02/06/2013 archive

Just Powers

Why the White Paper Is So Terrifying

By Stephen Marche, Esquire

at 10:24AM, Feb 6, 2013

The administration’s white paper on targeted killings, which was released yesterday, has provoked some intense and entirely justified expressions of fear and loathing. There was Tom Junod’s piece on this site, which outright accused Obama of coveting kingship, and there was Ta-Nehisi Coates over at The Atlantic, who found an apt comparison with Orwell’s work on language and totalitarianism. Both are great pieces, and terrifying enough.

Where are we going to find a better description of what the Obama administration is doing with their legal defense of targeted killing? They have made the president into a sovereign. Their language hides this basic fact: The president now gets to decide when the law doesn’t apply. The vague terminology in the white paper – “imminent threat” and “national self-defense” – is intended to be meaningless. Threat and self-defense can be defined in any way the president likes. He gets to choose.

There are no exceptions under the law. There are no sovereigns. There is equality under the law and that’s it. Nobody gets to decide who doesn’t have rights under the Constitution. What’s so terrifying about this white paper is that it’s unconstitutional, not in the sense that it violates any particular tenet of the American Constitution, but in that it doesn’t respect the premise of there being a Constitution in the first place. The whole idea of having a Constitution is that no individual gets to decide what’s an exception to it.

What is so extraordinary about this moment in American life is that tens of millions of people are ferociously defending the Second Amendment, and throw the name of the Constitution around like it’s sacred, and yet they utter not one peep when its basic principles are shaken to their foundation. And let’s be honest about why the right doesn’t attack Obama for this outrageous violation of the founding principles of the country: They don’t want to look weak, and they think that it only affects people they don’t mind seeing die anyway. As for the idea that Al-Qaeda is so much of a threat that it requires extraordinary extensions of the president’s powers, I can only say that the United States didn’t need a sovereign while facing the Nazis or Communist Russia, both of which were infinitely more resourceful and threatening than a bunch of camel-humpers living in remote caves in the most desolate places on earth. Rome didn’t need a sovereign for five hundred years, while facing half a dozen truly existential threats. We all know how that turned out. At least they knew when they had an emperor. They had a ceremony and everything. Obama just has a white paper.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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Joan Walsh: When liberals ignore injustice

Why isn’t there more outrage about the president’s unilateral targeted assassination program on the left?

Last year Brown University’s Michael Tesler released a fascinating study showing that Americans inclined to racially blinkered views wound up opposing policies they would otherwise support, once they learned those policies were endorsed by President Obama. Their prejudice extended to the breed of the president’s dog, Bo: They were much more likely to say they liked Portuguese water dogs when told Ted Kennedy owned one than when they learned Obama did.

But Tesler found that the Obama effect worked the opposite way, too: African-Americans and white liberals who supported Obama became more likely to support policies once they learned the president did.

More than once I’ve worried that might carry over to bad policies that Obama has flirted with embracing, that liberals have traditionally opposed: raising the age for Medicare and Social Security or cutting those programs’ benefits. Or hawkish national security policies that liberals shrieked about when carried out by President Bush, from rendition to warrantless spying. Or even worse, policies that Bush stopped short of, like targeted assassination of U.S. citizens loyal to al-Qaida (or “affiliates”) who were (broadly) deemed (likely) to threaten the U.S. with (possible) violence (some day).

Katrina vanden Heuvel: A Few Good (and Fair) Tax Hikes

While the New Year’s deficit deal divided congressional Republicans, there’s one point on which they’re all reading from the same hymnal: No more tax talk! The revenues under the deal are relatively modest-they leave rich people’s taxes well short of Clinton era rates. But Republicans, while claiming to care deeply about the deficit, have locked arms to take further tax increases off the table. We can’t let them.

The truth is, we could do our economy a world of good with some smart and fair tax hikes. While the current deficit hysteria is unmoored from reality, the right tax hikes could improve economic incentives, reduce obscene inequality and fund much-needed programs. Rather than the usual dust-ups over competing flavors of austerity, our budget debate should have healthy tax hikes front and center.

Frances Fox Piven: Movements Making Noise

American political history is usually told as the story of what political elites say and do. The twists and turns, advances and setbacks, wars, disasters and recoveries, are said to be the work of the founders, or of the presidents, or of the courts, or of the influence of a handful of great people who somehow emerge from the mass.

But this history can also be told as the story of the great protest movements that periodically well up from the bottom of American society and the impact these movements have on American institutions. There would be no founders to memorialize without the Revolutionary-era mobs who provided the foot soldiers to fight the British; no films about the quandaries of Abe Lincoln during the Civil War without the abolitionists and the thousands of runaway slaves; no Labor Day to celebrate without the sit-down strikers; no Martin Luther King to beatify without a movement of poor blacks who defied the Southern terror system.

Bryce Covert: Twenty Years After the FMLA, Our Family Leave Policies Are Dragging Us Down

Twenty years ago today, the US passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, finally codifying into law the right for most employees to take time off from work for the birth of a baby or to care for a seriously ill family member. Since then, workers have used it 100 million times to care for themselves and their families.

But this milestone, and all the good it’s done since, hasn’t been enough. We’ve fallen behind our industrialized peers on many key indicators since then. Only about 60 percent of workers have access to paid leave, putting a huge financial burden on new parents and those with sick family members. Our failure hits working families square on. But it’s a problem we all bear, because it’s also threatening our economic edge.

Nona Willis Aronowitz: In Whiter New Orleans, There’s a Gray Area

“The post-Katrina influx just made it harder for people who are from here and are not the right color,” says Tracey Brown, a 24-year-old black New Orleans native who has watched her city get whiter over the past decade. “I have to ask those transplants: ‘Are you working a job where everybody at your job is not only not from here, but also white? Why do you not question that?'”

