Friday, September 26, 2014

0 and 1

It was reported earlier in the week, in a tittering sort of way, that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sometimes wondered if God were really there.  Oh my.


Welby explained that, "The other day I was praying over something while I was running and I ended up saying to God, 'this is all very well, but isn't it about time you did something, if you're there,' which is not probably what the Archbishop of Canterbury should say...."

The bishop prays to God while jogging?  Only in the Church of England is such a thing possible.

To be fair, though, Welby wasn’t really praying but rather chatting with himself during which he entertained doubts as to God’s existence, presence or love. 

Le silence eternal de ces espaces infinis m’effraie. (Pascal) It is hardly a new question and anyone who has not doubted is not human.  The archbishop understands this, for he explicitly cited Psalms 22, 44 and 88, those great cries of the doubting heart and despair

Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?

But Welby resolved the despair with a trite and blatant recourse to an external locus of control,

"The extraordinary thing about being a Christian, is that God is faithful even when we are not.  ... So  there may be people here whose life is a complete havoc and they know they've really messed up and God doesn't say, 'once you're out of the mess we'll move on together', he says, 'I'm right here, let's start dealing with this together'."

The extraordinary thing is that is exactly what Psalm 44 does not say, 

Thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant, although thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death

Who is doing the forgetting here?

Welby is skirting the issue with happy talk.  It is one thing to say that faith is not a resolution but a commitment — a determination to act as if the Great Tomorrow were here.   But it is childish to invert and externalize that formula into an assertion that He is here, even if we don’t know it or feel it or see any evidence of any good that comes from it.

It seems to me that Welby is simply supplying noise to the silence and fattening his flock with the thickness self-importance.

It all boils down to 0 or 1; either you work on loosing your ego or on building it.  You are either a rope or you pass through the eye of a needle.

Building ego proceeds on the assumption that the “I” is worth maximizing or perfecting.  The assumption is that one can be more, do more and have more.  Even when one is “weeding” out imperfections, resisting bad propensities, overcoming sin or "centering," one is doing so not to become less, but to maximize what are conceived to be the strengths and potentials of self-hood.  Even when the ego is conceived of as being perfected through usefulness or service to others, it is still given importance in so far as it is assumed that it can effect things of importance.

True selflessness, the zero, is just the opposite.  It begins with the realization that one has achieved nothing, has acquired nothing and is nothing to anyone .. even to God.   This is an absolute.  It is not an exercise in order to then be something; it is a permanent realization. I am dust; the end.

One can imagine that one is nothing by looking at photographs of mass assemblies and realizing that every minuscule dot in the picture was once its own universe of importances, just as one’s self, and that the dot is now nothing, nowhere.  That dot, that individual face, felt cold and heat, the urge to dump and the urge to fuck, the glow of triumph, the confusion and sorrow of defeat, the fear of loss and the joy of love and procreation.   One can imagine one’s insignificance by pondering upon all the generations of hands that crafted the pyramids, the skyscrapers, the great ships and marvelous machines or by thinking upon all the generations of men which have been mowed like grass in bloody conflicts. Vanity of vanities; all are all nothing, nowhere.

But these imaginings do little more than frighten us... that is, our ego.  They are an induced “low” which is no better than an induced “high”.

The true zero is achieved only on the cross, after a via crucis, when one hangs naked, useless, failed, forsaken and forgotten.

True zero is not given to all, but only to those who still living have been reduced to living dust — those who are homeless, friendless, childless and of no account to anyone.

This is what the Crucifixion represents: to be strung up,  forgotten and then tossed into the pit, dead meat for mangy dogs.  

But surely there follows a resurrection?   This is surely what the one wants to believe.  But to believe as much is simply to turn a zero into a one.  It is a disbelief which stands for a refusal to accept that one is nothing. It is a negation which seeks to turn the via crucis into a technique of self potentializing. 

