Sunday, April 1, 2012

the 28th Amendment -- Death by Legacy

A Few General Ideas About the Psychology of Legacy

Any human who manages to elevate himself high enough will, apparently inevitably, come to a reflective moment when the finiteness of the years of his service -- or even the finiteness of the years of his life -- present the breathtaking instant when he indulges in a "true after thought."  

"What will all of this look like when I've once again descended to the lower atmospheres?"

"What quip or logo will come to define my great history when I am no longer here to add any more to the story which started it?"

Some humans bravely believe that their children will be their greatest chance for immortality.  Some believe that inventions they've made or businesses they've established will fill this purpose.  Public and political people are convinced that all their story will be amalgamated into some "household term" where they -- or, at least, their reputation -- will spend a secure eternity with a durable, comfortable flow of adulation and respect.

While power and glory remain a living, daily thing, it is only natural that certain human "delights" accompany them in a society filled with lesser folks.  After all, 2 million years ago our Zinjanthropus ancestors had already begun the society bending idea of the "big man."  In the fetid, dingy caves of Olduvai, the "big man" ate his fill first, traveled behind the young men in dangerous country and fathered all the little Zinjanthropae which would be allowed to survive as members of his tribe thanks to their "superior lineage."

Although this was just a start, the ambition for an ever extending longevity of this "big man" status grew in human society just like "little Topsy."  Half of the questionably sacred Old Testament is an account of one "divinely appreciated big man" after another.  

In the soul wrenching centuries of the early religionist period of Europe, tangible "big man-hood" had been relegated to the violent avarice of genetic nobility and the dark ambitions of the fear mongering priests, abbots, bishops, cardinals and popes.   Essentially a Dark Ages version based on the prehistoric Zinjanthropian idea, under this system all the rest of the tribe remained chattel.

Hopefully, all this admittedly incomplete, academic rambling is an adequate prelude to the primary theme of this post.  Let's jump a few centuries to modern America.

A Few Modern "Big Men"

Understandably, the Zinjanthropus "big man" naturally took his ambition for sexual profligacy as an accoutrement to his grand standing.  It was a only a couple of millennia later that this appetite matured to full out "war making."  The sex idea was still at the root of this new behavior, of course, but the expanded sexual opportunities of captured women and, later, of slaves and concubines traveled just one step behind the bleeding teen agers with the spears.

Considered as "war makers" even the most revered of our modern "big men" continued to naturally attach the increased sexual opportunities of their high office to a "little on the side."  Such "Rushmore sized" greats as Lincoln, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Clinton and others all felt that a little "in office dalliance" was not only Biblically merited, but also made "necessary," by the great burdens they bore for the larger common good.

However, the sexual proclivities, although perhaps enlightening as motivational foundations, were not the only modern manifestations of this desire to "not only have an extra good time -- better than anyone else -- while seated in power, but also to construct an eternal reputation for plenty of on-going adoration afterwards, too."  Once the thing had careened to this low point, the modern idea of legacy had been born.

Predictably, we can, from our own casual memories, prepare a list of modern legacies.  We extract these from unavoidable "household phrases," occasionally enhanced with a distant memory of Junior High American History classes.  The following list is not meant to be a thorough education of these "household phrases," but only to serve as a few examples.

 Washington founded the Republic
 Lincoln freed the slaves.
 Wilson started the United Nations.
 FDR saved the country from the Depression.
(and, started Social Security, led the fight in WWII and suffered from polio)
 Kennedy put us on the moon
 (and, stared down the Russians in Cuba, started civil rights for Blacks and got shot)
 Johnson started Medicare
 (and, obsessed with the slaughter in VietNam, began the Great Society and more for civil rights)
 Reagan initiated the fall of the Soviet Union
(and, raised taxes, brought the national debt to $ Tn for the first time, launched Sta Wars and broke organized labor)
 Clinton balanced the budget
(and, had a girl friend, survived impeachment and finished up with high approval ratings)
 Bush Jr. -- well, by this point, we can see the theme of the "household phrase."

