Arranology

Archive for the ‘The Constitution’ Category

Obama’s New Dir of OLC

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I believe I have figured out who will be Obama’s next candidate to head the Office of Legal Counsel now that Dawn Johnsen has been found unacceptable due to an excess of integrity and a lack of appreciation for the wonderfulness of torture. Here’s an example of this candidate’s clarion thinking. On the Wikileaks video:

Now, is this video disturbing? Of course. Were atrocities committed, innocents slaughtered, corpses desecrated and children maimed? Absolutely. But was it all done according to proper procedure? Ah, now, that’s the question. We should all certainly be willing to support a full and complete investigation into the possibility of an official recommendation for preliminary motions toward an investigation, looking into the matter of whether or not the people here were properly murdered in triplicate, signed twice on the goldenrod form, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law. And we shouldn’t rest until any guilty parties have been found, and strongly-worded disciplinary Post-Its firmly applied to their personnel files.

Apart from that, I don’t think we have to spend much time thinking about this sort of thing – this is an isolated incident, just like this and this and this andthis and this and this and this and this and this – and one has to accept a certain amount of rape, torture and murder with one’s military.

The guy’s a perfect fit.

Written by Mick

April 13, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Dump the Dems 12: Obama Protects Torturers and Continues to Support Torture as Acceptable Policy

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Way back in April of last year I wrote that there are some things that are above political loyalty and that the Constitution is one of them. In July I wrote in a post titled “The Constitution Doesn’t Poll Very Well” that noted how busily the Obama Admin and Congressional Blue Dogs were gutting the Bill of Rights. This past February I listed a number of Bush’s illegal powers that Obama was protecting despite his promises for “transparency, accountability and openness”. Now I have to report that Obama has decided to protect the people who retroactively wrote legal justifications for this illegal and immoral policy, defend the policy itself, and worst of all, accept torture as legitimate behaviour once he puts a Yoo-style legal framework around it so we can all pretend it isn’t inhuman.

As the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., debates whether to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate the interrogations of terrorism suspects after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he is at the brink of a career-defining decision that risks the anger of the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the Justice Department’s main partners in combating terrorism.

There is no surprise then that Mr. Holder is said by officials to have been resistant at first to the idea of appointing a prosecutor, particularly since the Obama administration has made it clear that it wants to put the issue of interrogation practices during the Bush administration behind it.

***

Mr. Holder has told associates he is weighing a narrow investigation, focusing only on C.I.A. interrogators and contract employees who clearly crossed the line and violated the Bush administration’s guidelines and engaged in flagrantly abusive acts.

But in taking that route, Mr. Holder would run two risks. One is the political fallout if only a handful of low-level agents are prosecuted for what many critics see as a pattern of excess condoned at the top of the government. The other is that an aggressive prosecutor would not stop at the bottom, but would work up the chain of command, and end up with a full-blown criminal inquiry into the intelligence agencies — just the kind of broad, open-ended criminal investigation the Obama administration says it wants to avoid.

(emphasis added)

AG Holder is caught between a rock and a hard place. He’s under pressure both ethically and legally to prosecute torturers yet his boss doesn’t want him to prosecute any of the people who devised and ordered the torture to occur. Glenn Greenwald put what this means succinctly.

[T]he Newsweek reporter who first printed what DOJ officials told him about Holder’s intentions, Daniel Klaidman, confirmed in an interview on The Young Turks that Holder intends to confine any investigations only to “rogue” interrogators who exceeded John Yoo’s torture permission slips while shielding high-level Bush officials who acted in accordance with Yoo’s decrees.  Proving yet again that there is nothing more difficult than satirizing our rotted political culture, here is what I wrote about Holder’s intentions last week:

Holder’s plan, at least at the moment, is — from the start — to confine the prosecutors’ authority to investigate to CIA agents who went beyond what John Yoo and George Bush decreed could be done (“he used more water than Yoo said he could”; “he tied him up for longer than Yoo authorized”; “the room was colder and the freezing water icier than Yoo allowed”). At least if these reports are accurate (and, for several reasons, that’s unclear), anyone who “merely” did what John Yoo said was legal — meaning everyone who matters — will be shielded and immunized.

***

If low-level CIA interrogators — and only them — end up as the targets of investigations because they used m0re water than John Yoo allowed, or turned the thermostat lower than the hypothermic levels which the DOJ permitted, or waterboarded with more frequency than Jay Bybee approved, I wouldn’t blame the CIA for being furious.  It was the regime itself, implemented at the highest levels of our government, that was criminal.  Prosecuting only low-level interrogators who followed the torturing spirit of those policies but transgressed some bureaucratic guidelines would be a travesty on par with what happened with the Abu Ghraib “investigations.”