When you mean nothing to any one, endowing yourself with significance is simply an act of pure ego.

Is there life after zero?  I suspect not.  This is the question Welby is too trite to answer.   What one thinks of the hereafter depends on one’s opinion of one’s self.

At the end of the day, the ego hopes to be taken up in burst of joyous light.  Whether it is forever or a momentary contact with the forever it is an ascent into laughter and light.  

At the end of the day, the zero is content that darkness is pulled over all, that strife and life and pain are at an end, and that nothing follows upon nothing. 


The poor inherit the kingdom of heaven because there is nothing there.

Lord,   day and night I cry out to you.

2    May my prayer come before you;
  turn your ear to my cry.
3    I am overwhelmed with troubles
  and my life draws near to death.

4    I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
  I am like one without strength.

5   I am set apart with the dead,
  like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
  who are cut off from your care.

6   You have put me in the lowest pit,
  in the darkest depths.

7   Your wrath lies heavily on me;
  you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.

8   You have taken from me my closest friends
  and have made me repulsive to them.
  I am confined and cannot escape;

9   My eyes are dim with grief.  I call to you, Lord, every day;
  I spread out my hands to you.

10   Do you show your wonders to the dead?
   Do their spirits rise up and praise you?

11   Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction?

12   Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
  or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13   But I cry to you for help, Lord;  in the morning my prayer comes before you.

14   Why, Lord, do you reject me
  and hide your face from me?

15  From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
  I have borne your terrors and am in despair.

16  Your wrath has swept over me;
  your terrors have destroyed me.

17   All day long they surround me like a flood;
  they have completely engulfed me.

18   You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
  darkness is my closest friend.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

To Invoke and Pervert

Needless to say, Obama’s peroration before the General Assembly  was all that we expected it to be.  Predictably enough, after acknowledging the slight imperfections in our inherent goodness, he launched forward with Babies to the Fire, denouncing the unspeakable, yet depicted, horrors and evils of the Satanic Caliphate.

"But in this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world’s great religions. With access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm, they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels – killing as many innocent civilians as possible; and employing the most brutal methods to intimidate people within their communities.

Casting of the Innocents (Alexander Nevsky, 1938, Eisenstein)
"First, the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed.  This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world."
The only surprise was that he did not resurrect the kadaververwertungsanstalt.  Otherwise, Obama sounded entirely like Pope Urban II,

"From the confines of Jerusalem and the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth and very frequently has been brought to our ears, namely, that a race from the kingdom of the Persians, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God, a generation forsooth which has not directed its heart and has not entrusted its spirit to God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; it has led away a part of the captives into its own country, and a part it has destroyed by cruel tortures; it has either entirely destroyed the churches of God or appropriated them for the rites of its own religion. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanness. They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent. "  [1
So, here we are, on the anniversary of 9/11, once again sounding the trumpet for another crusade, although this time the bluster is hedged about with demurrers.  Not for Obama the unapologetic bluster of a Bush; rather the honeyed poison of an Urban. 

But the man who applies this salt should be prudent, provident, modest, learned, peaceable, watchful, pious, just, equitable, and pure. For how can the ignorant teach others? How can the licentious make others modest? And how can the impure make others pure?  ...  first correct yourselves, in order that, free from blame , you may be able to correct those who are subject to you. If you wish to be the friends of God, gladly do the things which you know will please Him.   .. Let therefore hatred depart from among you, let your quarrels end, let wars cease, and let all dissensions and controversies slumber. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre; wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves
 And so Obama,

"We have not invested adequately in the public health capacity of developing countries. Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe.  . . .
"We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.  ....  We believe that right makes might – that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future. ...  America is committed to a development agenda that eradicates extreme poverty by 2030.  ...  I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders.  .  . .
"I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri – where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.   . . .
"But we welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfec ...  We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come. Join us in this common mission, for today’s children and tomorrow’s.
But true to pattern, as Urban II had invoked the will of God, so too Obama sought to clothe his war on ISIS in the mantel of just necessity.  After deploring the rape of virgins and the slaughter of innocents, Obama intoned,

