Obama's new Department of Justice has come out in defense of Bush-era ideologies elevating Presidential authority beyond legal and Constitutional restraints. Under this on-going power grab lies a desire to maintain for the Executive branch powers that were claimed in the aftermath of 9/11.
Even if Congress passes a new law specifically limiting Presidential authority, the President can claim national security concerns, that it's his job to "protect the American people." Thus the urgency of the Presidential mandate exceeds that of Congress or the Courts. National security concerns, enshrined the DC consensus "war on terror," allow for much more expediency in the use of Presidential authority than pre-9/11.
We've become imperial, with more of our political sphere revolving around the President, our Emperor-equivalent, and less about our institutions, history, or the rule of law and pre-9/11 precedents. It's as if Caesar has brought down his throne to the floor of the Roman Senate, to show his magnificence. It's downright un-American to put at the center of our government the omnipotence of one man and his agents, and probably un-Constitutional as well.
The current civil liberties issues are made poignant by the fact Obama was a professor of Constitutional law. As an outsider, he protested Bush's seize of authority from Congress. Now, as the incumbent, Obama has flip-flopped. Just like Bush, he's using the war on terror as a rationale to expand spying and limit accountability for acts constituting torture.
At least Spain isn't standing idly by, Ted Rall
writes. The Spaniards have launched an investigation of Bush legal aides who explicitly condoned the use of water-boarding, or what the administration then--and perhaps now?--calls harsh interrogation techniques. Should the Spanish court find the Bush people guilty, they would issue an international warrant for their arrest.
The architect of unitary executive theory, Univ. of California--Berkeley professor Dr. John Yoo would need to avoid travel to any countries honoring extradition agreements with the nation of Spain, where he and other White House legal aides would face arrest and trial under treaties which cover the prosecution of war crimes suspects.
Obama's White House will have to balance its failure to holding Bush-era predecessors accountable against the damage caused in the court of world opinion. Should an indictment be issued, the Spanish precedent will become a rallying cry for Constitutionalists, many of whom likely feel betrayed by Obama's violent reversal on this position. Already European NATO allies have squawked on sending troops to Afghanistan; the failure to investigate Bush administration torture--to which Vice President Dick Cheney admitted at the end of Bush's term--may have created a worsening international liability for the U.S..
I've been seeing a lot of criticism that Obama the candidate is quite different from President Obama. That the administration would so reverse its pre-election positions should come as little surprise to those who scrutinized Obama during the campaign. During the campaign, Obama supported the FISA bill, that limited telecom liability for their role in facilitating warrantless eavesdropping.
Washington corrupts entirely. Once seated in the halls of power, politicians' #1 goal becomes re-election. Obama wants to use the authority granted president Bush to advance his own agenda. He's of course aware of the underlying illegality of the torture, and the impermissibility of the Unitary Executive theory created by John Yoo. Still, his people claim the actions of the Executive are protected by "state secrets," invoking a little known "sovereign authority" clause buried in the U.S. legal code.
, Glenn Greenwald writes about the little publicized effort to defend Bush-era actions in a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF.) The case, Jewel v. National Security Agency
, has already given plenty of pause to Obama's pre-election claims to limit Executive authority. See also Clint Hendler's post "Obama and State Secrets? Shhh..." at Columbia Journalism Review
I do believe the intransigence of the Obama administration on FISA and executive branch spying reflects a strong agenda bent on preserving what he can of the authority that Bush seized. Now that Obama is in control of the White House, he'll likely try to maximize his authority, just like Bush.
While justice might be served by identifying who condoned the torture, and prosecuting them, politics has a different set of priorities. Bush's strongest critics are probably already supporting Obama. Now they might become sufficiently outraged to vote for Obama's competition come 2012, but that would of course require voting for a Republican. So criticism from the Left probably won't mean that much going into the next election, unless of course the Republicans change course.
