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Class War??? Elect “Progressive” Democrats??? November 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Political Commentary, Revolution.
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THE FIRS WEB SITE I GO TO EVERY DAY IS COMMON DREAMS.  I DON’T READ EVERYTHING BECAUSE I HAVE OTHER WEB SITES TO CHECK OUT, BUT I TRY TO FIND WHAT SPEAKS TO THE CRISES IN OUR WORLD TODAY AND WILL HAVE A UNIVERSAL AND HUMANISTIC APPEAL TO THE READERS OF MY BLOG.  AS HAPPENED TODAY, SOMETIMES I READ WHAT I HAVE A FEELING  WILL BE SOMETHING I CANNOT AGREE WITH.  AS WITH THESE KINDS OF ARTICLES, AS WELL AS THOSE WHICH FOR ME ARE RIGHT ON, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT THE COMMENTS AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE FOR THE MOST PART CONTAIN AS MUCH OR MORE WISDOM AS THE ARTICLE ITSELF.  THIS GIVES ME LOTS OF HOPE BECAUSE THESE ARE NOT OPINIONS OF THE SO-CALLED EXPERTS, BUT RATHER ORDINARY JANES AND JOES LIKE YOU AND ME.

I AM NOT GOING TO POST THESE TWO ARTICLES, RATHER GIVE YOU THE LINKS AND SUGGEST YOU DO AS I DID AND TAKE THE TIME TO READ ALL THE COMMENTS.  JUST READING THE TITLES OF THESE TWO ARTICLES GOT MY DANDER UP: “Bill de Blasio: Harbinger of a New Populist Left in America” AND “Class War is a Bad Strategy for Progressive Politics.”

JUST CLICK ON THESE TITLES TO READ THE ARTICLES AND I PROMISE YOU IT WILL BE WORTH YOUR WHILE TO READ ALL THE COMMENTS (THE GREAT PERCENTAGE OF WHICH I CONSIDER TO BE WELL STATED).  THERE IS A QUOTE IN THE COMMENTS OF THE SECOND ARTICLE BY FREDERICK DOUGLAS, WHICH I GIVE YOU HERE AS AN APPETIZER:

“The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. … If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” – Fredrick Douglas – 1857

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Does the Black Political Class Actually Protect or Defend Black People? If Not, What Do They Do? May 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Poverty, Race.
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Wed, 05/09/2012 – 14:43 — Bruce A. Dixon

 

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Do the black political class, our preachers, leading business people, and thousands of appointed and elected officials actually do us much good? Do they protect or defend us? Do they carry our wishes and will to the seats of power. Or do they just “represent” us by merely being there doing the bidding of corporate funders?

Does the Black Political Class Actually Protect or Defend Black People? If Not, What Do They Do?

By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Let’s take a trip to an imaginary black America, a place in which black leaders regularly stood on their hind legs to safeguard and protect the interest of their constituents against greedy banksters and institutional racism in the job, credit and housing markets. It’s a pretend world where African American politicians are busily engaged in building and expanding opportunity for all, and leading the fight for peace, jobs, justice, and quality education and participatory democracy. It’s a mythical place where prominent blacks in the business world too, work to create good jobs and stable communities and provide key support to the civic organizations engaged in this work as well.

Imagine that the Katrina disaster had occurred in such an imaginary world. Black America’s best and brightest would have convened hundreds of meetings and workgroups in real and virtual spaces across the country. Urban planners, educators, and professionals of all stripes would have speedily devised just and equitable plans for regional education, transit, agriculture, tourism and more. They would have insisted that the six figure number of black Gulf Coast residents deported to the four corners of the continental US on buses paid for by charitable donations to the Red Cross be returned and put to work rebuilding a just and sustainable region. This single example reveals that such a world, if it did exist would differ so profoundly from the one we know as to be almost unrecognizable.

In the real world that does exist, we now have more than 10,000 black elected officials, from small town mayors and sheriffs up to forty-some reps in Congress and the president. Still, black unemployment, black incarceration rates, foreclosures on black homeowners and the gap between black and white family wealth are at or near all time highs, with not a one of these key indicators moving rapidly in any good direction.

Black faces are found more often than ever in corporate boardrooms. Chevron named a tanker after Condoleezza Rice, one of its longtime board members. In recent years, black corporate execs have run the NAACP, the National Urban League and big-city school systems like Atlanta, where public schools CEO Erroll Davis boasts that he learned all he needed to know about running a school system in his time on the board of BP. Black-owned and operated banks in cities like New York are heavily invested in gentrifying developments that push African Americans out of the five boroughs toward the suburban periphery, or in many cases, back to the South. Some contend that it is the shriveling of urban housing and job markets in places like Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Detroit that accounts for the net flow of black population in the twenty-first century reversing from the north back to the south, something not seen in almost a hundred years.