No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.
The significance of this statement is apt to be overlooked until one takes note of the conditions the Church places on the invocation of the Just War Doctrine, viz:
 [The] Just War doctrine gives certain conditions for the legitimate exercise of force, all of which must be met:
1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; 
2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective
3. there must be serious prospects of success; 
4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition" [Catech. Cath. Church § 2309].  [2]
The Church’s just war doctrine, while reinforced by the example of Christ, derives in major part from Cicero who is generally credited with being the first to enunciate pre-conditions for just war,

Then, too, in the case of a state in its external relations, the rights of war must be strictly observed. For since there are two ways of settling a dispute: first, by discussion; second, by physical force; and since the former is characteristic of man, the latter of the brute, we must resort to force only in case we may not avail ourselves of discussion.  ( Cicero, De officiis (On Moral Duties), 1.11.33-1.13.41.)

For Cato as for the Church, the essence of a just war is necessity — necessity, not expedience.  The Church’s preconditions nail down what Cato had left a tad fuzzy: necessity must be demonstrated not merely argued.  

The second condition of a just war is explicit and clear to anyone who understands English, viz:  all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.

 “Must have been shown”  is not the same as “There can be no reasoning – no negotiation.” The second precondition requires that non violent attempts at resolution be made and, having been made, be shown to be fruitless.   Hypothetically asserting that it would be pointless to engage in negations is not a demonstration of anything.  It is a mere assertion.  If necessity is left to mere assertion then the entire construct collapses into a heap of rhetorical amour-propre.

Thus, the Church’s doctrine prescribes a mode of conduct not a mode of argument.   At no time did Obama claim to have attempted negotiations with ISIS.  Instead he supplanted the requirement of necessity with an ipse dixit of hypothetical impossibility.

The speech delivered this morning was trademark Obama.   It contained all the usual nods to humanitarian ideals and progressive goals.  It feigned a humble acknowledgement of our own imperfections. It held out the “hope” of a more just and equitable world.    But all this, as usual, was the cotton candy fluff around the big stick of “diplomacy by force”.

We chipsters are not persuaded that the doctrine of just war is itself justifiable.  Contrary to oft-asserted mistake the doctrine is not found in either St. Augustine or St. Anselm.  The passage usually cited from Augustine’s City of God, is a literal aside wrenched out of context from a discussion of the Roman Empire’s linguistic and cultural homogeneity.

Early Christians (like Augustine) were quite familiar with Cato’s moral teaching and were equally adamant that there could be no appeasement of violence.  By that they meant exactly the opposite of what we mean today.  They did not mean that we had to fight violence but rather that we needed not to hand ourselves over to violence — that we had to suffer it instead of giving in to it.

"A Christian must not become a soldier, unless he is compelled by a chief bearing the sword. He is not to burden himself with the sin of blood. But if he has shed blood, he is not to partake of the mysteries, unless he is purified by a punishment, tears, and wailing. He is not to come forward deceitfully but in the fear of God.” (Apostolic Canons of St. Hippolytus XII-XVI)

“The safety of the City of God, however, is of such a kind that it can be possessed, or rather acquired, only with faith and through faith; and when faith is lost, no one can attain to that safety.” (Augustine, City of God, Book 22, ch. 6.)
Thus, Clement of Alexandria described the Church as “an army which sheds no blood.”

"If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. And what are His laws? You shall not kill, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Protrepticus 11, 116)

The evidence is overwhelming that the early Church did not espouse a just war doctrine but rather forbade a resort to violence in all cases.  Period.

