Thursday, May 29, 2008

Martial Law on the Installment Plan

Photo courtesy of Jim Bovard

"I abominate and detest the idea of a government, where there is a standing army," exclaimed the immortal George Mason, during his state's constitutional ratifying convention of 1788.

A a forceful and principled defender of individual liberty, Mason was the irritant in the constitutional oyster that eventually created the pearl we call the Bill of Rights. During the June 14 session of the convention, Mason -- ably assisted by his fellow Anti-Federalist Patrick Henry -- conducted a critical examination of the congressional power to call out the state militias to enforce the laws of the union.

Their eyes, keenly perceptive of the potential for government to abuse any powers alloted to it, discerned in the womb of that delegated power an embryonic rough beast that could eventually destroy any semblance of liberty in America.

Eager to defend a document that was largely his handiwork, James Madison blithely told the convention that the reason for granting Congress the power to call out the militia was quite obvious: "If resistance should be made to the execution of the laws ... it ought to be overcome. This could be done only in two ways -- either by regular forces or by the people [meaning that portion of the people organized into militias]. By one or the other it must unquestionably be done. If insurrections should arise, or invasions take place, the people ought unquestionably to be employed, to suppress and repel them, rather than a standing army."

It's interesting that Madison -- a visionary statesman in so many ways -- assumed that the first priority of government should be to secure the means of compelling submission to its edicts. That order of priorities is evident in the statement cited above, as well as the famous passage from Madison's most-cited contribution to the Federalist:

"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

Those more consistently concerned about individual liberties than Madison proved to be would reply: Government, like a forest fire, is entirely incapable of controlling itself; granted autonomy, it will expand until it devours everything within its sphere of influence. So if we're to have a government, the first task of those who create it is to ensure the ability of the people to resist its predations; only then can we discuss the scant handful of revocable powers we'll permit it to have. If the first priority is to ensure government power, rather than individual liberty, in process of time, liberty will be destroyed, and power is all that will remain.

Replying to Madison's comments, Mason pointed out that unless the power of Congress to call out the militia were curbed, it would eventually "produce dreadful oppressions" -- for instance, "if any disturbance happened in New Hampshire, to call [militia] from Georgia" to put it down. This would harass the people so much that they would agree to abolish the use of the militia, and establish a standing army." The central government could "render the militia useless" through "neglect," Mason continued, "in order to have a pretence of establishing a standing army." Or it could be forcibly disarmed, a "method which has been practiced in other parts of the world before." Or the militia could be destroyed through the attrition resulting from promiscuous over-use by Congress.

In any case, Mason warned, the proposed Constitution, as offered for ratification, would eventually result in the destruction of the citizen militias and their replacement by a standing army controlled by a national government. He urged that the document be modified to recognize, explicitly, the power of states to veto the federal government's power to deploy the militias beyond the borders of their home states.

For his part, Patrick Henry agreed that the provision granting power to Congress to call out the militia was a potentially fatal flaw in the document. "In this great, this essential part of the Constitution, if you are safe, it is not [because of] the Constitution, but [because of] the virtues of the men in government," he wryly observed. "If gentlemen are willing to trust themselves and posterity to so slender and improbable a chance, they have greater strength of nerves than I have."

Mason and Henry were hardly the only Founders who found a standing army to be abominable; from their perspective, the only reason for the existence of a peacetime army was to impose martial law on the general population.

"I humbly conceive there is extreme danger [in congressional power over the militias] of establishing cruel martial regulations," Mason warned. In fact, from his perspective the term "martial law" applied anytime and anywhere the Congress called out the militia.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the beast foreseen by Mason came to term when the militias were absorbed into the standing military establishment by way of the Dick Act of 1903. In this way the people's local militias -- "this great bulwark, this noble palladium of safety," in Henry's words -- became the National Guard.

Significantly, this development was brought about, in large measure, because of dissatisfaction with the way the militias had performed in Washington's first unambiguously imperialistic war, the 1898 war of aggression against the decrepit Spanish Empire. But militias had always been problematic, as far as ambitious ruling elites in Washington were concerned.

