Authoritarianism, Barack Obama, Freedom and Liberty, John McCain, News and Current Events, Oppression, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics

The Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

It seems US Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) have prepared an early Christmas gift for Americans.  If various accounts are true, their gift is more than a little unsettling.

Apparently, in the name of fighting terrorism, the three have conspired to write into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act provisions that would require the military to indefinitely imprison without a civilian trial any American citizen determined to be a member of al Qaeda or it’s affiliates.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is usually a routine piece of legislation passed each year to specify the budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense.  Normally, it is not considered a threat to freedom and liberty.   But this year, the three senators have added language to it that is causing grave concern on both the Right and the Left.

In defense of their bill, the senators insist the group of people who could be indefinitely detained without civilian trial only include  “al-Qaeda terrorists who participate in planning or conducting attacks against us.” They also say the president would be able to waive military imprisonment if s/he believes civilian custody would better serve national security.

Yet, according to Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a citizen would get only one hearing during which the military could assert the person was a suspected terrorist.  He or she would then be locked up for life without ever having been formally charged.

Furthermore, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) has stated, “The provisions would dramatically change broad counterterrorism efforts by requiring law enforcement officials to step aside and ask the Department of Defense to take on a new role they are not fully equipped for and do not want.”  And he adds that the legislation would make the military “police, judge and jailer.”

The provisions are also opposed by numerous others, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and President Obama.

It seems to me a law such as the three Senators want is ripe for abuse. The indefinite detention of American citizens without a fair trial runs counter to American values.  This appears to be yet another attempt to deprive us of our liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.  At least that’s how I see it.  What do you think?

Barack Obama, Bipartisanship, Budget, Class War, Conservative, Economic Crisis, Economics, Economy, Elections, Health Care, Liberal, Michele Bachmann, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Political Ideologies, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Poverty, Progressive, Quality of Life, Quotes, Society, Taxes, Values, Village Idiots

Some Reactions to the Debt Ceiling Deal

We currently have a deeply depressed economy. We will almost certainly continue to have a depressed economy all through next year. And we will probably have a depressed economy through 2013 as well, if not beyond.

The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record.

From “The President Surrenders”, posted in The New York Times, by Paul Krugman.

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How can the leader of the Democratic Party wage an all-out war on the ostensible core beliefs of the Party’s voters in this manner and expect not just to survive, but thrive politically?  Democratic Party functionaries are not shy about saying exactly what they’re thinking in this regard:

Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said polling data showed that at this point in his term, Mr. Obama, compared with past Democratic presidents, was doing as well or better with Democratic voters. “Whatever qualms or questions they may have about this policy or that policy, at the end of the day the one thing they’re absolutely certain of — they’re going to hate these Republican candidates,” Mr. Mellman said. “So I’m not honestly all that worried about a solid or enthusiastic base.”

In other words: it makes no difference to us how much we stomp on liberals’ beliefs or how much they squawk, because we’ll just wave around enough pictures of Michele Bachmann and scare them into unconditional submission. That’s the Democratic Party’s core calculation: from “hope” in 2008 to a rank fear-mongering campaign in 2012.

From “Democratic Politics in a Nutshell”, posted on Salon.com, by Glenn Greenwald.

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Overheard: Thanks for protecting the job creators, you know for creating jobs for chauffeurs, valets, domestic help, and most importantly seamstresses who specialize in crafting $100 bills into luxurious overcoats. ~ Jim Cutler

From “US Debt Highlights ~ The Day After…”, posted on The Bis Key Chronicles, by Gandalfe

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The protracted negotiations over the debt ceiling, as well as the final package agreed to by President Obama and the congressional leadership, show what happens when a small minority is allowed to gain control over national debate. While polls consistently show that the vast majority of the public sees jobs as the main problem facing the economy, there has been a well-funded crusade to ignore public opinion and make cuts to social insurance programs and other spending the top priority for Congress and the President.

From “Statement on the Debt Ceiling Deal“, posted on The Center for Economic and Policy Research Website, by Dean Baker.

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“Shame on you! you who make unjust laws and publish burdensome decrees, depriving the poor of justice, robbing the weakest of my people of their rights, despoiling the widow and plundering the orphan. What will you do when called to account, when ruin from afar confronts you? To whom will you flee for help?”

– Isaiah 10:1-3

From “A Warning to Congress”, posted on Dover Beach, by Θεόφιλος.

 

Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Conservative, Democracy, Elections, Ideologies, Liberal, News and Current Events, People, Political Ideologies, Political Issues, Politician, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Socialism, Society, Values

Draft Bernie Sanders for President 2012?