But the apple of self-preservation is too tempting.  The rationale for a resort to violence was first enunciated by St. Constantine-Cyril in 851 when those pesky Muslims were besieging Constantinople.   During a diplomatic parlay in 851, Caliph Mutawakki’s negotiating team opened up with quotes from the Gospel of Mathew,

"Your God is Christ. He commanded you to pray for your enemies, to do good to those who hate and persecute you, and to offer the other cheek to those who hit you. But what do you actually do? If anyone offends you, you sharpen your sword and go into battle and kill. Why do you not obey your Christ?" (The Orthodox Church and Society VIII.2)

To which St. Constantine-Cyril responded

"Christ is our God Who ordered us to pray for our offenders and to do good to them. He also said that no one of us can show greater love in life than he who gives his life for his friends That is why we generously endure offences caused us as private people. But in company we defend one another and give our lives in battle for our neighbors, so that you, having taken our companions as prisoners, could not imprison their souls together with their bodies by forcing them into renouncing their faith."

It was unalloyed Greek sophistry which quick-switched from referencing the collective we to talking about the we as individuals.   Nay! Nay! We are not defending ourselves.  Perish the thought.  We are defending our neighbor — the old, the weak, the virgin, the innocent; each of us defending the other — like Christ — laying our lives down for others.  No greater love hath man than this: than to bash the skull and pierce the gut of his adversary for the sake of his fellow man.   All of which ignored the salient fact that Christ laid down his life by suffering violence, not indulging it.

We mention these things not with any expectation that the United States (or even, for that matter France) will espouse Christian pacifism, but to illustrate how far Obama has fallen from any semblance justness.

The Church’s doctrine of just war is a compromise — an appeasement of violence.  It forgoes the gold and goes for the brass, seeking restrict violence to cases of last and necessary resort.

It is not an unreasonable rule but it is little better than Cato and falls short of Socrates.  Obama does not even touch Cato’s toga.  His speech before the U.N. General Assembly was more of the same high sounding, self-inflated exceptionalism for which he and his countrymen are renown.


But surely, it will be said, ISIS is a bunch of brutal barbarians who cannot be allowed to mow a path of blood with the Crescents of their scythes!

Like others we were appalled by the images of the beheadings and at least like some others have tried to fathom the mind behind the hand in such deeds.

Our quandary was put into perspective by a Canadian — a rather Tory type at that — who responded to a comment on how slow and sadistic the beheadings were by remarking that they were at least quicker than executions in Missouri.

Where was the incredulous outrage when,  in 2006, U.S. soldiers strung up and beat a 21 year old Afghan cab driver for four days running until, as the coroner put it, his legs were, pulpified.   

Is death by “pulpification” any less brutal?  At the time, we called this matter to the attention of several senators and not one bothered with a reply.   After all, it is not brutal when we, the exceptional Murkans, do it.

This is not to condone violence by a specious tu quoque but rather to point out the wages of violence when one gives in to it.

Humans whether American, German or Russian, whether Jewish, Muslim or Shinto, do terrible things, without exception, when they resort to violence.  ISIS should not be held to an arbitrarily higher standard.  It is par for the course. 

Dilawar’s pulpified body was never broadcast on the nightly news; nor are we treated to images of the collateral death inflicted on wedding guests by our drones; and, when Israel, reduces neighborhoods to rubble and children to limp and charred flesh it is called a “justified reprisal.”

Reprisal in Gaza

Which perhaps sheds some light on ISL’s dark motives. 

There is a controversial rule of war which allows belligerents to take reprisals against the opposing party.  Reprisals refer to acts which are illegal if taken alone, but become legal when adopted by one state in retaliation for the commission of an earlier illegal act by another state.

Reprisals are (or have been) allowed against non-combatants in retaliation against acts of sabotage or killings by partisans and other non-official combatants. 

Needless to say, much misinformation and propaganda surrounds this murky and unhappy aspect of international and customary law.  All countries — including the exceptional United States — have engaged in reprisals.  Most of the German reprisals during the second world war were illegal not in principle but because they were excessive. 

