18 September 2006

Hitting the fan

Last month the Argentine Congress decided that it is illegal to have secret laws (secret presidential decrees are permitted, though). Not surprisingly, this came about because someone noticed and said "What? How come we had those?" (people in charge never notice a hole in the ground until they fall into it). When Ms. María Julia Alsogaray, a former minister of our former Balding Emperor of the Pampas, attempted to justify her inflated bank accounts without producing bona fide receipts, she mentioned that she had received some extra money under the guise of a salary supplement, stipulated by a secret law that dated back to the dictatorship of Juan Carlos Onganía (1966-1970). Debate ensued, and Congress eventually decided to make all secret laws passed between 1891 and 1983 public, and forbid their passing from now on.

Some of these secret laws were (we now learn) employed for interesting purposes, for example:

  • Tax exemption for crystalwork and china bought for the presidential residence.
  • Extra funding for a judicial chamber to investigate subversion.
  • Authorization to send helmets and tear gas to Uruguay.
  • Raising the Defense budget.
  • Ordering the gift of a purebred horse to Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner.
It's actually an interesting phenomenon, which I'm not qualified to comment on, the manners in which completely illegal and bloody repressive governments pass "secret laws" (even while Congress is shut off or neutralized), as if to justify their own dark deeds for posterity. If your existence renders the very Constitution a joke, how incoherent and self-deceptive is it to pass "laws"?

I'm also thinking of modern governments, legal ones, which pass secret laws and decrees and would have their peoples believe that they're somehow protecting them by keeping them in the dark. Might it be that their intentions are not as good as advertised?

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