During the War of 1812, for instance, the refusal of militia units to cross into Canada prompted the Madison administration and its congressional allies to propose a conscription bill. Even with a depleted treasury and a White House still smoldering after being put to the torch by Redcoats, Congress refused to embrace conscription. This would change a century later during WWI, in which America would display, among other defining marks of tyranny, a centrally controlled "select" militia, or national guard, and a conscript standing army.

Now, roughly a century after making the world safe for Democracy, Washington has allowed conscription to lapse. But in its ongoing efforts to, ahem, make the world safe for Democracy again, Washington has created exactly the situation Mason foresaw: The "militias" (or what remains of them) are ceaselessly deployed abroad, and the national military -- in collaboration with a centralized law enforcement/intelligence apparatus -- is responsible for "homeland security."

In his potent and timely new book Ain't My America, the indispensable Bill Kauffman recalls that Madison dismissed the possibility that the central government would "drag the militia unnecessarily to an immense distance.... This, sir, would be unworthy [of] the most arbitrary despot."

"True, true," Kauffman replies, "though the act is eminently worthy of the administration of George W. Bush, which has called well over half of the four hundred thousand members of the state National Guards -- descendants of the militia -- to active duty for the Iraq War. And when in the mid-1980s the governors of Minnesota and Massachusetts challenged the authority of Ronald Reagan's Department of Defense to send state National Guard units to Honduras, presumably to assist in the overthrow of the government of Nicaragua, the Supreme Court (Perpich v. Defense, 1990) upheld the right of the central government to send Guardsmen wherever the hell it wishes, even over the objections of state governors. So much for federalism. So much for Madisonian guarantees."

In October 2006, the Bush Regime and its congressional minions enacted a measure that would have destroyed any residual state power over the National Guard: The provision would have permitted the president, in the event of an "insurrection" or other emergency, to deploy Guard units within the United States as he saw fit. This amendment to the Insurrection Act would have completed the transformation of what -- at the dawn of our republic -- had been people's militias into a presidential Praetorian Guard.

Fortunately, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Kit Bond (R-Missouri), critics of that measure, were able to attach a rider to a military appropriations measure overturning the Praetorian Guard measure and preserving the autonomy of the National Guard. So this is a good thing, right?

Well... not exactly. The Guard "empowerment" bill sponsored by Leahy (which was nearly identical to a measure proposed by Senator Bond) actually continues the process of folding the Guard -- which was once, I note again, the independent people's militias -- into the national military establishment: Its commanding officer is made a full general, for instance, and given a more prominent role in Pentagon councils.

Most significantly, the measure creates "a stronger relationship between the Guard and the Northern Command" and instructs the Pentagon "to work with the Guard in planning homeland defense."

Nerve Center for Martial Law: George W. Bush and his handlers monitor the progress of Hurricane Rita at the headquarters of U.S. Northern Command.

Northern Command, for the uninitiated, is the military department responsible for the United States, as well as coordinating "theater security cooperation with Canada and Mexico." It is, in essence, the military muscle behind the Department of Homeland Security. In the event of widespread natural disasters, insurrections, terrorist attacks, or other national emergencies, Northern Command would provide the assets and manpower to lock down the country under Homeland Security supervision.

For a glimpse of how this would work in practice, one need only recall the federal response to Hurricane Katrina: US troops and federally controlled mercenaries were deployed on the streets of New Orleans with orders to disarm any Americans they encountered, and shoot anybody who resisted.

What all of this means, of course, is that Senator Leahy's measure didn't reverse Bush's transformation of the National Guard into an instrument of martial law; instead, it accomplished the same objective in a less transparent fashion. By holding out the inducement of additional funding and material support for the Guard, Leahy's measure also nullified the objections offered by all fifty state governors, who with one voice had condemned Bush's October 2006 grab for control over the militia.

Now, like a small child giddily playing with a toy steering wheel, the governors can pretend that they're in control -- at least until the president and his handlers decide the illusion is no longer necessary. And really, since the Civil Rights era, when Guard establishments in Arkansas
and Alabama were "federalized" to enforce desegregation decrees (by physically assaulting and arresting non-cooperating governors, if necessary), there has been no excuse for any reasonably intelligent governor to believe that he actually controls the National Guard.

