Presidential Attacks on Special Counsels: Two Reforms
53 minutes ago
There is a glimmer of hope and a touch of reality in yesterday's Supreme Court decision. Unfortunately it is the powerful 90 page dissent in this case by Justice Stevens joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Stevens recognizes the power corporations wield in our political economy. Justice Stevens finds it "absurd to think that the First Amendment prohibits legislatures from taking into account the corporate identity of a sponsor of electoral advocacy." He flatly declares that, "The Court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation."
He notes that the, Framers of our Constitution "had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind." Right he is, for the words "corporation" or "company" do not exist in our Constitution.
This being America, the U.S. Supreme Court returned fire that same Thursday with its Citizens United v. FEC decision striking down ancient laws and precedents and giving corporations their First Amendment rights to have nine fingers on the nation’s political windpipe instead of eight – which was the status quo ante which editorialists bizarrely lament as a Golden Age of electoral probity, only now destroyed by Chief Justice Roberts and his black-hat gang of judicial activists. There’s doleful talk of a “return to the era of the Robber Barons”. I thought we had Barons’ Homecoming a generation ago, though Citizens United v FEC does, even more brazenly than usual, blare the message that in America corporations rule and that the Supreme Court is their errand boy.
Let’s return to China and its oil policy. In the autumn of 2007 Professor Pang from China University of Petroleum in Beijing (CUPB) was invited to be the keynote speaker at the ASPO conference in Cork, Ireland. On the way there, he and the Chinese delegation stopped over in Uppsala for a mini-workshop. One of the items of news that he delivered was that China had adopted a new oil policy whereby they would aim to control oil production equivalent to 50% of the nation’s needs. At that time in 2007 China produced approximately 50% of its needs. However, China’s enormous economic growth required more production than it could deliver domestically so that today 50% control means they are forced to buy production rights outside of China. What we are now seeing is China consciously applying its oil policy.
The Supremes were merely recognizing an established fact: that the government of the United States is a wholly owned and operated subsidary of corporate America. Why should the plutocracy be limited in the amount of money they spend in supporting their employees? What the Supremes did was to reveal how little they cared for “original intent,” since the founders never intended to give corporations the rights of natural persons.
Wall Street is romanticized by libertarians and “free market economists.” They believe, entirely on the basis of their ideology, that Wall Street finances venture capitalists who bring economic progress and higher living standards. Wall Street does no such thing, especially since financial deregulation turned Wall Street into a speculative hedge fund.
The Masons have been a force for the good since their inception hundred of years ago, when they opposed the domination of religion and supported the ideals of the Enlightenment.
Yes, I’m a Freemason. Some years back a series of accidents clued me in to the huge role that the old fraternal orders had in structuring American communities a century ago, and in the process I also learned that the handful of fraternal orders that still survive are rapidly going under for lack of new members. The obvious response was to apply for membership in a lodge, which I did. The results have been an experience, in almost every possible sense of the word. I’ve given and received quite a range of secret handshakes, and worn some very exotic headgear; I’ve spent evenings in mostly empty lodge halls while a handful of elderly members try to remember the details of initiation ceremonies none of them have had a chance to perform in twenty years; I’ve seen old men, proud as hawks, get teary-eyed as they reminisced about the days when the rest of the community responded to the lodges and their charitable work with something other than total indifference.
Now of course this is not the way lodges, and particularly Masonry, are portrayed in today’s popular culture, and I’m quite aware that to a certain percentage of my readers, my Masonic affiliation defines me as one or more of the 31 flavors of evil incarnate. It doesn’t matter that membership in Masonry has been dropping like a rock for decades, that most Masonic lodges are struggling to find enough members to keep their doors open, or that Freemasonry has less influence in this country than at any time since the Revolutionary War – the last Mason in the White House was Gerald Ford, for heaven’s sake. There are still plenty of people who use the Craft, as Masons like to call their oddball institution, as the perfect inkblot onto which they can project their fantasies of organized wickedness, whatever those happen to be. At a time when people can get million-dollar book contracts and all the radio air time they want to bash Masonry, it may seem a little odd that they can insist that Masons control the media and the rest of American society to boot – when’s the last time you saw something favorable about Masons on the media, by the way? – but contradictions of that sort are pretty much par for the course in our collective discourse these days.
