SYNDICATED COLUMN: Professionals Behaving Badly

The Drone Memo’s Hack Author Should Be In Prison. Instead, He’ll Be a Judge.

Conservatives say, and this is one of their more successful memes, that poor people are immoral. The proles have sex and kids out of wedlock and expect us (i.e., upstanding middle- and upper-class patriots) to pay for them. They steal Medicare and cheat on welfare. They don’t follow The Rules (rules written by, let’s just say, not them). Which makes them Bad.

This was always hogwash, of course. Though it is true that poverty causes people to do bad things, class and morals are uncorrelated. But who’s worse, the poor thief or the wealthy person who refuses to pay him a living wage?

America’s professional class has traditionally enjoyed a privileged position at the top of middlebrow America’s aspirational hierarchy. At the core of our admiration for doctors, lawyers and bankers was the presumption that these learned men and women adhered to strict codes of ethics. Doctors healed, lawyers respected the law and bankers didn’t steal.

When they did, there’d be hell to pay, not least from their brethren.

Evidence abounded that the clay content in the professional class’ metaphorical feet was no lower than anybody else’s. Thanks to recent developments, not least since 2008’s save-the-banks-not-the-people orgy of featherbedding at taxpayer expense, the fiction that we should look up to the technocracy is dying fast.

Not only are some physicians crapping on their Hippocratic oath by carrying out executions of prisoners and participating in the horrific torture of innocent concentration camp inmates, the associations charged with enforcing professional ethics sit on their old-boys-club hands. Big-time judges, depicted in movies as moral giants who love to get medieval on evil dirtbags whether in the mafia or the CIA, act like wimps instead, grumbling under their mint-flossed breath as they sign off on the federally-funded insertion of needles into innocent men’s penises.

Thurgood wept.

I got to thinking about the fall of the professional class after hearing that the White House has finally relented in its incessant stonewalling on the Drone Memo. Finally, we peons will get a peek at a legal opinion that the White House uses to justify using drones to blow up anyone, anywhere, including American citizens on American soil, for any reason the President deems fit.

When the news broke, I tweeted: “This should be interesting.”

I’m a cartoonist, but I can’t imagine any reading of the Constitution — left, right, in Swahili — that allows the president to circumvent due process and habeas corpus. I can’t see how Obama can get around Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12333, even after Bush amended it. Political assassinations are clearly proscribed: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” (Yes, even bin Laden.)

I have no doubt that David Barron, who is a professor at the very fancy Harvard Law School and held the impressive title of Former Acting Chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and who furthermore is President Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, did his very bestest with his mad legal skillz to come up with a “kill ’em all, let Obama sort ’em out” memo he could be proud of.

Still, this topic prompts two questions:

What kind of human being would accept such an assignment? Did anyone check for a belly button?

How badly would such a person have to mangle the English language, logic, Constitutional law and legal precedent, in order to extract the justification for mass murder he was asked to produce?

I haven’t seen the drone memo, but Senator Rand Paul has. Whatever legal hocus-pocus Barron deployed didn’t convince Paul. “There is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a president is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court,” Paul said in a statement.

I’ll bet my next couple of paychecks that Paul is correct — and that Barron’s sophistry wouldn’t withstand a serious court challenge, not even before a panel of a dozen Antonin Scalias. After all, we’ve been here before.

Shortly after 9/11, Dick Cheney and his cadre of neo-con fanatics ordered the White House Office of Legal Counsel, the same entity behind Barron’s drone memo, to come up with a legal justification to give Bush legal cover for torturing suspected terrorists. When they emerged, the Torture Memos were roundly derided by legal experts as substandard, twisted and perverse readings of the Constitution, treaty obligations and case law. Read them. You’ll see.

In 2010, the Justice Department decided not to file charges against Torture Memo authors John Yoo and Jay Bybee on the grounds that the two men weren’t evil — just dumb. (Can’t they be both?) The Torture Memos, they ruled, were shoddy. That, I’m as sure as I can be about something I haven’t seen yet, will be the case with the drone memo.

As with Yoo and Bybee, both of whom went on to prosper in the legal profession rather than warm the prison cells they both richly deserve, Barron probably won’t lose anything as the result of his work on the drone memo. He’ll be a federal judge.

Yet another heavy stone on the grave of America’s once-vaunted professional class.

(Ted Rall, staff cartoonist and writer for Pando Daily, is author of “Silk Road to Ruin: Why Central Asia is the New Middle East.” Support independent journalism and political commentary. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)



8 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Professionals Behaving Badly

  1. “But who’s worse, the poor thief or the wealthy person who refuses to pay him a living wage?”

    The poor thief.

    Yes, a lot of life’s circumstances are beyond our control. But there’s a difference between 1. living in Oklahoma and having your house wiped out when a hurricane goes through town and 2. voting in Republicans and Democrats who wipe their ass with the Constitution.

    Hang on. Hang on. I know. Will of the majority.

    Bullshit. Pure bullshit. Examples: Gays, Blacks, Jews. Farmers. All four MINORITIES figured out the same thing: if you make a deliberate show of letting people in elected office know that you vote and that you do so based on a couple of key issues, and that you are going to start voting in people who will support your issues, suddenly, everyone who’s up for re-election will start supporting your Gay Black Jewish Farmer ass. Why, many of my best friends are Gay Black Jewish Farmers.