National black leaders, even with popular winds at their backs were unable to prevent the legal lynching of Troy Davis. Since the freelance killing of Trayvon Martin more than thirty police and vigilante killings of young blacks have occurred, and our leaders can’t point to even the beginnings of any official process on the national level aimed at preventing the next thirty. Like the man whose lower lip brush the ground and whose upper lip caresses the clouds, they are all mouth.

Local black political leaders in places like Columbia SC and Atlanta GA have proved as vicious toward the homeless as any of their white colleagues. Black mayors like Philly’s Michael Nutter have endorsed widespread stop-and-frisk policies that presumptively criminalize black youth, and like his black and white counterparts in City Halls across the land, the mayor of Philadelphia tells parents and children that there is no alternative to the piecemeal destruction of public education, driving it into a crisis whose only solution, we will be told, is privatization. The black mayor of Newark is pushing to privatize that city’s water system, and the black mayor of Atlanta has proposed taxing rainwater that some catch as an alternative to the city’s wate rsupply.

At the 2004 Democratic convention, pointedly held on and constantly referring to the anniversary of King’s 1963 March on Washington, Barack Obama gathered more than 20 African American generals and admirals on stage around him, hypocritically linking their mission with that of the apostle of economic justice and nonviolence. Despite the fact that black America is the most antiwar segment of the US population, Barack Obama has boosted military spending to all time highs, has put more troops in more countries than any of his predecessors, and is waging wars in more countries, including African countries than any president in recent memory.

At that Democratic convention, just like the one in North Carolina this year, the goodie bags and receptions will be held by AT&T, the nuclear industry, GE and GM, Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Insurance, drone manufacturers and “defense” contractors, defending US interests in more than 140 countries. Nobody will be the least surprised when Barack Obama again proclaims himself the president of “clean coal and safe nuclear power.” For the black political class, the road leads to exactly the same destination as their white counterparts.

The Congressional Black Caucus and the CBC Foundation like the careers of most black politicians, and traditional civil rights organizations, from NAN to NAACP, the Urban League, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the National Conference of Black State Legislators, is funded by the generous contributions of actors like Microsoft, Boeing, Lockheed, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and on and on and on on and on. It’s hard to regard most of the black political class these days as anything but sock puppets for the folks who fund their careers.

The Congressional Black Caucus still stages a weeklong annual celebration of itself and the black political class. A look at its weeklong agenda any time over last few years shows lots of relationship workshops, celebrity meet-and-greets and workshops on how to be a black military subcontractor, a black real estate developer, a movie producer, or a contractor with the Department of Homeland Security. You will search in vain for workshops on how to organize to protect black homeowners and keep them in their homes, how to prevent municipal and state privatizations of transit, education and infrastructures, how to organize unions and strike for better wages and conditions, or sessions how to obtain permanent title to vacant urban land for community agriculture projects.

There are a handful of corporate actors, like Koch Industries and Exxon-Mobil that give exclusively or mainly to Republicans. But these are relatively few, and there are some big players that give mostly to Democrats as well. For the most part however, corporate America is happily bipartisan, with a pronounced bias toward incumbents of whatever party and color, and only too happy to shine on the favorite charities of black congresscreatures in the inner city, or Tom Joyner’s computer giveaways, or pet charter schools in black communities, to name just a few.

President Barack Obama, far from being the exception to this rule, will be standing atop a heap of more than one billion dollars in direct corporate contributions to his re-election campaign this year, in addition to another billion in indirect contributions to super-PACs, state and national Democratic parties, and other channels, even without the nickels and dimes of a diminishing number of hopeful ordinary people.

Since it doesn’t protect us, doesn’t defend our jobs, our homes, our education, our children or our elderly, all that the black political class can do for black people, all they can do to prolong their careers, is to wave in our faces the rancid racism of their Republican colleagues. And that’s what Republicans are —- not their rivals, but their colleagues. Keeping the black conversation focused on what racist s.o.bs these Republicans are is vital to the survival of the black political class. It takes attention away from the fact that black politicians in power, of whatever party, no matter what they say on the campaign trail, pursue roughly the same policies in office, in keeping with the fact that they all have the same funders.

The ideology of the black political class is best described with the clumsy world “representationalism”. It’s supposed to “represent” us, mostly by looking like us, but while not defending our children or elderly, not protecting our families or jobs or institutions, not defending our political gains or the public sector that our advocacy built. And the last thing the black political class will do is argue with militarism or war, even though these penalize black communities and nonwhite people around the world. It is only now, with the ascension of a black president, prominent blacks in all branches of the military, courts and corporate American that the end of the representationalist rainbow can clearly be seen. This is it. This is as good as it gets.