Now, these were all Presidents.  They were chosen for the "examples" list because a casual knowledge of Presidential "big picture" legacies is common.  However, this posting about legacies is about another high office -- that of a Supreme Court Chief Justice.  Of course, although historical Supreme Courts are historically labeled by the Chief Justices presiding over them, all the members have also lent a hand to what happened.

Rather than dredge out a similar list of examples of the legacies of previous Supreme Court Chief Justices, let's just focus on what's happening right now.

Further, let's just pick up from the last "example" on the "examples" list.  And, rather than launch into some ill tempered geriatric tirade, let's take that look from what might be appearing on the pages of a history book fifty years from now.

A MeanMesa "Future History"
 of the 21st Century Supreme Court
Condensed Version
8th Edition, 2062

The first centuries of the United States were marked by a constant conflict between what were called oligarchs and the rest of the country.  The main population in the democracy wanted the country to develop in ways which improved living conditions while the oligarch class constantly vied for control of the country's Treasury.

In the beginning, the nature of this conflict was defined by the country's Constitution.  As the national wealth grew to large surpluses in the late 20th Century, the portion taken by the oligarchs was able to grow without materially influencing living conditions for the remainder of the population.  However, in the early years of the 21st Century oligarchic power reached new heights, and the extraction of wealth from the larger economy also measurably increased.

The resulting class conflict would have been expected, historically, to precipitate a violent "revolutionary correction" earlier if the nation had not enjoyed such previous prosperity.  This predictable conflict arose later in this case because living conditions had been sustained through various artificial methods during the last, most aggressive periods of wealth redistribution.

Two other factors delayed the "correction."

First, the national memory of better times in the past had faded through the passing of time.  Likewise, the educational level of the nation's population had also diminished.  The social-cultural knowledge base of citizens had fallen low enough that the early evidence of the oligarchic "take over attempt" went unnoticed.                                                

Second, the nation's Constitution had been continually cited as making the growth of the oligarchs legitimate.  The lower class of citizens had been groomed to believe that the increasing oligarchic wealth was fundamentally protected by the concepts in the US Constitution.  Much of the earlier wealth redistribution into oligarchic hands had, more or less, conformed to contemporary interpretations of Constitutional principles.

The mechanism employed to defend this gradual transformation of the nation to oligarchic control, that is, to continually validate the "necessity" and "acceptability" of constantly declining wealth and lower living conditions in the lower classes, was the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court.  No matter what the still legislatively empowered lower class attempted in efforts to rectify the effects of the ever increasing oligarchic power, the effort was defeated by the Supreme Court which ruled that each such attempt was "unconstitutional."

The oligarch class had long coveted the legislative "purse strings" originally placed in the hands of the electorate by the Constitution.  As oligarchic "penetration" and "control" of the nation's Congress grew, coupled in the early 21st Century with control of the Supreme Court, the various legislative schemes for additional wealth redistribution grew even more aggressive.

Sensing the advantage of this continuing development of power, what is now called the OORP, Oligarchic Over Reach Period, began in earnest, but, as history now shows, still prematurely.  Modern experts agree that the oligarchic ambitions might have been realized if the slow, gradual development had continued at its previous pace for another decade or so.

When the surpluses which had previously masked the oligarchic take over were depleted in the early 21st Century, the lower classes, although by then quite uneducated and confused, were rapidly cast into even significantly lower and lower living conditions.  Interestingly, this depletion of national wealth through oligarchic wealth redistribution had been orchestrated by a certain, even smaller, even more aggressive, minority class of oligarchs just before the OORP began.

This earliest class of oligarchic predators had "gotten to the cash first."  Of course, the larger class of more cautious oligarchs were still quite anxious to consume whatever remained, and for that, they would rely on the Supreme Court to provide Constitutional interpretations which would protect their efforts.

 The Legacy of the Roberts Court

Chief Justice Roberts (image source)

The 28th Amendment (image source)

The 28th Amendment to the Constitution
concerning the formation of Supreme Courts
from MeanMesa's "Future History" Series

For the lower class the first visible signs of the take over plan came from the very Court which the oligarchs had relied upon so heavily to execute it.  Three Court rulings in close succession effectively eliminated the traditional respect for the institution's reliability, as it turns out, permanently undermining the previous structure of the Court.  The dream of the Roberts Court was to finally deliver the nation into oligarchic servitude, but the reality was, instead, the destruction of the Supreme Court and the dissemination of what had, by then, been realized to be its historically grotesque power.

