Welcome Bruce Fein, and Host, Glenn Greenwald.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread.  - bev]

American Empire Before the Fall

There’s no doubting the conservative bona fides of Bruce Fein. A high-level Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan administration in the 1980s and previously a resident scholar with the Heritage Foundation, he is a long-time advocate for uncompromising right-wing political principles.

Yet paradoxically, Fein has been, and remains, one of the most eloquent and incisive political voices over the last decade. He was one of the earliest and most emphatic critics of Bush and Cheney’s radical abuses of executive power. Two weeks after The New York Times revealed in December, 2005, that Bush had ordered the NSA to illegally eavesdrop on Americans without the warrants required by law, Fein used his column in the right-wing Washington Times to warn that “Mr. Bush has adamantly refused to acknowledge any constitutional limitations on his power to wage war indefinitely”; to scorn as “war powers nonsense” the theories assembled “to defend Mr. Bush’s defiance of the legislative branch and claim of wartime omnipotence”; and, most important of all, wrote this:

Congress should insist the president cease the spying unless or until a proper statute is enacted or face possible impeachment. The Constitution’s separation of powers is too important to be discarded in the name of expediency.

The amount of independence and intellectual integrity required to be a prominent conservative and call for George Bush’s impeachment in a conservative newspaper cannot be overstated. So effective was Fein as a critic of Bush’s radicalism that when Russ Feingold convened a hearing on his proposal to formally censure Bush for illegally spying on Americans, Fein was one of his leading witnesses. And in my first book, the 2006 How Would a Patriot Act?, I devoted an entire chapter — entitled “Patriotism Beyond Politics” — to the handful of conservatives who stayed true to their principles by courageously condemning the Bush/Cheney assault on our Constitution, and began the chapter with a discussion of Fein’s stalwart advocacy. It’s impossible to be a defender of the Constitution without being an admirer of Bruce Fein’s work on these critical issues over the last decade.

Fein’s newest book — American Empire Before the Fall — should endear him even more to people across the political spectrum who are profoundly troubled by America’s radical departure from its core values. The central problem Fein examines — the nation’s conduct as a world-dominating imperial power rather than a republic — infects and exacerbates virtually every serious political and cultural problem. It drains our financial resources and threatens the country with debt-fueled collapse. It precludes spending on the welfare of American citizens for education, infrastructure and entitlements for the needy. It is what justifies the endless erosion of civil liberties and the acquiescence of limitless, unchecked power to the Executive Branch. It is what causes the nation to be plagued by a bloated, borderline-omnipotent National Security and Surveillance State. It even ironically weakens us militarily and renders us far more vulnerable to attack via overstretch and commitments beyond our means. And most of all, it degrades the American character by reducing us to a militaristic, war-fighting state, wallowing in our own fears, insecurities, hatreds and weaknesses.

There is a variety of commentary, and even other books, which warn of the dangers of America’s addition to acting as Empire, but none synthesize these dangers as well Fein’s American Empire does. Equally valuable is the history he examines: how and why the national security apparatus created in the wake of World War II quickly morphed into the sprawling, self-perpetuating “military-industrial complex” about which Dwight Eisenhower presciently (though with futility) warned us in his 1961 Farewell Address. From Korea to Vietnam, the covert Central American wars of the 1980s through our post-9/11 policies of Endless War, this book provides a crystal clear picture of what it means to be an Empire, what motivates it, and how it all came about. As Fein puts it:

The larger national motivation is to dominate the world for the excitement of domination. The narrower particular motivation of the President is to reduce coequal branches of government to vassalage, to place the President above the law, and to justify secret government without accountability. James Madison’s admonitions about presidential wars have been vindicated.

Fein’s talents as a litigator enable him to present all of this in deeply engaging though succinct prose, which allows the reader to absorb all of these complex ideas with ease. Given its weighty subject matter, American Empire is a remarkably quick and effortless — though always illuminating — read.

Appropriate for the non-partisan and independent mind Fein possesses, he spares no party and no faction from his withering critique, as his analysis reaches its apex in the chapter that examines how the post-9/11 expansion of this imperial mindset continued unabated regardless of which party was in control. That chapter, appropriately entitled “The American Empire’s Bush-Cheney-Obama Triumvirate,” documents the tragic, highly disappointing (though indisputable) fact that “President Obama confirms the American Empire as a fixture of the prevailing political culture, not a Bush-Cheney phenomenon,” as he “has bought into the national security state featuring permanent war everywhere on the planet.”

Depressing though this might be, Fein ends the book with a series of steps which the U.S. could and should take to return to its republican roots and thus save itself from what will otherwise inevitably be the same type of imperial collapse that has destroyed the world’s other hubristic empires. It is, however, impossible to imagine the political class undertaking these steps on its own, i.e., without serious public pressure. And it is, in turn, very hard to envision the requisite public pressure without substantially greater economic suffering and deprivation of liberty, by which point we may well have passed the point of no return. That is the central question the U.S. faces: whether the citizenry will recognize the peril it faces from our imperial posture and demand fundamental changes before we reach the point where collapse is inevitable (if we haven’t reached it already). Whatever else is true, Fein’s latest book is a critically important effort to galvanize that process.

179 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Bruce Fein, American Empire Before the Fall”

BevW September 11th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Bruce, Welcome back to the Lake.

Glenn, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

dakine01 September 11th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Bruce and Glenn and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Bruce I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a question and apologize if you answer it in the book, but why at a global level do you think it is so easy for the folks in DeeCee to fall into the trap of destroying the Constitution?

I know, my thinking is that at least for many Dems, it goes back to the Vietnam War and the desire to “not be weak on National Security” since that has been often a theme used by the Rs against the Dems.

egregious September 11th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Welcome back to Firedoglake – so glad you could join us today!

Glenn Greenwald September 11th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Welcome everyone – and welcome Bruce.

This is genuinely a very engaging, informative and important book – highly recommended.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:09 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 2

Politicians in DC know nothing of the Constitution or its philosophy, even though Article VI requires them to take an oath to uphold and defend the document. In contrast to the Founding era, the modern elected official displays vastly more loyalty to party and to perpetuation in office than to the Constitution,which to most is an afterthought and is of conern only to the US Supreme Court. The US now embraces a national security or Empire culture in which everythign is subordinated to claims of safety no matter how tenous. Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in essence held that the President may order assassinations of Americans with impunity by claiming that a state secret would be exposed in proving the President’s culpablity!

szielinski September 11th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

An odd statement:

The larger national motivation is to dominate the world for the excitement of domination.

It’s odd if false but it’s especially odd if true, for if it is true, it follows that the United States established a global empire for no other reason than to have an empire. All the wealth and humanity that this country squandered and the many crimes it committed during that time were the products of a megalomaniacal and gratuitous gesture.

Perhaps it is true and does sound odd, but its dissonant sound issues from the assumption one would need to make to consider it true. Were the leaders of this country since Truman that self-aware that they knew they were on a path leading to a modern Rome?

Edit: I have yet to read the book.

Cujo359 September 11th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Good afternoon, Bruce and Glenn.

The question that occurs to me, and I’m sorry if this is mentioned in the book somewhere, is that minding our own business as a nation seems to be a bedrock principle of conservatism. It’s certainly a popular notion with Pat Buchanan, for instance. How is it that so many conservatives these days don’t subscribe to this notion?

From my side of the political spectrum, it seems like that’s where the political impetus for all our recent misadventures in the world have originated from.

af165 September 11th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Good evening, Mr. Fein. I am a dedicated fan of your work.

Can you envision any scenario in which you would endorse the United States government, under the U.S. Constitution as it now stands (i.e. without further amendments), distributing economic or military aid to an ailing foreign nation while no serious threats to our sovereignty are outstanding? If so, what would the earmarks of such a scenario be?

gavbrown01 September 11th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Bruce – Why does America not see the abuses, which are committed openly in defiance of law, for what they are? Is the lie too big?

Cujo359 September 11th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

reply to Bruce Fein @ 5:

Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in essence held that the President may order assassinations of Americans with impunity by claiming that a state secret would be exposed in proving the President’s culpablity!

If that’s what the court’s opinion is, that is truly disturbing. The law clearly states that classifying information to cover up a crime is illegal. It’s almost as though the court ignored that little issue altogether.

dakine01 September 11th, 2010 at 2:13 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 5

We saw that during the Senate Judiciary committee hearings at the end of the Bush years when I believe it was Sara Taylor who stated that she’d sworn an oath to the President (and not the Constitution)

Scarecrow September 11th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Welcome Bruce Fein, and thanks for hosting, Glenn. Great intro.

To both: were you surprised by the degree to which Obama continued the expansive executive powers — was this clearly foreseeable?

And what about the most recent 9th Circuit decision on allowing state secrets to trump access to judicial remedies for state crimes? What’s your prediction about what the Supremes will do?

Glenn Greenwald September 11th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Bruce – one of the things that many people predicted is that conservatives would re-discover their skepticism over an omnipotent Executive once there was a Democrat in the White House (much the way that liberals – or at least Democrats – have become much more comfortable with these powers now that one of their own wields them).

But conservatives seem just as supportive of radical executive power even with Obama in office.

Do you agree with that? And if so, why aren’t conservatives returning to their fear of unrestrained Executive power that they exhibited, for instance, during the Clinton years?