It’s time for something completely different. It’s been a long time since we had black leadership that didn’t depend on corporate America for its funding. But until our people can throw up new leaders and mass organizations whose bills aren’t paid by corporate elites, little will change. It’s time for all of us, and especially for those who would be leaders to let pharaoh go.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

REVEALED: The Democrats’ devious plan to compromise with the Republicans April 3, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
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–>, www.opednews.com, April 2, 2012

In Monday’s New York Times, Ross Douthat explains the devious reasoning behind the Democrats’ adoption of the individual mandate: “It protected the Democratic bill on two fronts at once: buying off some of the most influential interest groups even as it hid the true cost of universal coverage.”

Clever! But I can’t help feeling like Ross is forgetting something. There was some other reason Democrats adopted this policy. I’m almost sure of it. If you give me a second, I’m sure it’ll come to me.

Ah, right! Because Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was saying things like “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates,” and “individual mandates are more apt to be accepted by a majority of the people in Congress than an employer mandate.”

And it wasn’t just Grassley. A New York Times columnist by the name of Ross Douthat praised Utah Sen. Bob Bennett for “his willingness to co-sponsor a centrist (in a good way!) health care reform bill with the Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden.” That health-care reform bill was the Healthy Americans Act which included, yes, an individual mandate. But while Douthat did later say that the Healthy Americans Act wasn’t his “preferred health care reform,” at no point did he accuse Bennett of “buying off some of the most influential interest groups” even as he “hid the true cost of universal coverage.”

The Healthy Americans Act, meanwhile, had been cosponsored by a bevy of heavy-hitting Senate Republicans, including Lamar Alexander, Mike Crapo, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, Norm Coleman and Trent Lott. And it’s not like they were off the reservation in some significant way: In 2007, both Sen. Jim DeMint and the National Review endorsed Mitt Romney, who had passed an individual mandate into law in Massachusetts. In their endorsements, both icons of conservatism specifically mentioned his health-care plan as a reason for their endorsement. DeMint, for instance, praised Romney’s health-care plan as “something that I think we should do for the whole country.”

Avik Roy points out that many liberals — including candidate Barack Obama — were historically skeptical of the individual mandate. And that’s true! There was a robust debate inside the party as to whether Democrats should move from proposing a government-centric health-care model to one Republicans had developed in order to preserve the centrality of “personal responsibility” and private health insurers. Many liberals opposed such a shift. But they lost to the factions in the party that wanted health-care reform to be a bipartisan endeavor.

Roy tries to use this to draw some equivalence between the two parties. Both Democrats and Republicans changed their mind on the individual mandate, he argues. But there’s a key difference: The Democrats changed their mind in order to secure a bipartisan compromise on health-care reform. Republicans changed their mind in order to prevent one.

And so what did Democrats get for their troubles? Well, the individual mandate is the least popular element of the health-care law. The entire Republican Party decided the individual mandate was an unconstitutional assault on freedom. And today, even relatively moderate Republicans like Douthat present the mandate as some kind of underhanded trick.

That’s politics, I guess. But ask yourself: If Obamacare is overturned, and Obama is defeated, who will win the Democratic Party’s next fight over health care? Probably not the folks counseling compromise. Too many Democrats have seen how that goes. How much easier to propose a bill that expands Medicaid eligibility to 300 percent of the poverty line, covers every child through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and makes Medicare availability to every American over age 50. Add in some high-risk pools, pay for the bill by slapping a surtax on rich Americans — indisputably constitutional, as even Randy Barnett will tell you — and you’ve covered most of the country’s uninsured. Oh, and you can pass the whole thing through the budget reconciliation process.

I don’t think that’s a particularly good future for the health-care system. And I doubt that bill will pass anytime soon. But, if Obamacare goes down, something like it will eventually be passed. And what will Republicans have to say about it? That no, this time, they really would have worked with the Democrats to reform America’s health-care system? Who will believe them?

DO YOU STILL LOVE OBAMA? THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY? March 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
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“Partisan prosecution of crimes and non-crimes by Republicans under President Clinton has been aggravated by Republican defensiveness and Democratic spinelessness under Bush.  But it is the Democratic switch to defending all presidential wrongdoing since 2008 that has put the largest nails into the coffin of legitimate rule by law in this country.  Bush’s crimes have been legitimized.  Obama has claimed the power to torture as he deems necessary, the power to imprison and rendition as he sees fit, the power to murder any human being including U.S. citizens and children as he and he alone declares necessary, and powers of state secrecy that Nixon and Cheney never dreamed of.  While Bush lied the Congress into a war that a reasonably intelligent 8 year old could have seen through, Obama has made the launching of wars a matter for the president alone.  And that’s just fine with Democrats.”

