Sunday, July 22, 2012

Aftermath in Aurora: Child-Killer as "Comforter-in-Chief"

Colorado native Abdulrahman al-Awlaki wasn’t in a movie theater when his life met a sudden, violent end. He was enjoying a backyard barbeque with his cousin in southeastern Yemen when the home was destroyed by a drone-delivered Hellfire missile.

Abdulrahman was sixteen years old when he was murdered by the United States government. He had run away from home in a desperate attempt to find his father, Anwar, a “radical cleric” who was the well-publicized target of the Obama administration’s assassination program. 

Despite the fact that Anwar al-Awlaki was never formally charged with a crime – let alone convicted of one – he was assassinated on Obama’s orders two weeks before the Regime slaughtered his son and eight other innocent people. 

Seeking to justify the murder of a child, the Obama administration circulated the story that the 16-year-old was actually an adult “suspected” of being a “militant.” 

That story was refined somewhat once it was proven that Abdulrahman was a teenager. However, the administration has never dropped the pretense that the summary execution of that innocent U.S. citizen was, in some sense, a strategic success. Since the Regime killed him -- and, in its sovereign wisdom, the Regime never errs -- the young man simply couldn't be innocent.

Within a day of the Movie Theater Massacre, the murderer of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki announced that he would travel to Colorado to bless the traumatized city of Aurora with his healing presence.

“[W]e may never understand what leads anyone to terrorize their fellow human beings,” intoned the death-dealing divinity in the Oval Office in his July 21 weekly radio address. “Such evil is senseless – beyond reason.” 

We’re invited to believe that the routine state terrorism committed by Obama and the government over which he presides is both sensible and rational. 

Apparently there is something noble and redemptive about commissioning a legion of chair-moistening joystick jockeys who – enthroned in the climate-controlled safety of well-guarded office buildings in Nevada and Virginia – dispatch robot aircraft to annihilate innocent strangers in places like Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. 

When drone-fired missiles wipe out wedding parties and funerals; when drone operators exploit the panic and chaos of an initial strike to stage follow-up attacks targeting emergency personnel – these acts are consecrated by the Dear Leader’s approval, and thus cannot be compared to the rampage committed by a private individual responsible for killing a dozen people and wounding scores of others in Aurora.

In order to clarify this vital distinction, it’s useful to recall the comments of Dear Leader Emeritus Bill Clinton from an interview published in the December 2009 issue of Foreign Policy. Asked to elucidate this important matter, Clinton helpfully defined terrorism as "killing and robbery and coercion by people who do not have state authority…."(Emphasis added.) By reverse-engineering this definition we learn that "killing and robbery and coercion" carried out in the name of "state authority" isn't terrorism; it's public policy. 

 As it happens, Anwar al-Awlaki – although described as a supporter of al-Qaeda – was a forthright opponent of terrorist attacks against American civilians

In a typical address he stated that the U.S. government’s role in invading and occupying Muslim countries “does not justify the killing of one U.S. civilian in New York City or Washington, D.C.,” just as the murder of thousands of civilians in New York and Washington do not “justify the death of one civilian in Afghanistan.”

Awlaki believed that all people -- including Muslims -- have the right to defend themselves against aggressive violence, and was not diffident in expressing that view. By presidential decree, the expression of those views was made a capital offense. The sentence was imposed not by a court of law, but through the deliberations of a secretive, anonymous, unaccountable panel. There was certainly a great deal of “efficiency” in this arrangement – but not so much as a hint or whisper of due process.

In a March 5 address that was an exercise in unalloyed sophistry, Attorney General Eric Holder told an audience at Northwestern University Law School that “due process” doesn’t require “judicial process.” During congressional testimony two days later, FBI Director Robert Mueller was asked about Eric Holder’s position, and whether it applied to the execution of American citizens on presidential orders. He artlessly ducked the question by objecting that he would “have to go back” and check if that was addressed in administration policy. In the intervening months, Mueller has not found the time to report what he has learned.

The rationale for the existence of political government is the belief – as unsupported by empirical evidence as it is impervious to it – that concentrating power in an entity claiming a monopoly on aggressive violence will protect the innocent. The massacre in Aurora, like every other incident in which an armed criminal preys upon a confined audience of unarmed, innocent people, underscored the fact that the police are, at best, useless in such situations. 

The police arrived while the rampage was in progress. Police recordings captured the sound of gunfire and screaming while officers waited outside the theater, setting up a “perimeter” and waiting for gas masks to be distributed. The assailant ended the slaughter on his own terms; the police did nothing to stop or minimize the carnage. Their mission was successful, however, since none of them was injured.

Just a few days earlier, a police officer in Columbus, Ohio shot and killed a 21-year-old man named Destin Thomas, who had made the mistake of calling the police to deal with an armed robber. By the time the officers had arrived, the burglars were gone. So the officers – for reasons the department has refused to disclose – killed the victim of the break-in. 

