Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sunsetting Democracy


Following is a collection of articles that I’ve come across in the last month which were disturbing individually but taken collectively tempt me to despair for American democracy especially considering the undermining of the vote in the last three elections. Often as I read, my mind juxtaposes the oddest things from previous reading, television and movie viewing and personal experience across the spectrum from novels to news and I’m never sure whether I’m having a profound insight or need to be committed to a psyche ward and hooked up to a Thorazine drip.

Un-elected Panel Could Guide Federal Budget Ax--Congress could be voting on the creation of a panel whose members are appointed by the president who are charged with analyzing the effectiveness of federal agencies and programs and recommending whether they should continue to exist or continue to be funded. Such recommendations would then be submitted to the legislators in a single package for an up or down vote without debate. Thus dozens of agencies and programs created by Congress--in many cases after years of public pressure--could be de-funded, truncated, or sunsetted without any opportunity for debate among legislators or those they represent. How would this not be the very sunsetting of representative government? By voting for such a panel Congress would be voting for their own irrelevance.

How Bush Sidesteps Intent of Congress--with presidential signing statements submitted at the time of signing bills into law, the president presents his interpretation of the law he is signing, including in many cases his contention that he as executive is bound by the law only to the extent that it does not infringe on his constitutional prerogatives as executive and commander-in-chief according to his interpretation of said prerogatives. So…according to this theory the Executive is rewriting the laws and interpreting them as well as executing them. Add to this the untold number of executive orders. Many of them classified! How is this not the subsuming of all three branches under the executive branch and thus the demise of our three branch system of government and our constitution? If the Judiciary and Legislative branches continue to sit still for this they might as well submit to wearing ceremonial dog collars.

Homeland Security contracts for vast new detention camps--This is especially chilling in light of the reports that Federal aid for Louisiana following Katrina was being withheld because Governor Blanco would not declare martial law and hand the state National Guard command over to the President. But this article pulls together several more obscure actions at the executive level going back to the seventies, tracking the steady accretion of power into the executive and their hankering after martial law and the suspension of the Constitution. Many of those advocating over the last thirty years for such a response to every disruption of order from civil unrest to natural disasters work in some capacity for this administration. One of their contentions is that 9/11 has made America itself--from sea to shining sea--a war zone and thus we should implement the same command structure here as any other theater of war.

Is it time to hold a coast to coast candlelight vigil in memorial of democracy?

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