It’s a well-known fact that behind New Orleans’ sunny story of rebuilding and revitalizing is a tale of a whitening city: Before Hurricane Katrina, the city was 67 percent African American; now that number hovers around 60. But the story isn’t so, well, black and white. As Ingrid Norton pointed out in GOOD last year, young, educated, black entrepreneurs are moving to New Orleans, too. That still makes them gentrifiers, in the cultural and economic sense, but their race affects the way they’re received by their new neighbors.

Ana Marie Cox: Obama Sounds Retreat on Gun Control but Declares War on Gun Crime

The president’s event in Minnesota suggests there is little chance of new gun control laws – but real hope of reducing gun violence

Observers billed Obama’s speech here in the Twin Cities Monday afternoon as the first stop for a White House road show promoting gun control legislation, but the event’s tone, its location, and, yes, even its content signal that the White House has chosen a circuitous route in pursuit of its goals. The goals themselves have changed, too, as the White House shifts our attention away from the specific horror of Sandy Hook to the more mundane living nightmare of daily gun violence.

The White House told reporters that the visit would highlight the strides Minneapolis has made in reducing youth violence – this alone shows an unremarked-on, easy change of lanes, in terms of goals. Minnesota has seen two school shootings in the past decade, including one that ended the lives of ten people, including the shooter; but neither the president nor the White House press team brought them into the conversation.

On This Day In History February 6

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 6 is the 37th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 328 days remaining until the end of the year (329 in leap years).

On this day in 1952, Elizabeth II becomes the first Queen regnant of the United Kingdom and several other realms since Queen Victoria, upon the death of her father, George VI. At the exact moment of succession, she was in a treehouse at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya.

Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born 21 April 1926) is the Queen regnant of 16 independent sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. In addition, as Head of the Commonwealth, she is the figurehead of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations and, as the British monarch, she is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Elizabeth was educated privately at home. Her father, George VI, became King-Emperor of the British Empire in 1936. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, in which she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. After the war and Indian independence George VI’s title of Emperor of India was abandoned, and the evolution of the Empire into the Commonwealth accelerated. In 1947, Elizabeth made the first of many tours around the Commonwealth, and married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. They have four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward.

In 1949, George VI became the first Head of the Commonwealth, a symbol of the free association of the independent countries comprising the Commonwealth of Nations. On his death in 1952, Elizabeth became Head of the Commonwealth, and constitutional monarch of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Her coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised. During her reign, which at 58 years is one of the longest for a British monarch, she became queen of 25 other countries within the Commonwealth as they gained independence. Between 1956 and 1992, half of her realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics.

In 1992, which Elizabeth termed her annus horribilis (“horrible year”), two of her sons separated from their wives, her daughter divorced, and a severe fire destroyed part of Windsor Castle. Revelations on the state of her eldest son Charles’s marriage continued, and he divorced in 1996. The following year, her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris. The media criticised the royal family for remaining in seclusion in the days before Diana’s funeral, but Elizabeth’s personal popularity rebounded once she had appeared in public and has since remained high. Her Silver and Golden Jubilees were celebrated in 1977 and 2002 respectively, and planning for her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 is underway.

NDAA: “Systematic Assault on Constitution”

In May of 2011, Pulitzer prize winning author, Chris Hedges and several other prominent activists and politicians filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration  over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) alleging that it violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Hedges asserted that section 1021 (pdf) of the bill, which authorized indefinite military detention for “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces,” left him, as a working journalist, vulnerable to indefinite detention because neither Congress nor the president defined the terms “substantial support,” “associated forces” or “directly supported.” [Emphasis added.]

In a landmark ruling last September, Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York struck down the indefinite detention provision, saying it likely violates the First and Fifth Amendments of U.S. citizens. The Obama administration appealed. The arguments for that appeal will be heard today, Wednesday, February 6.

One of the seven plaintiffs, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! to discuss the case.

John T. Harvey: “The Coming Recession: How Fiscal Responsibility is Economic Suicide”

As you might have heard the economy is contracting while unemployment remains high inching higher especially in real terms again while Washington is too stupid or corrupt across the board to notice. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming even as just an above average layman. All this focus on austerity is detrimental. After all, spending is actually income and so are deficits which are the life blood of the private sector in the economy when it comes to those sectoral balances you hear me always harping about.

And on that point I refer to Post Keynesian economist Wynne Godley as he along with MMT economist L. Randall Wray predicted this crisis in 2000 and that matters. Therefore it’s safe to say the Post Keynesian school is pretty much vindicated. And part of this tradition can be read in Forbes magazine every month. Imagine that! I have thanks to discovering the work of the most excellent Post Keynesian/MMT economist John T. Harvey.

I have to thank NY brit expat for introducing me to John whom is not only a brilliant economist, but an all around cool guy who is very approachable and has an awesome taste in music. He stresses that the economics discipline hasn’t made economics very understandable to the general public and he’s right; however, you wouldn’t know that by reading his many excellent pieces on why everything people think they know about debt and deficits is absolutely wrong. As John points out, it’s not only wrong, it pervades this entire ignorant and corrupt political debate happening right now over this stupid sequester that was a creation of the White House and Congress.  

As you will read down below, this horrible self induced debt ceiling pro austerity political show where never is heard an encouraging word like full employment, but instead for Peter Peterson’s enjoyment, idiotic words praising deficit terrorism(budget balance and cutting our safety net) rule the day. It only amounts to economic decay and a likely recession on the way depending on how much deficit spending is cut in the coming days.