The irony here is that all this vituperation is being flung at the last struggling remnant of what was once a huge social force in America. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, by reliable estimates, half of all adult Americans – counting, by the way, both genders and all ethnic groups – belonged to at least one fraternal lodge. The Masons, the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Grange, and many other orders – some 3,500 different organizations, all told – formed a crucial element in civil society in America; they had a similar role elsewhere in the English-speaking world, where they were called “friendly societies,” and a somewhat less active presence elsewhere.
What makes this explosion of voluntary communal organization particularly relevant to our time is that the old lodges weren’t simply social clubs. With few exceptions – Freemasonry, interestingly enough, was one of those – they had a vital economic role. In an age when governments didn’t consider people starving in the streets a matter of public concern, in fact, the fraternal lodges filled many of the same roles now filled by the welfare state.
A Dark Age is what you make of it. The true American character was forged in danger and hardship and bitter necessity, but that character has been diluted by mass immigration and weakened by the very success it achieved. The weakness of our character was revealed by the numbers of people who, against all reason, voted for Barack Obama, because they were afraid. The majority of mankind, however, is always made up of weak and frightened people. It has always been an elite—the whaling men and pioneers, cowboys and entrepreneurs—who have defined the real America. Perhaps I am letting my optimism show, but, whatever happens to the country as a whole, I believe that we Americans need not fear any Dark Age, so long as there are still a few men like my father or the Texans he came to admire.
In short, I want to talk about human happiness, and what I have called my first and most important thought is simply this: Although no one can be happy who is determined not to be, happiness is not achieved by merely wanting it, much less by getting what you thought you wanted. For to be happy, a person has to know what is good and make it one’s own—not exactly as a possession, for none of the goods I’m going to talk about are material things, but as integral to one’s world and oneself.
Because the Democratic majority in the US senate is now reduced to 59, the common prediction is that the Democrats' health reform bill is doomed, since it takes 60 votes to override a filibuster, which the Republicans would mount to kill the bill. More likely is that the insurance companie , (which dictated the basic terms of the "reform" and stands to gain millions of new customers who will be forced by law to take out health insurance), will be loath to throw away months of successful lobbying and will dictate some new "compromise" that will allow both Republicans and Democrats to claim victory. Obama will delightedly sign any insurance bill landing on his desk bearing the necessary label, "reform".
Here is the great secret of my generation: What our parents gave us as a gift we have received as an entitlement. No one is not grateful for an entitlement. Indeed, everyone is resentful that it is not larger. Worse, we are resentful of everybody else’s entitlements because they compete with our own. Politics because a matter of getting as large a share of the pie as you can, while giving as little as you can get away with. We ended up resentful on both sides: we are resentful about how little we get (no matter how much it is) and resentful about how much we have to pay (no matter how little it is).
ANNA FOA AND THE "ORIGINAL SIN" OF ISRAEL
In the article, Anna Foa endorses the ideas of one of the leading scholars of Zionism, Georges Bensoussan. In the opinion of both, the state of Israel was not born as"redemption" from the extermination of the Jews carried out by Hitler. The real force behind the state was Zionism, already during the British mandate, with the settlement of that land by Jews who wanted to create a new man. The idea of the Holocaust as the foundation of the state of Israel gained strength only much later, after the Eichmann trial and especially after the war of Yom Kippur, in recent decades. And what paved the way for it – Anna Foa writes – was precisely the fifteen years of postwar silence: a silence "inhabited by repressed memories, by new fears identified with the ancient fears that had come true in the Holocaust, by the sense of guilt and the desire for revenge."