Right wingers will no doubt grow in their anger for the President, if they see an attack on the Constitution without the accompanying war rationale--draped in the flag. "When Bush did it, he was doing it to protect us," they might say. Well, unfortunately, it was that mindless acceptance of Bush's power grab that led to the precedent today, which is one where a President can invoke authority to push political themes far less popular with the Right than warring with Muslims. These might include carbon taxes or limits on gun rights.
Well, to these former Bush supporters I can only say I told you so. Of course Presidential powers, once asserted, never go away. That's the whole point of being a country ruled by laws, rather than men. Once we make an exception to the law--in this case exempting Bush administration actions on account of our need for security--we open the floodgates of future abuses of power.
Dr. Jeckyll or Mr. Hide?
We were told about change we could believe in and have received little. Yes, the Obama people have helped erase some of Bush's wrongs, but they're actually advancing neocon positions on our foreign policy.
Afghanistan will morph into the central front against terrorism, which Obama has always argued it should have been from the beginning. Obama has green-lighted the expansion of the conflict into Pakistan through the use of predator drone attacks. None of this was entirely unexpected, although the hesitancy to leave Iraq--US "combat soldiers" will surely remain past June of next year--is a big disappointment.
Obama may be using the Afghan front to move a domestic political agenda, but more likely is that he sees the "war President" self-annoitment as a method to pursue re-election. Expand, or at least sustain the terror war, and the "wag the tail" effect kicks in, as described in Norm Solomon's book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and pundits keep spinning us to death.
Our two party system allows politicians who lie, or take money, or condone illegal actions to avoid accountability. Unless a politician is caught red-handed, prosecution typically doesn't happen. Prosecution is a process not likely to do very well if the recent Senator Stevens (R-AK) case is an example.
The money-grubbing process of soliciting for campaign donations ties the politicians to their sponsors, who invariably tend to be the AIG/Charles Keating-type vultures. Of course the greediest among us will resort to the most despicable practices to earn political points, which can be converted into lower regulatory standards, than in turn become methods to make short-term profits, even at the cost of eventually bankruptcy, like Enron, the #1 corporate giver to President Bush in 2000.
The inflammatory bonuses have revealed an Obama who persistently supporting Geithner. Again, all of this may be something of a shock to people who weren't aware of AIG's big contribution to Obama's campaign.
I've spent the better part of six months writing about the bailout and what I believe is a huge corporate giveaway. That being said, I do want to examine economics at some detail in this blog, but don't want to be consumed by them.
This blog's content is shaped by factors beyond my control. Chief among them is the mass media's persistent inability to get the job done. Whether by intent or error, the captains of our mass media grossly misled the American people in the lead-in to Iraq. I guess it falls to the blogs to report the truth about public/private dalliances that are shaping government policy, particularly related to the awarding of bailout funds.
I came across an article, The Threat of Hyper-Depression by Robert Murphy. I tried to get in a comment on opednews
but was unable. I thought my comments were pretty convincing:
Interesting to see how the Right is coming together with the Left over the failure of government to find a solution to the financial crisis.
The Left has been framed as offering big government solutions. The author brings up Ronald Reagan and supply side economics. I'd argue that Reagan was in fact a big spender, and financed the gov't spending by borrowing. Carter, on the other hand, maintained a balanced budget.
If anything Carter's fiscal conservatism has been discredited. Gov't didn't spend enough and so recovery was slowed. A closet Keynesian, Reagan also set the precedent for government intervention into resolving an economic crisis.
Military spending has skyrocketed, and yes that makes government bigger. We'll need to cut military spending (are our 600+ bases abroad protecting us?) $400 million in Iraq each day is inflationary, plus crowds out private sector spending.
Sooo, now when people like Bill Black get interviewed on Bill Moyers (http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04032009/watch.html) we see the effects of deregulation, which Geithner denies as the source of the problem (about halfway in).
Real conservatism avoids big government. We'll need to go back to pre-Reagan days for that. We'll need to go back before Rubin/Sommers attack on regulation/Brooksley Born and the de-regulation of Gramm-Leach/end of Glass Steagall. We need to reverse Bush-era policies that allowed commodities over-leveraging + overly cheap money for "home ownership" through the Fed.
