Volume 21, Number 6
Mississippi’s SB 2988
Bruce k. Gagnon
A War on Communities
Z magazine Readers
Sean Bell Verdict
Damming the Flood
Triumph of Lunacy
Dr. Wall Street
Colombia Trade Deal
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of Democracy
By Charlie Savage; Little, Brown and Co., 2007, 378 pp.
Can there be an imperial presidency without an empire? That fundamental question remains unanswered in Charlie Savage's otherwise excellent and thorough book about the amassing of power in the executive branch during the Bush presidency. While Savage gives the reader a comprehensive and detailed explanation of the Bush administration's power grab—from its putting the theory of the "unitary executive" into practice, to its penchant for secrecy and use of signing statements to declare portions of laws "unconstitutional"—he never offers any rationale for the "takeover" of the U.S. government by the executive branch.
The question Savage does answer is whether this concentration of power in the executive branch is a temporary phenomenon, rather than a permanent structural change. As we shall see, Savage believes the changes wrought by Bush and company are permanent, absent some other, unlikely, intervening events. Perhaps the reason for this pessimism lies in Savage's background as a veteran reporter for the Boston Globe who has won the Pulitzer Prize covering civil liberties issues. He is also a lawyer and able to dissect the various legal issues and provide a comprehensive framework for the various court rulings and constitutional questions that are at the core of this story.
Savage begins his tale in a bunker carved out of the bedrock beneath the White House on September 11, 2001. Vice President Cheney has just given a shootdown order for the United Airlines flight that subsequently crashed in a Pennsylvania field. The fact that Cheney did not have the authority to give such an order was no deterrence. It is clear from the beginning of Takeover that Cheney was, and still is, the driving force behind this phase of the imperial presidency.
Therefore, Savage centers his story on Cheney and the team that he assembled from his earliest days in government. Savage points out that Cheney did not come from the ranks of the ruling class. The son of a bureaucrat with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cheney did not have a stellar school career. Prior to the vice presidency, Cheney was hired by Donald Rumsfeld in the Office of Economic Opportunity, where he had his first clashes in trying to bring the federal bureaucracy under presidential control. As chief of staff to President Gerald Ford he battled Congress, in general, and Senator Frank Church, in particular, to preserve aspects of the national security state. Then he served as an undistinguished congressperson from Wyoming and, finally, as Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration.
Savage makes clear that Cheney was stung by the loss of power from the executive to the legislative branch. It seems that Watergate and the Vietnam War (which Cheney avoided through five deferments) had, in Cheney's view, eroded that power. The remainder of the book tells the story of how Cheney and his loyal assistant, David Addington, used every questionable theory promulgated by right wing think tanks—such as the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, and the Federalist Society, as well as naked power grabs through bullying and bluster—to unconstitutionally seize more power for the presidency. The result is the institutionalized concentration of power in the presidency, a concentration that Savage does not believe can be easily reversed.
Takeover also offers a comprehensive examination of the history of the imperial presidency from the earliest days of the republic until today. Savage examines each of the theories used to expand presidential power. In order to maintain nominal forms of democracy, it was necessary for those seeking to subvert constitutional government to supply a "legal, constitutional" rationale for such subversion.
Cheney and Addington found such a rationale in the "Unitary Executive Theory," which states, without any support in the Constitution, that each of the branches of federal government is a unit unto itself, without any overlapping power. According to this theory, the executive branch is a unitary source of power with the president at its head and that executive branch commissions, such as, for example, the Food and Drug Administration designed by Congress to be independent of presidential control, can be overruled, ignored, or eviscerated at the direction of the president. The Unitary Executive Theory rejects the traditionally accepted view that the Constitution creates branches of government with overlapping checks and balances, to prevent the concentration of power and the inevitable resulting tyranny.
The Unitary Executive Theory, as practiced by the Bush administration, states that the executive branch can hold validly enacted laws as unconstitutional, in whole or part, thereby overriding Congress and usurping judicial oversight through so-called signing statements. The Theory also claims that the president, as commander in chief, has the authority to take any action in time of war, notwithstanding that the Constitution explicitly gives Congress warmaking, budgetary, and related powers. This aspect of the Theory gives rise to the Bush administration claim that with respect to national security, neither Congress nor the judiciary can encroach on the president's powers as commander in chief.
Therefore, with respect to "national security" (which during the "war on terror" means everything), the president has the right to either make law through executive order or not follow any law. Of course, this has predictably resulted in abrogation of Constitutional protections and promotion of fascistic practices, such as detention without trial, warrantless wiretapping, and torture. Under the Constitution, the president is the commander in chief of the military, but Bush has purposely, repeatedly misused the term to imply the president is the commander-in-chief of the nation. This misuse inserts a militaristic ordering of civilian life implying civilians must obey the president in the same manner soldiers must obey officers. This terminology has become so pervasive that Republican candidates asserted they are running to become the next commander in chief rather than president.
