30 March 2012
ROMNEY: People with pre-existing conditions, as long as they have been insured before, they are going to be able to continue to have insurance.--Psycho Mormon and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, showing his Christian compassion for the sick while accusing the poor, uninsured in this country of lazily sitting around waiting to get sick before they get insurance.
LENO: Suppose they haven’t been insured before?
ROMNEY: Well, if they are 45 years old and they show up and say I want insurance because I have heart disease, it’s like, ‘Hey guys. We can’t play the game like that. You’ve got to get insurance when you are well and then if you get ill, you are going to be covered. [...]
We’ll look at a circumstance where someone is ill and hasn’t been insured so far, but people who have the chance to be insured –- if you are working in the auto business for instance, the companies carry insurance, they insure their employees, you look at the circumstances that exist –- but people who have done their best to get insured are going to be able to be covered. But you don’t want everyone saying, ‘I am going to sit back until I get sick and then go buy insurance.’ That doesn’t make sense. But you get defined rules and get people in who are playing by the rules.
The Bachmann and Romney quotes are to illustrate how unlike Jesus the GOP Christians actually are. They are always moralizing and invoking their god, yet when push comes to shove they abandon the principles and tenets of Christianity and embrace antipathy for anyone except those who are just like them. Never mind that every member of Congress and every Prez and VP get free health insurance paid for by us taxpayers. Good enough for them, but fuck us regular Americans for wanting to be treated equally, eh? Then it somehow becomes "socialism".
--Christian psycho and Minnesota representative Michelle Bachmann accusing 40 million Americans (including myself) of lying about not being able to afford health insurance.
27 March 2012
1. Prominent conservative websites published fake photos of Martin. Twitchy, a new website run by prominent conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, promoted a photo — purportedly from Martin’s Facebook page — that shows Martin in saggy pants and flipping the bird. The photo, which spread quickly on conservative websites and Twitter, is intended to paint Martin as a thug. As Twitchy later acknowledged, it is not a photo of Trayvon Martin. [Examiner]The final part of the effort to smear Trayvon Martin is to link him and his supporters to irresponsible fringe groups like the New Black Panthers and marginal provocateurs like Louis Farrakhan. Threats by these groups are serious and should be investigated, but they have nothing to do with Martin or his supporters. The leader of the effort to associate Martin with these groups is Matt Drudge. You can see how he is framing the story today here.
2. The Sanford Police selectively leaked irrelevant, negative information about Martin. The authorities told the Orlando Sentinel this morning that Trayvon was suspended from school for ten days “after being found with an empty marijuana baggie.” There is no evidence that Martin was under the influence of drugs at the time of his death, nor would prior possession of marijuana be a reason for killing him. It’s unclear what the relevance of the leak was, other than to smear Martin. [Orlando Sentinel]
3. On Fox News, Geraldo said that Martin was dressed “like a wannabe gangster.” Bill O’Reilly agreed with him. The sole evidence is that Martin was wearing a hoodie. Geraldo added that “everyone that ever stuck up a convenience store” was wearing a hoodie. [ThinkProgress; The Blaze]
4. Without any evidence, prominent right-wing bloggers suggested that Martin was a drug dealer. Right-wing blogger Dan Riehl advances the theory, also advanced in a widely linked peice on a site called Wagist. There does not appear to be any evidence to support this claim whatsoever. [Riehl World View]
5. Without any evidence, a right-wing columnist alleged that Martin assaulted a bus driver. Unlike Zimmerman, Trayvon has no documented history of violence. This allegation continues to be advanced by a blogger on the Examiner even after the real reason was leaked to the police and confirmed by the family. [Miami Herald; Examiner]
6. Zimmerman’s friend says Martin was to blame because he was disrespectful to Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s friend Joe Oliver said that Martin would not have been shot to death if Trayvon had just said “I’m staying with my parents.” Of course, Zimmerman was not a police officer, and Trayvon had no duty to tell him who he was or where he was going. [NBC News]
Ultimately, whether Martin was a perfect person is irrelevant to whether Zimmerman’s conduct that night was justified. Clearly, there are two different versions of the events that transpired on February 26, the night Trayvon was killed. There are conflicting statements by witnesses and conflicting evidence as to who was the aggressor. Zimmerman has the right to tell his side of the story. But his opportunity to do this will come in a court of law after he is charged and arrested. In the meantime, Zimmerman’s supporters should stop trying to smear the reputation of a dead, 17-year-old boy.
(Reuters) - The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.
Scientific estimates differ but the world's temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.
As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests.
"This is the critical decade. If we don't get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines," said Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University's climate change institute, speaking at a conference in London.
Despite this sense of urgency, a new global climate treaty forcing the world's biggest polluters, such as the United States and China, to curb emissions will only be agreed on by 2015 - to enter into force in 2020.
"We are on the cusp of some big changes," said Steffen. "We can ... cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state."
For ice sheets - huge refrigerators that slow down the warming of the planet - the tipping point has probably already been passed, Steffen said. The West Antarctic ice sheet has shrunk over the last decade and the Greenland ice sheet has lost around 200 cubic km (48 cubic miles) a year since the 1990s.
Most climate estimates agree the Amazon rainforest will get drier as the planet warms. Mass tree deaths caused by drought have raised fears it is on the verge of a tipping point, when it will stop absorbing emissions and add to them instead.
Around 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon were lost in 2005 from the rainforest and 2.2 billion tonnes in 2010, which has undone about 10 years of carbon sink activity, Steffen said.
One of the most worrying and unknown thresholds is the Siberian permafrost, which stores frozen carbon in the soil away from the atmosphere.
"There is about 1,600 billion tonnes of carbon there - about twice the amount in the atmosphere today - and the northern high latitudes are experiencing the most severe temperature change of any part of the planet," he said.
In a worst case scenario, 30 to 63 billion tonnes of carbon a year could be released by 2040, rising to 232 to 380 billion tonnes by 2100. This compares to around 10 billion tonnes of CO2 released by fossil fuel use each year.
Increased CO2 in the atmosphere has also turned oceans more acidic as they absorb it. In the past 200 years, ocean acidification has happened at a speed not seen for around 60 million years, said Carol Turley at Plymouth Marine Laboratory.
