Saturday, January 28, 2006

“Stare Decisis”

“Stare Decisis” – it’s Latin and means "to stand by that which is decided." We got a great dose of it as a legal precept; but listen to Bush and you’ll see it in a more self-destructive political context. The idea that we should honor decisions made, without examining the context in which they were made, is a formula followed by nations, institutions, or individuals, in decline.

To give credit where due, it is a legal practice based on the idea that one should not re-adjudicate that which has already been decided. Phrased in another way, one should not second guess a decision which was specifically made on a set of facts related to those under review. As a mode of day-to-day functionality, it works.

However, this administration, and the neocons (neo-Conservatives) interpret “Stare Decisis”, it has become a dictate for blind obedience expected of a slave by its master – it is akin to a child blindly adopting the practices of other children without concern for informed adult viewpoints.

As this goes to press, the president is preparing his State of the Union Address, “Stare Decisis” shall be the message delivered – the State of the Union will be sound, and all will be right with the world.

Satisfaction, or contentment, are the order of the day. We are to ignore the failure of the nation to honor its commitments to an aging generation; we are to believe that Islamic nations seek and will support democratic freedoms – freedoms which our government is eroding under the guise of some mythical protection from terrorist actions.

“Stare Decisis” – says it was good enough for grandpa, and good enough for dad, so it’s good enough for us. Multiple generations following the same customs, while rejecting that which is new – unless the new has made the old politically unacceptable.

We were a slave nation, the Bible condones it, Greek and Roman culture condoned it, but the slaves revolted – and more important, potential slave owners revolted and denounced it as inhumane. Shall we go back to it? It is a decision with a long history of precedent to support it, and, in some form, exists in trades held “immoral” but which service popular demand. Shall we return to slavery?

“Stare Decisis” – in its most restricted form is the child who says they want to do it, for the reason that “‘everyone else’ is doing it”. The rebuke, one we all know, takes the form: “If ‘everyone else’ jumped off a cliff, you would too?” That which is wrong, is wrong despite “everyone doing it.”

A few weeks ago, Bush signed into law a bill outlawing “torture” – which is already a violation of international and domestic law; concurrent with the signing, Bush issued a signing statement – which basically said the law was meaningless and he wasn’t bound by it. Bush morality condones torture.

Being above the law, Bush violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as amended in 1998. It is “Stare Decisis” to give Bush a pass on this clear violation of his oath of office because some prior administrations may have done similar acts; but acts done prior to the 1998 amendment. Change the law to make it more clear, or specific? Doesn’t matter, Republican neocons are above the law.

If we can have impeachment hearings about “oral in the oval,” we must certainly have them about violation of the nation’s laws and presidential oath. Republicans – a party exempt from morality, a party which promotes immorality and fiscal irresponsibility made structural for generations – are not subject to laws, or the constraints of rational thought. “Stare Decisis,” past decisions made are good.

The first century Talmudic scholar, Hillel asked: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” In an election year, we stand for ourselves so that others will stand with us; and now is an election year.


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