as he accepted the Nobel “Peace Prize.” His rationale was all but unintelligible. He babbled about amorphous dangers threatening the USA from remote parts, as if these unmanned bombing raids could possibly reduce them in any conceivable way. Fortunately for the commander-in-chief, the embedded mass media have decided not to discuss these attacks at all except to say that they are killing some bad guys. The deaths of innocents–a few foreign news services have published pictures of the little coffins with dead children in them–are covered not at all in our media.

The Jordanian may have hoped that his act would get our attention, maybe expose just what we’re doing that pissed him off so thoroughly. A vain hope, given the state of our media. Even so, the bomber probably saw his martyrdom as a win-win proposition. Unlike the Detroit underpants bomber, he would be killing people who were actually guilty of something, and he might also save some lives if he could slow down or put a stop to the aerial attacks, even temporarily. Wouldn’t it be ironic if his act led to retaliation that led to the expulsion of the foreign occupiers that led to peace for our soldiers and possible redemption for us? The suicide bomber that saved America. One brave, lethal Arab.