This threatens coral reef development and could lead to the extinction of some species within decades, as well as to an increase in the number of predators.
As leading scientists, policy-makers and environment groups gathered at the "Planet Under Pressure" conference in London, opinions differed on what action to take this decade.
London School of Economics professor Anthony Giddens favours focusing on the fossil fuel industry, seeing as renewables only make up 1 percent of the global energy mix.
"We have enormous inertia within the world economy and should make much more effort to close down coal-fired power stations," he said.
Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell favours working on technologies leading to negative emissions in the long run, like carbon capture on biomass and in land use, said Jeremy Bentham, the firm's vice president of global business environment.
The conference runs through Thursday.
By Katrina vanden Heuvel, Tuesday, March 27, 8:52 AM
Here’s something I bet you wouldn’t think I’d say: They’re right. There is a moral crisis in the United States. The only thing is — they’re wrong about what it is and who is causing it.
They dress these policies up sometimes, give them catchy titles like Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity.” But they never cease to imbue them with the kind of moral decisions that ought to make anyone furious. Ryan’s latest budget really is case in point. It’s a plan that says that increases in defense spending are so essential, that massive tax cuts for the wealthy are so necessary, that we must pay for them by ripping a hole in the social safety net. The poor need Medicaid to pay for medicine and treatment for their families? We care, we really do, but the wealthy need tax cuts more. Food stamps the only thing standing between your children and starvation? Listen, we feel your pain. We get it. But we’ve got more important things to spend money on. Like a new yacht for that guy who only has one yacht.
It’s hard to point to a single priority of the Republican Party these days that isn’t steeped in moral failing while being dressed up in moral righteousness. This week, for example, they are hoping the Supreme Court will be persuaded by radical (and ridiculous) constitutional arguments to throw out some or all of the Affordable Care Act. Sure, you could argue that it’s really nice to make sure 31 million people who didn’t have health care can get it. Sure you could make the case that lifetime limits are a bad thing, that women shouldn’t have to pay more for health insurance just because they’re women, that the United States shouldn’t be a country where you die because you lost your coverage when you lost your job. But then again, liberty. Let’s not forget liberty. Also, freedom.
It is a very strange thing that the people who lecture most fervently about morality are those who are most willing to fight for policies that are so immoral. They watch Wall Street turn itself into the Las Vegas strip, take the economy down and destroy people’s lives and livelihoods. To that they say, “By God we need less regulation. Get me the hose, I have things to water down!” They see a CEO of a bank or a corporation, someone who passed off all of the risk and took on all of the reward, and they say, “Get that man a bigger bonus! In fact, get him two!”
They see corporate interests flood the political system with unfathomably large sums of money, they see lobbyists defining the terms of debate, and they say, “Now this . . . this is what democracy should look like.”
They see an environmental crisis spinning out of control, the effects of climate change being felt already, the possibility of the biggest natural disaster in modern human history. To which they ask, “Anyone know if we can drill this hole any deeper?”
So yes, Rick Santorum. Yes, Mitt Romney. Yes, Paul Ryan and Republican politicians all over this nation. You are right, as right as you’ve ever been. There is a moral crisis in this country. A horrifyingly, back-breaking, bankrupt-the-core-of-this-nation style crisis. But it isn’t women or the poor or the middle class or the gay community or health-care advocates or environmentalists that are causing it.
By N.C. Aizenman, Published: March 26
The individual insurance mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain health coverage or pay a fine, was the brainchild of conservative economists and embraced by some of the nation’s most prominent Republicans for nearly two decades. Yet today many of those champions — including presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — are among the mandate’s most vocal critics.
“The ironies to this story are endless and everywhere,” said John McDonough, a professor at the Harvard University School of Public Health who, as a Senate Democratic staffer, played a key role in drafting the law.
The tale begins in the late 1980s, when conservative economists such as Mark Pauly, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of business, were searching for ways to counter liberal calls for government-sponsored universal health coverage.
“We wanted to find an alternative that was more consistent with market-oriented economic ideas and would involve less government intervention,” Pauly said.
His solution: a system of tax credits to ensure that all Americans could purchase at least bare-bones “catastrophic” coverage.
Pauly then proposed a mandate requiring everyone to obtain this minimum coverage, thus guarding against free-riders: people who refuse to buy insurance and then, in a crisis, receive care whose costs are absorbed by hospitals, the government and other consumers.
Heath policy analysts at the conservative Heritage Foundation, led by Stuart Butler, picked up the idea and began developing it for lawmakers in Congress.
By 1993, when President Bill Clinton was readying his major health-care overhaul bill, the Heritage approach — subsidizing and facilitating the purchase of private health plans, while using the individual mandate to maximize participation — had gelled as the natural Republican alternative.
Then-Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) formally proposed it in a bill that attracted 20 Republican co-sponsors; the bill foundered once Clinton’s effort unraveled. But the idea of the mandate gained currency in the ensuing years as Democrats chastened by the failure of the Clinton plan began considering new solutions more likely to attract bipartisan support....
Who is George Zimmerman? More information emerges about the shooter of Trayvon Martin - BlogPost - The Washington Post
While Zimmerman told police he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense, the case has spurred national outrage and accusations the shooting was race-based. Online petitions, protests, and statements by African American and civil rights leaders have all demanded Zimmerman be brought to justice. Zimmerman has not been arrested, and Sanford, Fla. police say they do not have any information to dispute his self-defense claim. Federal agencies have now taken over the case.
A report in the Orlando Sentinel today has more information about Zimmerman. The 28-year-old was born in Virginia, attended Seminole State College, and aspired to become a law-enforcement officer, according to the Sentinel. A former neighbor in Manassas, Va., told the news site Zimmerman was “a good-enough kid” when he was younger.
The Sentinel also reports that Zimmerman has allegations of domestic violence and criminal misconduct in his past. In one case, Zimmerman allegedly pushed a state alcohol agent because he was arresting one of his friends. Zimmerman avoided conviction by entering a pretrial-diversion program, according to the Sentinel. In another case, a woman accused Zimmerman of domestic violence, but Zimmerman filed a petition “of his own” the following day, the Sentinel reports.
