Thursday, November 03, 2005

I'll fix it later

Ambition Countering Ambition.
It's not the press's  job to be fair, or even honest. It's our job to keep them honest. The paragraphs below, from Balkinization, discuss the tripartite structure of the USG. I've tried to explain a thousand times why I get a headache every when I read or discuss politics in this country. And it is the result precisely of the willed ignorance -denial- by so many of the fact that they represent interests as much or more so than ideas. The assholes at Tapped can not see themselves as representing a middle class intellectuality. The can not see how much their language invariably refers back to a sensibility, a manner and taste; and Yglesias that fathead fuck; and Crooked Timber. When Henry Farrell refers to neo-liberalism in the ideas of others my eyes roll back into my head and my hands begin to shake. I go almost catatonic.
It is a the height of hypocrisy for a man -one who is not fully a living saint, of which the only example I can think of is Fra Angelico- to imagine himself and his perceptions as non-subjective. A better word. Use it as the alternative term and see if you're not immediately embarrassed to claim such philosophical clarity. 'I'm a non-subjective journalist.' Try not to laugh. And don't fucking ask me who Fra Angelico was.

But that reminds me of a story about the great art historian Meyer Shapiro, who in all his wisdom as a socialist and a scholar, attempted to psychoanalyze his own son, for the son's benefit of course. What moral clarity. What non-subjective reason. What blindness. What cruelty.

The pseudo-scientific false neutrality of the modern American press and political intelligencia. 'Political' science: as if the study of human behavior is akin to the study of plant-life. And scientists are plants. Affectations of innocence all around. Good intentions. Sincerity. Willfully vulgar anti-intellectualism. All so fucking American. You want to blame the right wing for this shit? Why DeLong reminds me of Chomsky and Bainbridge reminds me of Delong. Down the fucking food chain from brilliant pedantry to moralizing mediocrity.

Jack Balkin
The American constitutional system divides national powers into three branches, and then allows each branch to check the others while preserving their independence. The purpose is to diffuse power and allow ambition to counter ambition. If the President becomes too monarchical, Congress or the Courts will oppose him and take him down a notch; if Congress tries to concentrate power, the President can veto legislation and the courts can strike it down or read it narrowly. If the courts get out of line, the President and the Senate can appoint new judges and Justices, or threaten to limit the court's jurisdiction, and so on.

Behind this theory is the assumption that the different branches will have different interests premised on their institutional loyalties. The President will seek to protect and extend executive power, the Congress legislative prerogatives, and the courts judicial authority. As Madison explained in Federalist 51, this was the point: "the interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place." Presidents, because they were presidents, would always check a Congress that seemed to encroach on their authority; Congress, because it was Congress, would always have incentives to oversee Presidential malfeasance, first because the President was not doing what Congress wanted, and second, because ambitious Congressmen and Senators could make a name for themselves by exposing executive overreaching and corruption.

There was, alas, a fly in the ointment. The framers did not expect a party system; they opposed political parties, thinking them bad for democracy.

...Faced with such a state of affairs, and powerless to use the investigative tools of Congress to check Presidential incompetence and venality, the Democrats in the minority did the only thing left to them. They engaged in a public relations stunt to shame the Republican majority in Congress.

In the short run, it seems to have worked. Congress will now move forward with some sort of investigation into the Administration's use of intelligence. (How serious that investigation proves to be remains to be seen.)

But in the long run, these sorts of ploys won't be an effective substitute for a working system of checks and balances.

If Congress won't perform its assigned function of oversight, the only recourse is the American people. Will they become sufficiently engaged to put our constitutional system back in order, and once again let ambition counter ambition?

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