Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Prevarication and the Art of Ruling

This is a bit of an odd one, but I just couldn't go without recommending it. This article comes from Esoterica, a peer-review journal with an emphasis on "the scholarly investigation of esoteric spiritual traditions, with a special emphasis on Western esotericism. Western esoteric traditions are of a remarkable variety, ranging from Gnosticism and Hermeticism to alchemy, magic, Christian mysticism, Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and other secret or semi-secret societies. Investigation in this field is by nature transdisciplinary, drawing upon such diverse disciplines as history, religious studies, and literature, without belonging solely to any of these."

The article I'm speaking of specifically studies the confluence of three influential philosphical ideas to create a sort of perfect storm that is the Bush Administration. The main concept behind the article is the Administration's use of Religious symbolism and secrecy. One key passage is as follows:

However, the truly astonishing acts of concealment really began when he became president—indeed, almost from the moment he assumed that office. According to U.S. News & World Report, on Day 1 of this presidency, White House chief of staff Andy Card issued a directive to "wall off records and information previously in the public domain."[45] Bush's own first act as president was not to initiate a new economic strategy or plan to combat terrorism, but to make a concerted effort to conceal his own Texas gubernatorial records. As soon as he received word of the Supreme Court's favorable ruling on his election, W. arranged for his records to be "gathered, placed on sixty large pallets, shrink-wrapped in heavy plastic and, with no announcement, quietly shipped off to his father's presidential library at Texas A & M University."[46] After a year-long battle with the director of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Bush's records were finally returned to their rightful place in the state library (though with the provision that the keys to the filing cabinets containing Bush's records remain in the hands of the new Governor).[47] In sum, "it is difficult to believe one would go to so much trouble to hide his records unless he had something he really did not want someone to know about."[48]

Among his next decisions as President was a similar attempt to restrict access to the presidential records of Ronald Reagan (and of his then vice-President father). According to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, these were to be released in January, 2001. However, after requesting a series of extensions to review the many "legal questions" relating to the documents, Bush issued an executive order in November, 2001 that created an entirely new set of procedures for handling presidential papers and new standards for obtaining information about former presidents. Although the American Historical Association filed a lawsuit to acquire access to these records, the case has been filed and re-filed repeatedly and remains unresolved, apparently until after the 2004 election. Unless overturned, this newly expanded secrecy could allow presidential papers to remain sealed indefinitely; it would require that access to a former president's papers be approved by both the former president and the incumbent president; and it would allow representatives of former president to invoke executive privilege after a president is dead. It is worth noting here some of the sensitive documents that Bush decided should remain secret: a six-page memo dated December 8, 1986 entitled "Talking Points on Iran/Contra Affairs" and a series of memos dated November 22 and December 1, 1988 entitled, "Pardon for Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Joseph Fernandez," among others.[49]

No less secrecy surrounds the activities of the Bush-Cheney "Energy Task Force," which has been highly controversial ever since its national energy plans were unveiled in May 2001. These plans focused primarily on promoting oil, gas and nuclear power, while largely ignoring alternative energy technologies; they significantly weakened environmental regulations; and they called for opening environmentally sensitive areas like the ANWR to oil drilling. Not surprisingly, all of this alarmed many environmentalists and members of Congress. The General Accounting Office, headed by David Walker, therefore requested that the White House reveal who was consulted by Cheney and what was discussed. Cheney's blunt reply, however, was that the GAO had no authority to seek the information—a move that many see as a bold assertion of the administration's autonomy and its exemption from any sort of congressional oversight.[50] Walker in turn filed a suit to obtain the information, which was dismissed in December, 2002, by Judge John D. Bates (a conservative appointed by Bush).

I highly recommend the rest of the article, as it's way too big for me to recreate here. The article can be found at the Esoterica website.

Posted by crimnos @ 2:24 PM