Monday, October 30, 2006

Losing

For a day or two now I've been trying to find the language to express just how distorted and lost my home has become. My home was once a revolutionary country - one with problems aplenty as history shows. But it was revolutionary because it was a defender of Liberty and Freedom and bound by laws. In the scope of human history, I told myself in search of some comfort, America did much in a very short time.

In civics and history classes, the ideas and ideals which were the bedrock of America were constant. Flaws were found, for they exist in even the best of intentions, but I saw a country moving into such better reckoning, realizing that not just landowners and not just white males had Liberty, Freedom and lawful protection. For a while, it was as if the vast majority of this country both understood that and worked ceaselessly to achieve it.

Now the thoughts in our national capitol and in the minds of too many well-educated citizens are tuned to a single note - Fear.

Leaders locally and nationally have shown contempt for our bedrock ideals. The most unnerving and shocking example of this is tucked away in a bill quietly signed into law by President Bush - a worthy bill containing pay increases for the military, accountability for (some) government contractors, better housing a military bases.

But then there's this section which leaps backwards hundreds of years - a little paragraph which eliminates the rights of states and grants to the President and the President alone authority to send in military troops into any town, city or state, regardless of whether a town city or state requests or requires such might.

Public Law 109-364, in Section 333 states:

"
The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to--
      `(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--
        `(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and
        `(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or
      `(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).
    `(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--
      `(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or
      `(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.
    `(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.
The Senate passed this unanimously. 23 members of Congress voted against it. Since the bill contains regulations on hundreds of changes, I'm sure some would say that "overall, this is a good bill." That is a sheer lie:

"
On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007's Defense Authorization Act contained a "widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order WITHOUT the consent of the nation's governors."

Senator Leahy went on to stress that, "we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders."


A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had "grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report," the language of which, he said, "subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military's involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law." This had been "slipped in," Leahy said, "as a rider with little study," while "other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals."


More here.

I know some may argue that the failure of the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina makes such changes necessary. But let's remember that this president staffed FEMA's leadership with idiots who had zero working knowledge of responding to natural disaster. Hundreds of long-time FEMA staffers quit their jobs in disgust and, no surprise, the argument was then made that FEMA should just be a part of Homeland Security -- which is now responsible for flu vaccines and responses to tornadoes and ... what was that other thing?? Oh, yeah, Terrorism.

My home, my country, was once known as the "home of the brave."

Today, it is home of the terrified.

So terrified, that both leaders and citizens are willing to abandon any belief or any law if they feel, for the moment, it might provide an illusion of safety. They have abandoned reason.

I do understand know why so many voices on Right-Wing Radio and Newspapers and Cable networks and Blogs all sound as if they are shrieks of fear. They are fearful. And they appear to fear everything.

They have no confidence in themselves, their country, in Liberty or Freedom or Law. In their hearts, they feel only loss and terror.

Such people are like those who are drowning, and when a rescuer appears to help them, they will likely attempt to drown that person as well due to their relentless panic.

5 comments:

  1. Given the process required for a bill to become law and the fact that the changes were passed by a bipartisan majority of both houses of Congress (94-0 in the Senate, and 398-23 in the House), I thought some of you may be interested to know about the actual changes made to the Insurrection Act of 1807. In order for military forces to be used under these provisions, the following conditions must be met:

    (i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and

    (ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or

    (B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).

    (2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--

    (A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

    (B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

    These are the same conditions that must be met under the old wording of the statute; however, the surrounding language has been expanded to include application to any event that is still also determined to meet these conditions, such as major public emergencies, terrorist incidents, and so on, as opposed to only "insurrection" specifically. Congress must also be informed immediately and every 14 days thereafter during the exercise of such authority, which was not required under the old statute.

    The changes to this law are likely the result of public outcry in response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, particularly President Bush's refusal to activate National Guard elements by federal or presidential order given the previous restrictions to such an order. This expansion of the wording would have, for example, allowed Hurricane Katrina to fall under the guidelines as a "natural disaster", whereas previously "insurrection" was required.

    Here is the old text:

    -----
    333. Interference with State and Federal law

    The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both, or by any other means, shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it—

    (1) so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

    (2) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws. In any situation covered by clause (1), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.
    -----

    And here is the new text:

    -----
    333. Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law

    (a) USE OF ARMED FORCES IN MAJOR PUBLIC EMERGENCIES.--

    (1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to--

    (A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--

    (i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and

    (ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or

    (B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).

    (2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--

    (A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

    (B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

    (3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.

    (b) NOTICE TO CONGRESS.--

    The President shall notify Congress of the determination to exercise the authority in subsection (a)(1)(A) as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of the authority.
    -----

    As you can see, the wording REQUIRES that the identical conditions be met (included in paragraph 2), as well as both requirements under (a)(1)(A). The only real difference is allowing the conditions to be met during "a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition" as opposed to "insurrection" specifically. (Besides, can't it be argued that "insurrection" can be broadly defined, too, if the real interest is to declare martial law?)

    Just because there is now "or other condition" wording in the revised statute does NOT mean they can just arbitrarily decide there is an "other condition" and deploy the military or national guard. The condition still MUST meet the guidelines above; it's just that now it's not an "insurrection" that also meets those conditions, it's any event that meets those conditions. But the conditions themselves are specific, and are actually carefully worded to guarantee Constitutional protections.

    Regards,

    Dave Schroeder
    University of Wisconsin - Madison
    das@doit.wisc.edu
    http://das.doit.wisc.edu/

    ReplyDelete
  2. yes, Dave - all of Congress approved this change - doesn't make it any better, in my opinion. and it does put the responsibility for determination of deploying troops in the President's hands alone. I'm sure he'll tell Congress two weeks later, as the law requires.

    and, as i predicted, the "reason" for this was the failure of the Bush administration to respond to the disaster in New Orleans.

    the change is that the President now has legal authority over a very wide range of events to deploy the military anywhere in the U.S., if he wishes it.

    wouldn't it have been far simpler to hold those in FEMA and other agencies responsible for their failures, which verged on criminal negligence; and to enact changes to improve the operations of such agencies?

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  3. There will be no election in 2008. Everything the Vampire-in-Chief does lately seems to work toward this conclusion. It's all about grabbing more power. If I'm wrong, Joe, I'll bake you a batch of cookies. Your favorite kind. Which would you rather have: A Democracy but no delicious cookies, or a dictatorship with smooshy, gooey, fresh-baked cookies? You make the call.

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  4. OXYMORON10:34 AM

    What about "other condition"
    I know it seems a simple minded retort to a Professor but George the Younger has repurposed so much legislation to fit his concentration of powers why not this one? Interesting legislation from the States Rights Crowd it seems to me.
    I listened to right wingers rant all during the Clinton Years that this kind of thing was what the Libruls wanted and who do we get if from?

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  5. say Dave - i was just wondering if your new study program in the Intelligence agencies at American Military University brought you to this post?

    As an IT professional, I'm sure you can help create search engines to find posts that express dislike for legislation and then field responses as directed by department heads.

    ReplyDelete