The Big Easy under Martial Law: Blackwater mercenaries (left) and combat units home from Iraq (below, right) patrol the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans.

It is becoming increasingly common for the regular military -- especially the Marines -- to conduct "urban operations" training exercises in various Midwestern cities. Quite reasonably, some Americans see these operations as preparation not only for combat missions abroad, but here at home as well.

It's not alarmist to think that at some point America could succumb to overt military regimentation. But it should be understood that from the perspective of the Founders -- particularly the Anti_Federalists -- we're already living under a species of martial law, one that is generally quite mild but capable of intermittent outbursts of terrifying violence.

Even as it has assembled the architecture of martial law, the Bush Regime has quietly worked to create the necessary legal and political doctrines.

In a March 14, 2003 memorandum, former administration legal counsel John Yoo -- yes, the same one who discovered the presidential authority to order the sexual torture of children -- made the arresting claim that the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply to "domestic military operations."

Of course, the Framers of the Constitution made it abundantly clear that "domestic military operations" of any kind are the purest form of tyranny, and the use of the military as a law enforcement body is entirely impermissible. It's a pity, I suppose, that they lacked Yoo's vision and insight.

Fear his "Islamo-Fascist" Mullet: Qatari national Ali al-Marri, designated an "enemy combatant" in June 2003 and held since then in military detention.

More recently, the Bush Regime has used the ongoing legal conflict over the detention of suspected terrorist Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri to argue that the president can exercise martial law powers at whim. Al-Marri was designated an "unlawful enemy combatant" by presidential ukase in June 2003; since that time he has been held in military detention.

In its ruling a year ago, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out that the president cannot exercise military authority over civilians in the United States “absent the suspension of … habeas corpus or [a] declaration of martial law….” The Bush Regime appealed that decision without seriously objecting to its assumptions.

In essence, the appeals court said: Your claim assumes that some kind of martial law is in effect.

To which the Bush Regime effectively replied: And your point would be...?

Available now!

They've got a Little List. Maybe we should start making one of our own....


Anonymous said...

Muahaha fear the islamomullet! Laughter is good in these trying times. The elites synthesis of communism and capitalism is all over except for their standing army being turned on us part. We'll have the North American Union by 2010. We've almost got our living standards down to Mexico. The goverment is certainly as corrupt. Hoover was a slimy snake but he did say the goverment was infiltrated by internationalists and it's even worse now with dual citizen traitors at every level of the government feeding trough. Rights we don't need any stinking rights!? We have the glory of Britney's crotch and Angelina's ovarian tubes to behold. How many people did Paris sleep with today. Gotta keep abreast of what's important.

Anonymous said...

A commenter in another thread posted an article about martial law practice in Indianapolis. This is all about getting the eastside of Indianapolis, affectionately dubbed "the AK Corral" in line for the circus maximus corporate whorefest of stupor bowl 46. The city will whore itself out to anyone for a buck and they don't want the corporate pimps to feel unsafe by those pesky freedom loving eastsiders most of which have a dark skin tone and never fell for any fairytales about all men being created equal. Shortly after the no fun league announced the corporate whore bowl 46 would be hosted the repuglican mayor, an ex-marine, was in the papers the next day saying "we need to clean up the eastside."

zach said...

They should have listened to Mason. The central power should only have power to call the national guard into its service upon a declaration of war and with the consent of the host state's legislature and governor. If the mindset of the people and the state were healthier, emergencies could be handled by the state, sheriff, or local government asking the male population to get their "assault rifles" out of their closets and report to muster. Apart from that, the central government would have a coast guard and navy to patrol the seas.

Anonymous said...

"Mason and Henry were hardly the only Founders who found a standing army to be abominable; from their perspective, the only reason for the existence of a peacetime army was to impose martial law on the general population."

A standing army is bad enough, but it would have blown their Enlightenment minds to imagine a standing army of hundreds of thousands of Americans, permanently posted overseas.

After World War II, the U.S. never demobilized. Garrisons were left behind in Europe and Japan; and a few years later, in South Korea. Six decades later, they are still there, along with the latest garrison in Iraq. Public debate on this permanent international deployment of a standing army is nonexistent; it's accepted as part of the landscape.