This is an excerpt from “Un-Cheating Justice: Two Years Left to Prosecute Bush,” by David Swanson.  For the entire article: http://www.truth-out.org/un-cheating-justice-two-years-left-prosecute-bush/1330872233

The Democrats Attack Unions Nationwide May 16, 2011

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By shamus cooke
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Obvious political truths are sometimes smothered by special interests. The cover-up of the Democrats’ national anti-union agenda is possible because the truth would cause enormous disturbances for the Democratic Party, some labor leaders, liberal organizations and, consequently, the larger political system.
Here is the short list of states that have Democratic governors where labor unions are undergoing severe attacks:   Massachusetts  , Connecticut, Oregon, California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, Minnesota, Maryland and New Hampshire. Other states with Democratic governors are attacking unions to a lesser degree.
The Democrats in these states have sought to distance themselves from the Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, who have specifically attacked the collective bargaining rights of unions. The above Democrats all hide their anti-union attacks behind a “deep respect for collective bargaining;” akin to a thief who will steal your car but, out of respect, will not target your deceased Grandma’s diamond earrings.
For example, the anti-union Democratic governor of Connecticut is demanding $1.6 billion in cuts from state workers! The contract has not been ratified yet, but Governor Malloy referred to the agreement as: “historic because of the way we achieved it – we respected the collective bargaining process and we respected each other, negotiating in good faith, without fireworks and without anger.”
The anti-union Democratic governor of the state of Washington uses similar language:
“They [labor unions] contributed [to fixing the state budget deficit] with a salary cut; they contributed by paying more in health care. They have stepped up and said we want to be a part of the solution. I did it by going to the table, respecting their collective bargaining rights and we got the job done.”
The anti-union Democratic governor of Oregon is demanding 20 to 25 percent pay cut for state workers:
“But [says the Governor] those concessions will be made across a bargaining table through our collective bargaining process and with mutual respect.”
This garbage normally wouldn’t fool a 4th grader, but some labor leaders are playing dumb, in the hopes that the above attacks will not ruin the long-standing friendship between unions and Democrats. Of course, such hopes are founded on illusion: workers are not so blind as to not notice that the governors they campaigned for are now demanding their wages and benefits be destroyed in an unprecedented attack.
But by minimizing the Democrats role in targeting unions, some labor leaders are disarming the labor movement. On the one hand, labor leaders of both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations have drawn some correct conclusions from the events in Wisconsin, especially when they say that “labor is in the fight of its life” and “the corporations are out to bust unions.” On the other hand, both union federations have made excuses for the anti-union Democratic Party, enabling labor to be vulnerable on its “left” flank to the anti-union attack.
The fight against massive cuts in wages and benefits cannot be separated from the attack on collective bargaining; they are two sides of the same coin. Workers only care about collective bargaining because it enables them to improve their wages and benefits. A union that agrees to massive cuts in wages will not remain a union for long, since workers will not want to pay dues to an organization that cannot protect them. Concessionary bargaining destroys the power of a union in the same way that cancer destroys the body; pulling the plug [ending collective bargaining] comes after losing a battle with cancer.
Fighting the concessionary cancer is the essence of the problem. This is the real lesson of Wisconsin: workers want to fight back against the nationwide attack against their livelihoods, whether it be wages and benefits or collective bargaining. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win realize this to a certain degree; they are separately creating campaigns to deal with the attack, with SEIU jumping out in front with its Fight for a Fair Economy.
These union campaigns are doomed to fail if the energy generated by them is funneled into the 2012 campaign for Barack Obama.
Any successful union campaign will require that massive resources and energy be used, since the attack workers are facing is colossal. If workers are told to halt their campaigns to door knock and make phone calls for Obama, the campaign will lose all legitimacy, since Obama has established himself as a friend of Wall Street and thus no friend to workers. Voting for Democrats has a demoralizing effect on workers when the inevitable “betrayal” happens; and demoralized union members will not fight as effectively for their own pro-union campaign.
A successful union campaign will require that workers are energized about it. SEIU’s campaign focuses largely on making more connections with other labor and community groups, which is very positive. However, without waging an energetic battle to prevent state workers from making massive concessions, the campaign will fail, because workers who make massive concessions will be demoralized and not take the union campaign seriously, since it failed to address their most pressing needs. The fight to defend state workers has the potential — as Wisconsin proved — to unleash tremendous fighting energy among workers, while also uniting those in the broader community, who are eager for working people to fight back.
If labor unions continue down their current path of making huge concessions in wages and benefits while making excuses for the Democrats attacking them, the movement will wither and die.
If, on the contrary, labor unions demand that state budget deficits be fixed by taxing the rich and corporations, workers would respond enthusiastically; if public-sector unions demanded No Cuts, No Concessions, workers would energetically join the union’s cause; if unions banded together to demand that a national jobs campaign be created by taxing the top 1 percent, a flood of energy would erupt from working people in general; if, during election time, unions joined together to run their own independent candidates with these demands, an unstoppable movement would quickly emerge.
Without using aggressive demands aimed at solving the immediate problems facing working people, a social movement cannot be created to deal with the crisis facing labor unions and working people in general.    ONLY a national social movement with Wisconsin-like energy has the potential to shift the direction in which the country is going, away from the rich and corporations towards working people. Such a social movement cannot be born from soft demands, half-fought battles, or campaigning for Democrats.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for  Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)

1) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/nyregion/connecticut-reaches-deal-with-unions-to-close-budget-shortfall.html?_r=2&hp

2) http://www.npr.org/2011/02/27/134103416/Governors-Meet-As-Pro-Union-Protests-Spread

3) http://www.katu.com/news/local/117565323.html

The Absence of Debate over War May 24, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Published on Monday, May 24, 2010 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald

The Washington Post‘s Fred Hiatt ponders how little attention our various wars received during the primary campaigns that were just held:  “You would hardly know, from following this year’s election campaign or the extensive coverage of last week’s primaries, that America is at war. . . . those wars, and the wisdom of committing to or withdrawing from them, have hardly been mentioned in the hard-fought campaigns of the spring.”  Hiatt is right in that observation, and it’s worth examining the reasons for this.

One significant cause of America’s indifference to the wars we are waging is that those wars have virtually no effect on the overwhelming majority of Americans, while they impose a huge cost on a tiny sliver of the population:  those who fight the wars and their families.  Hiatt acknowledges that fact:  “it’s yet another reminder of American society’s separation from its professional military.”  If anyone would know about that, it’s the endless-war-loving, nowhere-near-a-battlefield Fred Hiatt.

Everyone from the Founders to George Orwell thought (and hoped) that the massive societal costs which war imposes would be a deterrent to their being fought, but most Americans who express their “support” for these wars bear absolutely no cost whatsoever.  Worse, many who cheer for our wars enjoy that most intoxicating and distorting reward:  cost-free benefits, in the form of vicarious feelings of strength, purpose, nobility and the like, all from a safe distance.  It’s very difficult to generate attention for political issues that do not personally and tangibly affect most Americans — that’s why the failing economy receives so much attention and our various wars (and civil liberties erosions) do not.

Then there’s the lack of partisan division over these wars.  During the Bush presidency, war debates raged because those wars — especially the Iraq war — were a GOP liability and a Democratic Party asset.  Anger over the Iraq War drove the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006 and Obama’s election in 2008 (though it did not drive the end of the war).  But now, America’s wars are no longer Republican wars; they’re Democratic wars as well.  Both parties are thus vested in their defense, which guts any real debate or opposition.  Very few Republicans are going to speak ill of wars which their party started and continued for years, and very few Democrats are going to malign wars which their President is now prosecuting.

Here we find, once again, one of the most consequential aspects of the Obama presidency thus far:  the conversion of numerous Bush/Cheney policies from what they once were (controversial, divisive, right-wing policies) into what they have become (uncontroversial bipartisan consensus).  One sees this dynamic most clearly in the Terrorism/civil-liberties realm, but it is quite glaring in the realm of war as well.  Hiatt describes it this way:

[M]aybe, in a time of toxic partisanship, we should be grateful for this inattention to the wars, taking the absence of debate as a sign of rare bipartisan consensus. Certainly few would miss the vitriol of the Iraq debate of a few years back.

It’s not surprising that Hiatt is grateful for the disappearance of what he calls “the vitriol of the Iraq debate a few years back.”  As one of the media’s leading cheerleaders for the invasion and ongoing occupation, it’s understandable that he wants no longer to be reminded of the enormous amounts of innocent blood which he and his war-cheering comrades have on their permanently drenched hands.  But he is right that to take “the absence of debate” as a “sign of rare bipartisan consensus.”  It’s true that the (dubious) perception that the Iraq War will soon end has probably dampened the urgency of that issue in the eyes of many people, as have the pretty words that Obama utters when he speaks of war, but the real reason the “debates” have disappeared is because it serves neither party to engage them. 

