October 23, 2009

Rep Grayson pwns a Georgia GOP rep. (plus Agamben)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — ubikcan @ 8:31 am

Glenn Greenwald is right to point to this piece of House drama (or what passes for drama there). If you don’t like politics skip pressing play here, but if you like, not polemics, but a serious point dramatically made, then watch it:

As Glenn and many of the commenters (on his site and at YouTube) point out, this is a small lesson in the Constitution, and also kinda funny and inspiring at the same time. Inspiring because I’ll feel like doing that at the next work-meeting when someone is being ignorant!

However. Behind all this is a more substantial and less recognized problem. Namely are our laws (inc. the Constitution) “sufficient” or are they always at the last fated to be overturned due to “special circumstances” (“national security,” “the war”) or what  to get fancy one much-adored Italian philosopher has called a “permanent state of exception”?

Glenn often appeals to the law–as it exists–in the face of those times when it is being overridden, eg FISA, PATRIOT ACT, government surveillance without a warrant, etc. Notice that this is a case of the law as it exists, not a case of oh, we should change the law for the better. Glenn’s position (and I’ve been reading him since he first appeared with his own website in late 2005) is basically that actually existing laws–including the Constitution again–are circumvented in the name of national security.

If laws are fated to be overturned, then the conclusion we are faced with is that legal formations of rule are insufficient: law, itself, is not the solution to the way a country will be ruled. America calls itself a nation of law, but think about that for a moment: how can it be if at the last, law runs out or is trumped by the state of exception? What would it mean? It would mean that you can’t appeal to the law (as Glenn does) to do the right thing.

Now I’m not a big fan of Agamben (the fancy Italian philosopher afore-referenced) but I’m beginning to wonder, as much as I admire, Glenn Greenwald, whether he isn’t just a bit naive on all this in appealing to the law and the constitution.

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