I'm sorry to say it, but the Constitution did not stand the test of time. Even its federal structure, in which the state legislatures exercised veto power in the Senate, was swept away by the 17th amendment. The resulting central government is still called "federal," but it's not -- the states play no formal role in it.

Long after Madison's failed Constitution, with its now-suspended Bill of Rights, has been formally consigned to the scrapheap, the words of the Declaration of Independence will still ring true: "Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Like all revolutionary governments, the United States eventually mutated into a counterrevolutionary authority. The Decalaration of Independence is given mere lip service, on the assumption that most will read it solely as an historical document. But substitute George W. Bush for King George, and a list of his tyrannies as the litany of claims, and you've got a charter for "real change" (not the kind Depublicrat candidates offer) -- a "living Declaration," as it were. Feel free to update it at will, as the Supreme Court constantly does to the Constitution. The Declaration is OUR document, the peoples' document, and we can add as many claims to it as we like.

The Beast cannot be fixed by its own blocked-off avenues of reform; it can only be replaced. The Constitution is dead; the Declaration of Independence may yet live.

Anonymous said...

As the author of "Birth of the Republic" ( points out, the constitution provides a strong restriction against the domestic use of domestic force by the Federal Government, in that it mandates that federal force can only be used at the request of a State government to help it maintain Republican government. That proviso was added to the Constitution by the friends of States' Rights to ensure that the Federal Government would not have the power to militarily threaten a sovereign State in our Federal Union.

Marius said...

When I was in the Army, nearly 20 years ago, we weren't even allowed to run from one post to another for PT in our PT uniforms because of the strict adherence to the Constitution's mores on "military show of force". It's confounding and truly mind boggling that today Marines are conducting urban ops among civilian populations.

What has happened to the Constitution? It's not just a "goddamn piece of paper" as Bush called it. This is out of control, and it's sickening.

liberranter said...

[T]he Supreme Court (Perpich v. Defense, 1990) upheld the right of the central government to send Guardsmen wherever the hell it wishes, even over the objections of state governors. So much for federalism. So much for Madisonian guarantees."

*Sigh* In “America” of yore, the governors of Massachusetts and Minnesota would have given the Supreme Court the proverbial “middle finger salute”, issued orders to the commanders of their respective state militias making it clear that any attempt to mobilize without direct orders to do so from the governor’s mansion would result in arrest on charges of mutiny (or whatever state statute is the equivalent), and made it clear to Washington that any attempt to use federal force to mobilize state militiamen would be treated as a hostile invasion of the state and that the state militia would respond to it as such.

Alas, in today’s “Amerika” the state governors not only roll over, sit up, and beg at rapt attention like drooling Pavlovian dogs at the feet of their federal masters, but would beg for more dog treats in the form of federal funding and surplus “toys.” (Why? Because nearly all state governors aspire to higher NATIONAL office and the power and perks that go with it. The governorship of their states, and the voters who elect them to it, are mere means to a selfish end.)

Northern Command, for the uninitiated, is the military department responsible for the United States, as well as coordinating "theater security cooperation with Canada and Mexico." It is, in essence, the military muscle behind the Department of Homeland Security. In the event of widespread natural disasters, insurrections, terrorist attacks, or other national emergencies, Northern Command would provide the assets and manpower to lock down the country under Homeland Security supervision.


Now, like a small child giddily playing with a toy steering wheel, the governors can pretend that they're in control -- at least until the president and his handlers decide the illusion is no longer necessary. And really, since the Civil Rights era, when Guard establishments in Arkansas and Alabama were "federalized" to enforce desegregation decrees (by physically assaulting and arresting non-cooperating governors, if necessary), there has been no excuse for any reasonably intelligent governor to believe that he actually controls the National Guard.