Perhaps the most significant factor of all in understanding this lack of debate is the fact that “war” is not some aberrational, temporary state of affairs for the country.  It’s the opposite.  Thanks to Fred Hiatt and his friends, war is basically the permanent American condition:  war is who we are and what we do as a nation.  We’re essentially a war fighting state.  We have been at “war”the entire last decade (as well as largley non-stop for the decades which preceded it), and continue now to be at “war” with no end in sight.  That’s true of our specific wars (in Afghanistan), and the way in which The War, more broadly, has been defined (i.e., against Islamic extremism/those who wish to harm Americans) makes it highly likely that it will never end in our lifetime.  The decree that we are “at war” has been repeated over and over for a full decade, drumbed into our heads from all directions without pause, sanctified as one of those Bipartisan Orthodoxies that nobody can dispute upon pain of having one’s Seriousness credentials immediately and irrevocably revoked.  With war this normalized, is it really surprising that nobody debates it any longer?  It’d be like debating the color of the sky.

That’s why I always find the War Excuse for anything the Government does so baffling and nonsensical.  Any objections one voices to what the Executive Branch does — indefinite detentions, presidential assassinations of citizens, extreme secrecy, etc. — will be met with the justification that such actions are permissible “during war,” as though “war” is some special, temporary, fleeting state of affairs which necessitates vesting powers in the government which would, during “normal” times, be impermissible.  But the contrast between “war and “normal times” is totally illusory.  For the United States, war is normalcy.  The “war” we’re fighting has been defined and designed to be virtually endless.  Political leaders from both parties have been explicit about that.  Here’s how Obama put it last May in his “civil liberties” speech:

Now this generation faces a great test in the specter of terrorism. And unlike the Civil War or World War II, we can’t count on a surrender ceremony to bring this journey to an end. Right now, in distant training camps and in crowded cities, there are people plotting to take American lives. That will be the case a year from now, five years from now, and — in all probability — 10 years from now.

All the way back in September, 2001, George Bush said basically the same thing:  “Now, this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. . . . Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.”  Thus:  to justify new and unaccountable powers based on the fact that we are “at war” is, in essence, to change the American political system permanently, because the “war,” and the accompanying powers that it justifies, are not going anywhere for many, many years to come.

With both political parties affirming over and over that we are going to be at “war” for years, indeed decades, it’s unsurprising that so few people are interested in debating “war.”  That’s true even for the limited question of Afghanistan, where most Republicans won’t question a war their President began and most Democrats won’t question a war their President has vigorously embraced as his own.  From the perspective of the permanent factions that rule Washington — from Wall Street and AIPAC to the intelligence and military “communities” — that’s the beauty of the two-party system:  as long as both party establishments support a particular policy, any meaningful debate over it comes to a grinding halt.

© 2010 Salon.com

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

Obama’s Natural Choice of Kagan May 10, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
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(Roger’s note: Greenwald notes that the Republicans when in power appoint those who reflect and represent their fundamental principles, while the Democrats compromise to the right.  The reason for this?  It may be a simplification, but in reality there are two constituencies in America: the corporations and the people (corporate versus general interests).  Both parties are owned in essence by the corporations.   The Republicans advance corporate interests with impunity, while the Democrats are more circumspect.  Both parties will occasionally bend to implement what is in the general interest of Americans, but only when they are under enormous popular pressure, and never in a way that seriously threatens the strangle hold the corporations have on the country.  Needless to say, with virtually no exceptions the mass media, also owned and controlled by corporations, go along; with the military always there holding the Big Stick.  This is called “democracy,” but in a world where capital reigns, democracy becomes a hollow farce.)

Published on Monday, May 10, 2010 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald

It’s anything but surprising that President Obama has chosen Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.  Nothing is a better fit for this White House than a blank slate, institution-loyal, seemingly principle-free careerist who spent the last 15 months as the Obama administration’s lawyer vigorously defending every one of his assertions of extremely broad executive authority.  The Obama administration is filled to the brim with exactly such individuals — as is reflected by its actions and policies — and this is just one more to add to the pile.  The fact that she’ll be replacing someone like John Paul Stevens and likely sitting on the Supreme Court for the next three decades or so makes it much more consequential than most, but it is not a departure from the standard Obama approach.

The New York Times this morning reports that “Mr. Obama effectively framed the choice so that he could seemingly take the middle road by picking Ms. Kagan, who correctly or not was viewed as ideologically between Judge Wood on the left and Judge Garland in the center.”  That’s consummate Barack Obama.  The Right appoints people like John Roberts and Sam Alito, with long and clear records of what they believe because they’re eager to publicly defend their judicial philosophy and have the Court reflect their values.  Beltway Democrats do the opposite:  the last thing they want is to defend what progressives have always claimed is their worldview, either because they fear the debate or because they don’t really believe those things, so the path that enables them to avoid confrontation of ideas is always the most attractive, even if it risks moving the Court to the Right. 

