The Inmates Are Truly Running the Asylum... I Mean, the House

I’m starting to wonder again how much I’d be willing to put up with that Canadian cold. I’ll give it until November 2004, but I seriously can’t imagine putting up with anything more beyond that — particularly since my ire for the legislative branch of our government is rapidly starting to rival that which I normally reserve for the executive.

As many of you may be aware, a recent appeals court ruling in Alabama established that a monument depicting the Ten Commandments was unconstitutional. An argument has been made that preexisting depictions of the Ten Commandments would not violate the Constitutional doctrine of separation between church and state (i.e., the “Establishment Clause”), falling under what (since 1963) has been termed “ceremonial deism,” or religious observances which hold meaning more traditional than theological. Common examples include the national motto “In God We Trust,” the courtroom oath “so help me, God,” and the prayers opening Congressional sessions (thanks to the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling, the “under God” phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance is still open for debate). The argument’s a crock of shit, but it at least advances a consistent, defensible point; to put it another way, I’ll happily claim the argument is stupid, but I’d never insinuate that those who make it are not completely intelligent, rational people — we merely have a (substantial) difference of interpretation.

This particular case, however, is completely different. The monument in question was not a long-existing one, but one recently erected with the explicitly professed purpose of promoting the Christian vision of God. It was designed by none other than Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who still bizarrely maintains that he is not bound by federal law. Boy, that’s a pretty nice exemption — wish I could pull that one off.

U.S. HouseOkay, so this guy’s an idiot. No question there — the world’s full of ’em. But just when we think we’ve found the biggest buffoon on the planet, the U.S. House of Representatives shows that they can put up a bigger idiot than any old fool from Alabama. Perhaps trying to compete with Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas in the über-idiot department, John Hostettler has spearheaded a measure to prohibit enforcement of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling barring the monument, by denying any and all funding that could be used to enforce such a ruling. If his measure were simply to suspend enforcement until the U.S. Supreme Court could review the case, I might be inclined to cut him a little slack. But in his own statement, Hostettler maintains that should the Supreme Court’s decision concur with the 11th Circuit’s, he’ll continue to deny enforcement funding.

For some reason, I thought we’d gotten rid of self-righteous assholes like this decades ago, but I guess we’re still having to deal with them. The capper, of course, is that the House passed the measure, 260-161, proving that Hostettler isn’t the only idiot in there — he’s just their spokesmonkey this time around.

AshcroftNow, lest anyone think I’m letting the executive branch off the hook, I’ll draw attention to today’s Post story about the infamous “Lackawanna Six,” the six men arrested in New York for allegedly attending an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Were the six really an al Qaeda “sleeper cell,” as the government claimed? Quite possibly — though I automatically doubt it, since, after all, the claim is coming from the government. But whatever the case, we’ll never get a chance to see what evidence the secret police have managed to accumulate (I’ll refrain from using the word “manufacture” — oops, too late), since the six were strong-armed into making guilty pleas under the implicit (please!) threat of being designated “enemy combatants” and removed from access to lawyers and the court system altogether.

I’ll make no claim as to the innocence of the men in question; there’s certainly a strong possibility that they were exactly what the government claimed. But let’s look at the pattern this regime has now established: The executive branch will hereby bypass the judicial branch of government altogether. A case not going the way we want? Not guaranteed a full conviction? We don’t actually have any substantive evidence against a United States citizen? We’ll just invoke a flagrantly unconstitutional “rule” and designate the targets of our ire “enemy combatants” — a designation which, by the way, has no basis in either American or international law — and revoke all of their rights, trying them before a military tribunal where they have effectively no possibility of defending themselves. Little George’s gestapo has already — illegally — stuck two Americans with this label, Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, and again, I’ll make no claims as to their innocence. But without allowing an opportunity for the presentation of evidence — both prosecutorial and defensive — there is absolutely nothing to prevent this from happening to anyone, under any pretext; there is no accountability whatsoever. Where is the line to be drawn between questioning the government and working to overthrow it? When do words and thoughts become criminal conspiracy? Historically, it’s been at the moment when concrete action is taken toward a criminal goal. But as the Lackawanna case has now demonstrated, the line is wherever John Ashcroft decides it is.

So where does this leave folks like me? Okay, granted, I’m a little “small potatoes” for DOJ to worry about (right now), but let’s think about it. I routinely rant against the evils of the Bush regime. I’m all in favor of its ouster. Hell, I’ve got a list of folks (well, not actually written down) whose incarceration and/or “shuffling off of the mortal coil” will inspire me to throw a party (though it’s worth noting that little George is not on that list — since his departure would leave Dick Cheney in charge). Under the new code of government conduct, I — despite having taken no illegal action, or even concrete action or incitement toward an illegal goal — could just as easily be designated an “enemy combatant.”

I’ve no doubt that history will remember John Ashcroft in the same breath as Joe McCarthy. But how far is this regime going to go, how many people are going to suffer, and how blind are people going to remain in the meantime?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home