Nevertheless, despite the volumes of arcana and hair-splitting, the law of reprisal ends up being an attempt to put a reasonable face on all hell and its minions.  Riddled with conditions and exceptions, no real sense can be imposed upon eruptions of chaos.

There is thus a trend in international law toward outlawing all reprisals (and certainly all reprisals against non-combatants), but this is counterbalanced by an equal and opposite tendency to accept routine and predictable collateral damage as legitimate. In other words, when the "non-reprisal" is done impersonally and with banality.

Pondering these things, it seems to us that ISL’s notorious beheadings are conceived by them as forms of reprisal; and they have, in fact, usually been accompanied by some sort of retaliatory justification.

What this indicates is that ISL’s conduct (to the extent that a unitary control purpose can be supposed) is not animated by pure and arbitrary sado-barbarism, as Obama has claimed, but rather by the more conventional cruelty in pursuit of a geo-political purpose. 

It is a significant distinction.  There was no negotiating with the U.S. thugs who pulpified Dilawar because their conduct was no less and no more than indulgence in sadism for the sheer pleasure of it.  They were not trying to achieve anything other than to inflict pain on Dilawar and thus there was nothing to negotiate or bargain.

But when cruelty is retaliatory and is used as a means of attaining some military or geo-political alternative, then (despite the sordid distaste) there is something which can be achieved by negotiation.

The people who control U.S. policy understand this.  They (more than the rest of us) know what a disgusting enterprise the making of sausages is.  They have been, are and will always be disposed to negotiating with cads of the lowest order if they think something can be gained thereby.  A few beheadings will not stop America in her tracks!

The spectre of arbitrary and sadistic brutality is invoked merely to buttress the a priori argument that there could be no point in trying to negotiate with such inhuman beasts and therefore a resort to violence is justified.

The only thing demonstrated on Wednesday is that is the shameless hypocrisy of U.S. policy.

Urbama I

©WCG, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

Ian Black has written a long and delectable article in The Guardian in which mourns the loss of "Britishness" which, he thinks, Scottish Independence will ring out. ... or is it "in"?

The Kings Own

Black's article begins, actually, in Injia at the close of The Raj, and with a discussion of Nirad Chaudhuri's  The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian,  in the course of which Black observes that
"his love of Britain sometimes seemed one of the few unconfected aspects of his persona, and though it came with its share of wilful mannerisms and maxims (such as his belief that British food could only be truly enjoyed if the eater wore British clothes), his appreciation of the country’s history, literature and landscape was profound. ....
Only in Britain could it be said that "clothes make the food." 

One might very well begin a comment in the FRENCH manner, by observing, indirectly and tangentially that the article, wonderfully, begins in just that way: with Indian observations a propos Scotland. Are we not tired of “direct and to the point” Americanisms?

This is one of the better stuffs the Guardian has rolled out in recent memory, and the stuff rather proves itself (that is to say, “its point”) : there is something known as Britishness.

That said, I think the article overlooks the historicity that is taking place (or at least kicking in the womb) and that is: the death of the nation state.

Nation states and empires arose primarily from material and economic motives The word “nation” was originally used to refer to a network of Genovese banker/merchants.   In 1788, Spain's Count of Aranda put it this way: “...the new form of government will call forth laborers and artisans from all nations, because men go where they think fortune will smile.... Thus aggrandized, we should foresee that this Anglo-American power.....” He meant, of course, the United States and was prophesying that it would become a strong, unitary, nation on account of the material motives and emotive hopes for which it provided both the opportunity and the form.

But the nation state -- which gave rise to the Spanish, French, British and American empires-- no longer exists except as an empty shell.  As far back as 1994, Le Monde published a series of articles on how nation states had lost control over their own political economies and, thus, over their own destinies.  Twenty years on and it is evident that the UK and the US in particular have become mere agencies of a new political-economic cluster: the corporation, a form of feudalism which is instrumentalizing and at the same time breaking down the nation state.  History has seen this before.