As the Columbus Dispatch pointed out, if the police hadn’t been on time, Thomas would still be alive. As Thomas’s cousin points out, the Columbus Police Department is “trying to justify” the shooting, “no apology or nothing, [just saying] `Oh, we’re just doing what we were trained to do” – that is, to put “officer safety” ahead of every other consideration. 

The same calculus led to an act of grotesque police over-reaction – what could reasonably be called an incident of state-sponsored terrorism – in Aurora about six months before the Movie Theater Massacre. Following an armed robbery at a local Wells Fargo bank, the Aurora Police Department simply arrested everyone in the vicinity until the suspect was found. This was, in effect, limited-scale martial law.

Aurora Police "protecting" a child, June 4, 2012.

Believing that the alleged robber was stopped a nearby red light, the police barricaded that section of the street – which could be considered a reasonable tactic. 

However, they dragged more than forty people from their vehicles, handcuffed them, and held them for more than four hours – which was not.

Drivers and passengers “were handcuffed, then were told what was going on and were asked for permission to search the car,” recalled Officer Frank Fania. “They all granted permission, and once nothing was found in their cars, they were un-handcuffed.”

Why was it supposedly necessary to handcuff people before asking permission? If the detention was justified, why did the police bother to ask for permission?
Fania insisted that the mass arrests were necessary and justified because it was a “unique” situation. Actually, this was done not to protect the public, but rather in the interest of “officer safety.” This is the same reason why the police force in Colorado Springs, roughly 70 miles south of Aurora,  are using military-grade SWAT gear to carry out routine patrol functions.

If you’re stopped for a traffic infraction in Colorado Springs, you’re likely to be accosted by someone dressed almost exactly like the perpetrator of the Aurora Movie Theater Massacre. That armed stranger has official permission to kill you if in his self-serving judgment you pose a threat to him – and no legally enforceable responsibility to protect you, should a threat to your person or property materialize. And functionaries who serve the same government consider themselves entitled to kill anyone – U.S. citizens included – via remote control on the orders of the individual who has urged the nation to join him in mourning the victims of non-government-licensed murder in Aurora. 

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki with a young relative.
Referring to the Movie Theater Massacre, Obama read these potted, insincere phrases from his Teleprompter:

“I’m sure many of you who are parents had the same reaction I did when you first heard this news: what if it had been my daughters at the theater, doing what young children enjoy doing every day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter this weekend, as I’m sure you will do with your children.”

There are limits to Obama’s gift of empathy. He appears untroubled by the fact that because of his criminal actions, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s mother has been deprived of both her son and her husband. He is living proof of the fact that the deadliest sociopaths aren’t the ones who dye their hair red and identify with comic book nihilists. 

Dum spiro, pugno!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Obamacare and the Revenge of the "Secret Constitution"

“[T]he majority has at all times a right to govern the minority, and to bind the latter to obedience to the will of the former…. In a general sense the will of the majority of the people is absolute and sovereign, limited only by its means and power to make its will effectual.”

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, III, 327, 330

"The scientific concept of dictatorship means nothing else but this — Power without limit, resting directly upon force, restrained by no laws, absolutely unrestrained by rules."

Vladimir Lenin

A constitution merely prolongs the pretense that a political government can be limited by laws that it will interpret. Eventually, every constitutional government will embrace Lenin's ruling formula -- "Power without limit, resting directly on force.” 

The function of the judiciary is liturgical: It transmutes the restrictive language of the constitution into a mandate for government action. This process is called “state-building” – and the purpose of the judiciary, insists Professor Jack M. Balkin of Yale Law School, is to “ratify significant revisions to the American social contract.”

According to Balkin, “the most important function of the federal courts is to legitimate state building by the political branches.” It does this by supplying the appropriate scholarly conjurations every time those in charge of the State seek to enrich their powers at the expense of individual liberty. 

In this fashion, the relatively modest constitutional state of the early 19th century – which, Balkin notes with palpable disapproval, “didn’t do very much more than national defense and customs collection” – built itself into the omnivorous monstrosity he calls the “National Surveillance State.” This is an entity that claims the authority to slaughter, torture, and imprison anybody on the planet for any reason. From Balkin’s perspective, the role of the courts is not to protect the rights of the individual, but to issue the occasional theodicy justifying the inscrutable ways of the divine State. 

“Whenever the federal government expands its capabilities, it changes the nature of the social compact,” writes Balkin in The Atlantic. “Sometimes the changes are small, but sometimes, as in the New Deal or the civil rights era, the changes are big. And when the changes are big, courts are called on to legitimate the changes and ensure that they are consistent with our ancient Constitution” – a procedure that frequently involves subjecting language to treatment that even Dick Cheney would describe as torture. 

In order for this to work, candor must be scrupulously avoided, and the pretense of constitutionalism must be preserved.

