“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, April 29, 2006

the state is already lost...

Je suis le véritable père Duchesne, foutre !

“Not a lot of probity is required by a monarchic or despotic government in order for it to sustain and maintain itself. The force of the law in the one, the arm of the prince, forever lifted, in the other rules or contains everything. But in a popular government, we require another resource, which is virtue.

What I am saying is confirmed by the entire body of history, and is very conformable to the nature of things. For it is clear that in a monarchy, where he who has the laws executed judges himself above the law, one has need less of virtue than in a popular government, where he who has the laws executed feels he himself subject to them, so that he bears their burden.

It is, again, clear that the monarch who, by bad counsel or negligence, ceases to have the laws executied, can easily repair the injury: he has only to change the counsel, or correct his negligences. But when, in a popular government, the laws cease to be executed, like that there can only come the corruption of the republic – the state is already lost. “

Well said, Montesquieu. Bringing us to the intermittent series of Bush’s crimes, of which Jonathan Schwartz, at Tiny Revolution, is making an account. He noticed, as of course the whole of the opposition hasn’t (the willfully blind, still fretting about framing a national security policy bloody enough to garner a good percentage of the lyncher vote. Hilary C.’s proposal of a lottery bombing, in which average citizens can reach into a tub full of billets with the names of countries written on them, and we bomb that country for a day, has apparently received the endorsement of the New Republic crowd), LI, too, is compiling a small history of how a great republic crawled through a small time, and gave up the ghost. This would be a sad story, if one could tell it in Montesquieu’s language, a classical, hard tone deriving from a lifelong acquaintance with the Latin historians. However, LI can only tell it, has only been responding to it, in the vulgar tones of street worm made victim by some hit and run frat car, careening crazily down the street. We wave our empties at it, spit, zip down our zipper and piss in its general direction. More Père Duchêne than Montesquieu, I’m afraid.

Still, it is a spectacle, no? The usurpation of tyrannical power by an executive branch which, after failing completely to protect the citizenry, after allowing America to be attacked by a bunch of pikers, and after failing systematically even to punish the relative handful of people who made that happen, now uses the bloody results of that failure as the grounds for usurping ever more illegal power, which it concentrates in ever more incompetent and fraudulent hands.

Schwartz has been citing outrageous bits from Bush’s favorite constitutional theorist, John Yoo, the man who never saw a torture he didn’t like – that is, if the torturer is an American. Yoo, basically, holds that the executive branch can conduct wars with its – America’s – army as he sees fit, with the only brake upon this power being the Congressional power over the purse strings. There is a latin legal phrase for Yoo’s position. It translates, roughly, as: Í’m pulling this out of my ass. In Policy Review, which is as conservative a journal as you can get, Yoo’s reviewer, Eugene Kontorovich, couldn’t quite go the whole route of claiming that the president is a king:

When the Constitution was ratified, the federal army numbered fewer than 700 men; there was no naval establishment. The state militias accounted for the bulk of the nation's military capability.

The Constitution makes clear that Congress, rather than the president, controls the "calling forth of the militia." Thus, the commander in chief, at the time of the founding, had no means with which to start a war without prior action by Congress. It would be odd if the decision about whether to wage war were placed solely on the shoulders of an official so ill-suited to
ensuring its success. … In Yoo's model.Congress's decision to create a military ready to meet any contingency allows the president to do what he will with it.”

The Policy reviewer also points out another flaw in Yoo’s position: one that, actually, reaches to the heart of the monster created by the crossing of the corporate power and warmaking under the aegis of the Cold War:

“Today, a hard-pressed president might seek out contributions or, worse, loans from other nations. This is not so far-fetched — the Gulf War was financed in part with foreign contributions, and much of the Iran-contra scandal was about the White House's efforts to obtain alternative funding from foreign nations after Congress cut off support for the Latin American freedom fighters.

“Or the president could pay for the war from its own proceeds — for example, by selling assets of a defeated enemy (Iraqi oil, for example). Or perhaps he could sell U.S. military hardware to other nations — he is, after all, commander in chief of the armed forces.”

That these are actually imaginable courses of action tells us something about the structural madness of giving the President this kind of power. So: let’s take it away from him.