(emphasis in original)

Worse, by putting the legal emphasis on whether or not the interrogators had exceeded the authority given them by Yoo and Bybee and the other apologists, Obama is tacitly accepting the Yoo/Bybee/Addington/Cheney assertion that a) torture is legal in the US and b) the president can legally order an illegal procedure as long as it is kept within whatever bounds are set by the president. Which in turn means that torture is now legal and that US presidents have the power to ignore treaty law, international law, and domestic law – the Constitution – just as Bush/Cheney claimed they did. It is a de facto rather than de jure assumption of power, quiet, even stealthy. Without facing the issue squarely, discussing it openly, or explaining it clearly, the Obama Admin is simply going to act as if it’s true, thus creating precedent and making it true.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mick

July 23, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Dump the Dems (10): Obama Morphs Into Bush Over Presidential Power

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Obama’s actions are, at best, a mixed blessing so far. He has surrounded himself with establishmentarian Blue Dogs and Democrat conservatives, from his powerful Chief-of-Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, to Treas Sec Timmy Geithner (a Wall Street Willie if ever there was one), Leon Panetta at the CIA, and Larry Summers as a Presidential Advisor. While he has talked eloquently about Wall Street’s responsibility for the mess, he insisted in $billions$ in bail-out money to moribund, clueless auto CEO’s and is about to hand over another $30B to AIG because, you know, it ran through the first $100B paying for parties and executive bonuses.

But all of that was prelude to the real danger. It puts in context a much more conservative agenda. In “Dump the Dems 6” I warned, “The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs.” Obama seems to be going out of his way to prove it. Glenn Greenwald again reports on the heels of Marcy Wheeler’s excellent summation of the recent moves by the Obama Admin to make exactly the same arguments of presidential power that Bush made.

[T]he Obama DOJ is now spouting the Cheney/Addington view of government in its purest and most radical expression. 

***

The brief filed by Obama on Friday afternoon (.pdf) has to be read to believed.  It is literally arguing that no court has the power to order that classified documents be used in a judicial proceeding; instead, it is the President — and the President alone — who possesses that decision-making power under Article II, and no court order is binding on the President to the extent it purports to direct that such information be made available for use in a judicial proceeding. 

(emphasis added)

What I’ve been afraid of is happening right now. Obama and the conservative Democrat leadership are fighting to preserve the very same power Obama criticized Bush for taking, using the same autocratic arguments that Bush used. Does it make them right just because a Democrat says them?

Of course not.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mick

March 7, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Dump the Dems 8: Obama Won’t Give Up Bush’s Powers

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For the last year or so I’ve been saying, to much abuse (when I could get anybody to listen at all) that there was nothing accidental about the Democrats’ giving in to Bush, that it had nothing to do with cowardice or political expediency or appeasement. Back last June, late in the process, I wrote this after the FISA betrayal:

Call it a prediction if you like. I knew the leadership would get FISA passed despite the numbers of ordinary Democrats who were against it because the leadership are all in the DLC/BD Alliance and the Alliance believes in modern conservative ideals like the restoration of a monarchy – or at least monarchic powers – in America…. [T]his was no accident. It was deliberate. It was design.

The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs. They’re under the thumb of a minority of conservative Dems who are, like the Likkud in Israel, warping the party to suit themselves and their conservative agenda. Like conservatives everywhere, they don’t care what the people want, they don’t care what the polls say, and they don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority in their own party thinks. Like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, they’re going to do what they damn well please and if the membership doesn’t like it, fuck em.

And like the Pubs, these are no longer people liberals and progressives can compromise with. The FISA bill proves it. They will simply adopt the Republican trick of claiming a compromise when what they’ve really done is craft the right-wing conservative agreement the conservative minority demands.

That prediction has been borne out as well. We have just seen that trick played out over the stim pack, and the proof of the Democrat party’s monarchic tendencies came yesterday when, given an opportunity to return to the rule of law, Obama refused to rescind one of Bush’s primary “unitary president” moves toward giving presidents the power of kings. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mick

February 11, 2009 at 6:31 pm

It’s Confirmed: America Has Been Officially Militarized

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Glenn Greenwald confirms what I wrote five years ago: that the militarization of our politics was a Bush/neocon goal and that it has succeeded. Joe Biden, a supposed Democrat, is referring to Obama as our next Commander-in-Chief.

Biden’s formulation here is a particularly creepy rendition, since he’s taunting opponents of  Obama that, come Tuesday, they will be forced to refer to him as “our commander in chief Barack Obama” (Sarah Palin, in the very first speech she delivered after being unveiled as the Vice Presidential candidate, said of John McCain:  “that’s the kind of man I want as our commander in chief,” and she’s been delivering that same line in her stump speech ever since).

This is much more than a semantic irritant.  It’s a perversion of the Constitution, under which American civilians simply do not have a “commander in chief”; only those in the military — when it’s called into service — have one (Art. II, Sec. 2).

Worse, “commander in chief” is a military term, which reflects the core military dynamic:  superiors issue orders which subordinates obey.  That isn’t supposed to be the relationship between the U.S. President and civilian American citizens, but because the mindless phrase “our commander in chief” has become interchangeable with “the President,” that is exactly the attribute — supreme, unquestionable authority in all arenas — which has increasingly come to define the power of the President. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mick

November 2, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Dump the Dems 7: Are You Ready to Do It Yet?

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There is no reason whatever to back the Democrats.