This may seem absurd as the United States bombastically flexes its muscles around the world. But bombast is all that is really left. The nation no longer meets the material fortunes of individuals or reflects their collective sense of — usness... or in the UK’s case of ushness.

Britain has become the province of “the financial sector” which seeks to privatize the country. The Scots see this and wish not to break away, but actually to create a new and revived sense of Britishness, closely apart.

Definitely worth the Uniform


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Bright Side of Darkness

Chipsters were chatting among themselves the other day about our political leadership when someone remarked that, in his opinion, Obama had not wasted any time in going back on his campaign promises the day after he was sworn in.

That was hardly surprising, we replied.  Just because Obama was a Black man did not mean that he wasn’t ambitious.

Of course not.

And, it seemed to us, he had carefully set his sights and tacked his course, early on in college, so as to always compromise his position to a safe point of view.


Is there any politician in the the United States who does not know on which side his bread is buttered?

I doubt it...

Every one of them knows who and what forces rule the country, do they not?

For sure.

And that means that their political existence and purpose consists in serving those interests?

No doubt.

Then all the rest is simply variations of bullshit politicians use to appeal to and bamboozle their constituents.  If Mitch McConnell were to move to California and Barbara Boxer to Kentucky, they would simply switch their bullshit so as to conform to whatever sold in their new electoral location.

That’s depressing.

Depression shall make you free. 


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rot from the Sepulchre

Once again the American criminal justice system parades its wretched excrescences before the world.  It was reported yesterday that DNA evidence cleared two black men of a rape and murder which they did not commit and for which they spent 30 years behind bars.

How did the “best justice system in the world” allow this to happen?  There are two reasons. 

The first reason is so worn as to be trite.  The defendants were Negroes and therefore presumptively suspect.  They were arrested on the alleged tip of an undisclosed informant passing along high school rumors. Fingerprint evidence from the scene of the crime was never examined and its existence was kept secret from the defense. In short, they were framed by a police force which, throughout the country, has proved itself to be consistently racist and corrupt.

But how was it that this flimsy case survived the “crucible of adversarial testing” before a “jury tried and true” in a trial governed by the very highest  principles of Due Process of Law, inherited from Magna Carta and reaffirmed for generations by courts zealous to protect the interests and God-given freedoms of the individual?

Simple: The defendants confessed and that was that. 

However, this occurred in 1983. Surely the suspects were advised of their Miranda Rights. Surely indeed, which brings us to the stinking core of the heap: Miranda was designed to save the confession not to protect the individual.

As everyone knows, Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436  required police to inform arrested suspects of their Constitutional rights prior to any questioning.  The arrested person must be told that he has a right to remain silent; that he is entitled to a lawyer of his choosing or paid for by the State and that he can refuse to answer questions at any time.   What could be more fair?

If, after being so advised, a suspect then chooses to ‘fess up that is his choice. The State has done what constitutional decency requires and it can hardly be expected to now ignore incriminating information freely and voluntarily provided!

This is the sort of high-sounding flatulence the United States inherited from English judges along with Magna Carta.

Why give warnings at all?  Because as the Supreme Court found in the Miranda Case, custodial interrogation is “inherently coercive.”  (Id., at 467, 515, 528, 535.)  Those two words are worth pondering.

Anyone who has ever been pulled over for so much as a speeding ticket certainly knows the feeling.  It is not pleasant.  It is stressful.  It causes the mind to race ahead thinking about too many things and therefore about none of them very well.  Imagine then being handcuffed, walked into a cell and cut off from the world.  Deprived of liberty it is animal and human nature to freak.  Being taken into custody is at least inherently stressful.

