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The rule of law, or the law of the ruler?

August 14, 2013

OK, is it just me, or does something seem seriously out of whack with this picture? We are supposedly a nation of laws and due process. For as long as I have been alive, I have been taught that if you don’t like a law, you get it changed or repealed, but you don’t ignore it or fail to enforce it. That apparently arcane and archaic notion seems to have escaped the current president and attorney general of the United States.

The last time I checked, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, was the law of the land, duly passed by both houses of Congress and all parts of it were signed into law by that same president, including when businesses have to obey it. Also, the last time I checked there were laws on the books that make possession of any amount of illegal drugs a crime, and assesses certain penalties for the possession, sale or distribution of those drugs. Yet, not by due process or legislative means, but by decree, suddenly these laws or portions of them  are not subject to prosecution?

There is no doubt that there are conditions that indicate that changes need to be made in both of these  laws. It is an undeniable fact that the health care reform legislation has run into some serious snags. Not the least of those being that large businesses and unions have discovered that it will not only do nothing to make healthcare or health insurance costs cheaper, but it may put both of them out of business. That might not sit well in the next election.

It also undeniable that our prisons are overcrowded. But why in the world would the supposed top cop of the United States decide to fix that problem by not prosecuting “minor possession” drug cases if they carry a mandatory sentence he deems to be too long? Drugs are at the root of many other property, personal injury, and murder-related felonies. Catching little fish usually leads to catching bigger fish, because they roll over on their suppliers to get time shaved off their sentences. But then, maybe that no longer matters either.

Maybe you can rationalize the Obamacare “modification” on the basis of executive privilege.  But who made the attorney general the chief executive?

If you want to reduce the federal prison population, then how about reviewing the people already in there and maybe think about letting some of the nonviolent offenders sentences  be commuted to time served? How about building more prisons?  We could give less money to businesses that are doomed to fail and use it to build prisons. Or how about changing the law through the normal process of having changes in sentencing guidelines introduced in Congress and letting them be voted upon?  Is this sudden concern about lengthy prison sentences about prison overcrowding? Somehow I don’t think so.

We stand around and wring our hands over an Egyptian president who wanted to suspend or ignore his country’s constitution to please his political base, and yet we seem to be impotent to stop the process or blind to the fact that it is happening here.

I have long since bowed out of the argument about who said something equivalent to “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing”. I really don’t care if it was Burke, Mills or Aked that first espoused the idea. Who said it isn’t nearly as important as the truth of the thought. It is beyond me how we can countenance abuses of power, if not by active participation, then by apathy. This sort of selective disregard for our laws rises far above political labels. We need to stop supporting any politician or party whose sole goal is to stay in office by any means necessary. There are a few laws I would love to ignore, but I have an idea I wouldn’t get very far with that. If I can’t pick and choose which laws I obey, then neither can a politician.

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