Scarecrow September 11th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

One of the things Obama said in the campaign, wrt to the Iraq/Afghan wars, was that he wanted to end the thinking that led to these wars. But there doesn’t seem to be any difference between where he is and the Bush thinking on 9/11 on after. Do you see any hope, in selection of advisers, recent statements, events, that suggest Obama can break free of this thinking?

monaholland September 11th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Mr.Fein, as one who many used to consider to be a conservative — tho I’ve really always been a libertarian — I’m deeply curious as to how you are now received among the neocon-dominated conservative movement and/or GOP. I very much concur with your view of the Constitution as it pertains to the topics under this discussion, and that concurrence has not been well-received by former ideological allies. And you, sir? What has gone wrong that the right does not see this crisis as you and I do?

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:16 pm
In response to szielinski @ 6

The human species acts more from instinct than from cerebral faculties and Aristotelian logic. Animal species seek domination for its own sake because of the psychic thrill of superiority. That has also been true of every Empire: Roman, Chinese, British, Ottoman, Soviet. What did the Soviets get by invading Afghanistan in 1979: its own sepulcher. The US goes abroad in search of monstors to destroy because of the psychic thrill of acting as a superpower. That is why, for instance, the US remains in Afghanistan even though it cannot define victory beyond I’ll know it when I see it. All US concocted justifications like democracy, economic security humanitarian etc are easily discredited as counterfactual.

Hugh September 11th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

It drains our financial resources and threatens the country with debt-fueled collapse

Actually it is wealth inequality, not debt that will cause an economic collapse. 1% own 1/3 of the country. 10% own 2/3 of it. Sovereign in its own currency, indeed with the world’s reserve currency, the US controls its debt. It is rather the malallocation of resources to the least productive segments of society, the wealthy, and their pursuits, looting, imperial wars, that will spark collapse, and probably not in the too decent future either.

[Edited by Moderator. please stay on the topic of the book]

Teddy Partridge September 11th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

The hope that American citizenry can possibly engage to derail the political class’s quest for further imperial conquest, and overreach, is very tenuous to me. As long as the omnipresent circuses are provided on regular basic cable, I fail to see how Americans will even notice when the inevitable sell-off of public assets begins. The commons is no longer held for us in trust as long as we have an oligarch class enviously salivating over the looting done by their counterparts abroad.

Steering this thing out of the ditch isn’t possible any more with either political party; it’ll take some fundamental re-alignment to accomplish even the smallest grab back from those who are enriching themselves at our expense.

Thanks for writing this book; I see it as something useful for historians far in the future trying to reconstruct what happened to hasten the 21st century American decline. But I don’t imagine its clarion call will be heeded; there simply aren’t enough of us left who care.

blenkinsop September 11th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Bruce – What was your assessment of Obama at the time he made his anti-war speech in 2002, and at what point did you perceive him to be committed to the status quo?

ricecakes September 11th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Hey Bruce and Glenn..

Glenn I’m T-Monie on your blog but I did want to ask Bruce if this work did at all touch upon the pop culture side of the decline of the American empire.

I for one find the popularity of “reality television” over the past ten years an extremely telling fortune of where we are headed.

After all I am a subscriber to the Huxley version of our future rather than the Orwellian one.

Does this book look into the disturbing trend of citizen “numbing” par mainstream entertainment?

September 11th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Thank you both for being here.

Mr. Fein, do you think the failure of the Obama administration to investigate the former administration for crimes, specifically aggressive war and the use of torture, marks a point of no return from which we won’t be able to get back to the republic we had?

Also, is there any way congress can regain any of its equality in the area of war-making while so much has been ceded to the executive branch?

September 11th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Great to see Messrs. Fein and Greenwald here!

Bruce – Glenn’s intro ends with that you lay out a series of steps. Could you elaborate on those please. Thanks.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:22 pm
In response to Cujo359 @ 7

It is a conservative principle because it rests on skepticism of human nature and human wisdom and doubts about government altruism. But conservatism today has been hijacked to mean Empire building and utopian schemes to change Stone Age political cultures into thriving democracies in a few years. Rememeber Bush 43 was allegedly conservative as was VP Cheney, yet by their second term they were pronouning as a US goal in the State of the Union message the purging of the planet if not the galaxy of tyranny! The US has no moral obligation to relieve the plight of others unless the US has been complicit in creating the plight. Altruism is the option of individuals, not governments.

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Mr. Fein, if you had to put a date on when the transition from Republic to Empire occurred, what would it be?

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Welcome Bruce and Glenn.

Glenn, I hope you’ve recovered from the flu.

I have a couple of questions for both of you.

1. Whom do you see among public figures today who is capable of winning an election for president and will restore the legitimacy and supremacy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Rule of Law?

2. Are liberals and progressives better off trying to take over the Democratic Party to nominate that person to run for President and elect him or her using existing resources of the Democratic Party, or should they form a third party and promote their cause and that candidate via that party?

3. Can this be done without finding a way to neutralize the effect of the Supreme Court’s odious decision in Citizens United?

Thanks, gentlemen.

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

The larger national motivation is to dominate the world for the excitement of domination

So Power is now more important than making money in our capitalist society. Is such a thing possible unless the rich are sure that they won’t have to pay the costs of any war.
If so when did the rich get convinced of that and why.

rollotomasi September 11th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Looking forward to reading your book, Bruce (and yours, too, Glenn). It seems to me that its in the national security sector’s (including governmental agencies and private firms) own interest to overhype threats on which it is supposed to investigate and report – both within government and to the public, and that the only way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to have independent, transparent oversight by representatives of “the people” (our governement).

Unfortunately, all but a few stalwarts in the legislative branch don’t seem to care much about this. What do you suggest as the best approach going forward to reverse this apathu?

szielinski September 11th, 2010 at 2:24 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 16

Bruce,

Thanks for the response. I would agree with this point:

The US goes abroad in search of monstors to destroy because of the psychic thrill of acting as a superpower. That is why, for instance, the US remains in Afghanistan even though it cannot define victory beyond I’ll know it when I see it. All US concocted justifications like democracy, economic security humanitarian etc are easily discredited as counterfactual.

But I would not attribute American adventurism to human nature. I see it more as a consequence of nationalistic arrogance, institutional momentum and the fear of change. It may take a true disaster to push the United States from its present path.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:25 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 14

No, I see no effort by Obama or his advisers to rethink the wars because they all accept the counter-constitutional, counter-factual idea that the US must engage in global warfare in perpetuity against international terrorism in order to retain US sovereignty. The problem is not Obama or the Republican Party–It is the psychology of Empire which instinctively inflates danger to justify projecting the military everywhere.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 2:27 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 16

I appreciate the question and your response to it, as I’ve often wondered about that, too. Of course, the Viet Nam war was “sold” as being necessary because of the domino theory about the need to prevent the spread of communism. Iraq was sold on another lie about the WMD and the alleged but untrue claim that Saddam Hussein supported and abetted Al Qaeda.

A conservative who was blogging here yesterday made a telling comment about “the necessity” for unending and excesseive expenditure on the military becuase (and I quote) “that’s what we do.”

This blogger had no sense of irony in stating this and was surprised when I questioned the “logic” or purpose of this statement. This blogger also felt that there was a real equivalency between our spending on welfare and on the Military Industrial Complex.

I suspect that most citizens simply don’t think at all about our empire, what it means, why we’re doing it, and how much it’s bankrupting our nation, while vastly enriching those at the top.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I agree that most Americans are indifferent to or support Empire because it gives them jobs and false pride and exploits a volunteer armed forces larely consisting of the voiceless or powerless. But a single courageous leader could do the trick about dismantling and repudiating Empire and perpetual war. As Andrew Jackson said, a majority is one man or woman with courage. The American people can be lead back to the roots of the Republic, but at present tne nation is leaderless–only followers of a political culture which celebrates simply being in office as the summum bonum.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 29

The problem is not Obama or the Republican Party–It is the psychology of Empire which instinctively inflates danger to justify projecting the military everywhere.

But, at the end of the day, is that not just about the extremely wealthy wishing to keep the “cash cow” in place. Those at the top certainly make a lot of money from waging endless war to extend the empire, as has always been the case throughout history, I believe.

pmcall September 11th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Welcome Bruce and thanks for hosting, Glenn. I was just over at Salon and read that Glenn and Bruce would be here today. I’m glad I didn’t miss this.

I will be buying Bruce’s book today and can hardly wait for Glenn’s new book. Thank you both for speaking out on these very important issues.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:34 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 30

You are right about American indifference to thinking about Empire or anything else. In such cases, the prevailing orthodoxies dicate what Americans do or feel. At one time, it meant indifference to Jim Crow and racial subjugation for a century. Today, it means bestriding the world like a colossus indiscriminately decimating countries and peoples and insisting we are the only nation in the world that is entitld to endure with zero-risk.

Dakinikat September 11th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 29

Do you think any of the law suits that will go before SCOTUS–including the call to assassinate American citizens without due process–will have some impact on public discussion and will they be decided in a constitutional and not political manner?

And thanks for taking time to discuss this! It’s so important.

ricecakes September 11th, 2010 at 2:36 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 32

Not always man…

The powerful and wealthy may believe that endless war and empire always further their interests…

But history also shows us that sometimes endless war and empire ends up in the destruction of the elite of the nation that engage in imperialism.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

To Bruce and Glenn both — I love you! Also, thanks for doing salons and interviews and blog posts because I just can’t read a book. I just can’t. Anyway, thanks to you both for what you do and for being here now. You’re favorites of mine.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 2:37 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 34

Agree. I suggested to that blogger, fwiw, to go read up on some history about the “falls” of various empires. To be very brief, it seems to me that most of them just got “tapped out” and mired in bureaucracy while experiencing a law of diminishing returns in terms of the purported financial gain.

I don’t think most citizens, though, are able to make the connection between how past empires fell – even including the British Raj, which is fairly recent – and what is happening for the USA now.