But it is worse.  A person who is taken into custody looses his freedom and not in some abstract or theoretical way. He cannot move his hands where he wills.  He cannot walk where he will.  He cannot access the phone or the urinal without asking  permission from someone who has complete control over his immediate existence.  That is what being in custody means.  How can anything be considered “free and voluntary” in such a situation?  If you are in custody you are not free.  One would think that was obvious.

Nor voluntary.  The word “voluntary” means “unconstrained by the interference of another; unimpelled by the influence of another; not prompted or persuaded by another; done of his or its own accord; spontaneous; acting of one's self, or of itself; free.” (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), p. 1618.)

A person in custody knows that the police, at the very least, suspect of him a crime and have the power to prosecute him should they choose to do so.  This presents an ultimate risk of being sent to prison. Even more immediately it presents the more imminent prospect of being locked up pending trial, of loosing one’s job, of having one’s whole life turned inside out and ransacked by a decision that is, in the first instance, entirely up to the arresting officer or detective who takes over the case.

Thus, in addition to loosing his physical freedom and his contact with outside resources, the arrested person is placed under extreme duress by the prospects and alternatives faced. His situation is circumscribed and constrained by another. Like a dog, he will constantly be responding and adjusting himself to the person who can “make things go worse” for him.

"The human mind, under the pressure of calamity, is easily seduced, and is liable, in the alarm of danger, to acknowledge indiscriminately a falsehood or a truth, as different agitations may prevail. A confession, therefore, whether made upon an official examination or in discourse with private persons, which is obtained from a defendant, either by the flattery of hope, or by the impressions of fear, however slightly the emotions may be implanted, is not admissible evidence; for the law will not suffer a prisoner to be made the deluded instrument of his own conviction."   (Hawkins' Pleas of the Crown (6th ed., by Leach -- published in 1787, book 2, chapter 46, section 3, cited in Bram v. United States (1897)  168 U.S. 532, 547.)

All this is what “inherently coercive” means, which means that legally speaking no statement given in custody could possibly be considered “free and voluntary.”  Howsoever viewed, to think otherwise is an oxymoron.  The Supreme Court in Miranda recognized this, said this and cited studies on the psychological impact of being taken into custody.  

Oh... but me oh my, what are we to do without a confession?  Are we to forgo the apple of conviction “merely” because the confession was  “situationally” coerced?  After all, it could be true and a trial is “the pursuit of truth.”

So, rather than require the police to come up with independent evidence of the crime, the Court came up with a Marvellous Solution, one that was as Anglo-American as the Playing Fields of Eton .... or Andover.   We can, the Court intoned, redress the coerciveness of the situation and “balance the playing field” by requiring the police to advise the suspect of his rights and the freedoms he retains, as a matter of law, even while in custody!

Let it not be said that the Constitution stops at the cell door!  Nay! Fie!  Even suspected of the most foul wrong doing, the individual retains his precious, inalienable rights. 

What kind of imbecile could come up with such a solution?

Actually, these “advisements” were first enacted by a statute of Queen Victoria (11 & 12 Vict. c. 42, § 18) which required a person subpoenaed to a magistrate’s inquest to be advised of his right to silence, viz:

"Having heard the evidence, do you wish to say anything in answer to the charge? You are not obliged to say anything unless you desire to do so, but whatever you say will be taken down in writing, and may be given in evidence against you upon your trial."

But there is a whale of a difference between advisement by a judicial officer, in court, upon mere summons and advisement by the burly brute who just threw you against a wall, cuffed your hands and generally manhandled you into a cell where you will stay until and if he lets you out.

More critically, the referenced advisement ensued after having heard and being presented with the prosecution’s evidence. In other words, the statute presupposed that there was something more than an accusation to make the case. 

Did the Supreme Court really not see the difference?  Did they really and truly think they could “balance the playing field” at the police station?  Were they such terminal preppies? 

Of course not.  The Court was well aware of existing literature on the matter which its own precedents had cited.   One can at least assume that Supreme Court judges understand the English words they use; and “inherent” means: permanently existing in something; inseparably attached or connected; naturally pertaining to; innate; inalienable;...”