Real conservatism understands the need to regulate in order to have effective government, not necessarily more money being spent. More regulation might not help, but better enforcement will. The alternative is more money thrown at the problem, bigger government, more regulation (perhaps better enforced or not). Small government must be efficient in order to be viable. Gov't today is neither small, thanks largely to our military and how we're managing this crisis, nor are we efficient.
I'm thinking that a correct analysis of how we got into this mess is needed. I've always emphasized the need to determine what really happened and will persist at efforts to correct the record. Yes, the explanation for the current crisis is not the stuff of fascination, but an outreach effort must be made by those who understand how the credit crisis occurred.
Lord Keynes v. Austrian school
A debate is now transpiring between pro-stimulus economists advocating the views Lord Keynes, who supported stimulative policy during times of economic contraction, and supporters of the Austrian school of economics, who don't. Lord Keynes' positions need to be clarified before they're vilified.
Without delving into the philosophy too deeply, the Austrian school looks at the preservation of the value of money as its top priority. Government spending is thought to displace private income, to the detriment of the economy in the long-term. Austrian school economics also hold that a fiat currency (one not supported by any collateral save the promises of government) is doomed to fail, and will collapse in value, destroying the savings of industrious private individuals.
I'm a big fan of a more stable currency, so in the past I've looked at alternatives to the Fed-issued, paper money currency. At one point I did buy some Liberty Dollars, which is meant to function as an alternative currency. While they haven't been shut down, Liberty Dollar and its creator Bernie NutHaus (former engraver at the US Mint, Hawaii) had all its gold and silver, used as a depository base for privately issued certificates, seized. Don't like the competition, I guess.
Odd it is that one branch of the Federal Government would be seizing control of the assets of a fully collateralized company--in gold and silver--while sending piles of paper cash to the recipients of bailout money or--worse--simply editing digital banking entries to credit the bailout's recipients. After all, our fractional reserve banking system doesn't actually have the money it lends. It simply enters an IOU and a corresponding credit to your account.
Maybe the bailout cash arrives in giant C-130 cargo planes like it did in Iraq. Stack of hundreds--a sum in excess of two billion dollars--had been palletized into a single load. My guess would be that no physical cash changes hand in the bailout, especially when the U.S. government has no desire to see where the money it sends actually ends up.
Back to economics. Now I have criticized Keynesian policies in the past, but his philosophy has been misinterpreted repeatedly. Keynes called for fiscal conservatism during good times. He wouldn't have supported government overspending on a level like today's. All government spending, including the bailout, has been labelled Keynesian, despite the fact Keynesian polciy must be observed in times both good and bad. Monetary discipline and fiscal restraint are a vital component discarded by critics of stimulative monetary policies.
I clarified this discrepancy in a comment on a cross-post from LewRockwell on marketoracle, where Michael Rozeff
is the original author. This is quite technical stuff, but an important distinction. I wrote :
Appreciate the laser-beam commentary by Lew, who been right on about the vindication of the Austrian school in the response to the current crisis.
At this point, I'd shy away from pidgeonholing economists by Keynesian or Austrian schools. I think the stimulus reflex is common to both political parties, with their thumb over the "G" gusher button. The way I see it, politicians are drawn to stimulative policies to minimize the political impact of a slumping economy, at least until the next election.
Can we equivocate between the Keynesians and those in power? Keynesian theory is only a theory. I'd argue the University of Chicago-style is more influential in shaping how our government is responding. And to get an idea how that works, read Lessons from an Economic Hit Man about the IMF, or Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine (public failures lead to private profits.)
I'd argue the problem is largely systemic. Political influence dominates the economic, but laissez faire/de-regulatory capitalism has failed to equalize income distribution in the country, or model a sustainable economy.