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 2:37 pm
In response to ricecakes @ 36

Indeed. Only one Roman emperor died of natural causes.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to ricecakes @ 36

But history also shows us that sometimes endless war and empire ends up in the destruction of the elite of the nation that engage in imperialism.

Mostly true, but there’s always a few that manage to take the money and run…

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 23

It is a conservative principle because it rests on skepticism of human nature and human wisdom and doubts about government altruism.

How can Conservatives believe in God and God’s Nature/Plan when they won’t trust their fellow Man’s/Human Nature who was made in God’s image?

Why distrust human wisdom or science? The wisdom of Man the examples of the past FDR and Keynes would serve us much better than the NeoHoover economics of today.

Government Altruism like National Healthcare that costs less than our private free market system?

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to rollotomasi @ 27

I agree. At one time, Congress did exercise oversight. Think of the series of Fulbright hearings on Vietnam or the Church Commitee hearings. The reason the Founding Fathers fastened responsibility for war on Congress was becasue Members had no incentive to invest excuses. War and a national security state diminish congressional power. But Congress has voluntarily surrendered its oversight functions by declining to issue or enforece subpoeans or challenge claims of state secrets or executive privilege. This is largely because members are loyal to party first and loyal to the institution and the Constitution last. Change will come only when voters refuse to support candidates who default on oversight.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:41 pm
In response to ricecakes @ 36

I agree with your point. Elites do not understand that what they think is leading to their enrichment and power will in fact lead to their ruination. But often the ruination is delayed to crash after the guilty elites have passed from the scene. When Alaric vandalized Rome in 410 AD, the Roman elite that had yielded the military power to the barbarians were dead.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 2:41 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 42

This is largely because members are loyal to party first and loyal to the institution and the Constitution last.

Too true and something which far too few citizens realize. And it wasn’t all that long ago that such oversight happened, per the examples provided. Citizens have been mezmerized by the sports team us v. them, hooray for our side system of politics/government, more’s the pity.

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 2:42 pm
In response to Dakinikat @ 35

Do you think any of the law suits that will go before SCOTUS–including the call to assassinate American citizens without due process–will have some impact on public discussion and will they be decided in a constitutional and not political manner?

Bruce, do you believe Justice Kagan will support Obama’s claim that he can order extrajudicial assassinations without limits pursuant to the AUMF? What about Scalia and Kennedy? Do you see any chance that SCOTUS will reject Obama’s absurd and dangerous claim?

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 2:43 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 43

Thanks for that insight. Just as I feared. Those who often reap the whirlwind are not those who created it. That said, I have had a number of conservatives tell me to my face (and mean it) that they simply do not care what happens after they die. Not interested in ecologogical issues for that reason, etc. It’s just: show me the money now. The end.

chipsm116 September 11th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Hi Bruce,

One argument I recently encountered in support of US interventionism is that in the event of an overseas conflict, our economy would suffer. If North Korea invaded the South or China invaded Taiwan, for instance, our substantial business interests in these regions would take a hit, which would ripple throughout our economy.

If we had avoided intervention in the first place, this wouldn’t be nearly as much of a threat since these nations wouldn’t have grown so dependent on our military support. Additionally, American investors wouldn’t have simply assumed that their investments would be as safe as they have been with the protection of our armed forces.

What is the best way to counter the argument that our economy would suffer as a result of non-interventionism?

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 2:45 pm
In response to Mason @ 45

There is always the possibility the Supremes who voted for Bush vs Gore would use a case like this to hurt Obama before the Presidential Election.

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 2:46 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 43

Chances are their kids or grandkids were still there.

ricecakes September 11th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Well, I have another question for both Bruce and Glenn.

Is the Obama administration’s reluctance to challenge any of the Bush doctrine regarding rendition, torture, state secrets…. ect the jelly on our slippery slope?

In other words, does the fact that the Obama administration’s refusal to challenge and in many cases enhance the Bush administration’s positions set a dangerous precedent that can and will be in the future built upon?

“Well Obama was such a socialist marxist muslim and HE didn’t have a problem with what Bush did”…

That is what I am worried about. Mainstream America thinking that Obama is a radical liberal and thus holding that the left embraces the abuses of the Bush administration.

Jane Hamsher September 11th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Hey Bruce, hey Glenn. Thanks so much for being here today.

Bruce your ears must be burning. We are at HempStalk in Oregon covering Gary Johnson’s speech.

I was wondering if you think the dynamics are such right now that we could potentially see a weakening of the two party system. Both the Democratic and the Republican brands are incredibly unpopular at the moment, and given that the limited “either-or” choice between political parties is one of the way that endless war is successfully perpetuated, do you think that creates any potential openings?

monaholland September 11th, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Bruce, it is quite fine if you do not wish to address this question — and I agree it is not substantive per the issues under discussion — but my curiosity gets the best of me. Thus, I repeat part of my earlier inquiry in case you merely overlooked it, to wit:

I very much concur with your view of the Constitution as it pertains to the topics under this discussion, and that concurrence has not been well-received by former ideological allies. And you, sir? What has gone wrong that the right does not see this crisis as you and I do?

rollotomasi September 11th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Thanks for your considered repsonse, Bruce. I’m just having trouble seeing how anything changes within the current two-party configuration. Part of the problem, too, is that the national security sector, particularly in the form of its private contractors, has in fact given Members “incentive to invest excuses,” as you so well put it.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

To distrust human nature is not to distrust science, like the heliocentric theory of the universe or Newton’s laws of motion. It is to distrust the motives of humans and given the incredible complexity of human motivations the ability of any government to do more than implement the rule of law to prevent predation and to defend agaisnt attacks on sovereignty without creating a cure worse than the disease. Masterly inactivity does not end evil, which can never be done. The point for leaders is whether private decisions will lead to less harm than government interventions. Each must be answered by examining the facts and circumstances of each case, not by an algorithim. But if I had a choice, I would place the individual at the center of the Constitution’s universe, not the government, even if its was run by Platonic Guardians.

donbacon September 11th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

leading to their enrichment and power

Yes, besides the desire for power there are huge profits in war, and it’s nothing new.
General Smedley Butler, 1933: “I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to Dakinikat @ 35

The US Supreme Court has always flinched in the most serious national security matters. The Justices are simple-minded when it comes to understanding how readily the Executive Branch lies to bolster its importance and claims to more power. During WWII, the Court upheld racist concentraion camps for loyal Japanese Americans. It ducked deciding on the legality of the Vietnam War, or the Iraqi War Resolution which delegated war making to the President from Congress. It has refused to hear egregious state secrets cases and flagrant violations of FISA. At best, SCOTUS can put speed bumps in the road towards Empire, but it will never prevent presidential assassinations or torture in the name of fighting international terrorism. Remember Kagan as SG defended prosecuting lawyers for filing amicus briefs for listed terrorist organizations challenging the legality of the listing!

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 54

But if I had a choice, I would place the individual at the center of the Constitution’s universe, not the government, even if its was run by Platonic Guardians.

How do we get there from here without starting a revolution? With heat lasers, sound canons, super duper tasers, pepper gas, rubber bullets, night sticks, high pressure water hoses, horses, dogs, and real bullets to break-up peaceful demonstrations and provoke retaliatory violence, how do we protest effectively to “place the individual at the center of the Constitution’s universe?”

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 2:58 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 54

If you walk into every situation with your fellowman with an attitude of distrust you will find what you seek more often than if you had trusted.
Lack of trust in anyone but the ingroup leads to Cronyism from within and groupthink.
Lack of trust leads to paranoia about the different and as a protective mechanism a superiority complex that desires to make everyone convert and conform to our idea of cookie cutter safety.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 2:59 pm
In response to donbacon @ 55

War and a national security state do enrich specific interests, e.g., Boeing, Haliburton, secuity firms, etc. But in aggregate, war and a national security state bankrupt the nation and the government, e.g., our annual trillion dollar plus deficits. War has never been a paying proposition. We could buy through bribes or middlemen for a pittance what we pay the military to secure access to allegedly strategic resources.

pmcall September 11th, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Bruce and Glenn, if you go on any publicity tours for your new books I hope you will both consider coming to Louisville, KY. In fact, it would be great if you guys teamed up and traveled together so that ordinary citizens would see that supporting the Constitution is not just a left or right issue but an issue that concerns us all.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to donbacon @ 55

And then there was the situation in Chile when Allende legitimately won an election in the early 1970′s but was ousted (and killed) by a CIA-backed coup – at the behest of PepsiCo and Ananaonda Copper I believe (or some such mining interest). Allende wanted to nationalize their operations in Chile: can’t have the “small” people gain control.

bmaz September 11th, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to ricecakes @ 50

Of course it does, that which is not challenged becomes that which is ingrained.

ricecakes September 11th, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to donbacon @ 55

Actually, that quote is constructive to this discussion in that it reminds us that the United States was always Rome.

We were never a peaceful non-interventionist republic. In fact we were never really even a republic.

Only the blind can walk around DC and not see Rome.

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 3:02 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 59

That is how the Chinese used to do it. They would just pay off the Mongolian invaders. That is why I’m not inclined to agree with your including them in your list of empires.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:04 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 59

We could buy through bribes or middlemen for a pittance what we pay the military to secure access to allegedly strategic resources.

That’s what’s so amazing to me because this country has done that with impunity in the past, esp in the Americas. The insistence on slaughtering is what’s so disturbing. Plus it’s not making economic sense, if nothing else.

September 11th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Bruce – could you elaborate on the steps to correct our current situation?

