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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A friend sent this article to me in an email. I think it is worth adding to the blog. I'd like to get your feedback on the author's ideas. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Why? Do you feel it is time to change our constitution to allow for a supreme ruler rather than three equal branches of government? Do you think there may be an even more hidden agenda being masked by this more obvious material? Some people have suggested that Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Bush and other in the administration are members of a religious sect which believes they should assist in bringing about the Armageddon or Last Days scenario of the book of Revelations describes taken literally.

Here is the article the original of which can be found at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060109/schell

The Hidden State Steps Forward
Jonathan Schell

When the New York Times revealed that George W. Bush had ordered the
National Security Agency to wiretap the foreign calls of American citizens
without seeking court permission, as is indisputably required by the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed by Congress in 1978,
he faced a decision. Would he deny the practice, or would he admit it? He
admitted it. But instead of expressing regret, he took full ownership of
the deed, stating that his order had been entirely justified, that he had
in fact renewed it thirty times, that he would continue to renew it
and--going even more boldly on the offensive--that those who had made his
law-breaking known had committed a "shameful act." As justification, he
offered two arguments, one derisory, the other deeply alarming. The
derisory one was that Congress, by authorizing him to use force after
September 11, had authorized him to suspend FISA, although that law is
unmentioned in the resolution. Thus has Bush informed the members of a
supposedly co-equal branch of government of what, unbeknownst to
themselves, they were thinking when they cast their vote. The alarming
argument is that as Commander in Chief he possesses "inherent" authority to
suspend laws in wartime. But if he can suspend FISA at his whim and in
secret, then what law can he not suspend? What need is there, for example,
to pass or not pass the Patriot Act if any or all of its provisions can be
secretly exceeded by the President?

Bush's choice marks a watershed in the evolution of his Administration.
Previously when it was caught engaging in disgraceful, illegal or merely
mistaken or incompetent behavior, he would simply deny it. "We have found
the weapons of mass destruction!" "We do not torture!" However, further
developments in the torture matter revealed a shift. Even as he denied the
existence of torture, he and his officials began to defend his right to
order it. His Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, refused at his
confirmation hearings to state that the torture called waterboarding, in
which someone is brought to the edge of drowning, was prohibited. Then when
Senator John McCain sponsored a bill prohibiting cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment of prisoners, Bush threatened to veto the legislation
to which it was attached. It was only in the face of majority votes in both
houses against such treatment that he retreated from his claim.

But in the wiretapping matter, he has so far exhibited no such vacillation.
Secret law-breaking has been supplanted by brazen law-breaking. The
difference is critical. If abuses of power are kept secret, there is still
the possibility that, when exposed, they will be stopped. But if they are
exposed and still permitted to continue, then every remedy has failed, and
the abuse is permanently ratified. In this case, what will be ratified is a
presidency that has risen above the law.

The danger is not abstract or merely symbolic. Bush's abuses of
presidential power are the most extensive in American history. He has
launched an aggressive war ("war of choice," in today's euphemism) on false
grounds. He has presided over a system of torture and sought to legitimize
it by specious definitions of the word. He has asserted a wholesale right
to lock up American citizens and others indefinitely without any legal
showing or the right to see a lawyer or anyone else. He has kidnapped
people in foreign countries and sent them to other countries, where they
were tortured. In rationalizing these and other acts, his officials have
laid claim to the unlimited, uncheckable and unreviewable powers he has
asserted in the wiretapping case. He has tried to drop a thick shroud of
secrecy over these and other actions.

There is a name for a system of government that wages aggressive war,
deceives its citizens, violates their rights, abuses power and breaks the
law, rejects judicial and legislative checks on itself, claims power
without limit, tortures prisoners and acts in secret. It is dictatorship.

The Administration of George W. Bush is not a dictatorship, but it does
manifest the characteristics of one in embryonic form. Until recently,
these were developing and growing in the twilight world of secrecy. Even
within the executive branch itself, Bush seemed to govern outside the
normally constituted channels of the Cabinet and to rely on what Secretary
of State Colin Powell's chief of staff has called a "cabal." Former
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reported the same thing. Cabinet meetings
were for show. Real decisions were made elsewhere, out of sight. Another
White House official, John DiIulio, has commented that there was "a
complete lack of a policy apparatus" in the White House. "What you've got
is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm." As
in many Communist states, a highly centralized party, in this case the
Republican Party, was beginning to forge a parallel apparatus at the heart
of government, a semi-hidden state-within-a-state, by which the real
decisions were made.

With Bush's defense of his wiretapping, the hidden state has stepped into
the open. The deeper challenge Bush has thrown down, therefore, is whether
the country wants to embrace the new form of government he is creating by
executive fiat or to continue with the old constitutional form. He is now
in effect saying, "Yes, I am above the law--I am the law, which is nothing
more than what I and my hired lawyers say it is--and if you don't like it,
I dare you to do something about it."

Members of Congress have no choice but to accept the challenge. They did so
once before, when Richard Nixon, who said, "When the President does it,
that means it's not illegal," posed a similar threat to the Constitution.
The only possible answer is to inform Bush forthwith that if he continues
in his defiance, he will be impeached.

If Congress accepts his usurpation of its legislative power, they will be
no Congress and might as well stop meeting. Either the President must
uphold the laws of the United States, which are Congress's laws, or he must
leave office.

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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