That’s the lesson we learned the past couple of weeks as Barack Obama forever soiled his undies when ordered to by the DLC, and the 4th Amendment was sent packing in a secret midnight meeting the Dem Leaders (Steny Hoyer, Jay Rockefeller, and Sylvestre Reyes) had with the Pubs and didn’t even bother to tell the membership about. The DLC/BD contingent is a minority with a very Pub-like disgust for democracy because it’s so hard to get anything done when you have to convince people to go against their best interests and the best interests of the country. They keep crabbing about the Constitution and stuff (as if that meant anything any more – “9/11 changed everything! 9/11 changed everything!!“), and how can you talk sense to people like that?

Here’s what the Democrats just did:

The new statute permits the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda — indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security.

As I’ve previously explained, the NSA’s objective here is not simply to surveil foreigners who it already suspects as being part of al Qaeda — it can easily obtain a FISA order as to those folks. Nor is the purpose of the new law to allow warrantless surveillance of international-to-international calls — that’s already legal, too. As is the warrantless overseas interception of calls between foreigners and U.S. persons.

What the agency is seeking, instead, is to be able to intercept foreign communications (i) coming across domestic wires where (ii) NSA does not have probable cause to believe that any of the parties is a terrorist or agent of a foreign power; and (iii) there is a chance that some of the intercepted communications will be with persons in the U.S.

The new law allows the NSA to do this, by permitting what David Kris has called a form of “vacuum-cleaner” surveillance that (in the words of the new law) “target[s] . . . persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

Under this new standard, there’s no need that the surveillance have any connection to al Qaeda, or terrorism, or even to national security. The only substantial requirements are that someone overseas be a “target” and that one “significant purpose” of the surveillance be to acquire “foreign intelligence information” — which is very broadly defined to include most anything that occurs overseas and in which the federal government might have an interest (including information necessary to protect against the full range of foreign threats to national security, and information with respect to a foreign power that is necessary to the national defense or foreign affairs).

That’s what Democrats have done. Not Republicans, not Stalinist Commies. Democrats. Specifically, the DLC-run leadership. The message is clear: as far as the DLC/Blue Dogs are concerned, FDR Democrats – liberals –  are a thing of the past and from this point on the New Democrats – conservative DLC Democrats – are running things to suit themselves and if you don’t like it, wha’d’ya plan to do about it? Vote for a Republican? By gawd, they’re even worse! Hah! You’re stuck.

No, we’re not. We have options. The best one is to defeat the damn GOP conservatives who have infiltrated the party and grabbed hold of all the leadership positions. The Blue Dogs MUST go down to defeat if we are to replace the New Democrat party of autocrats and corporate stooges with Old Democrats who believe in stuff like universal health care, worker and consumer protections, the Constitution, community, and generosity to those less fortunate. (The Blue Dogs would run the less fortunate over in a truck if they were lying dying on the road because, after all, the BD’s are really Republicans and to a Pub anybody lying in the road deserves to be run over with a truck as a lesson not to lie in roads.) “Compassionate conservatives” my heiny. As we know know, that’s an oxymoron. Conservatives are never compassionate, and anyone who is compassionate isn’t a conservative.

The second possibility – don’t laugh – is to build a Third Party. And yes, it’s possible. Difficult – very difficult – but possible. And you know what? To be effective, it doesn’t even have to win, only scare the New Democrats into thinking they might lose.

The important thing is that we must be ready to Dump the Dems. If we’re not, neither of these options will work because they’ll have no reason to pay any attention to us.

Are you ready yet? What’s it going to take before you’ll be ready to risk a Pub win in order to get your party back? I really want to know. It’s fish or cut bait time.

Written by Mick

July 10, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Why FISA Is Such a Bad Idea

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 “Because I say so,” said the Red King.
For years I’ve been following and writing about the absurd paucity of evidence the Bush Administration considers sufficient to lock your ass up indefinitely. Ashcroft was forced to try two of his Gitmo defendants in Germany in front of a court not made up of Bush loyalists or conservative ideologues, andn the judge demanded access to the proof Ashcroft’s DoJ insisted was too sensitive to be made public. When the dossier was opened anyway, despite their protests, there was nothing in it but raw data – unsubstantiated romors, gossip, innuendo. What Ashcroft was protecting wasn’t sensitive information but his own butt, which has come to be known as a standard trait for Bushies.
Now the same damn thing has been repeated under Michael Mukasey.

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.
The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”
 

 

This Administration appears to lie about everything, even the evidence – or lack of it – that it claims justifies holding men and even children in prisons withiout trial for 6 years. Like Ashcroft in Germany, the Bush Administration wasn’t refusing them their day in court because they were dangerous but because Bush didn’[t want us to know they weren’t, that the whole detainee thing had been a bust from the git-go. So why in heaven’s name should we believe them when they claim yet another detainee ought to be killed because he was behind the attack on the Cole?

 

 

A Pentagon official announced war crimes charges Monday against a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, suspected of helping to plan the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.

 

Military prosecutors said they were seeking the death penalty against the detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi who has long been described by American officials as Al Qaeda’s operations chief in the Persian Gulf and the primary planner of the October 2000 attack on the Cole.

Mr. Nashiri is one of three detainees who the C.I.A. has acknowledged were subjected to waterboarding, the interrogation technique that simulates drowning. Mr. Nashiri was interrogated in the agency’s secret prisons before he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006.