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Second eblair’s question @24, when does Bruce date the replacement of Republic by Empire? I think Bruce dates it in terms of warmaking, but I think it’s when juries quit judging the law as well as the accused as they decided justice. Jury nullification, it’s like it’s illegal now, yet still constitutionally protected. (Has Bruce or Glenn read the dissent in Sparf?) But that was what We the People and self-governance meant at the time of the founding. That’s how laws were checked and balanced — by We the People. Your thoughts, Bruce? I mean, thinking of the “War on Drugs” — juries are the constitutional means to end that lunacy when the lawmakers can’t. Yet courts have disabled juries and now it’s legal heresy to expect a jury to vote their conscience.

State Language on Jury Nullification (FIJA PDF)

There is no doubt that jury nullification was one of the rights and powers that the people were exercising in 1791 when the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution was adopted. As legal historian Lawrence Friedman has written:

In American legal theory, jury-power was enormous, and subject to few controls. There was a maxim of law that the jury was judge both of law and of fact in criminal cases. This idea was particularly strong in the first Revolutionary generation when memories of royal justice were fresh. Jury nullification is therefore one of the “rights…retained by the people” in the Ninth Amendment. And it is one of the “powers…reserved…to the people” in the Tenth Amendment.

Jury nullification is decentralization of political power. It is the people’s most important veto in our constitutional system. The jury vote is the only time the people ever vote on the application of a real law in real life. All other votes are for hypotheticals.

Sparf vs US 1895:

The case has occasionally been simplistically described as: Since the law has no way to prevent the jury from judging the law, they shall have that right, but only if they do not know it.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:05 pm
In response to monaholland @ 52

It is not only the right, it is the left as well, including Obama who has joined Bush-Cheney philosophically to become part of an Empire triumvirate. It takes a deeply educated and mature political culture to resist the temptation of Empire when there is no superpower to oppose it. That culture began to erode with the Mexican-American War and the crusading Manifest Destiny blather. Our education is much worse than sub-optimal today, and only a handful see and feel the thrill of self-government, We the People as sovereign, and perfecting the Union at home like a more sobered Candide as the high point of the American Republic. I do not know how to make a person not wish to be complacent with being a vassal or serf to a Brobdignagian government.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:06 pm
In response to pmorlan @ 60

Organize an event and we will provide the electrification.

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Why can’t sane Conservatives like Bruce get on tv I might be disagreeing with him but I’m not running to google to prove his fox news statements are lies like I do with most Conservative who visit.
Are all real Lefties and Conservatives banned from tv except for once in a while?

ricecakes September 11th, 2010 at 3:08 pm
In response to bmaz @ 62

Well, I do know that…

But I was specifically asking about the danger of this unique president embracing those positions and how severe of a blow this could be to any remaining semblance of a republic.

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 3:09 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 68

I do not know how to make a person not wish to be complacent with being a vassal or serf to a Brobdignagian government.

That’s a classic sentence for the ages.

RevBev September 11th, 2010 at 3:10 pm

To TCU, We need to get him back on Moyers….;)

September 11th, 2010 at 3:11 pm
In response to RevBev @ 73

Yep – that was a most awesome interview

Bruce – do you think Obama is impeachable on real grounds, not trumped up nutty grounds, for continuing the Bush policies?

pmcall September 11th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 69

Fantastic! I will do it! How do I get in touch with you or your representative to make arrangements?

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:12 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 68

It is not only the right, it is the left as well, including Obama who has joined Bush-Cheney philosophically to become part of an Empire triumvirate.

Quite agree, but Obama won by a decent majority, and most of those voters wanted Obama to get us out of the quagmire of the wars. Most who voted for Obama never were in favor of the wars to begin with.

We were “fooled” (and perhaps foolish to believe him), but doesn’t that suggest that a majority of citizens aren’t all that interested in the empire and wars? One does hear more complaints about the costs both financially and terms of loss of life.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Even in the absence of jury nullfication instructions, juries enjoy de facto power to decide according to conscience, just ask OJ Simpson! But jury nullfication has a dark side. It was routinely practiced duridng a century of Jim Crow in the south. Emmit Till’s killers were acquitted, for instance. What would happen today in some parts of the country if a jury was instructed it could nullify the law agaisnt first degree murder in a case where a survior of 9/11 was accused of killing an immigrant Muslim from Saudi Arabia?

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

What are your ideas of why empires fall? What stage of fall are we in now and whats the next stage. Military defeat, economic collapse, plague brought on by oil coated gulf shrimp, a series of bad leaders like the

The Twelve Caesars

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Caesars

Barbarian Immigrant hordes, a declining birthrate, a drop in lifespan or do we get all this and more with no warning ?

RevBev September 11th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I saw a bumper sticker today: “Yes, that Obama sticker means I’m stupid.” How sad.

ricecakes September 11th, 2010 at 3:14 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 68

Bruce I do not at all believe that this began with the Mexican American war.

The American Revolution was simply a second English Civil War, a revolt of wealthy Englishmen against what they saw as the erosion of their rights. The only difference is that the crown neglected the wealthy provincial planters and doubted their ability to resist. Remember that before the backwoods Patrick Henry proclaimed himself an “American” every one of the elite had been desperately trying to encapsulate themselves in British aristocracy. I have always held that the revolution was simply the creation of another fraternity because the “cool” frat wouldn’t let some kids in. Washington was for years pulling every string to get a commission in the British Army.

The idea of Empire and entitlement was ingrained in the American elite from the very, very beginning of this nation.

Once America had outgrown Britain she was free to engage in what was always at her soul…wealthy entitlement. American imperialism and exceptionalism is the full expression of this.

monaholland September 11th, 2010 at 3:14 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 68

But Bruce, yes, Empire is a long-standing problem in American history, and once the GOP could be somewhat counted on to disdain that, or at least to oppose wars. (I think Charles Lindburgh has been unjustly maligned as an anti-Semite, even as I ambivalent about WWII.) What happened to the RIGHT — which is, quantitatively, worse — more Wilsonian if you will, in contemporary parlance?

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 3:15 pm
In response to RevBev @ 73

That would be a debate.

bmaz September 11th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to ricecakes @ 71

Cannot answer for Bruce and Glenn, but to my take it is more the unique situation and time than the unique president (as in Obama himself). The number and depths of the attacks on the Constitution that had been made by the Bush/Cheney Administration were very unique with few parallels; when a Democratic president came in and maintained the cover for, thus effectively ratifying, the acts it was absolutely devastating. But then I think you already know all this.

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 77

Even in the absence of jury nullfication instructions, juries enjoy de facto power to decide according to conscience, just ask OJ Simpson!

Jurors are permitted to vote their individual conscience in deciding whether to sentence a defendant found guilty of a capital crime to death or life without parole. Capital defendants have a right to that instruction.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I think there is another way to examine the issue–what Madison meant when he insisted that ambition must be made to counter ambition to secure freedom, and that if men were angels there would be no need for government whatsoever. To distust human nature is not to be parnoid, it is to anticipate actions for non-altruistic reasons and to organize society accordingly. Adam Smith recognized the same in Wealth of Nations, where he noted that individual craving for money and wealth causes persons to devote their talents and energies to producing goods and servics that others will voluntarily pay for, and thus increase consumer satisfaction. Smith noted that he had never known any good to come from someone who said he traded in the public interest, which in any event would be instantly be compromised to make money. Similarly, Trust but verify is a more sensible approach to national security than trusting an advesary to disarm in secret unilaterally.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to pmorlan @ 75

please call 703-[Edited by Moderator]

pmcall September 11th, 2010 at 3:22 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 86

Thank you.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:25 pm
In response to monaholland @ 81

You are right. Where is the anti-Empire caucus in Congres? Where is the anti-Empire political party? Until the political culure and civic education change and persons run for office who would rather be right than elected, there is little hope of forestalling the ruination of America. We are in the 85th chapter of Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of Rome.

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 3:27 pm

At this point in our nations history , it seems plain that the law has essentially collapsed .

You have imperial wars for oil and gas which have led to the deaths of at least a million innocent people abroad and clear violations of American’s basic rights as outlined in the constitution . The violations are obvious as are the legal remedies but the crimes continue unabated .

Please tell me how , when candidates run on a platform which they ignore once in office , that this can be remedied,realistically through the voting box .

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 3:27 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 77

Well that’s the thrill of self-government you speak of. That’s expecting the best of We the People, even though there’s no guarantee they won’t get it wrong. You can’t trust any other part of government to be a better angel, Madison said that I think. In fact, I think you can make quite a good case that they’re not. You’re making that case here, because Empire has been the result. Psychopathic/sociopathic corporate persons buy the candidates to write the laws to suit them. But corporate persons don’t serve on juries; hence, there’s a refuge for honest self-government still.

Specifically regarding Emmett Till, which pains me no end, I think two things: 1) Juries also freed slaves, or refused to send them back to their “masters,” and 2) this was a trial in a court; would the verdict have been different had there been no jury? I think the judge helped.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 88

Not good, yet as I mentioned @76, I really don’t believe the majority of the population wants unending war, but who do they vote for?

It seems that even if someone starts out being honest and wanting to do the correct thing, most who go into politics end up bought off, co-opted or just plain crooked (not to mention those that are incompetent or nuts).

Cujo359 September 11th, 2010 at 3:28 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 85

Trust but verify is a more sensible approach to national security than trusting an advesary to disarm in secret unilaterally.

Never quite got the “trust but verify” thing, but I’m on board with the “verify” part. It’s ironic that we seem to be in more danger from government secrecy in this age of instant information.

What forces exist, or could be made to exist, to counter this, in your opinion?

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to ricecakes @ 80

I am less certain than you. George Washington’s Farewell Address was not a clarion call to Empire. When Central and South America erupted agaisnt the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, the US did nothing to help the rebels. John Quincy Adams as Secretary of State in 1821 correctly noted that up unitl that time, the US had wished democracy and freedom abroad well, but only defended its own with money and force, like the War of 1812.

