July 19, 2007

It's a sad and beautiful world

Walker Evans Storefront and Signs, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1936

* George W. Bush: James Madison's nightmare and the president he warned us about. excerpt:

"George W. Bush is the imperial president that James Madison and other founders of this great republic warned us about. He lied the nation into precisely the 'foreign entanglements' that George Washington feared would destroy the experiment in representative government, and he has championed a spurious notion of security over individual liberty, thus eschewing the alarms of Thomas Jefferson as to the deprivation of the inalienable rights of free citizens. But most important, he has used the sledgehammer of war to obliterate the separation of powers that James Madison enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

With the 'war on terror,' Bush has asserted the right of the president to wage war anywhere and for any length of time, at his whim, because the 'terrorists' will always provide a convenient shadowy target. Just the “continual warfare” that Madison warned of in justifying the primary role of Congress in initiating and continuing to finance a war—the very issue now at stake in Bush’s battle with Congress.

In his 'Political Observations,' written years before he served as fourth president of the United States, Madison went on to underscore the dangers of an imperial presidency bloated by war fever. 'In war,' Madison wrote in 1795, at a time when the young republic still faced its share of dangerous enemies, 'the discretionary power of the Executive is extended ... and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.'
"There never was a congressional declaration of war to cover the invasion of Iraq. Instead, President Bush acted under his claimed power as commander in chief, which the Supreme Court has held does allow him to respond to a 'state of war' against the United States. That proviso was clearly a reference to surprise attacks or sudden emergencies.

"The problem is that the 'state of war' in question here was an al-Qaida attack on the U.S. that had nothing whatsoever to do with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Perhaps to spare Congress the embarrassment of formally declaring war against a nation that had not attacked America, Bush settled for a loosely worded resolution supporting his use of military power if Iraq failed to comply with U.N. mandates. This was justified by the White House as a means of strengthening the United Nations in holding Iraq accountable for its WMD arsenal, but as most of the world looked on in dismay, Bush invaded Iraq after U.N. inspectors on the ground discovered that Iraq had no WMD.

"Bush betrayed Congress, which in turn betrayed the American people—just as Madison feared when he wrote: 'Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it compromises and develops the germ of every other.'"

* Why Is Marijuana Still Illegal. excerpt:

"The recent arrest of Al Gore's son in Laguna Niguel for the possession of marijuana and various prescription pills provides the opportunity to ask an important question: Why the heck is marijuana illegal?

"I can drive to dozens of nearby stores and buy enough booze to drink myself to death in one night. Or I can buy enough cigarettes to wreck my health and cut decades off my life.

"These deadly substances, which by some estimates kill hundreds of thousands of people annually, are perfectly legal.

"However, get caught with even a small amount of marijuana, and your life could be turned upside down. You could lose your property, your job, and end up behind bars.

"This is nuts. By all medical evidence, marijuana is far safer than alcohol and tobacco. No one ever died from a marijuana overdose. It's physically impossible. Booze and tobacco are far more likely to cause dependency. And cancer risks from smoking marijuana are virtually nil."
"Would legalizing pot increase use? Again, the IOM: 'There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.' Even if it did, it might actually be better if heavy smokers or boozers switched to less-harmful pot.

"All these arguments are important, but they're not the core issue. Bottom line, it's all about freedom. In a free society, adults should be free to do as they choose with their own lives, as long as they don't harm others. Hang-gliding, motorcycle riding, bungee jumping, eating fast food, neglecting exercise ... adults engage in lots of risky behavior. I may not approve, but it's your life, and your sacred right to choose.

"By the same logic, a free person should certainly be able to grow and ingest a common plant.

"Please note I'm not talking about driving under the influence of marijuana. That should be a crime, as it is now with alcohol. Ditto committing other crimes while under the influence. Ditto sale to minors. But these acts are illegal for alcohol, too. Still, we don't outlaw alcohol because some misuse it.

"Marijuana was legal in America right up to the mid-1930s, when a lurid, racist propaganda campaign of claptrap and lies conned Congress into outlawing it. The ban didn't make sense then, and it makes even less sense today."

* Some great record covers.

* "No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." --H. G. Wells


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