Of course, many libertarians believe in government doing less to regulate, and open borders to trade. Nonetheless, low prices appear to have been sustained by cheap undocumented labor and Chinese-made goods, neither of which will contribute much to growth now that spending and demand have shrunk.
I've held Lew Rockwell to task for his support of the Wal-mart economy. In free trade, I guess all is fair. Never mind that Wal-mart is dumping, or that it's approach depends on unsustainable models of US over-borrowing/hyperconsumption (not to mention the damage Wal-mart does to the existing retail environment and its $1,500/yr.public subsidy per worker.)
At some point, libertarians can't preach unregulated free market capitalism. They may know intuitively the people are inclined to deepen the public trough, in times of feast or famine, even at the expense of the young and unborn, who will have to carry the burden of higher taxes to pay for all the spending. Still, compromising their positions is hard, particularly if they know that fiscal restraint will be the only way to protect our economy in the long-term.
Judging by the two parties we have, fiscal responsibility is utterly disintegrated and neither party is assuming responsibility. Still, the libertarians will have a hard time convincing Americans to vote for them if the price of their rulership is more unregulated free market capitalism. People are deeply worried about losing their jobs, and the government has become the employer of more Americans than anyone else. Perhaps it's too hard to turn back the clock to a period before big government.
Still, by necessity we may at a point quite near in our future submit to a smaller government. If our currency continues to be over-produced it will drop in value. Foreigners will stop lending, or demand higher interest rates, especially if inflation hits. This is precisely what economists in the Austrian school warn about--savings will quickly erode and private investment evaporate.
If we're headed off a cliff, someone needs to turn the wheel to avoid disaster. But political momentum favors big spending, and neither is willing to control their base instincts to spend our way out of this recession, or at least forestall the worst economic effects until after the next election.
Americans can quite conveniently choose to ignore the direction that fiscal irresponsibility is taking us, thanks to the media.
The upside down distribution of bailout aid is just an example of what antiwar.com writer Justin Raimondo calls Bizarro World, where war is peace and peace is war, risk is security, and our collective fears are repeated in the media saturated environment of modern America.
Perceptions are controlled through the mass media, which makes us vulnerable to spin, the yellow journalism of our age. Driven by commercial considerations, the corporate-owned media has been consolidated so over 95% of "news" comes out of a group of only 5 companies: GE (owner of NBC), Fox, Time Warner (CNN), and CBS (formerly Viacom). Both GE and Fox have been controlled by strong Republican partisans in Jack Welch and Rupert Murdoch.
As I've described many times on this blog, the news divisions were undercut by corporate politics. Investigative journalism had to be squelched, lest they make the media conglomerate lose advertizing revenue. Worst of all, quality has suffered to the point people get very little unbiased hard news. We are left to choose news as but one selection from a menu of entertainment options, though it's clearly much more than that.
Not surprisingly, the profitability of newspapers and media companies has collapsed as they've dumbed down. So bad is the meltdown that venerable institutions like the New York Times have had to "reverse-lease" its own headquarters building.
I'd admit to some schadenfreude. I made the point the media conglomerates would lose money on their weakening quality of content--making these champions of the free market lose at their own game. And I certainly wasn't pleased with New York Times' placement of Judith Miller's articles about Iraqi WMD on the front page, nor with publisher Sulzberger's persistent failure to provide a mea culpa in regard not only to what Miller wrote, but the persistent failure of editors to fact-check the substance of Miller's allegations, all of which appear to have be regurgitations of lies spewed by the White House Iraq Group run by none other than Scooter Libby.
Not by coincidence, the diminished standards of The Grey Lady are not errors but part of an effort to support a Zionistic cause. Zionism is not a racist term but rather is a political philosophy born in the late 19th century. The idea of Zionism is to create a homeland for the Jewish people. The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 brought Zionism into viability.