(emphasis added)

There hasn’t been a shred of evidence, ever, that Nashiri weas guilty of anything except by the Bush Administration’s unsupported word for it – a word that is worth less than nothing considering its total lack of credibility. Yet the Bush lawyers are demanding the death penalty. For war crimes. Talk about the pot and the kettle.

If one word of that so-called “evidence” came from Nashiri’s being tortured, then legally it has to be thrown out. A co-erced confession IS NOT ADMISSIBLE, not in a civilian court. Maybe in the Kangaroo tribunals the Bushies have dreamed up, but nowhere else in the civilized world. If that’s how they came by it, it’s hopelessly tainted and so is their whole case. Not that they seem to care. They’re going ahead with the trial despite the CIA’s admission, and after all, what do they really have to fear in the way of consequences? Not much, it seems.

A federal appeals court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian man who had accused the United States of violating the law and his civil rights after he was detained at Kennedy Airport and sent to Syria under what he claims was an act of “extraordinary rendition.”

The man, Maher Arar, tried to win civil damages from United States officials in his suit, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that because he was never technically inside the United States, his claims could not be heard in the federal courts.

 

 

 

While stating that “threats to the nation’s security do not allow us to jettison principles of ‘simple justice and fair dealing,’ ” the majority opinion ruled nonetheless that Mr. Arar, who had been seized as he tried to change planes at Kennedy Airport while flying back to Canada from Switzerland, had no federal standing in his case and that the government did not violate the Torture Victim Protection Act by sending him abroad.

I can hear Lil Dick and Dave Addington chuckling over it now. They got away with it again – on a technicality. They arranged to keep their bloody hands clean even though they arranged for an innocent man to be tortured because technically he wasn’t in the US at the time theyn had him picked up. Giggle giggle. What fun. Put it over on us again, didn’t you?

FISA should never be passed if for no other reason than because the govt can’t be trusted to look at any interests but its own or nopt use its power – whatever powers we give it – to get what it wants. Our experience with Bush proves it’s a HORRENDOUSLY BAD IDEA TO GIVE ANY PRESIDENT THAT KIND OF POWER.

So why is our Democratic Congress giving it to them? Hmm?

Written by Mick

July 1, 2008 at 9:19 am

Dump the Dems 6: The Fisa Betrayal

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This has been a week of disappointment for those who still believe Democrats are substantially different from Republicans and Obama is the most different of all. The passage in the House, by a Democratic majority, of the abominable FISA Act gutting the Fourth Amendment right to privacy while pretending to protect it, followed by Barack Obama’s unprincipled acceptance of such a bill for political purposes, has sent shock waves through the progressive community. They’re still reeling from it in a sense, so maybe it isn’t fair to expect them to come to terms with the betrayal so soon. OTOH, given a little time to get used to it, they’ll probably start finding excuses to justify it and that’s not good. It will simply postpone the day of reckoning and we can’t afford any more blindness.

I have to wonder how much more it’s going to take for people to make the final leap from the earnestness of rationalization to the realization that there’s nothing to rationalize. Glenn Greenwald and dKos’ Hunter are both skirting the edge of that realization but can’t yet bring themselves to accept it, probably because they don’t want to know how bad our position as citizens really is after two Bush terms and two years of a Democratic Congress acting like Republicans in everything but name. Greenwald:

What the Democratic leadership is saying is quite clear: we will continue to trample on the Constitution and support endless expansions of the surveillance state because that is how we’ll win in swing districts and expand our Congressional majority…. The only objective of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer is to have a 50-seat majority rather than a 35-seat majority, and if enabling the Bush administration’s lawbreaking and demolishing core constitutional protections can assist somewhat with that goal, then that it what they will do. That’s what they are saying all but explicitly here.

 This is the standard rap and it comes from GOP TP’s as old as Reagan: the Democrats are opportunists who revere polls, believe in nothing and will do anything to win. The other usual memes have to do with Democratic incompetence and/or cowardice, but Hunter comes as close to dispensing with these excuses as any prog I’ve read yet.

 [T]his one was an absolute no-brainer, the one thing that the Democrats, no matter how stunningly incompetent, humiliatingly ineffective or bafflingly capitulating they may be, could manage to win simply by sitting on their damn hands. But no; it took serious work to lose on this one. Serious, burning-the-midnight-oil work to manage to quite so cravenly negate their own oversight duties.

And that is why this will not be forgotten anytime soon. A caucus willing to go to these lengths to satisfy the illegalities of the Bush administration is not one that can easily be defended. It is understandable that it would take a great deal of courage to enforce Congressional subpoenas. We can understand that voting against funding for the war could be risky, if we were to presume that Bush would simply keep the troops in the Iraqi desert to rot regardless of funding.

But this one? This petty, stinking issue of granting retroactive immunity to companies that violated the law, such that they need not even say how they violated the law, or when they violated the law, or how often, or against who, and the whole thing started before 9/11 so it is clear that terrorism wasn’t even a prime factor for doing it — that whole mess is now absolved, no lawsuits, no discovery, no evidence allowed to be presented?