It just might be that the imposition of martial law today, however slow and subtle its form, is still too obvious to ignore, even by the masses of soma-fed sheeple that have been substituted for the beneficiaries and defenders of the republic given us by the founders. The current deployment of guardsmen to the far-flung corners of the Empire is breaking the national guards of the several states, has brought recruiting into said organizations to a near standstill, and has even led to scattered instances of mutiny and desertion. While leviathan has never had trouble finding willing lackeys from among the ranks of society’s talentless and violent fringes, I think it a reasonably safe prediction that it will be unable to do so in sufficient numbers in the near term to keep the entire population on lock-down for any length of time should our “decider” and his handlers feel their backs sufficiently to the wall. For all of its alleged omnipotence (and omnipresence?), NORCOM, as well as the various co-opted security organs of the individual states, will still be susceptible to sabotage from within. It’s one thing to plan for martial law when the objective is to target abstractions like the population at large. When that “population” consists of one’s immediate neighbors and loved ones, however, reality will hit home and the willingness to do leviathan’s bidding will no doubt take a serious hit in many quarters.

AzraelsJudgement said...

The Constitution is a piece of paper that is the problem. People think paper can protect them and think because some idiot who claims to be president signs something then it is a "law".
If paper could protect people then women should carry around a copy of the rape laws to protect themselves.
Society itself has to be willing to defend itself and not accept what the government does.

Anonymous said...

If they can't get enough video game addled kids to sign up for the martial law fest they'll just use foreigners. I'm trying to track down an article I saw recently on the evul islamofascist innernet about marines bragging they are to be used for martial law. I gotta find it fast before joe lieberman shuts down that terraist innernett the servers in caves in Islamostan are putting out evul agitprop!

Anonymous said...

Internet Attacked as Tool of Terror

Friday 30 May 2008

by: Matt Renner, t r u t h o u t | Report

A controversial plan to study and profile domestic terrorism was scrapped after popular push back, however, the spirit of the legislation lives on in Senator Joe Lieberman's office.

HR 1955, "The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" passed the House in October 2007 with almost unanimous support. The bill immediately came under fire from civil liberties watchdogs because of what many saw as a deliberate targeting of Muslims and Arabs and the possible chilling effect it might have on free speech.

The original bill intended to set up a government commission to investigate the supposed threat of domestically produced terrorists and the ideologies that underpin their radicalization. The ten-member commission was to be empowered to "hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties." The bill also singled out the Internet as a vehicle for terrorists to spread their ideology with the intention of recruiting and training new terrorists.

After significant public pressure, the bill stalled in the Senate. However, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut), the current chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has embraced the thrust of the legislation and has been working to push forward some of the goals of the original bill, including an attempt to weed out terrorist propaganda from the Internet.

Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the non-profit Center for Democracy and Technology has spoken out against the assault on Internet speech. "I have more concern about what Senator Lieberman is doing than about HR 1955. [Lieberman] is no friend of civil liberties," Dempsey told Truthout, adding "there is concern that what he has planned will be worse than HR 1955."

Dempsey spoke out in favor of the spirit of HR 1955, calling the outpouring of criticism "hypothetical and hyperbolic." In his view, the study of radicalization and home grown ideologically based violence is worthwhile. However, he objects to recent actions taken by Lieberman.

On May 19, Lieberman sent a letter to Google Inc.'s CEO Eric Schmidt demanding that Google "immediately remove content produced by Islamist terrorist organizations from YouTube."

"By taking action to curtail the use of YouTube to disseminate the goals and methods of those who wish to kill innocent civilians, Google will make a singularly important contribution to this important national effort," Lieberman wrote.

Google fired back, refusing to take off material that did not violate its community guidelines. "While we respect and understand his views, YouTube encourages free speech and defends everyone's right to express unpopular points of view," Schmidt said in response, adding, "we believe that YouTube is a richer and more relevant platform for users precisely because it hosts a diverse range of views, and rather than stifle debate, we allow our users to view all acceptable content and make up their own minds."

Google removed some of the videos that violated their rules against posting violence and hate speech, but made a point to write, "most of the videos, which did not contain violent or hate speech content, were not removed because they do not violate our Community Guidelines."

"I think that Senator Lieberman's actions vis-a-vis Google were improper," Dempsey said. "A blame the messenger approach doesn't make sense as a response to radical violence. The notion that taking the videos off of YouTube will accomplish anything shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Internet. Take the videos off of YouTube and they'll appear elsewhere."