In the first of the three exceptional rulings, the Court had over turned the traditional power of voters to elect national executives.  The 21st Century tyrant [see Sulla, tyrant of early Roman Republic/Wiki/] George W. Bush was appointed by the Court to a disastrous -- and premature -- oligarchic Presidency.

The second of the rulings was the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision which attempted to permanently eliminate what had previously been democratic elections.

The third of the rulings was the Court's decision to legally undermine the purchase of affordable health insurance in favor of a continuation of the existing oligarchic arrangement which was obscenely profitable at the time. 

This third decision actually reflected a second conflict among the oligarch class.  [The first was the exploitation of early opportunities by one part of the oligarch class at the expense of the remainder during the early "looting" period.]  This third decision was a gambit by one class of oligarchs -- those who controlled the Supreme Court -- to wrest power from another class -- those who controlled the Congress.

The Supreme Court had done a good number of outrageous things prior to this, but the rapid succession of the insults of the Roberts Court in the early 21st Century had turned the historical tide in an interesting way.  The voting public, mainly because these decisions had such a similar flavor and because they were reached in such a short time, dismissed the previous idea that the Court was "untouchable," that is, a powerful Constitutional force which functioned in a way not only oblivious to popular opinion but even oblivious to critical popular needs.

By this time the "spell" had been broken.

Even the least informed among the electorate realized that in decision after decision, their interests in Supreme Court cases consistently lost, each instance being explained by the same justification:  "It violates the Constitution."

Even the least informed among the electorate also realized that a certain, almost invisible class of Americans consistently "won" in these same decisions.

Finally, the "legacy" of the Roberts Court was realized in the 28th Amendment which, once proposed, rapidly cleared state election after state election on its path to full ratification.  The old structure of the Supreme Court had become something which was to be simply discarded as being essentially unusable.  Faced with the unavoidable fact that the Court, as designed in the original Constitution, was inescapably too vulnerable to being dominated by special interests, the citizens of the United States "cleaned house." 
The 28th Amendment created six Supreme Courts, each one with nine Justices nominated and installed by the same process as before.  Spread across the country in newly constructed Supreme Court buildings, the new Courts were able to hear many more cases and make rulings much more rapidly.

One interesting feature of the new system was the process in which cases were referred to trial in the new Courts.  The assignments were made by a lottery.  There remained no means for any case to "select" the particular Supreme Court which would hear it other than to "draw a token from the bag," a process usually done on national television is a short ceremony.  After that, the Court chosen for the case would proceed through the traditional steps to decide if it were to be heard.

As before, decisions made by such Courts were final.

There were, after the Amendment's ratification, "conservative Courts" and "liberal Courts," but never exclusively one or the other.  Corporate and oligarchic efforts to sway decisions became a thing of the past simply because control of any particular Court among the six became a judicial "crap shoot."  The new theme of the Supreme Court function was also made more dynamic by the fifteen year term limit of any seated Justice.

A Few Thoughts in Conclusion

We may be thinking that a solution to the present dilemma we face at the hand of a Court owned by oligarchs is to be found in the simple, gradual replacement of some Justices as they naturally change over during the passing of time.  Many Americans, very reasonably, are still infatuated with the "bar fight."  If we can only elect progressive politicians to Congress and the White House, opportunities to change the complexion of the Court will inevitably occur.

Yes, this might solve the problems we face today, but we can be certain that the oligarch class will re-introduce the same problems as quickly as possible after that.  The fact is very clear.  The two centuries old structure of the Supreme Court has out lived its utility, and very interestingly, arrogantly demonstrated this obsolescence repeatedly.  No effort on the part of the maxima judicia has been made to accommodate modern needs.

In a conversation suspiciously reminiscent of other oligarchic propaganda, we have told over and over that the situation is hopeless, that nothing can be done.  This is a lie.

Much can be done.  The Constitution is not a suicide note.

Just something to think about.

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