    With all this social media and Internet and whatnot, it should be easier than ever for people who are sick of all this torture at Gitmo and drone killings of anyone and bankers not going to jail to organize. How many are there who feel like all of this is criminal and wrong? Okay, there’s me. I’ll throw in Ted. I think about five of the regular posters as well. So we’re up to seven. So that’s the bottom number. At the top? Well, 300 million minus the Bush administration and their pals, and most of the 1% (although it would be satisfying to paint them all as monsters, that’s not the truth, is it. I suspect there are some very, very wealthy people who are genuinely disgusted with what’s going on. But they didn’t get wealthy by being stupid, and there’s nothing stupider than throwing money away, and that’s what you do if you try to change things without some sort of real plan).

    So, somewhere between seven and 269 million people are on our side. And let’s say half are old enough to vote. So, as a back of the envelope calculation, we have tens of millions of people who side with us. And we have not one unified campaign anywhere to organize them.

    Going back to the initial question? That’s why I blame the thief-victim in this case. We all know what happened, we all know what is happening, and that’s about as far as any of us take it. The bankers? The Obama administration? They’re getting it done. And if we let it happen, then we really can’t ALSO sit there and complain.

    • “So, somewhere between seven and 269 million people are on our side. And let’s say half are old enough to vote. So, as a back of the envelope calculation, we have tens of millions of people who side with us. And we have not one unified campaign anywhere to organize them.”

      I do hope that the irony of complaining that there is not a unified campaign to organize people and get folks to vote -on a site whose plan is to discourage people from getting involved in the political process and voting- is not lost on you.

      • Well, hang on a minute. I don’t think the purpose of the site is to discourage people from voting. I think the purpose of the site — Ted, feel free to step in on this — is to discourage people from knee-jerk voting. From the mindless sort of “I votes the straight party ticket because that’s what I’ve been told to do. Obama’s a hero, and I don’t want to hear nothin’ about how he’s keeping Gitmo open or how that guy’s been kept their without a trial for 13 years, that’s just stuff you talk about because he’s black and you’re a racist! I can’t hear you. My fingers are in my ears. …” etc.

      • First, as I’ve repeatedly shown, Obama is NOT the one keeping Gitmo open, so blame where blame is properly due, please. (Unless you were using that statement as an example of the very mindlessness you decry, then in which case, well done).

        Second, by all means Ted, do chime in, as I read Ted’s position as “Voting is stupid. Don’t do it.” (Again, the sort of mindlessness you decry as not voting is one of the stupidest things you can do.) and have difficulty seeing how you can read Ted’s condemnation of voting and calls for revolution as anything else.

  2. I expect the drone use manifesto to be of the same caliber as the Unabomber’s manifesto: better living through (highly exothermic) chemistry, and firmly on the same moral ground.

  3. Whimsical,

    Actually, the president CAN release the detainees, any old time he wants to.

    Even if he did not have the power to do so (but he does), this is no longer an issue of legal this or legal that. This isn’t about someone being held overnight versus being held over a weekend. The people rotting in Gitmo have been there in some cases since the war started. They have not been given trials. The “evidence” is highly suspect. It’s simply not acceptable. Either there’s enough evidence for a trial and a sentence if the person is found guilty, or there is not. It is not acceptable, under any set of circumstance, to claim to be a civilized society and then simply leave someone to rot in a cell.

    So, even if Obama couldn’t get them out (but he can), he could take a stronger stance. What has he actually done, besides make some sound-bite quotes at a golf course or on his way to a fundraiser, that has actually forced the issue to the fore? Pretty speeches?

    And if the president isn’t going to “waste” political capital on defending the right of human beings to be given trials and a chance to defend themselves against the accusations leveled against them, then what, exactly, does the president stand for?

    • Alex-

      I doubt you’ll see this since rl got in the way of a timely reply, and Ted’s new status as a content producing machine has driven this pretty far down the page.

      Still, you made a honest (if, as predictable completely failed) effort, and you deserve a response to that.

      And here it is:LOL. Once again, when challenged to come up with something that would close Gitmo that would not be immediately blocked by the Republicans responds with a plan that depends on the good will of Republicans (and to be fair, a handful of cowardly Democrats) in order to succeed.

      “Congress would squawk, but only a veto-proof majority of Congress would have standing to challenge the president in court, and it is hard to imagine that such a majority would sue. And even if it did, courts tend to duck disputes like this between the branches.”

      This is horseshit; I know it, you know it, the guy who wrote the article knows it, and most importantly Obama knows it.

      What would actually happen is that the Republicans would bribe, bully or intimidate the necessary group of turncoat Democrats almost immediately after the proclamation was made and the suit would be filed within an hour, followed immediately by impeachment charges.

      This would tie up Obama’s already limited power for months, and there is a very real chance that the utterly corrupt Roberts court would rule against him.

      This would give the Republicans a cudgel to do even more irreparable damage to the country.

      “And if the president isn’t going to “waste” political capital on defending the right of human beings to be given trials and a chance to defend themselves against the accusations leveled against them, then what, exactly, does the president stand for?”

      The President doesn’t have to stand for anything- what he needs to do is his job: to prevent or mitigate as much of the damage wrought by the most dangerous enemies of America (currently, the Republicans) so that the can do the most good for the population of the United States (within the actual limited powers of his office as opposed to the fantasy powers “progressives” think he possesses).

      That “progressives” want him to allow the Republicans more power to damage the country to appease their feelings and indulge their fantasies is a large part of why they are ignored and powerless.

      That they are unwilling to make the necessary accommodations to regain their power- as I’ve laid out repeatedly- well that’s all on them, as much as I’m sure they like to falsely blame Obama for that as well.

      Still, I’ll give you this much (since I, unlike you and Ted, have an interest in being fair)- from now on, when I- properly- blame Gitmo still being open on the Republicans, I will be sure to add “and a handful of turncoat Democrats in Congress” as well.

      Nice try though. Thanks for playing.