Thursday, May 17, 2007

Extortion at the World Bank

It takes a man with powerful friends to shake down the World Bank. For those with an Orwellian taste for newspeak, check out the official statements of Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank board of directors regarding his resignation.

For those with a weaker stomach, they say respectively:

“I'll leave if you beg me to stay, otherwise I'll stay and make your life a living hell!”

“Love you, mean it. Now get the hell out!”

Why they bother I'll never know. Who is fooled by this theater of the absurd?

My favorite Wolfowitz quote is:

Finally, I want to say a special word of thanks to the many people inside and outside the Bank who have publicly or privately expressed their support for me and asked me to stay. One of the most moving was a phone call I received from the democratically elected President of a Sub-Saharan African country. It was a private call so I will not quote him by name. But he thanked me for doing so much, in his words, to make the World Bank an institution “that listens, that cares, that understands and that takes action.” If that is true, and if I have “touched the hearts of Africans,” as he told me, then the last two years have been worth it.

Honi soit qui bien y pense!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Unrequited Love

Because I liked you better
  Than suits a man to say,
It irked you, and I promised
  To throw the thought away.

To put the world between us
  We parted, stiff and dry;
‘Good-bye,’ said you, ‘forget me.’
  ‘I will, no fear’, said I.

If here, where clover whitens
  The dead man's knoll, you pass,
And no tall flower to meet you
  Starts in the trefoiled grass,

Halt by the headstone naming
  The heart no longer stirred,
And say the lad that loved you
  Was one that kept his word.

        A.E. Housman, More Poems, XXXI

He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
  He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,
  And went with half my life about my ways.

        A.E. Housman, Additional Poems, VII

Friday, May 4, 2007

Who shall guard the guardians themselves?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?    — Juvenal, ca. 100 AD

Our Constitution has not been this stretched since the Civil War. The current President once famously looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and declared him a "good man", who has ever since been steadily dismantling democracy in Russia. The President has himself put suspects in Guantanamo, beyond the reach of our courts, because they were apparently self-evidently "bad men". Now apparently numerous of these "bad men" are being released without a trial.

It is time to admit that no one, saint or sinner, can look into another's eyes and see anything of value. Due process, habeas corpus, public trial by jury, right to face the accuser, right to see evidence, right to competent and independent representation, these are the best we can do. Torture, kidnapping (rendition), and secret detention are being shamefully associated with our country.

America is at its best in hope, and at its worst in fear. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, words this President might have done well to utter on 9/11 (instead of "bring it on!"). Congress can end the fear and start the long process of stitching our Constitution back together. Hope, not fear, will overcome our enemies and win back our friends.

The U.S. Congress must immediately undertake the following:

  • Restore the right of habeas corpus and oversight by the Federal courts over all prisoners in U.S. custody once removed from an active battlefied.
  • Declare categorically that torture is not only illegal, but repugnant and anti-American, and that any official engaging in it can face criminal prosecution.
  • Close the internment camps at Guantanamo which are seen overseas as the Abu Graib of the West.
  • Restore the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law open to the public.
  • Restore the balance of our tripartite government, which has tilted perilously far to the Executive. Declare in a Congressional resolution that Executive "signing statements" are vacuous: it is the Congress that legislates, not the President.
  • Denounce, from whatever quarter or political party, false charges of insufficient patriotism or support for the troops in combat. Such McCarthyite chicanery is foolhardy and dangerous when weighty matters of national importance are discussed: this is truly the last refuge of a scoundrel.
  • Remind the people that civilians run our military, not a junta, and that it is not only their right but their duty to question the strategy and direction of war, set benchmarks for Iraq's government — and for our own.
  • Refuse to confirm out of principle any interim appointment not submitted for Senate confirmation at the first opportunity.
  • Assume the burden of oversight that our Constitution demands of the Congress.

Members of Congress, you should take Sen. Robert Byrd's advice and keep a small copy of our Constitution in your vest pocket at all times, so that you will be reminded daily what it is that "shall guard the guardians themselves", for mere mortals are not up to the task. You can show your respect to this great document by passing the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007. This issue is too important for partisanship. Please act now before it becomes one, or our red/blue population will start to tear apart.

Our troops are fighting to defend the Constitution against foreign enemies. We must do our part to defend it against domestic ones. Only in working together will America again earn the admiration of the world. Our Constitution can unite the people. At these divisive times, it is the only thing that can. The alternate scenario, rounding up all the coins in circulation and scratching off the E pluribus unum motto, is too horrible to contemplate.

I am not usually a believer in the efficacy of petitions, but desperate times call for desperate belief-suspending. Please sign the ACLU petition to restore the right of habeas corpus.