No, that one is indefensible. It is indefensible because it requires not just passive acceptance of a corrupt administration performing illegal acts, but legislators actively condoning those acts with the stroke of a pen. The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes, then absolving them; there should be nothing but contempt for such acts.

(emphasis added)

 

 Hunter realizes that they worked at it, realizes the lengths the Dem leadership went to suborn its own party’s representatives, and dismisses the whole idea of “passive acceptance”, yet he focuses on the indefensible nature of the betrayal rather than the reason for it. Maybe he’ll get to that later.

Indeed, it is indefensible on its face, a decision for which there is and can be no excuse or acceptable rationalization. The Democrats openly and shamelessly sold us down the river. The question is, as always, why? Is it cowardice? opportunism? mere election strategy?

I should think if that’s all it was it would be bad enough but Hunter has his finger on what I’ve been saying for some time when he writes, “The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes.” Yes, Hunter. I know. They are. Two months ago I wrote in “Dump the Dems 5“:

 

At some point, if you don’t draw a line in the sand and declare “this far but no further” you become a dictator-enabler, an anti-democrat. A Traitor. You may hem and haw and delay until the question is no longer debatable, but when that moment is reached you MUST stand and fight or be accounted a coward, a sell-out, a Traitor to democracy. If you do not, then you and your party – the party that goes along with you – MUST be rejected by democrats because you have betrayed everything they stand for and allied yourself with monarchists who want to return kings to their thrones and send the people packing back to the fetid serfdom from which they emerged 250 years ago.

One CANNOT be a democrat – or a Democrat – if one believes in or supports or aids the reinstitution of monarchy. That ought to be self-explanatory. That it isn’t any more is one of the great sadnesses of Bush’s sad reign.

Call it a prediction if you like. I knew the leadership would get FISA passed despite the numbers of ordinary Democrats who were against it because the leadership are all in the DLC/BD Alliance and the Alliance believes in modern conservative ideals like the restoration of a monarchy – or at least monarchic powers – in America. As Hunter clearly now understands, this was no accident. It was deliberate. It was design.

The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs. They’re under the thumb of a minority of conservative Dems who are, like the Likkud in Israel, warping the party to suit themselves and their conservative agenda. Like conservatives everywhere, they don’t care what the people want, they don’t care what the polls say, and they don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority in their own party thinks. Like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, they’re going to do what they damn well please and if the membership doesn’t like it, fuck em.

And like the Pubs, these are no longer people liberals and progressives can compromise with. The FISA bill proves it. They will simply adopt the Republican trick of claiming a compromise when what they’ve really done is craft the right-wing conservative agreement the conservative minority demands. Whether you take Greenwald’s position or mine, the antidote to this poison is the same: either defeat the BD’s or treat the whole party as if they were Pubs and fight them.

Written by Mick

June 23, 2008 at 10:51 am

Dump the Dems 5: The Main Democratic Principles (1)

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Two short statements before we begin:

  1. This is not intended to be anything like an exhaustive list, only a beginning for a list I hope will grow like a tree with the addition of many branches connected but spreading in all directions.
  2. My primary purpose is to set down, as clearly as possible, some of the Principles which I believe trump all and every convenient political excuse for doing nothing or worse, doing the opposite because we can convince ourselves it’s expedient. There are such principles and it’s time we acknowledged them. (All Hail Chris Dodd!)
  3. My secondary purpose is to help foster the apparently near-lost notion that politics is about something greater than re-election. In a democracy, it is the ultimate expression of justice, mercy, and community. It is about organizing and then manifesting the common good. It is about resisting abuses of power, whether from corporations, the military, foreign enemies, or the government itself. What it is NOT about is its own perpetuation at the expense of democratic principles and/or social comity.

Principle 1: The Law and the Constitution

While one can certainly argue about various interpretations of parts of the Constitution, the one Truth which must be considered incontrovertible is that the Constitution is the foundation of the nation’s legal structure. Two hundred years+ of precedent and legal opinion rest on that foundation, and while it is neither desirable nor practical to cleave literally to everything in it – it is a document written by fallible men, after all – it is dangerous and potentially destructive to ignore it altogether.

Far worse is the idea that a single politician – the president – has either the authority or the power to re-write portions of it without the consent of the governed (that’s us, people). That contentious, not to say arrogant, belief is contrary to the very meaning and purpose of the document. To insist that the president can do such a thing is to insist that the president is a monarch, not a subject of the people but a dictator who can make his own laws – the very condition against which the Founding Fathers rebelled and which caused them to write the Constitution in the first place.

The Constitution is and was from the very beginning an attempt to enshrine in law the concept that “the just powers of the executive derive from the consent of the governed” - not from the material and possibly accidental acquisition of power, whether military, financial, or political, but from the active consent of the community and its people. To maintain (much less act) otherwise is a violation of American law so breathtaking in its extremity and its contempt for the source of American society that it MUST define such a one as totally and utterly un-American. In other words, a Traitor.

There can be no compromise here. One CANNOT be at once a believer in democracy and at the same time award – or even be willing to tolerate – the assumption of monarchic powers by the executive branch (the president) and the concomitant loss of power by the legislative and judicial branches. There is room for interpretation and compromise with regard to exactly where the lines of power are drawn, but there is NO room for unilateral assumption of such power, especially by an executive so classically ignorant of democratic principles that he doesn’t even know what they are.

