Wednesday, September 17, 2008

221 Years Ago Today

221 years ago to the day, America’s founders gathered in Philadelphia to sign one of the most important documents in history. Our Constitution Of The United States.
It is Ours. It doesn't belong to Bush, Cheney, McCain or even Obama. It is unequivocally Ours.
It not only enumerates Our rights, it enshrines them. In my opinion, it is the most important document in my life, in your life in Our life.
My favorite part of the Constitution is the Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution. Interestingly, wikipedia says:
" It was thought by the Federalists during this time that there was no need for a bill of rights as they thought that the preamble spelled out the people's rights."
Those people were so used to the day-to-day struggle with the tyranny of kings that they all assumed everybody understood what was meant in the Preamble:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves
and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United
States of America."
Wisely, they decided to go ahead and spell out what Justice, Liberty and general Welfare meant.
There are far more astute and gifted observers regarding civil liberties than myself, so I'll let them do the talking from some of their current writings:

On this day in 1787, our founding fathers signed the Constitution, making us a nation of laws, not of men. The basic concepts of justice, liberty, and inherent human rights outlined in that founding document, are at the very foundation of our strength as a nation.

But 221 years later, the United States is facing one of the darkest chapters in its Constitutional history. The Bush administration has treated the Constitution and rule of law with disrespect unparalleled in our nation’s history. The list of this administration’s assaults on the Constitution is breathtaking: it includes the warrantless wiretapping program, its interrogation policy and justifications for the use of torture, its extreme positions on the legal status of detainees that have been repeatedly rejected by the Supreme Court, and its refusal to recognize and cooperate with Congress’ constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight. This is a shameful legacy that must be undone in the years to come.

Glenn Greenwald:

During the last several nominating conventions, the areas outside the convention hall have become increasingly subject to the same degree of micro-control as events on the inside. With each convention, the physical area of extreme control expands to a larger and larger perimeter. Justified by resort to the same rationale used to suppress liberties in general — vague invocations of “security” — both political parties are now able to relegate dissent, protests and disruptions to unseen and highly controlled environments, far removed from the conventions themselves and far out of sight from delegates, political figures, and the establishment media outlets which televises the convention.


But while Denver was sterilized, St. Paul was overtly militarized. Beginning the weekend before the GOP convention began, many private homes in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area were raided by machine-gun-wielding, inter-agency SWAT teams, who forced everyone in the targeted houses to lay on the floor in handcuffs while the homes were searched, with the agents carting off laptops, journals and political pamphlets. Lawyers and journalists who were already on the scene or sent there were handcuffed. Advocacy groups having nothing to do with any planned protests were plainly targeted for these pre-convention raids — most notably I-Witness, a group of videographers who had videotaped police action during the 2004 GOP Convention in New York and helped to compel the dismissal of many criminal charges against arrested protesters and had traveled to Minneapolis to do the same.

On the Sunday evening before the convention began, downtown St. Paul resembled the Green Zone in Baghdad far more than an American city. Brigades of law enforcement officers were, by design, extremely visible in the entire area near the GOP Convention, and were flamboyantly displaying their array of weapons, marching in military formation, and chanting. The tension and intimidation levels even before the Convention began were palpable, and the results — truly extraordinary even judging by the metrics of how militarized our police forces
have become — were predictable.

What I had called a "fascist shift" in the United States, projections I had warned about as worst-case scenarios, was now surpassing my imagination: in 2008, thousands of terrified, shackled illegal immigrants were rounded up in the mass arrests which always characterize a closing society; news emerged that the 9/11 report had been based on evidence derived from the testimonies of prisoners
who had been tortured -- and the tapes that documented their torture were
missing -- leading the commissioners of the report publicly to disavow their own
findings; the Associated Press reported that the torture of prisoners in U.S.-held facilities had not been the work of "a few bad apples" but had been directed out of the White House; the TSA "watch list," which had contained 45,000 names when I wrote my last book, ballooned to 755,000 names and 20,000 were being added every month; Scott McClellan confirmed that the drive to war in Iraq had been based on administration lies; HR 1955, legislation that would criminalize certain kinds of political thought and speech, passed the House and made it to the Senate; Blackwater, a violent paramilitary force not answerable to the people, established presences in Illinois and North Carolina and sought to get into border patrol activity in San Diego.

The White House has established, no matter who leads the nation in the future, U.S. government spying on the emails and phone calls of Americans -- a permanent violation of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment. The last step of the ten steps to a closed society is the subversion of the rule of law. That is happening now. What critics have called a "paper coup" has already taken place.
So there you go. This is what's happened to Our Constitution in the last eight years. It's proof that We The People can have it, only as long as we keep it. The first step in reclaiming it, and healing it as far as I'm concerned is to deny John McCain the presidency of the United States.