Monday, August 08, 2005

Holding America to Her Principles

As we continue to explore the basis underlying our original essay, 'Ten Characteristics of A True US Patriot', it is imperative that we understand not only the principles supporting each individual Characteristic, but also how the Characteristics relate to each other. The first Characteristic touches upon the nature of rights and freedoms, while the second delves into the equality of all. The third Characteristic explores the structure and reasoning behind the representative form of government and the importance of checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power. All of these lead up to the formation of the fourth Characteristic, which focuses on accountability. Specifically, it reads:

A True US Patriot exercises the right to openly challenge and hold accountable at all times, even and most particularly in times of war, those who do not honor their oaths of office, who purposely mislead the nation, who abdicate responsibility when those in their employ are caught engaging in criminal and unethical activities, and who fail to serve the nation with integrity.
Although not directly stated, this Characteristic strongly implies a key responsibility of A True US Patriot: participation. Without the participation and vigilance of the citizenry, liberty cannot long survive. It is the nature of liberty and freedom to require the constant attention of those who claim to partake of them, or they can slip away under the gradual erosion of rights and imposition of unsound laws.

While our founding fathers designed a government based on the separation of powers and provided a formal set of checks and balances to help preserve the underlying structure of government, it is the duty of the citizens to ensure that these checks and balances are upheld. Part and parcel with such responsibility is the duty to hold leaders accountable for their decisions and actions, particularly where those actions could undermine the balance of powers or restrict or obstruct our liberties, rights, and freedoms. General Douglas MacArthur made it plain in his words to the Japanese people in 1948, upon the first anniversary of their Constitution:

"No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation."
The average citizen, then, has a direct role in the protection of the nation and the preservation of founding principles upon which it was founded. By exercising the right to free speech, the right to vote, the right to peacefully assemble, and petition for redress of grievances, the citizens are able to make their wishes known. A key element of the success of these methods revolves around two core precepts: first, that the public is properly informed through a free press and independent media; and second, that the leaders are held accountable for their words and actions by their peers, the People, and the media.

The principles of free speech, and the importance of a free and independent media, constitute an additional set of checks and balances outside of those expressly outlined within the Constitution as part of the government’s function. They lay squarely upon the People to enforce. Our Founding Fathers included them as part of the First Amendment, to ensure the preservation of both freedom of speech and of the Press. Freedom of the press is not only another form of free speech, but it is extended to include members of news-gathering organizations and the processes involved in obtaining information for public distribution. Former President Teddy Roosevelt once said:

"Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free."
Even former President Richard Nixon, during the height of the Watergate scandal, recognized this when he stated:
"It was the system that brought to light the facts and that will bring those guilty to justice - a system that in this case included a determined grand jury, a courageous judge and a vigorous free press."
Recent laws like the Freedom of Information Act and state Sunshine Laws allow access to governmental proceedings and minutes of meetings to help the press keep the government accountable to the People. The Press has an inherent responsibility to provide accurate, timely, and unbiased information to the People so that they may make informed decisions, and to shed the light of day on the actions of our public servants.

But the People must care to look at and review this information, and speak out when wrongdoing is suspected or discovered, in order for those in positions of leadership to be held accountable. Montesquieu noted the responsibilities of the People when he wrote:
"The tyranny of a principal in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."
And Michael Cloud put it even more simply:
"Personal responsibility is the price of liberty."
"We the People" are powerful words, used to start off one of our most important national documents. It depicts the People acting as one body in a declaration. Yet those people are also individuals, and without making an individual effort to be part of the voice of the People, there can be no united and strong voice to help us maintain our freedom. Our Constitutional rights to dissent, to free speech, and to a fair and free press gives us the ability to fulfill our role as part of the unofficial system of checks and balances. The "law of the land" has established that no person is above that law, and holds that government officials are accountable for their decisions and actions. It is our duty to remind those who serve us that they - alone or in groups - are never "above the law." We, as individuals, must each make the effort to undertake this responsibility so that, together, we can require the same of our elected and appointed officials.