“Courts do not simply rubber stamp what the political branches do,” Balkin asserts. “Rather, they set new ground rules. The government may do this as long as it doesn’t do that. Legitimation is Janus-faced: it establishes what government can do by establishing what the government cannot do” – at least, for now, until those running it decide that the time has come to do what was previously impermissible. 

That’s what happened in the Obamacare ruling, Balkin concludes: “The political branches sought to build out the American state and change the terms of the American social contract. The Court legitimated this result, but set new ground rules for politics going forward.” 

As he points out, both branches of the Establishment party want to continue building the Leviathan state, albeit in the service of different constituencies: “Most Republican politicians don’t actually want to strip the federal government of most of the powers to regulate, tax and spend that came with the New Deal. This is because Republican politicians want to use those powers to promote Republican policies….” 

Thus it was exquisitely appropriate that the Supreme Court’s ratification of “the most important piece of social welfare legislation since the 1960s” came in a majority opinion written by a Bush-appointed Republican conservative. After all, we should expect adherents of the Party of Lincoln to be doing the works of Abraham. 

In his book Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy, George P. Fletcher, a Marxist Columbia University School of Law professor, describes how the mission of Abraham the Destroyer was not to preserve the constitutional union, but rather to impose a new order – one created through aggression by the central government against the states that created it, and the people from whom it supposedly derived its powers.

“The new order inherits an operating Congress, Executive, and Judiciary,” writes Fletcher, and although federal institutions have been “recast in new functions, the forms remained the same.” Behind a change in federal functions is a new ruling ideology, in which the central government elite now acts on “the consciousness of setting forth a new framework of government, a structure based on values fundamentally different from those that went before.”

“The heart of the new consensus is that the federal government, victorious in warfare, must continue its aggressive intervention in the lives of its citizens,” writes Fletcher approvingly. The Founders' Constitution was sold to the populace as an austere and proscriptive document that defined the few and specific things the central government would be permitted to do.

This arrangement was changed through Lincoln's war of aggression, according to Fletcher, since “the liberty that comes to the fore in the intended postbellum constitutional order and under the Secret Constitution requires the intervention of government. Liberty is born in the state's assertion of responsibility to oversee and prevent relationships of oppression.” (Emphasis added.) 

That is to say that “liberty” is a revocable and highly conditional gift of the State, and that “oppression” exists anywhere there are limits placed on the exercise of federal power. One is “free” only to the extent he supports, and is subject to, the benevolent rule of the unfathomably noble beings who inhabit the Imperial Capital. Questioning their edicts and actions on “constitutional” grounds is intolerably impudent – nay, it is nothing less than blasphemy, since everything our masters do is blessed with the “presumption of constitutionality.” 

In his recent book It Is Dangerous to be Right when the Government is Wrong, Judge Andrew Napolitano (one of the few jurists worthy of that honorific) underscores the importance of the Supreme Court’s United States v. Carolene Products ruling in 1938.

The case dealt with a federal statute banning the sale of a product called “filled milk.” The measure, which was passed as a favor to the dairy lobby, was devoid of constitutional authority – but the Supreme Court upheld it in the interest of “state-building,” and in doing so it promulgated a new doctrine of “presumed constitutionality.”

“The Court’s reasoning was that the statute should be presumed constitutional, and thus the burden was on the defendant company to prove that Congress could have no constitutional authority and no lawful basis for regulating the sale of the product – a nearly impossible showing,” recalls Judge Napolitano. “By requiring a presumption of constitutionality instead of a presumption of liberty, the Court permitted Congress to transgress economic liberties for almost any reason it wished.”

That presumption invests the federal government with something akin to constitutional infallibility: Between 1937 and 1995, as Judge Napolitano observes, the Supreme Court didn’t strike down a single piece of federal legislation on constitutional grounds. 

Many people blessed with sound, sober, and subtle minds believe that all of this represents a “perversion” of the original constitution. Others, such as the ever-perspicacious Butler Shaffer, insist that the federal government has "never deviated" from the Constitution: The document was written in a way that encouraged government expansion and provided the means to accomplish it while sustaining the necessary illusion that its powers were effectively limited by law and its administrators were in some sense accountable to the people they rule.

Any governmental charter permitting seizure of property through "eminent domain" and the suspension of habeas corpus (the irreducible due process guarantee) for any reason is latently totalitarian at best; those provisions offer a glimpse of the “secret constitution” described by Fletcher, in which federal power is limited only by the ingenuity and brazenness of those who wield it. 

Many conservatives reacted to Judge Roberts’ Obamacare ruling by giving voice to the same pious outrage they express every time the Supreme Court redefines the “social contract.” A healthier reaction would be to ask: Why should any individual be governed by a “contract” that he never signed, and that the other party can unilaterally revise at its pleasure?

Dum spiro, pugno!