I stole the above chart from Kay’s blog.  The thought of Bernie Sanders challenging Barack Obama for the presidency made me curious about the answers to a number of questions.

For instance: I can easily believe Obama is to the right of most Americans these days, but is Sanders still to the left of most Americans?  Or has he moved right like all the other politicians?  And, if so, is he now in the middle?

Wouldn’t it be funny if Bernie Sanders is closer to mainstream public opinion in this country than either Barack Obama or the Republican members of our National Corporate Party?

I don’t suppose Sanders has a chance, but that’s not the same as saying Sanders would make a bad president.  If you feel like encouraging the old guy, you can sign the “Draft Bernie Petition” here.

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UPDATED:  Post corrected to reflect the fact Sanders is not in the same party as Obama.

Barack Obama, Belief, Budget, Capitalism, Citizenship, Class War, Conservative, Democracy, Economic Crisis, Economics, Economy, Fear, Free Market Capitalism, Health Care, Human Nature, Ideologies, Liars Lies and Lying, Liberal, Market Fundamentalism, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Political and Social Alienation, Political Ideologies, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Progressive, Quality of Life, Society, Thinking, Values

Are We About to Get Screwed Again?

Naomi Klein’s book on disaster capitalism, The Shock Doctrine, contains a number of — and this is being polite — difficult to defend claims.  Yet, I haven’t seen anyone discredit her core claim — and people have been trying.

Her core claim, as I understand it, is that Free Market Capitalists have learned to take advantage of emergencies, disasters,  and calamities in order to impose the social, economic, and political changes they desire:

At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq’s civil war, a new law is unveiled that would allow Shell and BP to claim the country’s vast oil reserves…. Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly out-sources the running of the “War on Terror” to Halliburton and Blackwater…. After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts…. New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be reopened…. These events are examples of “the shock doctrine”: using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters — to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.

Indeed, I agree with those critics of Klein who state that, despite its flaws, The Shock Doctrine is one of the few books that really help us to understand the present, and that Klein may have revealed a master narrative of our time.   One can disagree with some of the things Klein offers as specific examples of disaster capitalism, but it seems no one has been able to refute her thesis that disaster capitalism is being practiced — and practiced routinely — these days.  There are about a half dozen “big ideas” that go very far to explain the political world we live in.  The notion that Free Market Capitalists have been taking advantage of calamities to first destroy the order of things, and then to replace that order with Free Market Capitalism, is almost certainly one of those six big ideas.

When disaster capitalism was in its infancy about thirty or forty years ago, the Free Market Capitalists would wait for a calamity to naturally occur.  Apparently, they don’t always wait for calamities nowadays — instead, they sometimes manufacture them.  And it seems the current budget crisis might be just such an example of a manufactured crisis.

As Yves Smith points out this morning on her blog, Naked Capitalism, this budget crisis stinks all the way to satellite orbit:

Let’s review how we got here. Obama made it clear before he took office (hat tip reader Hugh) that he intended to go after Social Security and Medicare. As we discussed, shortly after he took office, Obama was privately reassuring conservatives that he’d curtail entitlements once the economy was on a better footing. Clearly, he’s been willing to settle for “better” being tantamount to “not in imminent danger of falling off a cliff.” And if you had any doubts, Obama made his intentions abundantly clear (to use that Nixonianism) by creating a Deficit Reduction Commission and staffing it with enemies of Social Security, former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and Senator Alan Simpson.

The second thing to keep in mind is that his deficit ceiling crisis is contrived. The Bush Administration bumped up against it multiple times and never used it as a basis for budgetary theatrics, even though it was also keen to cut Social Security. Obama could have taken action long ago, before the midterm elections, which were seen as putting the Democratic majority in the House at risk, to gain more headroom.

So it seems possible to me that what we have here is another instance of a conscious effort to panic the American people into supporting something that it is against their best interests to support — namely cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

And I think it will probably work.  Just as the Gulf War worked.  Even thirty, forty, or fifty years from now a lot of folks will still be swearing that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that we invaded Iraq because that country helped Osama Bin Laden conduct the attacks of 9/11.  I seriously doubt many people are going to question — genuinely question — what has been so carefully fed to them about the existence of a budget crisis.

To easily form an opinion is human nature; to easily change one’s mind is not — which is precisely why the Free Market Capitalists rely on calamities, real or manufactured, to create the fear and panic that are necessary to get most of us to change our minds.