The news site notes that injunctions have kept the cases’ outcomes sealed.
But Zimmerman had also been effective at times as a neighborhood watchman, according to the Miami Herald. He called 911 to report suspicious activity in the neighborhood nearly 50 times in the last year, the Herald reports.
“He once caught a thief and an arrest was made,” Cynthia Wibker, secretary of the homeowners association, told the Herald. “He helped solve a lot of crimes.”
There are indications that Zimmerman may not have been an official neighborhood watchman, however. In a statement, the National Sheriffs’ Association said its Neighborhood Watch Program is to act as the “eyes and ears” within the community and that the “the alleged action of a ‘self-appointed neighborhood watchman’ last month in Sanford, Fla. significantly contradicts the principles” of the program.
“NSA has no information indicating the community where the incident occurred has ever even registered with the NSA Neighborhood Watch program,” it said.
In a letter to the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman’s father defended his son, saying the portrait in the media is “extremely misleading.” The letter reads, in part:
“George is a Spanish speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever.... The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth...
“At no time did George follow or confront Mr. Martin. When the true details of the event become public, and I hope that will be soon, everyone should be outraged by the treatment of George Zimmerman in the media.”Read more about the Trayvon Martin case here.
Update, 5, 19 p.m.:
The city of Sanford has posted a letter explaining why Zimmerman was not arrested. Read it here.
Update, 5:53 p.m.:
A lot of the conversation around this story has been centered on Zimmerman and his race. Zimmerman’s race is white; his ethnicity is Hispanic. Hispanic is an ethnicity category, not a race.
Zimmerman, by his own admission, murdered Trayvon Martin in cold blood. He may cite state law and the cops may shield him from a murder charge, but this is obviously murder. Zimmerman may claim he was attacked but how would any of us respond if someone jumped out of a car and leveled a gun on us? Some might just do as the gunman says; others of us, in fear of our lives, might try to get the gun away from our antagonist, which Martin did. Zimmerman says as much when he claims Martin attacked him and tried to get his gun. How would Martin have known there was a gun to take away unless it was already out?!? Worse, Zimmerman looks like a big boy. Are we to believe a scrawny, unarmed 17 year old boy was a threat to his life. Give me a break! Shame on Florida and the Sanford cops. All of Florida must have been a fans of HBO's Deadwood because you can get away with killing whoever you please so long as you lie well enough and have popular support.
25 March 2012
She yelled from a wheelchair at St. Mary's Health Center security personnel and Richmond Heights police officers that her legs hurt so badly she couldn't stand.
She had already been to two other hospitals that week in September, complaining of leg pain after spraining her ankle.
This time, she refused to leave.
A police officer arrested Brown for trespassing. He wheeled her out in handcuffs after a doctor said she was healthy enough to be locked up.
Brown was 29. A mother who had lost custody of two children. Homeless. On Medicaid. And, an autopsy later revealed, dying from blood clots that started in her legs, then lodged in her lungs.
She told officers she couldn't get out of the police car, so they dragged her by her arms into the station. They left her lying on the concrete floor of a jail cell, moaning and struggling to breathe. Just 15 minutes later, a jail worker found her cold to the touch.
Officers suspected Brown was using drugs. Autopsy results showed she had no drugs in her system...
16 March 2012
This week, I've been exploring all the different types of ways police and the District Attorney's office in New York have been monitoring, bullying, and harassing Occupiers. Of course, this civil liberties accosting is by no means isolated to the New York City area as we saw on Tuesday when dozens of police equipped with shotguns and assault rifles stormed a Miami, Florida apartment and drew their weapons on peaceful protesters and children with the local Occupy Wall Street campaign.
"They are calling us terrorists, but what I saw today was demons pointing guns at us," Ramy Mahmoud adds to the account. "They terrified us.”
The Tampa City Council recently voted on using some of the $50 million in federal grants secured by the city for the 2012 Republican National Convention for a "series of police upgrades" that will include an armoured SWAT truck and a high-tech communication system.The city council agreed to spend nearly $237,000 on a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle, which will be used in conjunction with two aging armored vehicles the city acquired through the military surplus program. Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin told the Tampa Bay Times that the trucks are strictly for the purpose of protecting officers from potential gunfire, not for day-to-day patrolling and crowd control.
Although the vote was unanimous, City Council Vice Chairwoman Mary Mulhern expressed alarm about the purchase. Mulhern told AlterNet, “I didn't even know that our police force had a tank and Hamlin made a convincing argument that it’s been used to save a life. I would’ve voted no if we didn’t already have one -- it’s chilling that the police have a tank.” She fears these types of purchases could “militarize” Tampa’s police force.
12 March 2012
In a development with potentially profound implications — both for Medicare itself and for the broader ideological fight between the two parties over the role of government — researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine believe that the growth in per patient Medicare costs has slowed, contra earlier projections that spending would soar at an unsustainable rate. More importantly, the researchers believe this trend will hold over time, thanks largely to the Affordable Care Act’s sweeping cost-control policies.
It’s not yet clear whether the trend will be permanent — one key reason cost growth has slowed has nothing to do with policy or innovation, but rather that the economy has been depressed for years. But the ACA expanded on provider payment savings policies from the 2000s and adopted a plethora of new measures, some of which are already proving successful at reducing spending. On top of that, U.S. medical cost growth, long having exceeded other areas of the economy, is currently at a five-decade low and more closely in line with GDP.
“On the whole, we do not believe that the recent slowdown in Medicare spending growth is a fluke,” wrote the researchers Chapin White and Paul Ginsburg. Thanks to the cost-control reforms over the last decade, they added, “the CBO projects that over the next decade Medicare spending per enrollee will grow substantially more slowly than the overall economy.” They argued that the ACA in particular lays the framework for longer term cost-control by transitioning the provider reimbursement system from paying for quantity to paying for quality, something even Republicans quietly believe is a good idea.
If the cost-growth slowdown continues into the foreseeable future, it could have dramatic implications on the future of health care policy.