There can be no compromise here because to compromise about fundamental precepts is tantamount to declaring them non-operational. That in turn is tantamount to declaring that our democracy is no longer democratic because it is no longer governed by core democratic principles. It is now an autocracy with a monachic or dictatorial leader who may conduct himself by acknowledging the will of the people or in complete defiance of it, as he wishes.

In other words, that we have denounced our 230-yr-old “experiment in democracy” and gone back to empowering a functional monarchy – that we have willfully and deliberately traded our president for a king.

It may be said that the lines between one and the other are blurred, not easily defined. In many cases that may be true, but not in all. The Bush “signing statements” in which he added, like a king, codas that said he acknowledged the law but had no duty to obey it, should have sent up Red Flags all over the country. There is no ambiguity about what he was declaring, nor any confusion about what he meant: they were bald, flat-out rejections of the legislature’s power over the executive, direct and unarguable repudiations of fundamental Constitutional law. He should have been impeached for the very first one.

And even if they had been less obvious and incontrovertible than they were, they should still have occasioned an argument in the Congress – and in the press and public – over what they meant and whether they’d gone too far. There was no such argument (except in progressive blogs).

Why not? Because the so-called “opposition party” decided it wasn’t politically expedient. Despite our hopes, now that they’re in power they continue not to think so. This is simply NOT ACCEPTABLE. As pre-Nazi Germany eventually learned to its sorrow, it isn’t possible to sell out some of your core beliefs and still survive as the society you once were. You have fundamentally altered its nature with your gutting of centuries-old law in order to placate a power-hungry dictator you’re afraid of, and fear doesn’t excuse disemboweling your civilized principles simply because it’s “expedient” and “practical”.

At some point, if you don’t draw a line in the sand and declare “this far but no further” you become a dictator-enabler, an anti-democrat. A Traitor. You may hem and haw and delay until the question is no longer debatable, but when that moment is reached you MUST stand and fight or be accounted a coward, a sell-out, a Traitor to democracy. If you do not, then you and your party – the party that goes along with you – MUST be rejected by democrats because you have betrayed everything they stand for and allied yourself with monarchists who want to return kings to their thrones and send the people packing back to the fetid serfdom from which they emerged 250 years ago.

One CANNOT be a democrat – or a Democrat – if one believes in or supports or aids the reinstitution of monarchy. That ought to be self-explanatory. That it isn’t any more is one of the great sadnesses of Bush’s sad reign.

Written by Mick

April 30, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Dump the Dems 3b: Conviction v. Pragmatism

with 5 comments

The other thing that Thomas Nephew’s post about his encounter with Eric Alterman throws into sharp relief comes from his commenters. It is the old tension between pragmatic compromise and ideological purity.

Put another way, when does the need to be elected in order to pursue your agenda cross the line into cowardice and/or philosophical emptiness? When does pragmatism turn into win-at-any-cost vapidness? IOW, where exactly is the dividing line between a Paul Wellstone and a Mitt Romney? And is there any room at all for principles? Alterman – and a great many other so-called liberals in the Democratic party – think not.

You know I have a lot of trouble thinking of any principles that I hold more dearly than defeating George Bush in 2000 (2008?) , in the election … [audience laughter] seriously! I think that principles are a form of vanity. Of moral vanity. I think principles are a very useful teaching method for children. I think… but… I have two problems with principles. One is that whatever principle you have I have a competing principle for the same situation. So when you say I’m doing this on principle I can tell you “but there’s another principle that’s at work in the same situation and you’re violating that principle.” So I think principles are what people do instead of making difficult decisions.

(emphasis in the original)

Maybe. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe pragmatism is a way to avoid the certain pain of sticking to difficult principles, principles you believe in but which may make being elected problematic.

I’m not going to discount the nerve, even the courage it takes for a committed believer to compromise his/her beliefs in order to affect a world which will leave him/her out if s/he doesn’t. But otoh, we’re now looking at a situation in the Democratic party where compromise – some say “surrender” – has gone so far that it’s hard to say what the Donkeys stand for any more or even if – like Romney – they can be said to stand for anything at all.

That isn’t a question Alterman or those like him want to discuss. Here’s Paul from Nephew’s comments section:

Thomas, I think you’ve happened upon the tension that occurs between the idealist and the pragmatist.

Alterman is a political opportunist. He’s more concerned with helping his Party obtain more power and influence than achieving goals based on ideals or principles. You may find he and his kind distasteful (as do I on more than a few occasions), but they are a necessary component of the system.

You are an idealist, who believes that the Party should use its power to push through social justice programs for the betterment of the country.

Nell disagrees.

Paul, you’re oversimplifying to the point of condescension about idealists and pragmatists. And you’re also underestimating Thomas’ pragmatism, which his response and many past posts demonstrate.

Exactly. Mr Nephew has been far more willing to compromise than I have been and I’m nothing if not a pragmatist. The difference between the Alterman/Paul school and the Nephew/Nell school is the difference between a group for whom, just as Eric said, defeating George Bush is more important than anything else, and a group that believes it’s just as and perhaps far more important to prosecute accountability in order to prevent a repitition of the Bush/Cheney lawlessness.