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Recommended Further Reading:  “The Audacity of Dopes“, posted on Slobber and Spittle, by Cujo.

Bad Ideas, Barack Obama, Budget, Class War, Conservative, Economic Crisis, Economics, Economy, Equality, Fairness, Liberal, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Progressive, Society, Taxes

Dean Baker on the Budget Deal

The ability of Washington to turn everything on its head has no limits. We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Even though the recession officially ended two years ago, there are still more than 25 million people who are unemployed, can only find part-time work or who have given up looking for work altogether. This is an outrage and a tragedy. These people’s lives are being ruined due to the mismanagement of the economy.

And we know the cause of this mismanagement. The folks who get paid to manage and regulate the economy were unable to see an $8 trillion housing bubble. They weren’t bothered by the doubling of house prices in many areas, nor the dodgy mortgages that were sold to finance these purchases. Somehow, people like former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and his sidekick and successor Ben Bernanke thought everything was fine as the Wall Street financers made billions selling junk mortgage and derivative instruments around the world.

When the bubble burst, one of the consequences was an increased budget deficit. This is kind of like two plus two equals four. The collapsing bubble tanked the economy. Tax revenue plummets and we spend more on programs like unemployment insurance and foods stamps. We did also have some tax cuts and stimulus spending to boost the economy. The result is a larger budget deficit.

All of this is about as clear as it can possibly be. The large deficit came about because the housing bubble, which was fueled by Wall Street excesses, crashed the economy. Yet, we are constantly being told by politicians from President Obama to Tea Party Republicans that we have a problem of out-of-control spending.

The claim of out-of-control spending is simply not true. It is an invention, a fabrication, a falsehood with no basis in reality that politicians are pushing to advance their agenda. And that agenda is not pretty.

According to numerous reports in the media, President Obama wants a “big deal” on the budget, which will involve cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. The last is especially ironic, since Social Security is financed by its own designated tax. Therefore, it does not contribute to the deficit.

Dean Baker

The rest of the article is worth reading.

It seems to me Obama is just as firm of a believer as any of the Republicans in the principle that, if the rich and powerful cause the problem, the middle class and poor should pay for it.

Barack Obama, Economic Crisis, Economics, Economy, Elections, Fairness, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics

Will Obama Cut Social Security?

“Let us be clear,” Sanders said. “Social Security has not contributed one nickel to our deficit or our national debt.” The program that benefits more than 50 million seniors and disabled has a $2.6 trillion surplus, he stressed, and will be able to provide full benefits for every eligible American for the next 25 years. “I am especially disturbed that President Obama is considering cuts in Social Security after he campaigned against cuts in 2008,” Sanders added.

From “Give ’em Hell Bernie“, posted on Kay’s Thinking Cap, by Kay.

 

President Obama raised more than $86 million for his re-election campaign from April to June, his campaign announced Wednesday, far outpacing his Republican rivals and breaking all previous fundraising records by incumbent presidents.

From “Obama Raises $86 Million in Campaign Cash“, posted on The Slatest, by Peter Fulham.

With Obama sitting on top of record campaign contributions, what do you suppose are the odds he feels any pressure to not cut Social Security?

Barack Obama, Class War, Economic Crisis, Economics, Economy, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Quality of Life, Quotes

Bernie Sanders on Deficit Reduction

In the coming days and weeks, decisions will be made about our national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American in this country for decades to come.

At a time when the richest people and the largest corporations in our country are doing phenomenally well, and, in many cases, have never had it so good, while the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing, it is absolutely imperative that a deficit reduction package not include the disastrous cuts in programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor that the Republicans in Congress, dominated by the extreme right wing, are demanding.

Senator Bernie Sanders

If you read the rest of his speech, Sanders seems to be of the opinion the President can be persuaded to stand with the middle and working classes in this country on the issue of deficit reduction.  Does that seem a realistic expectation to you?

 

Allies, Barack Obama, Democracy, Dick Cheney, Freedom and Liberty, George W. Bush, International Relations, Joe Biden, News and Current Events, Politicians and Scoundrels, Quotes, US - Israel, War

Juan Cole on the Demise of US Civil Liberties

My deepest fear is that US support for Israeli militarism, and the terrorism that support inevitably engenders, will be what finally finishes off the civil liberties enshrined in the American Constitution.

Juan Cole

There are, and always have been, serious threats to US Civil liberties.  But I think Cole is correct in pointing out that today one of the greatest threats is the loss of our liberties in reaction to terrorism.  Our politicians are spineless folk who will try to trade away our liberties for a little security.