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I am of the opinion that without civil disobedience on a mass scale or a viable third party we are dead in the water .

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to freeman @ 89

Please tell me how, when candidates run on a platform which they ignore once in office,that this can be remedied,realistically through the voting box.

Indeed.

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 3:30 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 88

Rome fell a thousand years before Ch. 85. Gibbon goes all the way to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Cynthia Kouril September 11th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

As always, you cut to the meat of the problem Mr. Fein. Welcome back to the Lake.

Sharkbabe September 11th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Damn, just listening in here, but Mr. Fein I like the way you think and talk and will definitely get and read your book.

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 88

Until the political culure and civic education change and persons run for office who would rather be right than elected, there is little hope of forestalling the ruination of America. We are in the 85th chapter of Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of Rome.

I believe you’re right, but I refuse to give up without a fight.

1. Whom do you see among public figures today who is capable of winning an election for president and will restore the legitimacy and supremacy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Rule of Law?

2. Are liberals and progressives better off trying to take over the Democratic Party to nominate that person to run for President and elect him or her using existing resources of the Democratic Party, or should they form a third party and promote their cause and that candidate via that party?

3. Can this be done without finding a way to neutralize the effect of the Supreme Court’s odious decision in Citizens United?

4. How do we succeed without starting a revolution? With heat lasers, sound canons, super duper tasers, pepper gas, rubber bullets, night sticks, high pressure water hoses, horses, dogs, and real bullets to break-up peaceful demonstrations and provoke retaliatory violence, how do we protest effectively to “place the individual at the center of the Constitution’s universe?”

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 3:33 pm
In response to Mason @ 99

We declare a national holiday and suspend all work for a week ?

Who couldn’t use a day off ?

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Empires fall because they are economically unsuportable, they create waves of enemies by double standards and disrespect for peoples who do not wish to be clones, and their arrogance causes them to lose understanding of the philosophical principles that gave rise to their greatness, and thus they come to crave creature comforts and safety more than freedom and challenge. In the US today, in contrast to the 1800s through WWII, immigrants assimilated because the US culture believed in certain values. Today, there is no assimilatio and Cinco de Mayo is like George Washington’s birthday because the US has no cultural values other than sex, money, fame, and vicarious pleasures.

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 3:35 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 101

Perhaps we should move the capitol to Las Vegas .

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 95

We need citizens to run for office without intending to be professional politicians so voters have a choice. At present, voters are helpless because in substance the candiates are like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. As Pogo said, we have met the enemy and we are they. We need to be actively involved and not blame the system. History is biography.

pmcall September 11th, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 86

moderator…unfortunately I didn’t get to write down the number before you deleted it. Can you send an email to me to let me know the number?

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 85

I think there is another way to examine the issue–what Madison meant when he insisted that ambition must be made to counter ambition to secure freedom, and that if men were angels there would be no need for government whatsoever.

Agreed our divided branches of government accomplishes this most of the time. just not in the Bush/Obama years because the Dems lack spines and the GOP lack ideas.

To distust human nature is not to be parnoid, it is to anticipate actions for non-altruistic reasons and to organize society accordingly.

You must be a bunch of fun on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

.

Adam Smith recognized the same in Wealth of Nations, where he noted that individual craving for money and wealth causes persons to devote their talents and energies to producing goods and servics that others will voluntarily pay for, and thus increase consumer satisfaction

The problem today is the desire for power is greater than the desire to create wealth thats why we are creating an empire thats falling as fast as we build it.

As far as increasing consumer satisfaction goes I want Government to test the Gulf Shrimp 6 ways to Sunday. I want Government to test the catfood for mercury and yes I am willing to pay more for goods for this I want the government to guarantee I live through consuming my goods.

Smith noted that he had never known any good to come from someone who said he traded in the public interest, which in any event would be instantly be compromised to make money.

Public interest like National Healthcare? Like Europe and Japan having trains that go 200 and more mph and ours barely go 70 mph, laws that force car makers to make higher mpg cars because the free markets never would be motivated to make them?
Greed is one force it pushes man to acquire. However the desire to help others must be stronger in any society or else society loses its values its links of community and puling together.
Thus we get the decline in morals we see in every empire.

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Oh and Glen, if your there .

Your the best of the blogosphere , thanks for your contribution !

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 3:39 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 101

The traditional answer to what undoes republics is corruption due to loss of civic virtue. This is a fair bit of Gibbon’s answer too. Isn’t that a simpler way of thinking about it? Our leaders lack virtue?

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 3:40 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 85

Trust but verify is a more sensible approach to national security than trusting an advesary to disarm in secret unilaterally.

agreed trust but always carry a knife in a dark alley.

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 3:40 pm
In response to freeman @ 100

We declare a national holiday and suspend all work for a week ?

Who couldn’t use a day off ?

With 15 million unemployed, five million ought to be able one way or another to make it to DC and shut down the capitol as long as it takes to get what they want.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 77

Even in the absence of jury nullfication instructions, juries enjoy de facto power to decide according to conscience,

but not expected, respected power and role — if potential jurors show any sign they they will vote their conscience over the law, they get booted. Voir dire is like going to a casting call. Sheep wanted.

What would happen today in some parts of the country if a jury was instructed it could nullify the law agaisnt first degree murder in a case where a survior of 9/11 was accused of killing an immigrant Muslim from Saudi Arabia?

I’d say HELLO! A Constitutional jury! And the beauty of it — if you truly got a random jury, would be that you’d get conservatives and liberals hearing and deciding together. No monsters, just fellow Americans, e pluribus unum. Plus the case you present sounds like fearmongering, dammit. Yet I think a Constitutionally constituted jury would rise to the occasion. And actually, We the People might finally start hearing arguments on reasons, instead of checklists of “facts.” That would be a great day in America.

Cujo359 September 11th, 2010 at 3:43 pm
In response to eblair @ 107

Our leaders lack virtue?

I think the more relevant and potentially disturbing question is: Why? Is it more to do with us as a society, or the circumstances we find ourselves in?

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 3:44 pm
In response to Cujo359 @ 111

Well, for Aristotle there is a cycle.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 3:45 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 74

And this one :-)

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:45 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 103

We need citizens to run for office without intending to be professional politicians so voters have a choice.

Seems to me this is the impossible dream without real campaign finance reform and somehow overturning or modifying “Citizens United.” How to obtain these 2 goals first is the trick. I think citizens would be willing to run for office, but right now it’s next to impossible unless you are excessively wealthy (ala Meg Whitman & Carly Fiorina) or you’re bought off and paid for (ala too many to list).

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:47 pm
In response to Mason @ 99

The source of the problem is two-fold. We have no leaders who wish to yield power in recognition of human fallibility and the human dignity that comes when inviduals are masters of their fate, captain of their souls, and learn by trial and error and eagerly accept accountability over the blame game. We thus need to establish a network of schools that do nothing but teach leadership as understood and practiced by the Founding Fathers. Second, we have a degraded political culture that is easily frightened into accepting Empire, evisceration of freedom, and permanent global warfare in seach of a risk-free life. We need 50,000 civics teach-ins throughout the nations in libraries, community colleges, auditoriums, etc to embue citizens with the excitement and duty of self-government and an understanding that a nation of sheep with beget a government of wolves. In addition, citizens must be taught a moral duty of active civic involement in government because the politically idle or indolent invite government tyranny or overreaching. For every set of eyes and ears that are not watching and criticizing government wrongdoing or folly, to that extent the freedom or liberty of all is imperilled because it means a greater chance of government lawlessness with impunity.

ricecakes September 11th, 2010 at 3:47 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 93

Oh I am well aware of these facts. But my point was that once America had ended it’s “growing pains” so to speak it was free to pursue what was in the bones of the ruling class….conquest. As I am sure you are aware there were British soldiers east of the thirteen colonies for quite sometime following the treaty of Paris. How can one become a conquistador when one fears reconquest? The first example of pure American imperialism…(if we do not count the Native Americans) was of course the Mexican American war. My argument is that is was always there lying latent waiting its time.

Washington’s farewell was a very wise speech. But…I think it is a speech that was given by a modern day Boudica, a warm supporter of empire…until that empire insults them and shuts them out. Your most dangerous enemies are often former friends that you have fucked over.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 3:48 pm
In response to freeman @ 106

And Glenn, tell Salon to stop with the damn popups! I used to visit your blog every day till I got fouled one too many times, I flipped

szielinski September 11th, 2010 at 3:49 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 93

George Washington’s Farewell Address was not a clarion call to Empire. When Central and South America erupted agaisnt the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, the US did nothing to help the rebels. John Quincy Adams as Secretary of State in 1821 correctly noted that up unitl that time, the US had wished democracy and freedom abroad well, but only defended its own with money and force, like the War of 1812.

And yet, the Monroe Doctrine (1823) effectively laid claim to North and South America as the American sphere of domination. The Doctrine was an imperial proclamation even though the fledgling country could scarcely enforce its claims except for the aid of the British Navy. The Monroe Doctrine might have been untimely, but it was not insignificant.

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Thanx for the link .

donbacon September 11th, 2010 at 3:49 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 59

War has never been a paying proposition.

Perhaps not in the aggregate, in the long run, but for the well-connected individuals, including politicians, corporations and even communities it pays very well. Senator Feinstein’s hubby, for example, has done very well in Afghanistan construction. Also many retired military officers, now known as beltway bandits, have set up companies to obtain contracts from their old Pentagon friends. War is a racket, as General Butler said.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to eblair @ 107

Or our citizens are not involved — have been DEvolved.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 115

Fabulous goals and many are quite acheivable, yet somehow I don’t see Rupert Murdoch going along with that. The corporate-owned rightwing media is heavily invested in a docile population willing to do little except watch tv and drink beer, seems to me (being somewhat facetious but not entirely).