But it goes beyond that, even. Defeating Bush is all very well and certainly important for the country. Yet as critical as that victory is, its importance does not allow us to duck the prime question:

And replace him with…what?

Even if we accept the connected propositions that a) defeating Bush is the Prime Directive and b) defeating Bush requires adopting GOP initiatives – which I hasten to say I don’t accept and neither does Thomas or Glenn Greenwald or any number of other lefties who’ve spoken up since the ’06 election who think exactly the opposite – even if you accept that duality, you’re forced to ask what difference it really makes if his replacement is just going to go on pursuing the Bush Agenda or, at a maximum, refuse to undo the damage that has been done so far.

Democrats and liberals have all too plainly been counting on a win in 2008, and have dealt away much of their honor and self-respect in the process of waiting for that blessed event — which may not come. But even if there is a President Obama or a President Clinton next January 10, the value of that victory has already been tarnished by their party’s — and its apologists — craven refusal to hold the most powerful lawbreaker and political criminal in the land to account.

Mr Nephew is convinced - he and Paul have at least this in common - that the Democratic refusal to stop the war, the spying, the torture, and the destruction of the economy that have been hallmarks of the Bush Regime is some sort of campaign strategy that they will jettison once the election is over and the White House is theirs. Far from being too idealistic, Mr Nephew is arguing that the Democrats are chasing the wrong strategy, that unprincipled surrender is a losing strategy.

In point of fact, it’s much more likely that the Democratic refusal to oppiose George Bush has much less to do with winning the election (as Greenwald pointed out months ago, the numbers suggest their willingness to roll over for the Bushies has badly hurt them in opinion polls, thus actually making it harder for them to win the longer they are seen as Bush enablers) than it has with the strong and demonstrable possibility that the Democratic party has been so focused on its need to WIN that it has become poisoned by its own obsession, infected by Republican success with the They’re Right/We’re Wrong Virus. If that’s the case, then they have chosen deflect a base uncomfortable with their new “principles” by using the win-at-any-cost excuse.

And much of the base is buying it.

There’s a legitimate argument here but those of us willing to have it must be just as willing to go all the way to the ultimate questions:

What has the Democratic party become since it was taken over by the neo-liberal New Democrats in the late 80′s?

and

Do they deserve to win? Are we really going to be any better off with a party that has grown used to making excuses for torture, supporting govt spying, prosecuting an illegal war, and abetting the growth of imperial powers in the presidency as if they aren’t worth worrying about?

Written by Mick

March 26, 2008 at 10:39 am

Warrantless Wiretapping Will Pass in Senate

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Gutless Wonder Senate Democrats will, thanks to Harry Reid and that tireless corporate sycophant, Jay Rockefeller, the telecom lobbyist’s BFF, pass the FISA bill today that will retroactively legalize Bush’s lawlessness and protect him, his administration, the Gonzales DOJ, and runaway telecom corps from any accountability for years of illegal spying. As Greenwald puts it:

[T]he most extraordinary aspect of all of this, if one really thinks about it — it isn’t merely that the Democratic Senate failed to investigate or bring about accountability for the clearest and more brazen acts of lawbreaking in the Bush administration, although that is true. Far beyond that, once in power, they are eagerly and aggressively taking affirmative steps — extraordinary steps — to protect Bush officials. While still knowing virtually nothing about what they did, they are acting to legalize Bush’s illegal spying programs and put an end to all pending investigations and efforts to uncover what happened.

How far we’ve come — really: disgracefully tumbled — from the days of the Church Committee, which aggressively uncovered surveillance abuses and then drafted legislation to outlaw them and prevent them from ever occurring again. It is, of course, precisely those post-Watergate laws which the Bush administration and their telecom conspirators purposely violated, and for which they are about to receive permanent, lawless protection.

Chris Dodd, who sacrificed his presidential ambitions to fight this bill, made an impassioned speech against passage last night. He lays out what’s at stake with little or no beating around the bush (no pun intended). Watch and listen to what a principled Democrat looks and sounds like. This may be the last time you get to see one.

Written by Mick

February 12, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Comes the Excuse: Surveillance Cameras in Boston

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The City of Boston installed surveillance cameras in some high-crime areas like Chinatown three years ago, and now they’re citing two murder cases in which those cameras played a key role to justify the installation of even more cameras.

The department has 25 cameras, each costing about $20,000, that can pan, tilt, and zoom, and can be attached to a wall or roof in less than an hour. Regulations require approval from property owners before police can mount the cameras. The department purchased the devices in 2004, and they were first used at the Democratic National Convention.

But in point of fact, it isn’t efficacy that’s driving the camera surveillance boom in police work. It’s conservatives and their demands for low-taxes.

Chris Ott, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned the emphasis on fancy gizmos to replace old-fashioned police work.

“For whatever reason, there is a tendency to look at technical solutions to nontechnical problems,” Ott said. “We’d encourage people to ask questions about whether there are simpler methods, perhaps better lighting or more community policing.”

Dunford said that while community policing is a priority, the funds do not exist to put more police on the streets.