Senator Lieberman's staff failed to return calls for comment.

A New York Times editorial called Lieberman's claims about the Internet "ludicrous," and warned of an attempt to censor the Internet. Lieberman defended himself in a response letter, saying, "the peril here is not to legitimate dissent but to our fundamental right of self-defense."

According to civil liberties activists, Chairman Lieberman has been spearheading an effort to censor speech on the Internet. His committee recently released a report titled "Violent Islamist Extremism, The Internet, And The Home Grown Terrorism Threat," a report detailing the use of web sites and Internet tools to spread pro-terrorism propaganda.

The report repeatedly blames Internet web sites and chat rooms for "radicalization," calling the web sites "portals" through which potential terrorists can "participate in the global violent Islamist movement and recruit others to their cause." As civil liberties groups have pointed out, the report focuses solely on terrorism seen as associated with Islam.

Also, the report relies heavily on experts from inside the US national security apparatus, with only one research study cited. The study by the New York Police Department details a hypothetical four step "radicalization process". The report was criticized by a coalition of civil liberties groups as "statistically and methodologically flawed," in a letter they wrote in response to the report.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington, DC, legislative office, said that Lieberman "is trying to decide what he thinks should go on the Internet," which, she said, "reeks of an interest in censoring all sorts of different dialogs."

"If someone criticizes Israel's treatment of Palestinians and favors Hamas, should that be censored?" Fredrickson asked.

Anonymous said...

The Constitution was a failure. It was the idea that words could keep in check men who had the allegedly legitimate power to take other people's money. It was a pipe dream in its inception, and a pipe dream to believe in "restoring" it. Give it up. Bury it. Recognize that your undestructible, inalienable rights come from God, not a piece of parchment and are protected by you, not words on a piece of paper.

dixiedog said...

Will, the morass we find ourselves in is essentially a "people problem" not an organizational entity problem. Since organizational entities are nothing, if not a collective of people who work together for some kind of result.

In fact, what AzraelsJudgement said above is absolutely correct. A piece of parchment doesn't mean a hill o' beans if the core substance of what's written on it is not well-understood and written on the hearts and minds of the people themselves. I mean a Federal Reserve Note's worth is wholly dependent on the degree of faith of the people in it. The same kind of principle holds for just about anything.

I think that ignoring this aspect is why true, genuine human liberty and freedom is so fleeting and has always been a rarity throughout human history. There's a spiritual element to it and that's why most peoples never obtain it, or their grasp of it is only tentative as in our case, and is inevitably at some point lost. So, given that reality, I'm actually surprised it has lasted as long as has, relatively speaking, in America.

Anonymous said...

I gotta bookmark some of these articles better the information is overwhelming sometimes. I read an article at blacklistednews about a boy scout leader who was teaching his scouts about the constitution one weekend. During the week he got a visit from fbi or criminals in action one of the two and was told if he kept that pesky constitution talk going he would be put on the watch list.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Constitution is just a piece of paper, a reflection of the Enlightenment principles which ignore Scripture's core concepts even while paying lip service to the idea of God. Still, it's what we seem to have. By a fair and honest reading of that piece of paper, anyone with the funds should legally be able to buy one of those M109 howitzers in your lead photo, Will, along with ammo. Yet within the first generation after the Constitution was signed into law, our national leaders were tearing down the inconvenient implications of that piece of paper. Our national government has never been legitimate, in that sense. It has always been "might makes right." Keep the spotlight shining on them, Will.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Isn't it ironic that the very founders who babbled on about "liberty" and breaking the bonds with tyrannical England should then turn around and forbid anyone else from exercising these very same "rights".

Hmmmmm? Methinks the pot is calling the kettle schwartz!

They were crafty, albeit articulate, liars. See what their handiwork hath wrought!

Anonymous said...

"The immortal George Mason" is dead. And don't valorize your family. Just love them. Or at least feed them. me.

Anonymous said...

" presidential ukase..."

Didn't you mean presidential YOO-CASE?

Anonymous said...

The Constitution has failed but it worked for a while. The secret was "division of powers". This shrewdly pitted the politicians against each other instead of us. I imagine it was distantly inspired by the Tower of Babel.