This graph illustrates the essential conundrum of American politics, in my opinion (he added unnecessarily-everything here is my opinion). It's a pictorial representation of the true state of federal budget priorities made plain.
February 13, 2009
February 11, 2009
Is that the whole camel in the tent now? This is from the editorial in today's New York Times concerning the position taken by Obama's Department of Justice in the case of Mohamed vs. Jeppesen in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which, admittedly, sits in San Francisco rather than in the formal territories of the United States. Still, read on:
The Obama administration failed — miserably — the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law.
On Monday, a Justice Department lawyer dispatched by the new attorney general, Eric Holder, appeared before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The case before them involves serious allegations of torture by five victims of President Bush’s extraordinary rendition program. The five were seized and transported to American facilities abroad or to countries known for torturing prisoners.
And what that dispatched lawyer told the 9th Circuit is that the Mohamed case must cease because it invades the "state secrets" of the federal government. Much to the surprise of the three-judge panel. So the good news is that all of those Right Wing noise-makers who were so concerned about Radical Barack can calm down. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. It is becoming apparent that Barack Obama is a profoundly conservative politician who has absolutely no intention of doing anything which will in any way embarrass his predecessor and whose first instincts are authoritarian rather than civil libertarian. To gain a perspective on how surprising this move by Obama's DOJ before a three-judge panel was, one can read the estimable Glenn Greenwald, linked to the right, who's been writing extensively about this development. He's right, as usual, and he's joined by Andrew Sullivan, the ACLU, the lawyers at Balkinization, and, well - me.
I don't quite get it, actually. In the first place, there are no "state secrets" left in the Mohamed case, and not much with regard to the rendition/torture subject in general. Seymour Hersh has written extensively about it, the Swedish government paid a large damage award for their role in the illegal capture and rendtion of some of the plaintiffs in this action, and the case at issue is not actually directed against the United States. The action names the "travel agent" for the CIA involved in the logistics of illegal capture and rendition. It's a private lawsuit. As Ben Wizner, attorney from the ACLU, has said, the only place where people are not allowed to talk about this matter of common knowledge is in a federal court room.
Barack Obama, as a Constitutional lawyer, must realize this is a ridiculous extension of the "state secrets" doctrine. While he has declared that the practice of capturing foreigners and shipping them to countries known to practice torture, a program known as rendition and tantamount to a war crime, will not be part of his approach to anti-terrorism, his DOJ refuses to allow a factual investigation of just such a case which occurred during the Bush years. Since no discovery of an actual, extant program can occur if the program no longer exists, the only plausible reason for using the "nuclear option" of the state secrets doctrine to blow Mohamed's case out of the water is this: Obama is worried that a detailed description, in open court, of the ways in which the plaintiffs were detained, drugged, chained in the belly of a plane, and taken to places like Egypt where they were electrocuted and savagely beaten (as the United States knew they would be) would add impetus to the calls for war crimes investigations of the Bush Administration.
And Obama doesn't want that. He wants to look forward, not backward. It is becoming apparent that Obama is a master temporizer. No one is above the law, but we must face the future, not the past. Something like that.
Anyway, Barack's no radical. Calm down, Rush. There's nothing to worry about. We have a thoroughly conventional President, judged by the standards of the New Normal, which is just about where George W. Bush left things. He'll upset a few Constitutional "purists' (the unreasonable who believe in the Bill of Rights and Due Process), but he's Mainstream. I'm sure Bill Ayers would agree.
February 09, 2009
I've thought for a long time that the closest historical parallel to the current economic and political perplexities in the U.S. is the situation the U.S.S.R. faced shortly before its demise in the early 1990's. As the Soviet Union did, we have a central government that is in many ways an unimaginative gerontocracy (particularly in the Senate), and which is almost completely unresponsive to the everyday problems of American citizens. The Soviet Union had its favored oligarchs and Party members, and we have our favored corporations and the revolving door between Washington D.C. and the influence peddlers who control national policy. Our press is nominally free, but there is a Pravda-like conformity of the Big Media to certain agreed story lines for any given issue. Most recently, for example, we saw the nomination of Tom Daschle to run Health & Human Services go crashing down in flames; what we mostly heard about were his lapses in "optics;" he was a little too obvious about being a pampered lobbyist and didn't pay attention to the tax implications of riding around in a limo all the time on a fat cat's dime. What was less discussed was that this was the guy Obama chose to revamp the creaking, disintegrating health care "system" in the United States, this former Senator who had grown enormously rich by working for Big Pharma and medical insurers since John Thune did him the favor of retiring him from the Senate. Tom Daschle was going to put an end to the outrages which Michael Moore lacerated in "Sick-O?" Look, I've got some shovel-ready infrastructure called the Brooklyn Bridge I'd like to sell you for $10 billion, financing available from the government.