“The cameras are a force multiplier,” he said. “We try to put out as many walking beats as we can, and then enhance those units with the cameras.”

(emphasis added)

Simple as that. There’s no money, thanks to Prop 2 1/2 and the Big Dig, to add patrols even though everyone knows patrols are more effective than cameras.

Michael Wong, coordinator of Chinatown’s crime watch program, said how effective the cameras are remains a mystery to many area residents.

“After the police put them up, we haven’t heard anything from them. I don’t know if they have anybody to watch them,” he said. “The crime here has gone down a lot, but I don’t think it is because of the cameras. We’re walking the streets. If criminals see our crime watch, they go away.”

That’s bad enough, but buried inside the story is the news that Homeland Security also has a camera system installed in Boston, independent of the police system.

The department can also tap into other camera surveillance systems, including those provided by the Department of Homeland Security to monitor areas of the city that may be susceptible to terrorist attacks such as the harbor, parks, and evacuation routes.

(emphasis added)

This is an all-but-open admission by HS that it is allowing local police to access its surveillance equipment, equipment we were promised would be used only against “terrorists”. But like the rest of the Bush Administration’s promises, that one was a crock, too.

All of this in the name of saving money. Apparently we’re not only willing to trade our civil liberties for the illusion of “safety” and protection from imaginary hoards of Islamofascists, we’re prepared to sacrifice them for something as menial as lower taxes.

Maybe we deserve what we’re going to get.

Written by Mick

September 25, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Dems v Dems: Woolsey’s Little Revolt

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In my recent posts about the Democrats I’ve said more than once that the hold of the minority conservative leaders currently controlling the party could be broken if the majority of liberal/progressive Dems currently under their thumb staged a revolt. Well, according to The Hill, one has – in a mild, non-revoltish sort of way.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is encouraging anti-war activists to find challengers to centrist Democrats, with the aim of moving the party to the left and ramping up opposition to the war in Iraq, to the chagrin of top Democratic aides.

“You folks should go after the Democrats,” Woolsey said in response to a suggestion from an activist during a conference call last month organized by the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

“I’d hate to lose the majority, but I’m telling you, if we don’t stand up to our responsibility, maybe that’s the lesson to be learned.”

OK, so she’s one legislator. We don’t have a headdress yet but we’ve got our first feather and the first crack in the wall.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mick

September 12, 2007 at 3:18 pm

Impeach Bush – For Everybody’s Sake

with 5 comments

England is a land with a long sad history of brutal, stupid, and outright crazy kings, so it’s not perhaps unusual that a Brit should see more clearly than we do how monarchical George Bush has made America. Last week in the Nation, Simon Prentis laid it on the line.

To those of us here in Britain, there is an Orwellian edge to the news that George Bush is invoking executive privilege to protect his policies from Congressional investigation. Just like that scene in Animal Farm, when the newly liberated animals start to believe that some are more equal than others, it sounds like the President of the United States has reverted to the divine right of kings.

Actually, it’s more like the divine right of emperors but why quibble. The supposed divinity of emperors rests on the supposed divinity of kings, one simply an extension of the other. Prentis’ basic point is dead on: while the corporatocracy and its conservative handmaidens want to return America to the Glory Days of the Robber Barons after the Civil War, Bush and his right-wing enablers have pushed the clock even further back – to before the Revolution, before Washington and Jefferson and Adams, when America was ruled by a monarch who threw people in jail whenever he felt like it for any reason or no reason at all, when the Colonies were vassals of an unstable, very sick king (porphyry, they say, which afflicts its sufferers with fits that resemble insanity not a little) and who had no political representation and were subject to arbitrary punishments and ludicrous laws.

For some reason, we still, 230 years later, have Tories – monarchists – in our midst, and two of them are running the country. Prentis asks, “Wasn’t that something you guys fought so hard to escape from?” and the ironic echo of the question bounces between the walls of conscience like the condemnation of a friend betrayed. Yes, we did. And now we have finally turned against our beginnings, our founders, and our tradition by allowing a self-appointed, self-anointed king to build himself a throne in our very capital.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

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Written by Mick

September 4, 2007 at 4:00 am

The Latest Democratic Turncoat and the Impeachment Follies

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In the days since Rahm Emanuel’s phone orgy, Democratic support for Bush/neocon policies in Iraq has strengthened and at least one Rep, Jerry McNerney from California, has already reversed his position. Now comes news via Think Progress of a second: Washington’s Brian Baird.

Baird was one of the few Dem Reps who voted against the invasion originally but has been relatively quiet about his opposition to the occupation since. Now that he is supporting the surge, though, as TP put it, “there doesn’t appear to be a camera or microphone that Baird will refuse to speak to.” And most of them are right-wing outlets – Tucker Carlson and the National Review, for instance.

Baird, nationally an unknown, is suddenly in the limelight, his turnaround trumpeted all over the media, after several years of all-but-invisible opposition. And all it took was a single phone call from Rahm.

Tell me again that the Democratic support of Bush, from economic policy to trade policy to foreign policy to illegal surveillance is the result of individual consciences or the Fear Factor.

One more slightly related observation:

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Written by Mick

August 28, 2007 at 4:51 pm

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