The conservative movement has disliked Medicare ever since its inception in the early 1960s, when Ronald Reagan argued it would spell the end of freedom in America. Half a century after enactment, Republicans have found a potent pretext to dismantle the senior safety-net program: impending fiscal doom. Indeed, official projections in recent years have found that Medicare spending is on course to swallow the entire federal budget in half a century. And that has been the central justification for the GOP’s plan, written by Rep. Paul Ryan, to phase out traditional Medicare and replace it with a subsidized private insurance system.
But if the NEJM projections hold, the threat of fiscal catastrophe would lose steam. And that means Republicans would have to resort to ideological arguments against Medicare if they want to end its basic structure — a hard sell given the program’s immense popularity. Prior efforts to dramatically scale back Medicare benefits have fallen flat, and without being able to portray privatization or “premium support” as critical to avoiding fiscal apocalypse, as Ryan does on a regular basis, there’s no reason to expect a different outcome.
Ironically, the news of the changing trend line comes amid a congressional debate over the future of Medicare. House committees last week cleared GOP-sponsored legislation to repeal the health care law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel of 15 appointed experts who will be charged with limiting Medicare per-enrollee spending to per-capita GDP growth plus 1 percent — it would do so via provider cuts, which if too steep could restrict access to care. Part of the reason Republicans want to repeal IPAB is that it may render their push for a privatized system irrelevant.
Santorum begins the piece by condemning the Obama administration for enacting polices to address the issue. "We are the collateral damage of the war against global warming," he claims, grouping himself and everyone else with workers in the fossil fuels industry who might lose jobs because of greenhouse gas regulations.
But he saves the brunt of his criticism for rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, accusing them in the headline of the piece of being "blown and tossed by the winds of political correctness" in their previous statements supporting action on climate change. He writes:
Of all the GOP candidates, I am the only one who has not bowed, and will never bow, to this liberal orthodoxy. I did not pander when global warming seemed cool to the press and to Hollywood. We know that climate changes over time, that he earth warms and cools over time. This debate is about whether human activity plays a role, and whether U.S. emissions cuts can have any effect when China and India refuse to go along. The apostles of this pseudo-religion believe that America and its people are the source of the earth's temperature. I do not.Of course it's nothing new for Rick Santorum to bash climate science. He's called it a "beautifully concocted scheme" and just another way for Democrats to create "a system that forces you to do what they think you should do." But this latest column includes a culture-war flourish on the issue that Santorum has stopped short of offering before.
10 March 2012
09 March 2012
RT broke the news last month that H.R. 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, had overwhelmingly passed the US House of Representatives after only three lawmakers voted against it. On Thursday this week, President Obama inked his name to the legislation and authorized the government to start enforcing a law that has many Americans concerned over how the bill could bury the rights to assemble and protest as guaranteed in the US Constitution.
Under H.R. 347, which has more commonly been labeled the Trespass Bill by Congress, knowingly entering a restricted area that is under the jurisdiction of Secret Service protection can garner an arrest. The law is actually only a slight change to earlier legislation that made it an offense to knowingly and willfully commit such a crime. Under the Trespass Bill’s latest language chance, however, someone could end up in law enforcement custody for entering an area that they don’t realize is Secret Service protected and “engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct” or “impede[s] or disrupt[s] the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.”
The Secret Service serves as the police that protects not just current and former American presidents, but are also dispatched to monitor special events of national significance, a category with a broad cast of qualifiers. In the past, sporting events, state funerals, inaugural addresses and NATO and G-8 Summits have been designated as such by the US Department of Homeland Security, the division that decides when and where the Secret Service are needed outside of their normal coverage.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund tells the International Business Times that the Trespass Bill in its current form “means it's easier to prosecute under 'knowingly,'” instead of both knowingly and willfully, “which is an issue because someone could knowingly enter a restricted but not necessarily realize they are committing a crime.” Speaking with IB Times, Verheyden-Hilliard tries to lay to rest claims that the Constitution will be crippled by the Trespass Bill, but acknowledges that it does indeed allow law enforcement to have added incentive to arrest protesters who could be causing a disturbance.
"[HR 347] has been described as a death knell for the First Amendment, but that isn't supported by the facts," Verheyden-Hilliard adds. "This has always been a bad law."
Gabe Rottman of the American Civil Liberties Union adds to IB Times, "Bottom line, it doesn't create any new violations of the law.” So far, however, it has raised awareness of the levels that the US government are willing to go to in order to make it harder to express ones’ self.
Under the act, protesting in areas covered by Secret Service could land a demonstrator behind bars, and the thing about the Secret Service (in case you couldn’t tell by their name), is that they don’t always make it clear where they are. You could even say that the service they provide, at times, is kept secret.
Presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are now officially covered under Secret Service protection, making it a federal offense to disrupt a campaign stop. That means whether it’s by way of a glitter bomb protest or causing a disturbance on the same Holiday Inn hotel floor that Santorum is staying in, doing such could cause a bit of a legal battle for the persons involved.
Although the G-8 Summit originally scheduled for Chicago this spring would have made much of the Windy City a protected area where crimes could easily be tacked on to arrested protesters, the event was moved this week to the presidential retreat at Camp David. In turn, many have suggested that the White House is only going out of their way to limit protesting rights. While a Chicago summit would have meant the Trespass Bill could have been enforced in the same area where thousands of demonstrators were expected to protest, moving the event to a heavily fortified rural location will instead deter protesters from likely coming close to the meeting at all.
And before you forget, the president can now detain you for getting too close to his front yard, order your assassination if the country considers you a threat and lock you away for life with no charge if you’re alleged to be a terrorist. You, on the other hand, can’t yell obscenities at Newt Gingrich without risking arrest.
Suelo has defied these laws. His primary residence is the canyons near Arches National Park, where he has lived in a dozen caves tucked into sandstone nooks. In the fall of 2002, two years after quitting money, he homesteaded a majestic alcove high on a cliff, two hundred feet across and fifty feet tall. Sitting inside and gazing into the gorge below felt like heralding himself to the world from inside the bell of a trumpet.
