A little over three decades ago, I enrolled in an international law course at Yale Law School taught by the school's former dean, Eugene Rostow, who had been a prominent government official as well as eminent scholar in the field.
I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn in such a setting. Yet I substituted another seminar after the first day's readings and lecture. That sample suggested to me, perhaps incorrectly, that the course might turn out to be a prolonged study of the word-smithing to justify “might makes right” rationalizations. Many students have high hopes of enduring keys to neutral principles of law. It struck me that the studies were best oriented for those on the fast-track to power, and were unlikely to be practical for someone of my modest circumstances or aspirations.
Several momentous global events this week remind me of that decision, as does the publication today of my new book, Presidential Puppetry. The 350-page study (with another 150 pages of notes and sources) had its genesis in several of the injustices that we have explored for years on these pages.
One was the federal prosecution on bogus corruption charges of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who is currently serving a long prison sentence for an obvious frame-up based on his 1999 request to a wealthy man to donate to a non-profit group. Such travesties led me to chronicle in Puppetry a century of presidential decision-making that benefits a hidden elite regardless of what would appear to be “the law.”
I'll describe the book more completely in a separate announcement.
For now, Independence Day is an apt time for reflection on the Constitution and freedom. Major news events this week illustrate the fragility of our freedoms and rule of law. These freedoms are easy for us to take for granted while they erode. In watching the fireworks on an evening like tonight, how often do we think of the original terror of the War of 1812 — or that in the nation's like Syria currently in war? Our protections might not completely disappear so that we would all notice — especially with all of the sexy entertainment and other distractions available to us. The true danger is that freedoms will continue to evaporate in a process largely unseen or unrecorded, except in the experiences of victims.
The topics below include:
- The arrogant, undemocratic and near-lawless culture becoming more apparent on the Supreme Court as it concluded its 2012-13 term last week.
- Politicization of the Justice Department as it pursues cases applying different criteria according to the clout and other status of the targets.
- Arbitrary United States rationales to increase the devastation in Syria's civil war by, in violation of any basic concept of international law, increase arms supplies to rebels.
- Gross hypocrisy, abuses of democratic principles, and, arguably, lawbreaking in order to continue without oversight the current massive United States surveillance on the American public. The photo above right via Flickr and Ubitquit23 shows German protesters against surveillance wearing masks of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose leaks last month confirmed longstanding reports of spying.
- Assaults on the notion of “Economic justice” as President Obama delayed for a year implementation of Obamacare and as Congress doubled on July 1 the interest rate paid by millions of young people for their student loans.