Takeover explains that the Unitary Executive Theory had its origins in the Reagan presidency and was developed by the same ideologues now promoting it in the Bush presidency. When Reagan failed to get his deregulation agenda through Congress, he ordered regulatory agencies to submit all proposed regulations for a cost- benefit analysis by political appointees. The Reagan Justice Department prepared a lengthy legal memorandum that argued that the Founders' intent with respect to the separation of powers was misunderstood.
The authors of the memorandum relied heavily on the Federalist Papers, in particular Federalist 70 by Alexander Hamilton that explained why the Constitution has a single executive rather than a presiding council. Relying on this distortion of Federalist 70 and the above mentioned legal memorandum, Reagan's Justice Department challenged the Independent Counsel Law. In a June 1988 decision, the Supreme Court by a 7-to-1 vote (only Scalia dissented) upheld the power of Congress to set up agencies in the executive branch that are independent of the president.
Notwithstanding that decisive defeat, subsequent Administrations claimed and advanced some aspect of the Unitary Executive Theory. However, the current Administration claims an even more muscular version that combines the so-called inherent powers of the presidency with the spurious claim that Federalist 70 mandates separate non-overlapping authority for each branch. Takeover picks apart this strained legal justification for the Unitary Executive Theory by analyzing not only what Federalist 70 actually says, but also Hamilton's analysis in Federalist 69 that the executive branch can be subject to rules established by Congress. Takeover also chides the intellectual dishonesty of those supporting the Unitary Executive Theory.
While Takeover does an excellent job of explaining the development and theories of the imperial presidency, as well as debunking the dubious legal theories claimed to support it, the book does not explain the "why" of the imperial presidency. In truth (and Savage does not disagree), the imperial presidency has continued to grow through each administration, whether Republican or Democratic, since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other than an explanation that Cheney/ Addington thought that the post-Watergate/Vietnam War reforms had severely weakened the presidency, Savage offers no other explanation of the push for a "revival" of the imperial presidency during the current Bush administration.
Takeover also fails to analyze the growth of the imperial presidency in the context of the crisis of capitalism, starting with Franklin Roosevelt who used executive power to "save" capitalism during the Depression and into the present. As the crisis deepened and mutated, each successive administration has tried to give U.S. capitalism more and more room to exploit. For example, in response to the decisive defeat of U.S. imperialism in Vietnam and the ensuing depletion of gold reserves, Nixon used the power of the presidency to remove the dollar from the gold standard, thereby allowing the dollar to become the reserve currency of the world. Reagan tried to shore up the falling rate of profit by effectively gutting regulation of most major industries through executive order. However, these and other examples do not explain the need for concentrating power in the presidency, as Congress often went along with such measures either directly or in slightly modified forms. Further, even though the standard of living of the American working class has been under unrelenting pressure for decades, there has not been mass rebellion and discontent.
Perhaps the explanation is no more complex than that, after September 11, Cheney saw an opportunity to use the crisis to advance a less benign ruling structure in the U.S. The U.S. ruling class is not monolithic and various factions differ on the necessity of increasing autocratic rule. However, there certainly must be an awareness that as the economic pressure on the working class increases and as the needs of the national security state (both in channeling working class taxes to the profits of the military industrial complex and in maintaining U.S. world hegemony) consume more resources needed by the populace, the ruling class will no longer, in Noam Chomsky's and Edward Herman's memorable analysis, be able to "manufacture the consent" of the people. When that happens, and the signs of resistance are clear in the opposition to the Iraq war and the difficulty of the military in recruiting enough people to maintain its forces, Constitutional government may be discarded and autocratic rule could be fully implemented. The mechanisms of the imperial presidency allow for the step by step increase in autocracy, whether in a Republican or Demo- cratic administration.
There is no doubt that Bush is conscious of the need for continuity. Bush has been quietly advising the Democratic candidates on national security issues and has been consciously "institutionalizing controversial anti-terrorism programs so they can be used by the next president." In an interview with journalist Bill Sammon, Bush specifically cited the Guantánamo detainee program as precedent, believing the next White House occupant will "find it is necessary. But my only point to you is that it was important to me [Bush] go lay it out there, so that the politics wouldn't enter whether or not the program [Guantánamo] ought to survive beyond my period." Ultimately, the needs of empire will dominate over any semblance, in form or reality, of democratic government.
Takeover does a masterful job of explaining the legal mechanisms and political maneuvering developed by Cheney, the Federalist Society, and related parties to concentrate power in the president. For those who want to know how Constitutional government is being subverted, Takeover is an essential source.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.