Suelo's grotto was a two-hour walk from pavement, and he settled in for the long haul. He chipped at the rocky ground to create a wide, flat bed, and lined it with tarps and pads and sleeping bags that had been left out with someone else's trash. He built wood-burning cook-stoves from old tin cans. He learned to forage for cactus pods, yucca seeds, wildflowers, and the watercress that grew in the creek. He drank from springs, bathed in the creek. From a chunk of talus he carved a statue, a ponderous head like some monolith from Easter Island.
In warm months the cave attracted occasional hikers, and when Suelo was away, he left a note. Feel free to camp here. What's mine is yours. Eat any of my food. Read my books. Take them with you if you'd like. Visitors left notes in return, saying they were pleased with his caretaking.
Then one day, after several years of peace, a ranger from the Bureau of Land Management arrived to evict him. Suelo had long since violated the fourteen-day limit.
"If I were hiking along here and I saw this camp," said the ranger, "I'd feel like I wasn't allowed here, that it was someone else's space. But this is public land." The ranger wrote a ticket for $120.
"Well, I don't use money," Suelo said. "So I can't pay this." Not only did he not use money, he had discarded his passport and driver's license. He had even discarded his legal surname, Shellabarger, in favor of Suelo, Spanish for "soil."
The ranger felt conflicted. He'd spent years chasing vandals and grave robbers through these canyons; he knew that Suelo was not harming the land. In some ways, Suelo was a model steward. The ranger offered to drive him to the next county to see a judge and resolve the citation.
The next day, these odd bedfellows, a penniless hobo and a federal law enforcer, climbed into a shimmering government-issue truck and sped across the desert. As they drove, Suelo outlined his philosophy of moneyless living while the ranger explained why he had become a land manager-- to stop people from destroying nature. "And then someone like you comes along," he said, "and I struggle with my conscience."
They arrived at the courthouse. The judge was a kindly white-haired man. "So you live without money," he drawled. "This is an honorable thing. But we live in the modern world. We have all these laws for a reason."
Suelo hears this all the time: that we're living in different times now, that however noble his values, their practice is obsolete. He even heard it once when he knocked on the door of a Buddhist monastery and asked to spend the night, and a monk informed him that rates began at fifty dollars. The Buddha himself would have been turned away, Suelo observed.
"We're living in a different age than the Buddha," he was told. But Suelo simply doesn't accept this distinction.
To the Utah judge casting about for an appropriate sentence, Suelo suggested service at a shelter for abused women and children. They agreed on twenty hours. Suelo volunteered regularly at the shelter anyway, so the punishment was a bit like sending Brer Rabbit back to the briar patch. And within a few weeks of eviction from his grand manor, he found a new cave, this time a tiny crevice where he would not be discovered.
It's tempting to conclude that Suelo's years in the wilderness have transformed him into a crusader for the earth. And clearly his lifestyle has a lower impact than virtually anybody else's in America. Without a car or a home to heat and cool, he produces hardly any carbon dioxide. Foraging for wild raspberries and spearfishing salmon has close to zero environmental cost--no production, no transportation. And although food gathered from a dumpster must be grown and processed and shipped, rescuing it from the trash actually prevents the further expenditure of energy to haul and bury that excess in a landfill.
Suelo brings into existence no bottles, cans, wrappers, bags, packaging, nor those plastic six- pack rings that you're supposed to snip up with scissors to save the seabirds. As for the benefits of pitching Coke bottles into the recycling bin-- Suelo is the guy pulling those bottles out of the bin, using them until they crack, then pitching them back. The carbon footprint of the average American is about twenty tons per year. Suelo's output is probably closer to that of an Ethiopian-- about two hundred pounds, or about one half of 1 percent of an American's.
"He wants to have the smallest ecological footprint and the largest possible impact at improving the world," says his best friend, Damian Nash. "His life goal since I met him is to take as little and give as much as possible."
That said, Suelo constantly rethinks and interprets the rules of living without money. In the spring of 2001, Suelo had his one major lapse. While staying at a commune in Georgia, wondering how he was going to get back to Utah for a friend's wedding, a most tempting and confounding piece of mail arrived: a tax return in the amount of five hundred dollars. "This experiment of having no money is on hold now," Suelo wrote in a mass email to friends and family. He cashed the check, paid the deposit on a drive- away car, and blasted across America at the wheel of a brand- new, midnight- blue, convertible Mercedes-Benz 600 sports coupe.
"What a kick it is to go from penniless hitchhiker to driving a Mercedes!" he wrote. "I got a deep breath of the southern U.S. all the way to New Mexico, riding most the way with the top down. On top of that, I get so much pleasure seeing the look on hitch-hikers' faces when a Mercedes stops for them." Later that summer he ditched the remainder of the money "because it felt like a ball and chain," and has not returned to it since.
Suelo's quest for Free Parking might be easy if he availed himself of government programs or private homeless shelters. But Suelo refuses these charities as by-products of the money system he rejects. He does, however, accept hospitality that is freely given. He has knocked on the door of a Catholic Workers house, a Unitarian church, and a Zen center, and has been offered a place to sleep. He has spent time in a number of communes, including one in Georgia where members weave hammocks to provide income, and another in Oregon where residents grow their own vegetables. In Portland, Oregon, he stays at urban squats populated by anarchists, or in communal homes that welcome transients.
Suelo is also welcomed by family, friends, and complete strangers. He has lost count of the times someone picked him up hitchhiking, then brought him home and served him a meal. A Navajo man gave his own bed to Suelo and slept on the couch, then in the morning treated him to breakfast. Through two decades in Moab, Suelo has developed a reputation as a reliable house sitter. In a town of seasonal workers who often leave home for months at a time, his services are in high demand.
Even with all the roofs offered, Suelo spends the majority of his nights outdoors. He camps in wilderness, the red rock country around Sedona, Arizona, or the Gila of New Mexico, where he spent a few weeks learning survival skills from a hermit. One summer, Suelo commandeered a piece of plastic dock that had floated down the Willamette River, in the heart of Portland, and paddled it to the brambles of the undeveloped island. "I had visions of building a cob house," he says, but that didn't pan out.
He spent another summer in the woods by Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco. He dropped his pack just thirty feet from a trail and lived undetected in the heart of one of the wealthiest zip codes in America. He spent a month camped in a bird refuge on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. Turns out there are plenty of places to sleep free in America: you just have to know where to look...