Zionism is by its nature aggressive as it asserts the divine providence granted Jews in their relationship with God. In some ways it represents the notion of manifest destiny held by the US and many other empires through time: that we are a people destined to control a specific region, in our case "sea to shining sea." This attitude was reflected in the policies of our nation as we expanded westward, largely seen in the way we subjugated First Nations peoples to the authority of the white man. Clearly religion helped to rationalize this form of colonialism, as it framed American settlers as righteous, deserving Christians and the natives as heathen. Because they weren't Christian, natives were seen as sub-human and fit for all manner of exploitation.
Zionism really doesn't differ that much from 19th century American colonialism. In both cases, the indigenous people (in our case, First Nations peoples, in Israel's, Arabs) stand in the way of geographic expansionism, which is a cornerstone of these religion-driven philosophies, which rely on the never-ending expansion of territory.
Until some force stronger than than the empire constrains it, it will continue to expand. For us, it was the Pacific Ocean. Who knows just will appease the Zionists' desire to expand, which are geographically miniscule in comparison. Most likely, territorial ambitions are limited to the West Bank (a portion of Palestine to the River Jordan in the east), although I'm sure strategic locations as in places like the Golan Heights give a tactical impetus to benefit Israel in any security arrangements with its neighbors which it views as culturally inferior.
In some ways Zionism transcends geographical ambitions, when it attempts to relieve the perception of impending attack upon it. This sort of paranoia has shaped Israeli policies and encouraged its aggression since being attacked by Arab neighbors early in its history. As Israel attacks, though, it perpetuates a cycle of unending violence as the recipients of aggression counterattack Israel, although the aggression has been pretty one-sided since the First Gulf War, when it ate SCUDS from Iraq, stoically not responding so as to avoid alienating Arab nations participating in the retaking of Kuwait.
Israel is limited in its northern expansion by Hezbullah, which now occupies Southern Lebanon. As the 2006 action showed, Israel can do little to expand its control and influence there. It would be forced to depend on third parties like Christian Druze militias, who are blamed for 1984 massacres at Palestinian refugee camps.
Also, key resources like water can shape Zionist goals, since it's not a big leap to expel people so your settlers can live there, to expelling them so you can take their fields/water/natural resources, or the nearby "high ground."
A hallmark of Zionist expansion has been tremendous and permanent damage to the ecology of surrounding areas inhabited by Palestinians. Olive trees are routinely cut, and security cordons expanded to overtake agricultural regions. It was in one of the areas, in Gaza, that an American demonstrator, Tristan Anderson, was recently shot in the head with an Israeli gas canister.
Now back in the 19th Century, in America, the killing of a native wouldn't have been newsworthy. Nowadays one camera can capture a worldwide audience in just a few minutes.
What is remarkable is how little coverage of Israeli misconduct makes it into the news. Now, assuming that the Republican affiliations held by a tightening circle of media moguls shaped coverage, it's highly reasonable to expect the religious sympathies towards Zionism would color coverage as well.
Who will tell the public that our media is controlled by people with strong sympathies for a foreign nation? Surely not the Zionist-dominated media, if it is truly so. Leave it to the Web to tell the truth about the Mass Media and its slanted coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
I guess if you're limited to the domestic mainstream media, you wouldn't have learned that Israel's punishing attacks on Gaza claimed the lives of over 340 children. The collateral damage was immense. Munitions were exported from the US, including depleted uranium weaponry. Depleted uranium is a weapon of mass destruction. It's effects linger on the battlefield, which in the case of Gaza is a tightly packed urban area.
Effects of D.U. in Iraq have been recorded in the population of southern Iraq, where projectiles containing D.U. were fired in the First Gulf War. Genetic abnormalities have appeared in Iraq children born since then. In addition, uranium oxide particles which lodge in the body may be responsible for the sickening of many of the over 300,000 Gulf War veterans now on full permanent disability.
Hopefully, world opinion will restrain the use of these vicious weapons. Perhaps the Spanish tribunals could set a precedent for prosecutions of those associated with the distribution and delivery of Depleted Uranium weapons just as they might for Bush's legal flacks providing legal support for torture.
Labels: economy, media culture, obama, war on terror, zionism