If custodial interrogation is “inherently coercive” that means compulsion is indelible to and inseverable from the situation.  It cannot be cured by an “advisement” ... particularly from the person who just probably punched you in the gut and ran through the words of the warnings quickly, sarcastically and in a tone of voice which said: “and God help your sorry moutha fuckin ass if you “choose” to play hardball, asshole.”

The U.S. public, ever ignorant and belligerent, abetted by a chronically stupid, insipid and scandal-mongering press, are convinced that the Miranda decision was bleeding heart liberal judicial activism aimed at shackling the police and coddling criminals.

Just the reverse is true: Miranda was judicial activism aimed at “saving the confession” in order to insure conviction while providing some pretty window dressing to prove just how much and how deeply we cared for Due Process.

"This Court, while protecting individual rights, has always given ample latitude to law enforcement agencies in the legitimate exercise of their duties. The limits we have placed on the interrogation process should not constitute an undue interference...."  (Miranda, supra, at p. 481.)

But surely there are other legal safeguards which forestall the possibility of a person being convicted solely on the basis of a confession which might possibly, in spite of all our best safeguards, be the result of some  psychological process that makes an unfortunate person “the deluded instrument of his own conviction."

Yes indeed!  It is known as the corpus delicti rule.  Before a confession can be admitted, there must be proof that the crime charged was committed.   This ancient and hoary rule serves the fundamentally important purpose of insuring sure that a crime is not invented by the police or contrived or imagined by the defendant himself.

No! No!  A man cannot simply walk into a police station and confess to killing a cat without there being independent proof that a cat was killed.  The corpus delicti rule insures that a man will “never be convicted on the strength of his  confession alone.” 

But of course —- and this is said with a completely straight face  —  proof that a crime  was committed does not require proof of the perpetrator’s identity.  “Identity is not part a crime’s corpus.” 

In other words, if there is proof that a cat was killed in Montana, it is sufficient for conviction that a man in New York says “I did it.”  Let it not be said that American law rushes to convict “solely” on the strength of a confession!

Of course a crime was committed. A rule which seeks to prevent conviction upon entirely unsubstantiated accusations sets the bar so low as to be worthless. The critical issue is always the identity of the perpetrator.   The corpus delicti rule insures nothing and permits the most critical and essential part of the case to be supplied entirely by three words from the accused’s mouth.

This is the kind of garbage that passes for Due Process in the United States of America, and it was on the basis of this garbage that the two innocent black men were convicted of a rape and murder they admitted to but did not commit.

Well, one might ask, why did they admit it?  Because nothing in Miranda prevents the cops from tipping the field once they have leveled it for all of 30 seconds. 

Nothing in Miranda prevents interrogations lasting for hours; interrogations after being awoken in the middle of the night; Mutt and Jeff routines, lies, insinuations, and an arsenal of tricks and devices conjured up by government psychologists and experts in “cracking” suspects. 

Once the warnings have been run-n-mumbled through... let all out psych war begin!  And like imperial Caesars at the games, the Supreme Court has smiled on the sorry spectacle. 

Not only were the two black teenagers subject to a “relentless” interrogation that lasted for hours it also turned out that they were mentally disabled.  One of them could barely write.

But in the lofty reaches of Supreme Court jurisprudence that does change a thing. So long as the suspect was capable of understanding the words spoken, he is presumed, as a matter of law, to understand the nature and implication of the rights as to which he has been advised. 

Even an illegal immigrant, who speaks a bare minimum of English and who has absolutely no contextual awareness of how the judicial system works or the role of the police in it, has been held to “sufficiently” understand the Miranda  warning thus “preserving” his confession for use at trial.

It was racism that framed the two brothers and brought them to trial but it was rot from the white-washed sepulcher that allowed them to be unjustly convicted.

©WCG, 2014