S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Trust in the rule of law - U.S. "coin of the realm"

Citizens' trust in their government is not very easily broken. Our parents were taught, and believed that their government was bound by laws and practice. To turn to a cliche, the rule of law is the glue that holds us together, our coin of the realm. But blind trust in the government is becoming increasingly rare. It began to erode in the 1970's when President Nixon resigned in disgrace, and it has again slipped again since the turn of this century.

"Trust" (title-linked above) , a post by mcjoan, a DailyKos blogger, consists of a lengthy quote from a recent NYT editorial. With cogent observations about domestic spying, prison camps, and the war in Iraq, the editorial captures how widespread the current administration's lawlessness has become.

Trust but verify: Last winter Senator McCain sponsored an amendment that outlaws torture of detainees in the so-called war on terror. But apparently it is being ignored. A United Nations report concludes that the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay amounts to torture. According to this LA Times (2-13-06) story by Maggie Farley,
A draft United Nations report on the detainees at Guantanamo Bay concludes that the U.S. treatment of them violates their rights to physical and mental health and, in some cases, constitutes torture. It also urges the United States to close the military prison in Cuba and bring the captives to trial on U.S. territory, charging that Washington's justification for the continued detention is a distortion of international law.
The report, compiled by five U.N. envoys who interviewed former prisoners, detainees' lawyers and families, and U.S. officials, is the product of an 18-month investigation ordered by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The team did not have access to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Nonetheless, its findings — notably a conclusion that the violent force-feeding of hunger strikers, incidents of excessive violence used in transporting prisoners and combinations of interrogation techniques "must be assessed as amounting to torture" — are likely to stoke U.S. and international criticism of the prison.
Trust in the U.S. intelligence community is essential. But one of its components appears to operate with impunity under the law. Our current president says, "Trust us on this; it is lawful." Advertising that is protecting us - through its name - the National Security Agency is conducting "The War on Privacy" says Nat Hentoff. Writing for the Village Voice, his February 12, 2006 domestic surveillance story begins with this ironic headline:
Rumsfeld warns that the enemy can succeed in changing our way of life. It already has.
"There was, of course, no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. . . . But at any rate they would plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinized." George OrwellHentoff writes "One morning, in his Supreme Court chambers, Justice William Brennan was giving me a lesson on the American Revolution. "A main precipitating cause of our revolution," he said, "was the general search warrant that British customs officers wrote—without going to any court—to break into the American colonists' homes and offices, looking for contraband." Everything, including the colonists, was turned upside down. "
Trust that no man is above the law. Obeying the law and following norms are not behaviors with which Vice President Cheney is always in concert. Sometimes he behaves as if, "This does not apply to me." A recent example of this is the chronicle of the Veep's recent shooting accident in south Texas. New information continues to come out. Washington Post authors Jim Vandehei and Sylvia Moreno provide a comprehensive narrative of what occurred. Quote,
President Bush and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove were told of the shooting Saturday night but deferred to Cheney on providing information to the public, White House aides said. In what one official described as a break with the White House practice of disclosing such high-level mishaps immediately, Cheney waited more than 14 hours after the shooting to disclose it publicly. . .
Late yesterday, he issued a statement that did not mention the shooting but acknowledged not having paid $7 for a permit that allows him to shoot upland birds; it said he is sending a check to the state. Cheney said he expects to be issued a warning by state authorities for not obtaining the permit . . .
But current and former aides said the White House rarely imposes its practices, especially on press matters, on Cheney. The vice president's office often operates autonomously in a manner that many top White House officials are reluctant to challenge . . . Cheney did not comment on his accidental shooting of a friend. . . . In this case, Cheney worked with family members and former aide Mary Matalin on how to handle the fallout of the shooting accident, said a person close to the vice president who demanded anonymity to talk about internal discussions.
Profligates spend the coin of the realm, trustworthiness: New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, lets go with both barrels today with her column, "Not Much Fun With Dysfunction."
The comprehensive headline begins, "The Bush administration has turned Iraq into
a terrorist training ground, left the 9-11 villains at large and let cronies and
losers botch the job of homeland security."
The concluding paragraph reads, "A final absurd junction of dysfunction was reached on Wednesday, when Republican party leaders awarded Tom DeLay with a seat on the appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is investigating Jack Abramoff, including his connections to Tom DeLay. Perfect."

Trusting FEMA to lawfully dispense funds should be a given. Congress appropriated billions of dollars to help the people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. And it turns out that millions have been lost in fraud and abuse.
Another administration department name is a misnomer. "Homeland Security" does not mean this huge bureaucracy avoided widespread mistakes with the hurricane victims. Neither they nor the taxpayers were made more secure in their homeland. An article on FEMA fraud by Peter Whoriskey of the WaPo documents some of what happened. To quote,
Tens of thousands of people received aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency using possibly fraudulent identities because the relief effort did not perform routine checks that might have flagged such activity, government investigators said yesterday. The extent of the fraud in the $6 billion evacuee-assistance effort has not been calculated, but it could reach hundreds of millions of dollars, investigators told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and it appears that the losses were limited only by the thieves' ingenuity.
Political capital spent, as promised in 2004: And the president is not getting a very good return on his investment. OCP's-our current president's approval numbers remain low, according to Zogby International. The Justice Department lawyers, who turned his head by promoting the all-encompassing "unitary presidency" fiction, should not get all the blame. Nor should OCP be absolved of blame for following his VEEP elder's examples of unreliability. Finally, OCP is no longer an adolescent able to get his parents to "bail him out." He is his own man now, and no man is above the law.
Tags: My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about making your mark.

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