08 March 2012
We saw this with Iraq, and now it is the same with Iran. A weak, ramshackle, ineffectual bogeyman is set up, like Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Americans are kept talking about the “threat” emanating from that country. It isn’t a real threat. It is manufactured by the Israeli intelligence agencies and promoted by their cells in the US.
With regard to Iraq, we were told that it had among the more powerful armies in the world, that it possessed frightening weapons of mass destruction, that it was a threat to Europe and the United States. None of these things was true.
Here are the top drawbacks to vigorous sanction regime against another country, as demonstrated by Iraq and Iran...
06 March 2012
Efraim Halevy, who was the director of the Mossad in the early 2000s and later the head of Israel's National Security Council, told HuffPost that by forecasting his military intentions -- and claiming that Obama would not act in the same way -- Romney is effectively "telling the Iranians, 'You better be quick about it.'""In the effort to demolish the president he is making the situation worse," Halevy concluded. He was reacting to Mitt Romney's Washington Post op-ed attacking President Obama's approach to Iran. To get a sense of the utter absurdity of Romney's op-ed, here's the first paragraph:
"If I'm sitting here in the month of March 2012 reading this, and I'm an Iranian leader, what do I understand? I have nine more months to run as fast as I can because this is going to be terrible if the other guys get in," Halevy said.
Beginning Nov. 4, 1979, dozens of U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House. Running for the presidency against Carter the next year, Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior. On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.Of course, just four years later the Reagan Administration—in violation of U.S. law—sold arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages. And if we're really going to dive into the wayback machine, we might as well point out that the Reagan administration also forged alliances with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Oh, and wasn't it Feckless Ron who pulled out of Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing?
So Mitt Romney might be beating his chest loud and proud, but he's got no clue what he's talking about. And as obvious as it is that Romney rhetoric is calculated for political gain, he's going to come up short, because given the choice between President Obama's record on keeping America safe and secure and the Republican record in the eight years before Obama took office, Obama will win each and every time.
I encourage my readers to read the piece Romney wrote for the Washington Post and see how clueless he is about foreign policy. He basically says Obama isn't doing anything while saying he would do exactly what Obama is doing now! Yes folks, Romney is that dumb. Further, he gets his facts wrong in several respects. I say there are 2 requisite traits a man who would be President of the US must possess: 1) That he knows what he's talking about and 2) He'll have a beer with the little people. Romney can do neither.
Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.
When Obama officials (like Bush officials before them) refer to someone “who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” what they mean is this: someone the President has accused and then decreed in secret to be a Terrorist without ever proving it with evidence. The “process” used by the Obama administration to target Americans for execution-by-CIA is, as reported last October by Reuters, as follows:
American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions . . . There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council . . . Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.
As Leon Panetta recently confirmed, the President makes the ultimate decision as to whether the American will be killed: “[The] President of the United States obviously reviews these cases, reviews the legal justification, and in the end says, go or no go.”
So that is the “process” which Eric Holder yesterday argued constitutes “due process” as required by the Fifth Amendment before the government can deprive of someone of their life: the President and his underlings are your accuser, your judge, your jury and your executioner all wrapped up in one, acting in total secrecy and without your even knowing that he’s accused you and sentenced you to death, and you have no opportunity even to know about, let alone confront and address, his accusations; is that not enough due process for you? At Esquire, Charles Pierce, writing about Holder’s speech, described this best: “a monumental pile of crap that should embarrass every Democrat who ever said an unkind word about John Yoo.”
* * * * *
I’ve obviously written about the Obama assassination program many times before but there are several points worth examining in light of Holder’s speech and the reaction to it:
(1) The willingness of Democrats to embrace and defend this power is especially reprehensible because of how completely, glaringly and obviously at odds it is with everything they loudly claimed to believe during the Bush years. Recall two of the most significant “scandals” of the Bush War on Terror: his asserted power merely to eavesdrop on and detain accused Terrorists without judicial review of any kind. Remember all that? Progressives endlessly accused Bush of Assaulting Our Values and “shredding the Constitution” simply because Bush officials wanted to listen in on and detain suspected Terrorists — not kill them, just eavesdrop on and detain them — without first going to a court and proving they did anything wrong. Yet here is a Democratic administration asserting not merely the right to surveil or detain citizens without charges or judicial review, but to kill them without any of that: a far more extreme, permanent and irreversible act. Yet, with some righteous exceptions, the silence is deafening.
How can anyone who vocally decried Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detention powers without judicial review possibly justify Obama’s executions without judicial review? How can the former (far more mild powers) have been such an assault on Everything We Stand For while the latter is a tolerable and acceptable assertion of war powers? If Barack Obama has the right to order accused Terrorists executed by the CIA because We’re At War, then surely George Bush had the right to order accused Terrorists eavesdropped on and detained on the same ground.
That the same Party and political faction that endlessly shrieked about Bush’s eavesdropping and detention programs now tolerate Obama’s execution program is one of the most extreme and craven acts of dishonesty we’ve seen in quite some time. By stark contrast, right-wing leaders, pundits and bloggers are being commendably consistent: they cheered for Bush’s due-process-free eavesdropping and detention programs and, based on exactly the same reasoning, they now lavishly praise President Obama for extending that mentality to assassinations.
(2) It isn’t merely the Democratic Party generally and its hordes of adherents who have performed a complete reversal on these issues as of January 20, 2009. It’s also true of Barack Obama and Eric Holder themselves.
Throughout the Bush years, then-Sen. Obama often spoke out so very eloquently about the Vital Importance of Due Process even for accused Terrorists. As but one example, he stood up on the Senate floor and denounced Bush’s Guantanamo detentions on the ground that a “perfectly innocent individual could be held and could not rebut the Government’s case and has no way of proving his innocence.” He spoke of “the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantanamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence.” He mocked the right-wing claim “that judicial inquiry is an antique, trivial and dispensable luxury.” He acknowledged that the Government will unavoidably sometimes make mistakes in accusing innocent people of being Terrorists, but then provided the obvious solution: “what is avoidable is refusing to ever allow our legal system to correct these mistakes.” How moving is all that? What a stirring tribute to the urgency of allowing accused Terrorists a day in court before punishing them.