A True US Patriot "exercises the right to openly challenge and hold accountable" the leaders of the nation. This isn’t a right that awaits the opportunity for use once an election cycle – it is a right and a responsibility existing "at all times, even and most particularly in times of war". It is the expectation to hold leaders accountable, and to censure or expel "those who do not honor their oaths of office, who purposely mislead the nation, who abdicate responsibility when those in their employ are caught engaging in criminal and unethical activities, and who fail to serve the nation with integrity".

Such vigilance cannot occur in a vacuum. An important reason that freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are explicitly protected in our Constitution is to ensure that a medium exists by which our citizens can remain informed, and share their thoughts with others as well as with our representatives.

There are inherent dangers in restricting these two crucial elements of our representative democracy. Through the use of "media manipulation", government and other sources can impose restrictions and control the free flow of information through a variety of methods. Some are outwardly obvious, such as censorship. Some are insidiously hidden, such as the gradual and growing monopolization of the media outlets under the auspices of a very few corporations and individuals. The former leads to a dearth of information and the silencing of dissent. The latter leads to the propagation of propaganda. Media manipulation and the strangulation of the flow of information impedes the ability of A True US Patriot from his or her Constitutional duties of vigilance and dissent. This only leads to frustration and increased apathy.

We have, of late, experienced both within our great nation – much to our detriment and dismay. Journalist Hedrick Smith warned of this many years ago when he noted:

"...this is precisely the purpose of censorship - not only to block unwanted views, but to keep people who are unhappy from knowing how many millions of others share their unhappiness; to keep the dormant opposition from awakening to its own developing strength."

It is through these methods that restrictions are also placed on the capacity to hold the government and its principals accountable for their decisions. The constant "buzz" and redirection of information away from matters of significance to the public effectively serve to hide wrongdoing. Larry Burkett mentions this in his book Business by the Book:

"Perhaps nothing in our society is more needed for those in positions of authority than accountability. Too often those with authority are able (and willing) to surround themselves with people who support their decisions without question."

Fortunately, the advent and virtual explosion of the internet has led to the rise of a new type of information sharing – blogging. The “Voice of the People” continually rises to be heard. Here, too, are those who would seek to control and influence the flow of information, but amidst the competing and often contradictory blogs, it is still possible for citizens to find the truth. By reading blogs, then checking outside of our own media sphere to the rest of the world, it is possible to recognize the spin, who spun it, and what information was left out or misrepresented.

The People can still remain vigilant, and hold those who represent us in government responsible. We can, for example, assemble and speak out to demand any leaders who have been less than forthright in their dealings or their addresses to the People step down or address (and redress) such grievances. We can, if we suspect our vote is being marginalized, demand accountability and a voter-verifiable paper trail.

We can, and should, demand that our media learn to exercise the process of due diligence in the role of information dissemination.

Most important of all, we have the right and responsibility to hold our leaders accountable for their actions. We must, we can, and we shall hold them responsible for their decisions, and demand action where instances of abuse or misuse of powers have led to the weakening of our national resolve and integrity.


Blogger Kertis said...

I think I have handy a current and relevant example which might clarify and help focus on the substance of the problem. In the disscussion, as such there is, about the Valeri Plame outing, you notice that seldom is mentioned the actually applicable law. Instead the main topic in the MSM is another law, which I am not going to mention, in that EVERYONE knows ALL about it. The chief feature of the law being disscussed, aside from its' inaplicability, and its' complexity, is the fact that conviction under it is EXTREAMLY DIFFICULT.

Propoganda 101 ; The most effective form of propoganda is that which seeks to provide those who desire it a reason to not think things through. This is becuase the target audience either already believes (the faithful) or wants to believe (complicit) the lie being told, or is uncomfortable with the act of thinking criticaly (that is to say, is dumb).

You will notice however that despite the broad based effort of the MSM and Ambassodor Wilson to provide us with the wrong answer, the prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald is not confused. He is using the applicable law, Title 18 Section 794, which is both simple and inescapeable. The only thing which will prevent his attaining convictions is death, either that of the guilty (watch for this) or his own (which has turned out to be difficult to accomplish). And should this occur, the case will become larger, much larger. It will not go away.