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:53 pm
In response to Cujo359 @ 92

Your point is astute. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Congress should legislate standards for classifying documents, and abolish the state secrets doctrine. Congress should insist on access (where needed in confidance) to every scrap of paper or electronic communication in the hands of the executive branch. If Congress votes the money, it needs to know what it is getting for the money. Secrecy is the bane of due process and justice, and no so-called “leak” of information like the Pentagon Papers or the Terroist Surveillance Program has been shown to cause harm to the national security.

bgrothus September 11th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I would love to see 50,000 civic teach-ins. I find civic engagement to be well worthwhile.

Yet, in my experience of organizing and participating in a variety of civic engagement activities over the years, those that participate are what we call “the usual suspects.” It is not that t-u-s are not wonderful and committed. It is that we are unable to expand t-u-s largely because people are overextended, tired, have personal or family issues, financial constraints or any variety of circumstances that do not allow them the “luxury” of participating.

I would like our schools to teach civics again. Our people no longer really have any sense of why it matters.

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 3:55 pm
In response to donbacon @ 120

George Bush will inherit the millions his dad made as a result of the war on terror through the Carlyle Group !

No problem there , why shouldn’t the people who conduct wars in other people’s country over false premises be allowed to profit by them ?/ snark

BevW September 11th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon,

Bruce, Thank you for stopping by the Lake again, and spending your afternoon with us discussing your new book and the American Empire.

Glenn, as always, Thank you for coming back and Hosting today’s great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:
Bruce’s website
Glenn’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great evening.

Bruce Fein September 11th, 2010 at 3:56 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 114

I think there could be a system of publicly financed elections like the general election for the presidency with some vetting for qualifications so the ballot wasn’t a mile long. Or a system of tax credits dollar for dollar donated to candidates up to a certain limit so no out-of-pocket costs to the donor.

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

That’s it? I thought we were going to organize 50,000 teach ins!

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 3:57 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 115

We need 50,000 civics teach-ins throughout the nations in libraries, community colleges, auditoriums, etc to embue citizens with the excitement and duty of self-government and an understanding that a nation of sheep with beget a government of wolves.

Where do I sign-up to teach one of these workshops? Is any organization sponsoring this? I think it’s a great idea. Reminds me of the antiwar teach-ins that I attended at the University of Wisconsin in Madison when I was in college during the Vietnam War.

Colleges and universities are a lot more conservative now. Trying to schedule and run a workshop such as you suggest could get a professor fired. The craziness going on at the University of Alabama comes to mind as a for example.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 3:58 pm
In response to freeman @ 119

I love that interview. I have two favorite parts, one, where Bruce is arguing with Scott, makes his point and is going to move on, then catches himself…

But I want to go back, if I can – well, I don’t want to cut you off. You may have a response to mine. It’s not fair for me to just say it without you responding to my observation.

…and gives Scott a chance to respond. Oh my God, when was the last time you heard THAT?

Also, this statement of Scott’s seems pretty powerful in terms of what’s gone wrong with our government and our justice system:

Horton: In fact I just interviewed a writer, a journalist named Stephan Salisbury, about some of these entrapment cases, these bogus terrorism cases since September 11th. And he talks about how the informants always use Israeli policy, American policy in the Middle East as their talking points to try to provoke these people into saying something stupid into an open microphone so that they can be prosecuted. And they don’t ever say, “Don’t you hate it that women can wear skirts to a primary election?” Or something like that. They always say, “Look at what’s going on in the West Bank! How can you not fight back?” That’s what the provocateur says to entrap.

It’s not honest, it’s entrapment, and mushrooming Ponzi foulness. I wouldn’t care so much about the warrantless wiretapping and all that if the government did something decent with the knowledge, like they were an all-powerful tooth fairy. Oh, look at that poor family losing their house to foreclosure, let’s help them. Huh! Never ever does the government think about using that power for good, just paranoia. Whatever we say will be used against us. So don’t communicate.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:58 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 124

I would like our schools to teach civics again. Our people no longer really have any sense of why it matters.

Your second sentence is that answer to why your first sentence happened. The PTB don’t want citizens to be truly engaged, aware, alert, etc. The current recession/depression is seen gleefully by the wealthy and powerful bc it puts even more pressure on the few remaining workers to slog their guts out on the threat of losing their jobs.

People who are crushed under no longer feel they have the ability to protest or even to complain. It’s a neat trick – eh?

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 3:59 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 127

I like a lot of your ideas, but when was the last time this country engaged in any kind of civic republican innovation?

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 3:59 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 101

Empires fall because they are economically unsuportable, they create waves of enemies by double standards and disrespect for peoples who do not wish to be clones, and their arrogance causes them to lose understanding of the philosophical principles that gave rise to their greatness, and thus they come to crave creature comforts and safety more than freedom and challenge.

This part is great!

I agree with most of what you said but Empires can change and accept Cinco de Mayo the same as Saint Patricks day. Assimilation though is not the goal we both change together and try and keep what is best of both our cultures.

because the US has no cultural values other than sex, money, fame, and vicarious pleasures.

We should strive not for a common culture to bind us when we obviously don’t have a shared culture or values.
Rather we should strive for Altruism Can do Americanism if a neighbor needs a hand and we have some free time we should offer to help our neighbor. We should stop the hate of imaginary Reagan Welfare Queens, Glen Beck’s rants about immigrants and instead of looking for scapegoats work to fix America.
Or the rich can keep funding the hate groups keep using the press and politicians to lie us into wars for oil. The Sheep can keep on listening to the propaganda that feeds their hate and justifies their own insecurities. Then when America falls their grandkids can in their suffering curse the blinded by power rich for being short sighted.
They can curse the sheep for being to uncurious to easy to be led to ill informed to vote responsibly in a democracy.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 3:59 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 127

Yes, but right now, it’s simply not enough. More has to be done before it becomes a practical reality for “average” citizens to run for office, more’s the pity. A worthy goal, however.

donbacon September 11th, 2010 at 4:02 pm
In response to freeman @ 125

I particularly like the story of Bush’s Uncle Bucky.
http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair03022005.html

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 4:02 pm
In response to Mason @ 129

It’s a goal and a good suggestion. I think it would have to come from the leftist grass roots, and I’m not sure how much luck we’d have on university campuses these days. I like the idea a lot, though. It’s not civil disobedience; it’s about education.

How to go about it is something to strive for, methinks.

eblair September 11th, 2010 at 4:02 pm
In response to TheLurkingMod @ 135

If you are a mod, you’re name should be in red or something. I’m never sure whether you are an official or just posing.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 4:03 pm
In response to eblair @ 128

Yes: we have to do it, ourselves! It can be done, actually, but would take some planning and “elbow grease.”

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Oh and don’t forget 911 is the day the US overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile and helped impose a brutal dictatorship on the Chilean people for decades ,which tortured and imprisoned political opponents in concentration camps .

Not that anyone seems to think that relevant to the American people .

Chile has never received an official apology from the US !

Recuerdo !

ThingsComeUndone September 11th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Good talk Bruce:)

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 4:04 pm
In response to BevW @ 126

Thanks to Bruce & Glenn for coming here to “converse” with us. It’s been refreshing and enlightening. Many thoughts to ponder, especially those 50,000 civics teach-ins! I love that idea.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 4:05 pm
In response to freeman @ 140

I mentioned that (but forget the 9/11 date) up above somewhere. Yes: the overthrow of Allende so that Ananconda Copper mines weren’t nationalized. Many people died in Chile so that some wealthy jerk got more money.

Cujo359 September 11th, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Thank you for your time, Bruce and Glenn. It’s been thought-provoking. Sign me up for one of those seminars!

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Wrote this last year on my neglected blog.

The More Thing Change

In Chile the CIA helped Pinochet to power on 9 11 1973 .
While at a joint press conference with Chile’s current president Obama took 1 question from the S.American press .
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Actually, Ben, I’m going to make an exception. We’ll get one question from the Chilean press. How’s that?
Q Mr. President, yes, I’d like to ask you, I realize that your agenda is moving forward. But I’d like to ask you, President Bachelet in a previous trip to the United States made echo of an old joke: “There’s never been a coup d’état in the United States, because there’s no American embassy.” The point being that almost –
PRESIDENT BACHELET: That was a joke from an American guy. (Laughter.) I just said it was a good joke.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, it is. (Laughter.)
Q The point being that almost no Latin American nation has been free from CIA — bloody CIA intervention, Chile being a prime example, President Bachelet being one of its victims. Is it time for a historical apology?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, I think you answered your own question right at the beginning, which is I’m interested in going forward, not looking backward. I think that the United States has been an enormous force for good in the world. I think there have been times where we’ve made mistakes. But I think that what is important is looking at what our policies are today, and what my administration intends to do in cooperating with the region.”
Allow me to point out that Michelle Bachelets father was tortured to death and both she and her mother were tortured !
Presently in S. America the US gives a free pass to the Honduran coup leaders trained at the school of the America’s , the secretary of states former campaign manager Lannie Davis represents the wealthy business community there and the US military stations itself in Colombian bases having seemingly been directly involved in a coup attempt in Venezuela !
In Mexico city recently the president said this : “the same critics who say that the US has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say we are always intervening and the yankees need to get out of latin America .You can’t have it both ways “.
Disingenuous at best !