Strangle the military. Support your anti-recruiter. Be a patriot.


Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

LI, it's "Jonathan Schwarz".

roger said...

Mr. Scruggs -- thanks! I have corrected it. Hmm, I was combining his last name with my own. Well, all I can say is, I am an incorrigible narcissist!

new york pervert said...

I think I begin to see what accounts for 3rd Party-ism. It may be just another form of deterritorialization, but with powerlessness as a prerequisite. I don't know if it's the same thing as the sero-conversions to HIV + people used to talk about, they probably still do. All some way of composing something within a group that seems bearably kindred maybe.

roger said...

Mr. NYP- you know, there are moments when elections have a real significance – when the party system actually operates, in spite of itself, on a deep level. Like in 68, or in 80. But mostly, I think the party system is set up to normalize, to make superficial, political choices. So myself, I’m probably going to get wound into some of the election stuff happening this year, but my better self, the higher muse singing on that register that only dogs and drunks can hear, won’t. Montesquieu is right about virtue, and I take virtue at the moment to be a fight against a number of interconnected vices: the last sixty to seventy years of increases in executive power, embodied in the petro-chemical and war industry complexes; the frenzy of consumerism, long detached from sensual or intellectual happiness; the treadmill of production; and the deadness towards the very sources of our life and light.

So, myself, -- to move from the heroic to the mock heroic - I write a blog. A little thing that has, at best, forty or fifty readers. I’m not bragging, however, when I say that, if I wanted to, I could write a blog with many, many more readers. I don’t think the template of a successful, ‘progressive’ blog is that mysterious. If virtue is simply something you get to by enlarging your demographic, I could do that. I’d just have to get my hands around that higher muse and throttle the shrieking bitch.

But… no. I think you have to work on a different level, with different, what, frequencies than that. You steppenwolf around to different blogs – myself, I’m working on Tuttlism. I’m taking my motto from Robert Deniro’s HVAC character in Brazil – ‘you get in, you get out’. You work fast, you work undercover, you plant a few seeds, you think about how to shake things up. I have this image of these here states, a vast behemoth, wearing a virtual reality helmet. The helmet has been locked onto the body of this giant, and LI’s mission impossible is to creep up, unstrap the helmet, throw it to the ground, and stick some fucking dynamite in it and blow it up. So I’m looking at graphic novels, god help me, and thinking of them as weapons. Strange days, eh? Instead of phonebanking for Candidate Blandly Bland, calling Mrs. Smith and taking a moment to tell her that Bland will fight for her! Strong on defense, strong on the economy! I want to go around her back and corrupt the little Smith kiddies.

new york pervert said...

roger--I think I understand it.

Amie said...

LI, please do not go down that well-worn road/template of a much-in-demand successful 'progressive blog'. you know, that's often a bit like that 'self-help' book 'a road less travelled' which has a few billions on the road less travelled!
makes me think of the time i took a trip to india and saw these'snake charmers'. perhaps you know of them. they play a tune on their reeds and snakes - often scary cobras - come winding out of the baskets and whirl and dance. except that the cobras have their mouths sewn shut. needless to say, the snakes don't last long, and the charmers have to go looking for others.

roger said...

Amie, like, wow! I thought they defanged the snakes, but sewing the mouth shut ... Jesus. There's a nightmare image. I sorta like snakes. In Shreveport, where my family once lived, the snakes would crawl into the shade under the porch, which - because these were copperheads -- was a little irritating. I've seen the old man pop more than a few snakes with his pellet gun. (Hey, my father was always a little territorial about his property. At one point, he became obsessed with squirrels. So we would be eating out on the porch and he'd suddenly pick up his gun, which he'd have lain across a seat, and pick out a squirrel. They were, according to him, eating his dwarf fruit trees. Whatever).

However, snakes are gorgeous critters.

In any case, this snake's mouth is still unthreaded.

Amerigo Sciurofascista said...

I'm sure you read many of the same big swinging prog blogs as I do, Roger. I say that if the template for one didn't kill you, the comments would, and being possessed of the quality which makes this so is greatly to your credit.