Then we have Eric Holder, who in 2008 gave a speech to the American Constitution Society denouncing Bush’s executive power radicalism and calling for a “public reckoning.” He specifically addressed the right-wing claim that Presidents should be allowed to eavesdrop on accused Terrorists without judicial review in order to Keep Us Safe. In light of what the Attorney General said and justified yesterday, just marvel at what he said back then, a mere three years ago:
To those in the Executive branch who say “just trust us” when it comes to secret and warrantless surveillance of domestic communications I say remember your history. In my lifetime, federal government officials wiretapped, harassed and blackmailed Martin Luther King and other civil rights leader in the name of national security. One of America’s greatest heroes whom today we honor with a national holiday, countless streets, schools and soon a monument in his name, was treated like a criminal by those in our federal government possessed of too much discretion and a warped sense of patriotism. Watergate revealed similar abuses during the Nixon administration.
To recap Barack Obama’s view: it is a form of “terror” for someone to be detained “without even getting one chance to prove their innocence,” but it is good and noble for them to be executed under the same circumstances. To recap Eric Holder’s view: we must not accept when the Bush administration says “just trust us” when it comes to spying on the communications of accused Terrorists, but we must accept when the Obama administration says “just trust us” when it comes to targeting our fellow citizens for execution. As it turns out, it’s not 9/11/01 that Changed Everything. It’s 1/20/09.
(3) The ACLU said yesterday that Holder’s speech “is ultimately a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny.” The ACLU then added:
Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact.
Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power.
This is notable for three reasons. First, the ACLU isn’t merely saying this is a bad policy; they are instead pointing out the obvious: that there are “few things as dangerous” as having your own Government assert the right to target citizens for death with no judicial process, yet that’s exactly what the Obama administration is doing with little backlash. Second, the ACLU is challenging progressive defenders of the President to do what none will ever do: explain why they would trust not only Barack Obama, but also Sarah Palin, or Newt Gingrich, or Michele Bachmann, with the power to target U.S. citizens for assassination in secret and with no judicial oversight. Third, that the ACLU is condemning an Obama policy as “as dangerous to American liberty” as a policy can be — also known as: a supreme hallmark of tyranny — demonstrates the huge gulf that has arisen under the Obama presidency between the Democratic Party and the ACLU (a group universally praised by Democrats when a Republican President is in office), though this gulf has been obvious for quite some time.
(4) What’s so striking is how identical Obama officials and their defenders sound when compared to the right-wing legal theorists who justified Bush’s most controversial programs. Even the core justifying slogans are the same: we are at War; the Battlefield is everywhere; Presidents have the right to spy on, detain and kill combatants without court permission; the Executive Branch is the sole organ for war and no courts can interfere in the President’s decisions, etc. I spent years writing about and refuting those legal theories and they are identical to what we hear now. Just consider how similar the two factions sound to one another.
When it came to their War on Terror controversies, Bush officials constantly said back then exactly what Obama officials and defenders say now: we’re only using these powers against Terrorists — The Bad People — not against regular, normal, Good Americans; so if you’re not a Terrorist, you have nothing to worry about. Here’s White House spokesman Trent Duffy in December, 2005, defending Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program:
This is a limited program. This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings and churches.
Similarly, when George Bush went before the cameras in December, 2005, to proudly admit and defend his warrantless spying program, he assured the nation that this was all justified because it was only aimed at “the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.”
Find a defender of Obama’s assassination program and all you’ll hear is exactly the same thing: this is only being directed at The Terrorists like Awlaki, so we don’t need any court review or due process. Here was Holder yesterday: “it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks,” and assassination orders are only issued once “the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”
This is nothing more than an exercise of supremely circular reasoning and question-begging: whether someone is actually a Terrorist can be determined only when the evidence of their guilt is presented and they have an opportunity to respond, just as Holder and Obama said during the Bush years. Government assurances that they’re only targeting Terrorists — whether those assurances issue from Bush or Obama — should re-assure nobody: this is always what those who abuse power claim, and it’s precisely why we don’t trust government officials to punish people based on unproven accusations. Here’s what Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, said in order to assuage growing fears of new government eavesdropping powers, as reported by this July 25, 1969 article from Time Magazine:
Mitchell refused to disclose any figures, but he indicated that the number was far lower than most people might think. “Any citizen of this United States who is not involved in some illegal activity,” he added, “has nothing to fear whatsoever.”
We supposedly learned important lessons from the abuses of power of the Nixon administration, and then of the Bush administration: namely, that we don’t trust government officials to exercise power in the dark, with no judicial oversight, with no obligation to prove their accusations. Yet now we hear exactly this same mentality issuing from Obama, his officials and defenders to justify a far more extreme power than either Nixon or Bush dreamed of asserting: he’s only killing The Bad Citizens, so there’s no reason to object!
Here’s a critique I wrote in January, 2006, of the Bush DOJ’s 42-page whitepaper justifying its warrantless eavesdropping on accused Terrorists. Just read that and you’ll see: the essence of the Bush view of the world was that when it comes to war, it is the President who has sole responsibility and power and courts may not review or interfere with what he decides about who is a Terrorist and what should be done to them. The President is the “sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs,” declared the Bush DOJ, and ”among the President’s most basic constitutional duties is the duty to protect the Nation from armed attack” and thus, “the Constitution gives him all necessary authority to fulfill that responsibility.” Or, as Holder put it yesterday: “The conduct and management of national security operations are core functions of the Executive Branch, as courts have recognized throughout our history” and therefore “the president is [not] required to get permission from a federal court.” One cannot reject the Bush legal worldview invoked to justify those programs while embracing the Obama worldview expressed here — at least not with an iota of intellectual coherence or dignity.
(5) The dubious or outright deceitful legal claims made by Holder are too numerous to chronicle all of them, but there are a couple worth highlighting. He said, for instance, that “the Supreme Court has made clear that the Due Process Clause does not impose one-size-fits-all requirements, but instead mandates procedural safeguards that depend on specific circumstances.” That part is true: in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration’s argument that it could detain American citizens accused of Terrorism without any process for them to contest the accusations against them, though the Court held that something less than a full-scale trial could satisfy the Due Process clause. But as Marcy Wheeler points out, the Court imposed “due process” requirements that are the exact opposite of what the Obama administration is doing with its assassinations. Said the Court (emphasis added):
It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our Nation’s commitment to due process is most severely tested; and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad. . . .