Similarly, as I inferr from your comments on the matter you are aware, there is a growing concern that our Constitution does not seem to be effectively responding to the assalts it is recieving. It is quite true, it does not seem to be. Perhaps this perception is the result of impatiance. I know I think we should be done by now. But it may instead be, and it seems more likely, a combination of inexperience (in that this situation is novel), willful ignorance (on the part of the faithful) and a considerably more subtle "Ad Campaign" than that which we may notice surrounding the Plame Affair.

To encapsulat that 'Ad Campaign", we are being told, even by the esteemed Congressman, that we must first wait a year and a half. Break right there for a moment. What's going to happen in the meantime? Oh, yeah, that's right. Back to business. And then if we succeed at the polls. Break right there for a monent. What kind of shape is our Voting System in? Oh, yeah, that's right. Back to business. We may, beginning in the spring of 2007, assuming the Capitol Building still stands, expect from the House of Representatives a Vote For Impeachment. Problem solved, not quite. Next we have to hold a trial of that Impeachment in the Senate. The most important trial in United States history, the most important trail since that presided over by Pontius Pilate. A very long and contentious trial which will include at least one example of every trick in the book, as well as quite a few tricks that are not yet in the book. And then, once that trial is finally forced to an end, along about Christmas, 2007, IF we gain the VOTES of two thirds of the SURVIVING Senators despite the pressures which may be brought to bear on them, then we may remove the President and replace him with...someone. Problem solved, not quite. Considering the current pace of events there is little reason for optomism when considering the likely inclination of the men and women in place in the various Offices of the buerocracy and the military in two years time. And seeing as the new guy would be dependant on these, no gain. And then the predictable happens, and then the predictable and after that the predictable. But we don't need to consider any further than we have already gone to see that this is a foolish plan.

Just as prosecuting the Plame case using the law which the guilty desire, instead of the appropriate law, is a foolish plan. A plan which the prosecution is not following. This is because prosecutor Fitzgerald is not among the faithful, nor is he complict, nor is he dumb. And so, when told to prosecute using the wrong law, he said, "I'll be right back.", went and got the right law, and then came right back. Pardon the reiteration, he used his own mind after being told what to think, selected the right tool for the job, and then set to work with it with the intent to succeed. My opinion is that this is an example worthy of emulation. Your comments lead me to believe that you at least suspect this as well, as you say that your forsight makes you doubtful regarding the outcome of the plan being offered.

Doubts which are entirely appropriate because it is the wrong plan. This is not to say that I think there is anything wrong with Impeachment, I don't. I think it an excellant way to deal with the things it applies to, such as stolen elections, and stolen, uh, kisses. Things which are high crimes and misdemeanors. But when it comes to lying to Congress (read that "everyone") in order to gain the power to torture and kill anyone pointed at, things which are explictly and repeatedly prohibited by the United States Constitution and also by all of the documents attatched to it and are also stipulated to as cause in the Declaration of Independance, trying to apply the words 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors' strains those words far beyond the breaking point. Like stuffing fifty pounds of potatos in a ten pound sack. It don't work, don't fit, won't work, can't. And it ain't a matter of wanting it to.

The matter is, it's the wrong plan. Upon realizing this, we have some options. We can throw our hands in the air, as some would like us to, and get out the sack cloth and the ashes. We can spend a couple years trying to make it work, and then get out the sack cloth and the ashes. Or we can pull our head out and think a little bit. Something along the line of "There has just got to be around here somewhere a sack big enough to stuff these fifty pounds of spuds into. After all, there always is. EVERYTHING is illegal. You can't drop a cigarette without risking a Thousand Dollar Fine." Then put our nose back in the book and keep reading our Constituion, and reading it, and reading it, untill finally near the back of the book we come upon the word Rebellion. Now that's a nice big sack, one which will hold fifty pounds of spuds with room to climb on in after them. And juggle. And where is this word? It's in 14/3. And what does 14/3 deal with? Impeachment?


