January 29, 2007

i could look in your face
for a thousand years
it’s like a civil war
of pain and of cheer

Lynda Pogue, Secrets

* Top ten conservative idiots, special STOU edition.

* The limits of presidential power. excerpt:

"President Bush doesn’t seem to care that Congress wants a bigger role in guiding the Iraq war. Talking about his plan to send in 20,000 additional troops, he said on '60 Minutes' that he knows Congress can vote against it, 'but I’ve made my decision and we’re going forward.'

"It is hardly the first time this president has insisted that he is “the decider,” or even the first time he’s used the Constitution to justify it, as Vice President Dick Cheney did when he told Fox News: 'The Constitution is very clear that the president is, in fact, under Article 2, the commander in chief.'

"But Mr. Cheney told only half the story. Congress has war powers, too, and with 70 percent of Americans now opposed to President Bush’s handling of the war, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, it is becoming more assertive about them. Congress is poised to pass a resolution denouncing the troop increase. Down the line, Congress may well consider mandatory caps on the number of troops in Iraq, or setting a date for withdrawal.

"If it does, we may be headed toward a constitutional clash, with the administration trying to read powers into the Constitution — as it has with its 'enemy combatant' doctrine and presidential 'signing statements' — that the Founders did not put there. The Constitution’s drafters were intent on balancing power so no one branch could drift toward despotism. The system of checks and balances that runs through the document divides the war power between the president and Congress."
"There is little question that Congress could use its power of the purse to end a war. But cutting off financing is a drastic step, and one that members of Congress are understandably reluctant to take, because it can look like a refusal to support the troops. The Constitution’s text, Supreme Court cases and history show, however, that Congress can instead pass laws that set the terms of military engagement. Whether it would be wise for Congress to adopt such limits is debatable; whether it has the authority to do so should not be.

"The Bush administration insists that if Congress tries to manage the Iraq war, it will leave the commander in chief with too little authority. But the greater danger is the one Madison recognized at the nation’s founding — that all the power will be left with the person 'most interested in war, and most prone to it.'"

* "In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. ... Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness." -- Hannah Arendt, The Origins Of Totalitarianism [via wood s lot]

* In NY over the weekend and was able to catch an excellent (and early) set by Brooklyn's Muggabears. They have a bunch of shows in New York in the upcoming month, so if you get a chance, check them out.


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