Why would the American public possibly embrace a set of beliefs when even its leading advocates are unwilling to publicly defend them and instead seek to avoid that debate at every turn?  Hence:  Obama chooses an individual with very few stated beliefs who makes the Right quite comfortable (even as they go through the motions of opposing her).  As Kevin Drum writes:

[R]ight now Obama has the biggest Democratic majority in the Senate he’s ever going to have. So why not use it to ensure a solidly progressive nominee like Diane Wood instead of an ideological cipher like Kagan? . . . . When Obama compromises on something like healthcare reform, that’s one thing. Politics sometimes forces tough choices on a president. But why compromise on presidential nominees? Why Ben Bernanke? Why Elena Kagan? He doesn’t have to do this. Unfortunately, the most likely answer is: he does it because he wants to.

It’s even less surprising that Obama would not want to choose someone like Diane Wood.  If you were Barack Obama, would you want someone on the Supreme Court who has bravely and resolutely insisted on the need for Constitutional limits on executive authority, resolutely opposed the use of Terrorism fear-mongering for greater government power, explicitly argued against military commitments and indefinite detention, repeatedly applied the progressive approach to interpreting the Constitution to a wide array of issues, insisted upon the need for robust transparency and checks and balances, and demonstrated a willingness to defy institutional orthodoxies even when doing so is unpopular?  Of course you wouldn’t.  Why would you want someone on the Court who has expressed serious Constitutional and legal doubts about your core policies?  Do you think that an administration that just yesterday announced it wants legislation to dilute Miranda rights in the name of Scary Terrorists — and has seized the power to assassinate American citizens with no due process — wants someone like Diane Wood on the Supreme Court?

One final thought about Kagan for now.  As I said from the beginning, the real opportunity to derail her nomination was before it was made, because the vast majority of progressives and Democrats will get behind anyone, no matter who it is, chosen by Obama.  That’s just how things work.  They’ll ignore most of the substantive concerns that have been raised about her, cling to appeals to authority, seize on personal testimonials from her Good Progressive friends, and try to cobble together blurry little snippets to assure themselves that she’s a fine pick.  In reality, no matter what they know about her (and, more to the point, don’t know), they’ll support her because she’s now Obama’s choice, which means, by definition, that she’s a good addition to the Supreme Court.  Our politics is nothing if not tribal, and the duty of Every Good Democrat is now to favor Kagan’s confirmation.  Conservatives refused to succumb to those rules and ended up with Sam Alito instead of Harriet Miers, but they had a much different relationship to George Bush than progressives have to Obama (i.e., conservatives — as they proved several times [Miers, immigration, Dubai Ports] — were willing to oppose their leader whey they disagreed).  The White House knows that progressives will never try to oppose any important Obama initiative, and even if they were inclined, they lack the power to do so (largely because unconditional support guarantees impotence).

All that said, I’ve said everything I had to say about Kagan in the pre-nomination process in order to enable as informed a public discussion as possible, and am not going to endlessly repeat those criticisms now just for the sake of doing so.  Perhaps the confirmation process, for once, will yield some valuable information about the nominee and we’ll acquire at least some insight into how she thinks and what her judicial values and methods will be.  I’m willing to keep an open mind.  NPR’s Nina Totenberg yesterday uncovered (or was provided) a relatively encouraging piece of evidence that no public commentators (including me) had previously discovered:  a 2005 letter co-signed by Kagan which opposed a proposal by Lindsey Graham to strip “War on Terror” detainees of the right to habeas corpus on the ground that the proposal was a violation of core American principles (that provision was ultimately included in the Military Commissions Act and struck down in 2008 by a 5-4 Supreme Court as unconstitutional).

The most important point to note about Kagan now is the one highlighted this weekend by Talk Left’s Armando, as first reported by The Los Angeles Times:  in 1995, Kagan condemned the Supreme Court confirmation process as “a vapid and hollow charade” and an “embarrassment,” arguing that Senators should “insist that any nominee reveal what kind of Justice she would make, by disclosing her views on important legal issues.”  Kagan should absolutely be held to her own position in that regard.  Her argument that nominees should be compelled to answer such questions was absolutely right, and that’s especially applicable to Kagan in light of her own glaring lack of a real record on virtually everything.  She ought to be held to her own position and “reveal what kind of Justice she would make” and “disclose her views on important legal issues.”  I’m certainly willing to listen if she does that and then make a rational assessment of her based on those answers.  Anyone wanting to form a rational choice should demand that she do the same.

* * * * *

I’ll be on Democracy Now this morning at 8:10 a.m. EST (live video here) discussing Kagan, and on MSNBC a few times later today, and will post exact times when I know them.