Here is the text. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Here is the text, boiled down. No person shall ... hold any office, civil or military (in) the United States, who, having previously taken an oath, ... to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in...rebellion against the same... But Congress (to) remove such disability.

It is this, and not impeachment, which is the proper tool to use to perform the job at hand, if the objective is success.

It is this, and not Impeachment, which should be the object of disscussion.

I know what it means. Do you?

A very long time ago Congressman Conyers presented the President five questions and five hundred thousand signatures. To date, no answer.

We all clearly recall the questions were :
1)Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?
3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?
4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

Refferrance ;{8771D3DA-2F3D-49F7-895C-DF473CAEFA2C}

These questions were not asked in an attempt to engage in casual conversation. The presidential silence on the matter is not casual either. Nor has that silence prevented answers to these questions arriving from other than Presidential sources.

The questions go to the Constitutional requirement that the President through regular channels inform the Congress, in this instance through the State of The Union Address. The questions go to fact that in the SoTU Address preceeding the invasion of Iraq certian points were made, points upon which Congress made certian and very important decisions, including the decision to attack, points which on review turn out to be not simply untrue, but points which the President knew to be untrue when he made them. These were not mistakes, they were lies. The result of these lies has been an unneccesary and unlawful war, and the expense of blood and treasure attendant thereto, along with the destrucion of American reputation worldwide, and the destruction of liberty here at home. And etcetera.

The motive for the war is another topic. The motive of the questions was to illuminate that motive for war, in order to compare that motive to the motive stated. The motive for the Presidential silence is that by refusing to engage the point it may seem not to have been made. The point being that lying to Congress is illegal, else it would happen everyday, and if so, why have a Congress? This point goes directly to the legitimacy of the sitting President. Not on the basis of having lied, cheated and stolen his way into office, but because in lying to Congress in order to gain Congress' vote for war, he has arrogated the Congressional authority as regards to war. This removes from government the Constitutionaly mandated seperation of powers. This is quite distinct from that situation which prevails when the Constitution is violated, as when a search is performed illegally, for here we have not just a conviction to overturn, but an entire war, as well as the need to reestablish the Constitutional delegation of warmaking authority in the Congress. Upon this consideration, it should be plain that The Constitution has not been simply violated, it has been repudiated.

Put another way, the Constitution has been rebelled against. This topic is addressed in the Constitution in Amendment 14, Section 3. This is a rather obscure portion of the document. This is because it is seldom used. That is because it is meant to be used only in case of emergency, it's plan 'B', if I may put it that way, and Constitutional emergencies are fortunatly uncommon. Now that you have read it you can clearly see for yourself that it says, "Goerge Ain't President."

Now, as to what I think we should do about this. In three words that would be "Go to Court."

I think that suit should be filed to clarify that the answers independantly generated to the questions asked the President are the legal equivelant of those answers had they been provided by Goerge Bush, because he has not addressed these answers in refutation or provided any alternative to them. Upon having done this we may then apply 14/3 to the situation, and enter the resolution phase of this Constitutional crisis.

At this point the problem becomes, "What is President Kerry going to do about this?" And we're done.

See you next election.

Personal note to GreyHawk. I am the person mentioned on Conyersblog as having advocated the overthrow of the United States Government, because I posted the first portion of this essay (through "I know what it means. Do you?"), and then went to bed, intending to finish up when I was awake. By the time I returned, I was gone. Make of that what you will. As for what I make of it, I am not embarassed by my words. It is my hope people find them interesting, revise them, extend them, condense them, reprint them, use them, and most of all, think on them.

3:49 PM  
Blogger GreyHawk said...

Kertis - hey there. :) OK, that answers my question as to who wrote the comment that was referred to by someone else. I'm not sure I'd even seen the original, when someone had posted that there such statements. It was gone before I jumped in. But I don't agree that it advocates an open rebellion - it urges Congress to collective remove the cancer infesting our nation, as permitted and designated in the Constitution. (Unfortunately, the majority of the majority house in Congress is part of the same problem, and equally at fault.)

You've got a detailed analysis of the issue here - have you also blogged them? (now that I think of it, I should check your blog, eh?) ;)

10:30 AM  
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