Friday, June 27, 2008

String theory and the OVP

I watched a documentary a while back with my family. The film very deliberately tried to blow one's mind with it's explorations of "String Theory" and the like. I'm not clever enough —at least not in the current space time continuum—to give you a useful or accurate synopsis of the theories discussed, but I do recall a discussion about the nature of light where it was observed that when you considered light as a particle, and examined it with that in mind, it behaved like a particle. But, quite amazingly, when you thought about it as a wave —sure 'nuff—it behaved like a wave.

I'm not sure I fully grasped the reasoning that led from these observations to the particulars of "String Theory" —but when I saw this I knew I just had to admit there really was something to this "subjective reality" business.

I pondered some and then suddenly realized —here was the physical (or maybe metaphysical) evidence to support Dick Cheney's concept of the Vice Presidency!

You see this had troubled me for some time, this fluid and malleable understanding of the "OVP" —or Office of the Vice President —by the OVP. It wasn't unlike this "particle versus wave" question about light. For Cheney and the OVP the question was "Executive versus Legislative" (or at least so I thought).

Remember (maybe that's my problem —I remember) when the Vice President didn't want anyone to know who had actually advised him in formulating Bush Administration energy policy? He really didn't want to tell us who had done what with what and to whom. There was something about the advice he needed being the "unvarnished" kind you can only get under the cloak of secrecy —that fundamental truth only available via plausible deniability.

Cheney went all the way to the Supreme Court to defend his privacy. And when all else failed what he claimed was "executive privilege."

Then along came the question of archiving his communications —the way the law requires of the Executive Branch. Then —if you will—the particle became a wave. When the National Archives reminded our Vice President of his office's obligation to safeguard and submit information in keeping with a standing presidential order, the Vice President responded that his office was not “an entity within the executive branch” and as such was not bound by the order in question.

You see how it works? It's just like 'particle' or 'wave' —executive branch (when you need to claim privilege) —not executive branch (when some measure of accountability comes into question).

It's all how you look at it.

Some have tried to explain this fluctuating executive-ness by pointing out how the Vice President presides at the Senate, capable of casting a tie-breaking vote. Theorists within the OVP, however, point out that even this thinking is too static and concrete for their theoretical construct. The OVP would not comply with laws and regulations applying to the Senate and its members, either.

David Addington, the Vice President's Chief of Staff and former legal counsel testified before Congress just the other day (at least in my current understanding of the space time continuum) that "The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter."

He quoted this, in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, from a memo he had found, available in the public record (ironically enough) and written during the Kennedy administration to the office of then Vice President Johnson.

I looked it up and Addington's right; the 46 year old memo says exactly what he says it does. The memo very specifically points out —"The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code)."

What I was unable to find, there or anywhere else, was the language that explains how —because the OVP "functions" in both branches —it should be bound by the Constitutional restraints of neither.

Some in Congress thought that particular aspect of theory might be explained with a more thorough examination of the concept "attached." Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., perhaps trying to fathom this odd paradigm, asked Mr. Addington if this "attachment" of the Vice Presidency was akin to some kind of Constitutional "barnacle."

"I don't consider the Constitution a barnacle," Addington said tersely, through somewhat clenched teeth, without offering further elaboration on the nature of this "attachment."

He seemed angry, annoyed, ill at ease —as if he was some tired and tested sentry who had stood a long watch over an imponderable mystery, one with an answer either unfathomably complex —or painfully obvious.

I guess it's all how you look at it.

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