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 4:10 pm
In response to freeman @ 140

Oh and don’t forget 911 is the day the US overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile and helped impose a brutal dictatorship on the Chilean people for decades ,which tortured and imprisoned political opponents in concentration camps.

We probably should study how Chile finally got rid of Pinochet and reestablished democracy.

I believe the President is a woman and the country has come a long way since the dark days engineered in significant part by Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys. Friedman is dead, but the Chicago Boys basically now run our economy, which is why it’s still in the ditch with no jobs.

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Thanks, Bruce and Glenn.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 4:17 pm
In response to Mason @ 146

We probably should study how Chile finally got rid of Pinochet and reestablished democracy.

I like that idea; plan to look into that. Of course, Chile is much smaller, so it’s somewhat easier for citizens to wrest power away from evil rulers. Some credit can go to Spain for finally indicting Pinochet:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augusto_Pinochet's_arrest_and_trial

As for freeman @146: Obummer does nothing, nada, zip but “look forward.” What a … (you fill in the blank). Useless, frankly.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 4:21 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 68

Our education is much worse than sub-optimal today, and only a handful see and feel the thrill of self-government, We the People as sovereign, and perfecting the Union at home like a more sobered Candide as the high point of the American Republic.

It’s like nobody learns about the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger anymore, who published unflattering truth about the English governor, in clear violation of the law, and was found not guilty by the colonial jury. It’s where we trace our Freedom of the Press to — a case of jury nullification, in response to a great argument by Zenger’s attorney, Andrew Hamilton. That’s a trial that could never happen today in a modern court. And that’s a shame.

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 4:23 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 148

Actually I believe Chile recently elected a conservative male to the office of the presidency . Another big problem is that they still have a constitution , if I recall correctly ,that was written by Pinochet .

But I concur , a look into how the Chileans began reinstating democratic processes after decades of a US imposed dictatorship should yield some interesting perspective on our situation in the US today .

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

One last thought (if anyone’s even around): the women’s movement in the late 1960s & early 1970s really gained power and momentum via consciousness raising sessions. Most of those were smaller groups meeting separately in disparate locations. There was no overriding organization or dogma, and the means of communicating was not as easy as it is today.

It was powerful enough back then that J. Edgar investigated these activities (possibly attending some in drag? maybe he was jealous??), and yet the women’s movement was successful in many long-standing ways.

Even if 50,000 civics teach-ins began with the “usual suspects,” I posit that it’s a place to start. I’m willing to be involved. Anyone else???

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 4:26 pm
In response to freeman @ 150

Yes I think you’re correct about the current head of state. I think there was some opposition to Bachelet after that giant earthquake in Chile last year. I’m not sure if Bachelet could run again, as I think she was termed out. But I believe how she (mis)handled the earthquake aftermath created a disadvantage for the more leftwing person running in that election.

But I do understand that perhaps Chile is a reasonably decent place to live these days (not sure; just hearsay). Sure wasn’t back in the ’70s.

onitgoes September 11th, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Nope, no one is taught about that kind of US history anymore, although I remember learning about that. I couldn’t have cited to it, but I definitely was taught that in school, as it was considered a very important cornerstone of our democracy.

More’s the pity that it’s been mostly scrubbed from the school curriculum these days.

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 4:36 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 152

Well if you discount the fact that aside from a place like Los Condes in Santiago , hot water and if fact decent water pressure only happens a few hours a day , if your lucky, and food costs are through the roof unless you buy beans at the local outdoor produce market and grow your own vegetables .

I spent 2 months there visiting friends and traveling with my wife and kids a few years ago and it cost us more than double what we would have spent say in Spain or Portugal for the same amount of time and that was while staying with friends and sleeping for more than a month on the beaches .

Very expensive !

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Obama has no trouble looking backward to persecute whistleblowers. In fact, I think that’s one of the most telling things Julian Assange had to say, that when the Army wrote a report on how to neutralize Wikileaks, it was concerned not about release of information that would endanger troops, no, the word they used was “whistleblower” — the exposure of wrongdoing.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah. This was a 2008 counterintelligence analysis of us by the US Army….Now, what’s more interesting about that report is the middle. It says that—it recommends that we be attacked by destroying our center of gravity—that is, the trust that confidential sources have in us and the trust that the public has in the integrity of the material that we release. It goes on to explain examples of why we maybe should be attacked. And those examples are examples which have embarrassed the US military, revelations of abuses at Guantanamo Bay, abuses in Fallujah, and potentially illegal use of small chemical weapons in Iraq. Now, it says that one of the ways of attacking that center of gravity is by publicly prosecuting whistleblowers. It even uses that word, “whistleblower,” not US military personnel or other personnel who are engaging in irresponsible leaking, but rather whistleblowers, people who are blowing the whistle on abuse.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 4:45 pm

edit: That was a reply to @148

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 4:48 pm

So as usual what the man says amounts to no more or less than PR .

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 5:21 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 143

Are they talking in code? I’m just picking up on this, maybe it’s my magpie — 9/11 happens on the anniversary of Chile’s overthrow in 1973 — just like the Oklahoma City bombing purposefully takes place on the anniversary of Waco — connection? But Osama bin Laden has six reasons for attacking America but doesn’t say anything about Chile, so no connection? But the March 2002 operation to snuff Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was called Operation Anaconda, same as the mines in Chile? Who names these operations? Why Anaconda?

freeman September 11th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Maybe it’s the number you call when you want to get in touch with the police state ?

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 5:34 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 153

You know what’s funny? As in tragic? As in how screwed are we? Is that I think the last people to know about Zenger and the rightful place of jury nullification in our Constitutional system of checks and balances and bottom-up authority are the people who are actually supposed to know the MOST about the workings of justice — that is, lawyers and judges. Juries nullifying case by case helped end Prohibition, yet I hardly see an educated push from lawyers and judges to get juries to wake up and nullify Drug Prohibition cases now. It’s an obvious connection and solution — in our Constitutional hands, no new acts or bills or laws necessary — yet… crickets. I went to a LEAP lecture once, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and asked the judge lecturer, what about Zenger, what about juries? Blank. He didn’t know Zenger and juries were a non sequitur.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 5:46 pm
In response to freeman @ 160

This was all about spooks on drugs? Mushrooms on money? And we’re all the little plastic people they move around and set up and knock down? Heh heh heh? And God bless America? And never ever say there’s something’s funny here and I think we need to check our facts?

Dang.

thatvisionthing September 11th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

See, I dream that Jay Leno does a Jaywalking episode amongst just lawyers and judges. Who was John Peter Zenger, and why was he important to us? What do John Peter Zenger and William Penn have in common? I’ll get the popcorn.

worldwidehappiness September 11th, 2010 at 6:12 pm

What about the Realist notion that nations can be liberal domestically, but on the international stage they must be amoral and hawkish because the world is a jungle and if you don’t assert your power, then others will? This would partly explain why even Democrat presidents behave hawkishly. Drone bombings can only be explained this way. It’s amoral rather than immoral. Liberals get dismissed as dreamers when they don’t address this point.

Cujo359 September 11th, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Why should I take a strawman argument seriously? Of course there will be times when we need to be amoral, or at least we will need to put away our feelings and do something awful. What is nonsensical about your statement, though, is that this is the entire universe of our alternatives. Cooperating and tolerating differences go far in assuring that we have peace. And frankly, I’d rather have countries respect us than merely fear us. Amorality gets you the latter.

worldwidehappiness September 11th, 2010 at 6:53 pm
In response to Cujo359 @ 165

Agreed. I’m just saying that people use the realist argument to dismiss the liberal argument, especially when liberals fail to address realist concerns.

Bruce wrote:

We could buy through bribes or middlemen for a pittance what we pay the military to secure access to allegedly strategic resources.

There is economic power and military power. The realist idea is to use a mix of both, since America is strong in both.

Of course the classic mistake is to over-reach. This is happening now because security bureaucracies want more, politicians want power (the security narrative makes that easy), and Murdoch is focusing on the frightened / paranoid segment of the media market. And the Democratic Party has, for some reason lost its principles and refuses to establish a liberal narrative.

Peterr September 11th, 2010 at 6:58 pm
In response to eblair @ 138

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Trolls? . . . The Lurking Mod knows!

worldwidehappiness September 11th, 2010 at 7:07 pm
In response to freeman @ 94

I am of the opinion that without civil disobedience on a mass scale or a viable third party we are dead in the water.

Yes. The voting options are currently: Corporate Sell-Out Party A, or Corporate Sell-Out Party B. It’s hard to get excited about that, especially after Obama destroyed the Hope and Change brand by being one of the corporate sell-outs.

Nathan Aschbacher September 11th, 2010 at 7:27 pm
In response to Cujo359 @ 111

I think the more relevant and potentially disturbing question is: Why? Is it more to do with us as a society, or the circumstances we find ourselves in?

Our leaders lack virtue because they’re supposed to. We don’t arrange our politics around the virtuous. We arrange them around the popularity that ensues from being a shameless self-promoter. Our leaders will never, with any regularity, be virtuous. Our structure of government selection precludes the virtuous from ever becoming office holding leaders.

Consider it.

Nathan Aschbacher September 11th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I’d argue that in a post-nuclear world, there is only economic power.

The resolution to the Suez Crisis should have been thoroughly instructive to this reality, sadly it has not been.

liberalarts September 11th, 2010 at 8:33 pm

The usual display of erudition in the comments but it all misses the point. You’re all very knowledgeable and keen to parse the historical record but it’s silly for this audience to look expectantly to Bruce Fein for answers. You know as much as he does. You’re going to effect change the same way Jane Jacobs defeated Robert Moses and the evangelicals took over the Republican Party: you’re going to get into the mix where you can make a difference and work at it. Probably locally. You’ll acquire expertise and connections as you work at your chosen issues and you’re going to devote as much time and effort there as you currently expend hanging around here shooting the shit with like-minded malcontents.