We therefore hold that a citizen-detainee seeking to challenge his classification as an enemy combatant must receive notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker. . . .
In sum, while the full protections that accompany challenges to detentions in other settings may prove unworkable and inappropriate in the enemy-combatant setting, the threats to military operations posed by a basic system of independent review are not so weighty as to trump a citizen’s core rights to challenge meaningfully the Government’s case and to be heard by an impartial adjudicator.
How can Eric Holder possibly cite the Supreme Court’s Due Process holdings in the War on Terror context when the Court has held that citizens — merely to be detained, let alone killed — are entitled to exactly that which the Obama administration refuses to provide: “a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker” and “a citizen’s core rights to challenge meaningfully the Government’s case and to be heard by an impartial adjudicator”? It’s precisely because Obama refuses to fulfill those Court-imposed obligations before ordering citizens executed that this behavior is so objectionable.
If, as Holder argues, the Due Process Clause allows a citizen to be killed based on accusations by the President that are made in total secrecy and which he has no opportunity even to hear, let alone refute, then that core Constitutional safeguard is completely meaningless. And the Supreme Court in the very ruling Holder references leaves no doubt about that, as it required, even for someone accused of being an “enemy combatant” at the height of the War on Terror, that they be afforded “a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker.”
Then there is Holder’s reliance on the old neocon trick: cite what Lincoln did in the Civil War or what FDR did in World War II — as though those are comparable to the War on Terror — to justify what is being done now. Thus we hear this from Holder: “during World War II, the United States tracked the plane flying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto — the commander of Japanese forces in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway – and shot it down specifically because he was on board.” This argument has been hauled out before by administration officials when responding to my critiques of Obama’s assassination program.
Even leaving aside the vast difference between wars posing an existential threat (the Civil War, WW2) and the so-called War on Terror, the difference between the Yamamoto killing and Obama’s citizen assassinations is self-evident. There was no doubt that Adm. Yamamoto was in fact a commander of an enemy army at war with the U.S.: he wore that army’s uniform and identified himself as such. By contrast, there is substantial doubt whether Anwar Awlaki or other accused Al Qaeda members are in fact guilty of plotting Terrorist attacks on the U.S. That’s true for exactly the reason that Holder, in another part of his speech, explained: Al Qaeda members “do not behave like a traditional military – wearing uniforms, carrying arms openly, or massing forces in preparation for an attack.”
That’s why applying traditional war doctrine to accused Terrorists (who are not found on a battlefield but in their cars, their homes, at work, etc.) is so inappropriate, and why judicial review is so urgent: because the risk of false accusations is so much higher than it is when capturing uniformed soldiers on an actual battlefield. Just recall how dubious so many government accusations of Terrorism turned out to be once federal courts began scrutinizing those accusations for evidentiary support. Indeed, Yemen experts such as Gregory Johnsen have repeatedly pointed out in response to claims that Awlaki plotted Terrorist attacks: “we know very little, precious little when it comes to his operational role” and “we just don’t know this, we suspect it but don’t know it.” Given this shameful record in the War on Terror, what rational person would “trust” the Government to make determinations about who is and is not a Terrorist in the dark, with no limits or checks on what they can do?
(6) Holder’s attempt to justify these assassinations on the ground that “capture is not feasible” achieves nothing. For one, the U.S. never even bothered to indict Awlaki so that he could voluntarily turn himself in or answer the charges (though they at one point, long after they ordered him killed, they “considered” indicted him); instead, they simply killed him without demonstrating there was any evidence to support these accusations. What justifies that? Additionally, the fact that the Government is unable to apprehend and try a criminal does not justify his murder; absent some violent resistance upon capture, the government is not free to simply go around murdering fugitives who have been convicted of nothing. Moreover, that Awlaki could not have been captured in a country where the government is little more than an American client is dubious at best; if the U.S. could locate and enter the home of Osama bin Laden without the cooperation of the Pakistani government, why could it not do the same for Awlaki in Yemen?
But the most important point is that Holder is not confining this assassination power to circumstances where “capture is not feasible.” To the contrary, he specifically said that killing “would be lawful at least in the following circumstances”: meaning that the President’s asserted power is not confined to those conditions. As Charlie Savage wrote: “Significantly, Mr. Holder did not say that such a situation is the only kind in which it would be lawful to kill a citizen. Rather, he said it would be lawful ‘at least’ under those conditions.” We have no idea how far the Obama administration believes its assassination power extends because it refuses to release the legal memorandum justifying it; there is no legal framework governing it; and there is no transparency or accountability for the President’s execution orders.
* * * * *
In sum, Holder’s attempt to make this all seem normal and common should insult anyone with the most basic understanding of American law. As The New York Times put it when first confirming the assassination program in April, 2010: ” The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen. . . . It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.” To date, not a single such citizen has been identified.
As always, the most important point to note for this entire debate is how perverse and warped it is that we’re even having this “debate” at all. It should be self-negating — self-marginalizing — to assert that the President, acting with no checks or transparency, can order American citizens executed far from any battlefield and without any opportunity even to know about, let alone rebut, the accusations. That this policy is being implemented and defended by the very same political party that spent the last decade so vocally and opportunistically objecting to far less extreme powers makes it all the more repellent. That fact also makes it all the more dangerous, because — as one can see — the fact that it is a Democratic President doing it, and Democratic Party officials justifying it, means that it’s much easier to normalize: very few of the Party’s followers, especially in an election year, are willing to make much of a fuss about it at all.
And thus will presidential assassination powers be entrenched as bipartisan consensus for at least a generation. Let no Democrat who is now supportive or even silent be heard to object when the next Republican President exercises this power in ways that they dislike.
05 March 2012
Gene Howington, commenting on the vague language of the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011” that just passed the House 388-3, with Ron Paul among the three dissenters.