Interpreted this way, the birth of the state of Israel is no longer that "original sin" which even today many of its friends and enemies ascribe to it. The latter of these include many Catholics, first among them the Arabs living in the region. The most authoritative of these, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, was also in the synagogue of Rome yesterday, at the pope's arrival.
According to this "vulgate," the state of Israel was created by the great powers in order to remedy the previous extermination in Europe of six million Jews, which meant that one injustice was compensated by committing another against the local Arab population. In 1964, when Paul VI went to the Holy Land, the Church of Rome had not yet accepted the existence of the new state. And when three decades later, in 1993, the Holy See finally recognized the state of Israel and established diplomatic relations with it, the Arab Christians took this act as a betrayal.
But on the part of John Paul II, and now of Benedict XVI, the recognition of Israel no longer has any reservation.
While, on the other hand, the incessant use of the memory of the Holocaust as a weapon of accusation against the Church of Pius XII and of his successors prevents Judaism from leaving behind its identity as a victim.
This is how Anna Foa concludes her article in "L'Osservatore Romano." By taking the Holocaust, instead of Zionism, as the foundation of its political and religious identity, Israel risks "clinging to catastrophe instead of hope in the future"; it closes itself off in "a sorrowful identity that always oscillates between Auschwitz and Jerusalem."
“I think the Holy Father is responding to what he sees as insufficient lay participation or involvement, a weak or strong sense of identity, or just a lack of participation in regions that are very Catholic but where the presence of Catholics in public life is not strong enough,” Ms. Betancourt said.
The duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county. He has law enforcement powers that exceed that of any other state or federal official.
This is settled law that most people are not aware of.
County sheriffs in Wyoming have scored a big one for the 10th Amendment and states rights. The sheriffs slapped a federal intrusion upside the head and are insisting that all federal law enforcement officers and personnel from federal regulatory agencies must clear all their activity in a Wyoming County with the Sheriff’s Office. Deja vu for those who remember big Richard Mack in Arizona.
Bighorn County Sheriff Dave Mattis spoke at a press conference following a recent U.S. District Court decision (Case No. 2:96-cv-099-J (2006)) and announced that all federal officials are forbidden to enter his county without his prior approval ……
“If a sheriff doesn’t want the Feds in his county he has the constitutional right and power to keep them out, or ask them to leave, or retain them in custody.”
The court decision was the result of a suit against both the BATF and the IRS by Mattis and other members of the Wyoming Sheriff’s Association. The suit in the Wyoming federal court district sought restoration of the protections enshrined in the United States Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution.
Guess what? The District Court ruled in favor of the sheriffs. In fact, they stated, Wyoming is a sovereign state and the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers exceeding that of any other state or federal official.” Go back and re-read this quote.
The court confirms and asserts that “the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers EXCEEDING that of any other state OR federal official.” And you thought the 10th Amendment was dead and buried — not in Wyoming, not yet.
I'm pretty firm in the above opinion but there is another reason that I find I dislike the debunking that I'm not as sure about. This is that I've always thought a certain amount of respect is to be accorded to any people's cultural myths. Every race and ethnic group has its heroes and villains, its triumphs and tragedies, real and legendary that I think are owed a certain amount of polite circumspection when approached by the history-minded. The authors of deconstructions of King and Rosa Parks seem almost the equivalent of a man who goes to a Scottish patriotic celebration and announces that the movie Braveheart was completely inaccurate and, oh, by the way, Rabbie Burns was a cad and a rake who wrote indifferent poetry at best. I would consider this to be impolite even if the truth is on one's side. There isn't anything wrong with racial self-boosterism and its inevitable myth-making. I've never minded Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad being taught in elementary school (provided they come after Lincoln, Grant and Lee) so that little black children can see their own heroic ancestors in the history books.I think it is correct that we should not needlessly offend others by pointing out the flaws of their heroes, especially when there is a possibility of the races working together to conserve tradition.