14 January 2006

Reversal of America - The Last Chapter?

Over the past few years, I have often blogged on my observation that America is in reversal. By this I mean that the United States of America has "been extended beyond the limit of its capacity" and has reversed what were its original, fundamental principles and character. While I called it several years ago, many more are today referring to the U.S. in terms of its Stalinist-like, or Soviet-like characteristics. Were the implications not so terribly serious for the entire world, such a satire could remain well-ensconced in the realm of Jon Stewart. But sadly, this is not the case.

The current hearings into the nomination of Sam Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court is akin to the construction of the Berlin Wall in its potential repercussions, and the length of time (and potentially, circumstances) of its eventual dismantling. Am I indulging in hyperbole? Have a read of this piece at Crooks and Liars, that admonishes, "Democrats cannot meekly accept defeat on Alito":
Such a fight will give Democrats the opportunity to make clear that this President has been breaking the law because he literally believes -- and his Administration has said -- that he has the power to do so. And he is now trying to pack the judiciary with nominees who have only one thing in common: they have a history of great deference to presidential power because, like George Bush, they are believers in an unchecked Executive.

What is at stake with this nomination is whether we are going to have a country that endorses and allows George Bush’s theory that the permanent war we are fighting gives him the right to violate whatever laws he wants to violate. All indications are that Alito is at the very extreme fringe when it comes to deference to Presidential authority and power -- exactly what is most dangerous for the country right now. A country where the President can break the law and claims the power to do so is an extreme and radical situation -- at least for the United States -- but this is what Sam Alito represents and it is why he was chosen by George Bush for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
This, in my view, goes beyond partisanship - the principles at stake strike at the very heart of the U.S. Constitution, and the founding ideology of a once-great nation. If you live in the United States, I implore you to urge your representatives and senators to fight for the future of your country, and ultimately, the future of us all.
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Anonymous said...

Your analysis, while difficult to follow, seems to advance the theory that a few Democrats have been peddling that "the sky is falling".

Unfortunately, it would be a lot more convincing were it to include some form of evidence. Perhaps a ruling by Alito, something he said or did, or some modicum of reality to support your argument. Having observed what has been occurring at the hearings for Alito, it seems likely that not a shred of evidence for your position exists.

Which is why, of course, a filibuster will not occur.

Mark said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. Here in Canada, we still value the right of people to speak anonymously.

If it's evidence you want for my position that America is in reversal, how about the emergence of so-called "Free Speech Zones" (when it used to be that the entire country was a free speech zone), or the imposition of requirements for libraries to keep records of what people read, or the incarceration of people at the will of the President without access to due process of law. Or how about this one: the President declaring himself above the law with regard to not even seeking a retroactive FISA rubber-stamp for questionable wiretapping? Then, there's the entire realm of the intellectual property debacle, in which guaranteed rights under copyright are being restricted by DMCA and DRM (essentially technology and contract law being allowed to overrule constitutionally-granted copyright law). There's the entire "no-fly" list problematic, that restricts freedom of movement of citizens (and others) without recourse to a hearing. And there are moves afoot to require identification cards for travel within the country, which in the 1950s and 1960s were called "internal passports" in the USSR.

Yes, my anonymous friend, America is in reversal. The argument that the C&L piece makes is that the Supreme Court of your country is being "stacked" by people who support the philosophy of the current regime. And in fact, the entire discourse (if you could call it that) about "activist judges making law from the bench" ignores the fact that the U.S. (and Canada as well) are NOT democracies, but rather constitutional democracies, and therein lies a big difference.

Why there won't be a filibuster on the nomination is beyond me - I think many of the Democratic former leadership in the Senate have lost their nerve, and that's a shame. It's a shame because it precludes moderation, and it prevents principled Republicans from coming forward to seek bi-partisan, or even collaborative approaches. It's a shame, too, because the important issues of the day become subverted not only by partisan considerations, but by considerations of personal gain.

In calling for evidence with respect to Alito's rulings or pronouncements (by the way, wasn't he the guy who gave GWB the green light on the whole torture file?), you fall into the classic trap of focusing entirely on figure without understanding the effects of the ground or context. The ground is where the action is.

Anonymous said...

I might as well go for a rebuttal.

Nice catchphrases like "the ground is where the action is" do not make for sound arguments.

So, according to your argument, evidence regarding Alito is immaterial.

I understand the context. The context is that the Republicans are winning elections, and that is making some leftists in the country call for a subversion of the democratic process. According to their arguments, elections and due process are fine, but only as long as their side is winning. So bring on the filibuster.

Ragarding your comments on the constitution, it is the Democrat judges who have been inventing "a right to privacy" that simply does not exist. The word "privacy" or a synonym does not appear in the constitution whatsoever. Yet somehow they have declared such a right exists. These judges read into the constitution their personal beliefs whenever it is convenient. That is just the most famous example. This is also a feature of the Canadian supreme court.

The intellectually property debate is occurring in almost all western countries including Canada, while in most countries of the world, there is no enforcement of IP rights whatsoever.

The no-fly list does not restrict the movements of citizens, there are no American citizens on the list. It restricts the movements of foreigners. All countries restrict the movement of foreigners, including Canada.

Your evidence regarding Bush is flimsy. Wiretapping the conversations of terrorists? Detaining enemy combatants? This is some sort of reversal? Fighting terrorism is a prime responsibility of the executive branch of the US government.

By the way, your insinuation ("here in Canada") that I am not a Canadian is false, a perfect example of making false judgements without evidence.

Mark said...

Thanks for your rebuttal, Anonymous. Here are some direct responses to some of your comments:

Filibusters are a time-honoured tradition in the U.S. Congress where the minority party (especially if the executive branch is of the same persuastion as the majority party) can effectively force compromises to the proverbial tyranny of the majority. It's not an issue of subverting the democratic process, but rather protecting the democratic process (that in my view requires (1) active, engaged, and informed conversation; and (2) mechanisms to protect minority interests and rights).

Relative to my comments on the Constitution, I'm not talking about a so-called right to privacy, but the right of free speech, the right of free assembly, and the right not to have someone else's religious beliefs foisted on everyone via government-sanctioned or controlled institutions. All of these have been under siege over the past almost six years now, and it is getting worse.

The IP rights issue, especially in the emerging world, is in many instances the U.S. threatening trade and economic sanctions if countries do not adopt a U.S.-style protocol (that in almost all cases for emerging countries is not in that country's best interest). This is all well-documented in the many critiques of the WIPO process.

Senator Ted Kennedy is not an American citizen? He was on the no-fly list. As are thousands of American citizens whose movement throughout the continental United States by air have been restricted. The list is created, updated and maintained through a secret process, for which there is effectively no route of appeal.

Fighting terrorism is A responibility of the executive branch. I would argue that it is not the prime responsibility. Creating conditions conducive to recruiting new terrorists is not a responsibility of the executive branch, but it's been very effective at that. And not following FISA legislation on wiretapping? That's an indictable (and impeachable) offence. The point here is, the GWB administration has been acting as if it is above the law - first international law, conventions and treaties, and now domestic law. The thrust of the original post is that Supreme Court appointments of people who support this de facto view are dangerous to true democratic process, and to the world at large.