Indeed, this is already been happening — we have already lost some of our liberties in reaction to terrorism due to the unwise policies of the Bush and Obama Administrations.   And, unfortunately, every sign points to a further loss of liberties with the next successful terrorist attack.  Moreover,  such an attack seems sooner or later inevitable so long as we continue to support Israeli militarism.

Ultimately though, I think it is — not what any terrorists can do to us — but instead our own willingness to trade our liberties for the illusion of a little security that will do us in.  Some say America has become a nation of wusses.  I don’t yet know if that is really true.  But I do suspect we will someday soon enough see if it is true.

Barack Obama, Citizenship, Conservative, Democracy, Economic Crisis, Economy, Elections, Intelligentsia, Liberal, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Society, Village Idiots

Tom Tomorrow on Why the Democrats Lost

When all is said, maybe Tom Tomorrow, author of This Modern World, sums it up best.   I find myself in agreement with him.   And I think Tomorrow’s last panel is especially likely: Bipartisanship is dead.  What do you think?

Barack Obama, Elections, Intelligentsia, Liberal, News and Current Events, Political Issues, Politician, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Society

Glenn Greenwald on Progressives, Obama, and the Democratic Party

What should Progressives do next?

Three well informed — and I think reasonable — Progressives discuss the question here.

It turns out the three find themselves in solid agreement that Obama has abandoned Progressives, and that Progressives should therefore abandon Obama.   My guess is they are not alone in their thinking, but represent the thoughts and feelings of many Progressives these days.

Progressives seem to be close to taking on Obama and the Democratic Party in somewhat the same way that the Tea Party took on the Republican Party.  But “close” doesn’t count for much.  The question is, will they?

Barack Obama, George W. Bush, News and Current Events, People, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Reason, Thinking, Truth

David Brooks and Thomas Friedman? What the Fuck?!?

It simply cannot be true. It’s got to be a prank or a smear job. But there is a report today that the President reads and respects — respects! — David Brooks and Thomas Friedman’s opinions.  If that report is true  — if it is true — it’s going to rape my last living bit of faith in Obama.   The poor man cannot both be president and respect David Brooks and Thomas Friedman’s opinions. There is no master carpenter so skilled he can join those two things.  There is no proper fit between them.

I’m not a despairing person, but that damn report has me as close to despair as anything in the news has come  in years to causing me a total meltdown.   David Brooks and Thomas Friedman are among the most pathetic members of a very difficult to respect bunch: America’s “mainstream or traditional” commentariat.  And it seems everyone — just about everyone who thinks for him or herself and takes the time to be reasonably informed — knows their opinions are junk.  If the report really is true, then they have got to test the President for drugs.

But politics is full or rumors.  This is probably just another one of them.  Besides, Obama is far too bright to respect junk opinions, and it therefore seems likely the report is just as much junk as a column by Brooks or Friedman.  Near as I can discover, here’s the passage in GQ Magazine that today’s disturbing report traces back to:

Relations, in any event, are not good. Obama incessantly refers to “the cable chatter” with palpable disdain, and he frequently grumbles to his aides about the media’s coverage of his presidency. His press conferences are fewer than Clinton’s (though more than Bush’s) at the same stage of their presidencies—and, says Clinton’s former press secretary Mike McCurry, “I feel sometimes when I watch Obama do these that he looks like he’d rather be having a root canal.” Obama does reserve a certain respect for opinion writers such as Tom Friedman and David Brooks of The New York Times, Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, E. J. Dionne of The Washington Post, and Joe Klein of Time. “My impression is that he reads a lot of columnists,” says Brooks, “and therefore he sort of cares about what they say.”

At first, it might seem evident from the above that Obama really does respect the opinions of Brooks and Friedman.  But then you realize how vague are the key phrases, “a certain respect”, and “he sort of cares”.   Most tellingly, the latter phrase is attributed to Brooks!  Brooks is an old hand at making up things, so how creditable can his word be?  The more I think about it, the more I wonder why this report has been picked up and republished again and again.

Can you imagine, though, what it would be like if the report were true?  What if Obama were so out of it that he was neither a decent enough nor shrewd enough judge of people’s opinions?  The implications would be enormous.

How many opinions each day is it his job to assess? How many of those opinions he has to assess deal with national security or even world security?  What would it mean that the President of the United States routinely could not tell the difference between his wisest and his most foolish advisors?

Seriously.  Wouldn’t it be Bush all over again?