This Memorial Day, I think it would be nice if Congress took back its right to declare war. After all, that and money were two things the founding fathers gave to Congress to ensure that both would remain in the hands of the people, or at least their representatives. That’s why Article One of the Constitution isn’t about the executive branch but the legislative. What are they supposed to legislate? Money and war, or those two things that Mark Twain assured us were unavoidable: death and taxes.
It’s a different world today. The President can just about wage war on his own while the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and IRS handle our money. We don’t need to worry about a thing. We just have to do three things to be patriotic citizens: produce goods at a frenetic pace, consume them with wild abandon, and spend whatever leisure time we have entertaining ourselves to death, as Neil Postman observed.
By entertainment, I mean Vegas, rappers, awards ceremonies where celebrities engage in a sort of mutual masturbation before millions of viewers, and professional basketball and football games, which are nothing more than media spectacles. It’s the ancient Roman formula of bread and circus, except in this case it’s high fructose corn syrup and Netflix.
Article Two of the Constitution states that “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” Nothing more than that. It doesn’t say he can launch missiles into Syria (Trump), invade Libya (Obama), or turn Iraq upside down looking for weapons of mass destruction (Bush). Neither does it say he can disregard the Bill of Rights, suspend habeas corpus (Bush, Obama), or spy on Americans while lying to Congress (Obama). Yet, all manner of executive bullying has been done in the name of Article Two. Obama used it to bypass Congress regarding immigration and health care. Don’t like what the people’s representatives are doing? No problem. Just write an executive order.
This is not a partisan problem. Cheney, Powell, Clinton, Obama, Brennan, Clapper, Lynch, Bolton et alia are members of the same beltway cabal that does as it pleases and, if challenged, justifies its actions with either “national security” or “Article Two.” They even lie to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to get what they want. The problem reaches as far back as President Eisenhower, although Lyndon Johnson made the presidency truly imperial. Roman imperial, not republic, as in Caligula. For a time, Richard Nixon added a ridiculous flourish in the form of White House guard uniforms worthy of Pinochet in Chile.
This is a disgrace. I cannot, nor would I ever presume, to speak on behalf of those servicemen and women who have died in foreign wars, but I can’t believe that this is the kind of country, culture, and way of life they thought they were fighting for. Of course, few think they are fighting for a cause or system. They simply want to do their job and get back to their families in one piece.
Yet, we are moving toward a corporate totalitarian state with economic globalism, an elite cast of experts, and ongoing wars to perpetuate the system. Although this was best described by Benito Mussolini in the twenties, today it includes totalitarianism of all stripes, from politically correct Leftists at universities to “antifa” thugs in the streets. They are characterized by an intolerance for anything but their own beliefs, half baked though they are, and the justification of violence. Don’t believe me? Try talking to so-called liberals about Trump. They foam at the mouth and writhe on the floor with pangs of injustice and wounded virtue. And when they get up, it’s either to insult or hit you. I wish I were making this up. You need look no further than, “The revolution will not uphold the Constitution” from the ideologues at Black Lives Matter.
The problem is that Congress has ceded nearly all of its authority to the executive branch. If President Trump were serious about draining the swamp, he would surrender the authority given to him to use military force and put the onus back on the House and Senate to decide when to go to war. Or how about not going to war at all? It might help pay for the sorely-needed infrastructure improvements he has called for. That, I think, would be a great Memorial Day tribute.
Middle photo by Fancycrave from Pexels. Like fiction? Check out the Mercury “trilogy” (The Gringo, Laura Fedora) here. Also, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”
byrne! im sure he knows that isnt bowie, and im sure he kicks himself if he ever watches that part.
i emailed this man recently and he said “thanks for the kind words.” he said a couple other things you might like, but ive been a fan of his for a very long time.
he went to the supreme court to try to take back the first amendment rights from copyright laws that have fallen outside the scope of utility and into the zone of insanity, in both scope and duration.
in particular he challenged the constitutionality of “perpetual copyright on the installment plan” violating article 1 section 8 which gives congress authority to grant monopolies “for a limited time.” and the supreme court ruled in so many words:
“if this thing [which youre here today to ask us to rule as unconstitutional] were unconstitutional, we would have ruled it as such.” its the most circular non-answer ive ever heard from any person in government. as i understand it, the supreme courts job was not to be the final word on constitutionality, its just a side job it picked up along the way.
congress should do as you say, but it has actually sold off the right to lobbyists, not ceded it to the executive branch. we can absolutely quibble about whether that is really the same thing, thats fine by me. but to be honest, congress wasnt using it, so its only natural (if very procedurally flawed) that the white house picked it up.
it was soldier and congressional medal of honor recipient smedley butler who said “the flag follows the money, and the troops follow the flag.” a horrible quote for memorial day, but its far from disrespectful to say that we should ask our troops to defend us, and nothing more. it does no respect to them to send their grandsons and granddaughters out to die for corporate gain.
so less as a response to the holiday, and more as a response to your excellent post which i largely agree with (except for a few details) here is lawrence lessig talking about how we got to this point in history. and im very glad and grateful that the soldiers take an oath to the constitution– to all americans– rather than only the politicians who largely decide where they should go.
its a long video, the q&a is not very interesting, the talk minus the intro (starts about 7 minutes in) is basically 45-55 minutes. one of the best videos ive watched in my lifetime, but no one says you have to sit through the whole thing:
i dont think youll be a fan of his style of presentation– im against the trend of blaming only millennials for a society that was worthy of cynicism and disdain before they were ever born, but he clearly created this style for them.
Thank you for this video, which I am still watching. I like his style. In effect, he had me at, “There’s no one in the Senate who has bent over backward for Wall Street more than Chuck Schumer.” And you are right about lobbyists. In my business ethics class, we review the Evan Morris case, which may interest you. Morris is said to have created “black ops” lobbying, a kind of perverse shell game involving the pharmaceutical industry. Will keep watching…
i have often considered that the wall might actually work if we ensured that lobbyists stayed on the other side of it.
i like the idea of keeping lobbying except they cant contribute more than $100 per constitutional amendment (which would never pass in congress, which means theres only one other way to get the constitution amended)