I’ve seen some very interesting exegeses on almost the full range of academic specialties, including linguistics, and some very impressive literary quotations. I really loved the remark about 17th century non juring clergy, had to look that one up(and then, of course, it all came back to me), but the biblical fundamentalists who took over the local and state Republican organizations several decades ago mostly wouldn’t have a clue what you’re talking about and are still wielding power out of all proportion to their actual, minority, numbers. They are the Overton Window. Because they work at it, all the time, with unwavering concentration. Go thou and do likewise.

watstearns September 11th, 2010 at 8:49 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 42

Bruce Fein said “Change will come only when voters refuse to support candidates who default on oversight.”

But there can be no vacuum, and both parties are committed to empire, so kicking out either one to get the other achieves nothing. There must be a third party or revolution or both.

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I was a criminal defense lawyer for 30 years representing clients charged with felonies in state and federal courts. About half of the cases that I handled during the last 15 years of my career were death penalty cases. I never kept track, but I’m pretty sure I tried several hundred jury trials. I won approximately 70 to 80% of the cases that I tried and I used jury nullification every time my client had compelling equities of one sort or another. You just can’t mention the term “jury nullification.”

Here’s one way to do it presented in an abbreviated fashion.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. A reasonable doubt is defined in the jury instructions as a doubt for which a reason exists and it may arise from the evidence or lack of evidence. Well, that’s a circular definition, so it doesn’t really help very much. So, what do you do?

You are the conscience of the community. When you go back into the jury room to deliberate, you’re on your own. It’s uour responsibility to decide what it means in the context of the evidence that you’ve heard and your own sense of right and wrong, fairness, and decency. The prosecutor calls my client the defendant. John Smith may be the accused but first and foremost, he is a human being. Because he is human, he isn’t perfect and not a single one of you is perfect. I sure as hell am not perfect. Your verdict will have consequences and for that reason you must do justice so that every morning when you look at yourself in the mirror, you will be able to smile and say you did the right thing.”

Jury nullification happens every day in one form or another in American courts. It’s just arguing for a fair and just result and every experienced and successful criminal defense lawyer knows how to do it and get away with it even though it’s prohibited.

Why is it prohibited? Because jurors take an oath to follow the instructions and jury nullification basically tells them they can ignore the instructions and violate their oath, if they want to do it. On the whole, I think it’s better to leave the situation the way it is now because there are many cases where the instructions benefit defendants and their lawyers want the jurors to follow those instructions. I wouldn’t want a white jury to disregard the presumption of innocence, for example, because my client is a Muslim.

Hope my explanation helps.

Masoninblue September 11th, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I see no reason why the United States cannot practice the Golden Rule in its foreign policy and I see little to no need for a military force with the single exception of a defense force to repel an invader, which is an extremely unlikely event.

The whole militarism trip is bullshit.

bobschacht September 11th, 2010 at 10:09 pm
In response to Bruce Fein @ 115

We need 50,000 civics teach-ins throughout the nations in libraries, community colleges, auditoriums, etc to embue citizens with the excitement and duty of self-government and an understanding that a nation of sheep with beget a government of wolves. In addition, citizens must be taught a moral duty of active civic involement in government because the politically idle or indolent invite government tyranny or overreaching. For every set of eyes and ears that are not watching and criticizing government wrongdoing or folly, to that extent the freedom or liberty of all is imperilled because it means a greater chance of government lawlessness with impunity.

Thanks, Bruce, for this excellent suggestion.

Bob in AZ

thatvisionthing September 12th, 2010 at 12:47 am
In response to Mason @ 173

Yes it does, and I’m glad to hear a lawyer say that jury nullification survives as a legal strategy still practiced, even though in strangled form. But I am not a lawyer, and I’m guessing you’re not in California if you are able to mention the word “conscience” to a jury in court and not have a mistrial declared.

Justices Say Jurors May Not Vote Conscience
Ruling: The law must be followed even if panelists believe the result will be unjust, state’s highest court finds.
May 08, 2001|MAURA DOLAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Jurors must follow the law–not their consciences–even when they strongly believe the law will produce an unjust result, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The court rejected a centuries-old doctrine called “jury nullification,” which gives jurors the power to follow their convictions rather than the law.

When I was being questioned in a jury pool once, I got shamed by the judge and kicked out of the courtroom when I said I would vote my conscience.

That’s a pretty stunning thing when you consider how juries were supposed to function, as a check and balance on government, when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written and juries were called out multiple times — three times in the Bill of Rights alone. Holy shit, that was integral to what We the People meant, that’s my epiphany. But who knows now?

I asked earlier if Bruce and Glenn had read the dissent in Sparf. I read the opinion years ago, and as I recall the 5-4 majority decision was sucky and the dissent was encyclopedic and terrific, impassioned, could find its legal butt in the dark. Sparf was a sailor accused of murder, and, like you, his lawyer wanted the jury to hear about their power to nullify law and forgive, I guess, but the trial judge would not allow it. It got appealed to the Supreme Court, which sided with the judge. You place a lot of faith in the law and the court with a dumbed-down cowed jury, but not me. Sparf was 1895, it’s been a long time since juries could be fully informed, and the growing failures and injustice of unchecked and unbalanced and unintelligible law are pretty plain now.

“Now is the seed time of continental union, faith and honor. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound will enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full grown characters.” –Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Disengaged, devolved citizens go hand in hand with empire and collapse. I call it the American Devolution: “E pleb neesta.”

thatvisionthing September 12th, 2010 at 1:08 am
In response to Mason @ 173

On the whole, I think it’s better to leave the situation the way it is now because there are many cases where the instructions benefit defendants and their lawyers want the jurors to follow those instructions.

If lawmakers, judges and lawyers know best, are the good shepherds the jury sheep should follow — why have sheep at all? By this reasoning, traffic court should be the height of justice. Or Florida’s “rocket docket” foreclosure courts.

Masoninblue September 12th, 2010 at 9:44 am

I’ve heard many lawyers say that a lawyer commits malpractice if he or she advises a client to waive jury trial and let an elected judge decide the issue of guilt. While I generally agree, I believe there are some important exceptions. Representing a cop would cause me to at least consider waiving a jury.

The problem with elected judges is their fear of losing the next election because cops and prosecutors labeled them soft on crime. Since candidates for judicial office are prohibited from publicly expressing their opinions regarding matters that might potentially come before them in a legal case, reelection is virtually guaranteed to any incumbent trial judge who avoids (1) arrest, (2) causing a public scandal by sleeping with someone who works for them, and most important (3) pissing off cops and prosecutors.

As I said, jury nullification can cut both ways. If I were representing an unpopular client (e.g., one with a bad reputation and/or a member of an unpopular group or someone charged with a heinous crime), I wouldn’t want a potential conviction-prone jury to consciously or subconsciously disregard the presumption of innocence and place the burden of proof on my client to prove innocence. I’d want the jury to believe itself bound by the jury instructions with no exceptions and I would challenge any prospective juror whom I believed could not do so. Jury selection likely would be the most important factor in determining the outcome of such a case.

On the proverbial other hand, a good defense attorney representing a sympathetic defendant with a good reputation will usually craft a sophisticated under the radar appeal to a juror’s sense of fairness and the bottom line is, as I indicated in my previous comment, each juror gets to decide whether he or she has a reason to doubt that the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is what the instructions tell them, and they don’t have to explain or justify that reason to the court.

That’s the crack in the foundation of the edifice created by the jury instructions and all great trial lawyers know how to work a jury from jury selection through closing argument to expand that crack into a paved superhighway to a not-guilty verdict, or at least a hung jury.

Cops and prosecutors hate it, but it’s what we do. And you might be surprised to learn that sometimes the judge is the silent cheerleader in the courtroom because his or her sense of justice is offended by the prosecution’s case. This can happen in entrapment cases, for example. Yet, you can’t risk waiving jury because the silent cheerleader probably will find your client guilty to avoid pissing off the prosecution and the cops.

That’s the real story about jury nullification and yet another example of the critical importance of hiring a skilled lawyer who knows how to navigate through the sewer that is the American criminal justice system.

BTW, this is the silent reason why the right wing does not want civilian jury trials for GITMO detainees. Give a skilled defense attorney the keys to the torture vehicle and you can sit back and watch him or her humiliate the prosecution and the government on a daily basis on the world stage. I guarantee you this is why Lindsey Graham is so spooked about civilian jury trials.

I’ll leave y’all with this thought. Imagine what Jerry Spence would do.

thatvisionthing September 13th, 2010 at 4:27 am
In response to Mason @ 178

I don’t know Jerry Spence. (Is he anything like Andrew Hamilton?) I’ve heard of these guys though:

JOHN ADAMS (1771): It’s not only ….(the juror’s) right, but his duty, in that case, to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgement, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.

JOHN JAY (1794): The jury has a right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1804): Jurors should acquit even against the judge’s instruction….”if exercising their judgement with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction that the charge of the court is wrong.”

SAMUEL CHASE (1804): The jury has the right to determine both the law and the facts.

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES (1920): The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both the law and the facts.

Which makes this REALLY crazy:

Sparf vs US 1895: The case has occasionally been simplistically described as: Since the law has no way to prevent the jury from judging the law, they shall have that right, but only if they do not know it.

It’s not like we have a problem in our alternate Constitutional universe…

THOMAS JEFFERSON (1789): I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.

…or, as you called it, “the sewer that is the American criminal justice system.”

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