© 2010 Salon.com

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

The latest on Elena Kagan May 9, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
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(Roger’s Note: If Obama nominates a genuine progressive to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court it will come as a great surprise.  If he appoints Elena Kagan it will come as no surprise at all.  One would not have thought this two years ago.  Someone said back then, it may have been Glenn Greenwald himself, that if Obama is elected to the presidency, no matter how else he may disappoint, at least we can expect badly needed progressive appointments to the Supreme Court.  Obama has shown his true colors, time and time again and on virtually issue imaginable, in the fifteen months or so of his incumbency.  Anyone who still believes that he represents or sincerely desires progressive change in the country, that he is anything other than a hack run-of-the-mill Republicrat — albeit a uniquely gifted one — is either terminally naive or wilfully blind.)
 
 
Saturday, May 8, 2010 09:09 ET ,  Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com

I’ve laid out my case against Elena Kagan as thoroughly as I could, but with several anonymous (i.e., unreliable) reports percolating that she’s the likely choice and could be announced as early as Monday, it’s worthwhile to note several recent items from others pertaining to her selection:

(1) University of Colorado Law Professor Paul Campos, who previously expressed shock at the paucity of Kagan’s record and compared her to Harriet Miers, has a new piece in The New Republic entitled (appropriately): “Blank Slate.”

(2) Digby examines what a Kagan selection would reveal about Obama, and she particularly focuses on Kagan’s relationship to Goldman Sachs.  That relationship is relatively minor, but it is illustrative in several ways and will certainly be used by Republicans to advance their attacks on this administration as being inextricably linked with Wall Street.  The Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein has more on the Kagan/Goldman Sachs connection.

(3) Following up on the article published yesterday in Salon by four minority law professors — which condemned Kagan’s record on diversity issues as “shocking” and “indefensible for the 21st Century” — Law Professor Darren Hutchinson of American University School of Law today writes that Kagan’s record is “abysmal.” 

Regardless of your particular views on these matters, that diversity is both vital and fair in the hiring process has long been a central plank in progressive thinking.  It takes little creativity to imagine what Democrats would say about a Republican Supreme Court nominee with a hiring record similar to Kagan’s.  The question is whether they will be as consistent as these law professors are in applying their claimed beliefs to their own side.  This is the issue that caused Linda Monk to rescind her endorsement of Kagan.  Will Kagan-defending progressives now suddenly say that diversity is irrelevant?  Will they try to claim that there were no qualified minorities for the Harvard Law School faculty?  How will they reconcile everything they’ve always said about diversity with Kagan’s record as Dean?

(4)  This headline, from law.com, is a darkly amusing and quite revealing one to read about the Obama White House’s front-runner to replace John Paul Stevens:  “Supreme Court Watchers Wonder:  How Conservative Is Kagan?

(5) Law Professor Jonathan Adler persuasively argues why Diane Wood would be easier to confirm than Elena Kagan.

(6) The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage today explains that executive power is one key area where Obama’s choice could bring about major changes to the Court, given that his selection would replace Justice Stevens, who was so stalwart about imposing limits on such power.  As Savage writes, Kagan’s record (to the extent such a thing even exists) “suggests she might generally be more sympathetic toward the White House than Justice Stevens.” 

(7) Perhaps most revealing of all:  a new article in The Daily Caller reports on growing criticisms of Kagan among “liberal legal scholars and experts” (with a focus on the work I’ve been doing), and it quotes the progressive legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as follows:  “The reality is that Democrats, including liberals, will accept and push whomever Obama picks.”  Yesterday on Twitter, Matt Yglesias supplied the rationale for this mentality:  “Argument will be simple: Clinton & Obama like and trust [Kagan], and most liberals (myself included) like and trust Clinton & Obama.”

Just think about what that means.  If the choice is Kagan, you’ll have huge numbers of Democrats and progressives running around saying, in essence:  “I have no idea what Kagan thinks or believes about virtually anything, and it’s quite possible she’ll move the Court to the Right, but I support her nomination and think Obama made a great choice.”  In other words, according to Chemerinksy and Yglesias, progressives will view Obama’s choice as a good one by virtue of the fact that it’s Obama choice.  Isn’t that a pure embodiment of mindless tribalism and authoritarianism?  Democrats love to mock the Right for their propensity to engage in party-line, close-minded adherence to their Leaders, but compare what conservatives did with Bush’s selection of Harriet Miers to what progressives are almost certain to do with Obama’s selection of someone who is, at best, an absolute blank slate. 

One of the very first non-FISA posts I ever wrote that received substantial attention (uniformly favorable attention from progressives) was this post, from February, 2006, about the cult of personality that subsumed the Right during the Bush era.  The central point was that conservatives supported anything and everything George Bush did, regardless of how much it comported with their alleged beliefs and convictions, because loyalty to him and their Party, along with a desire to keep Republicans in power, subordinated any actual beliefs.  Even Bill Kristol — in a 2006 New York Times article describing how Bruce Bartlett had been ex-communicated from the conservative movement for excessively criticizing George Bush — admitted that personal allegiance to Bush outweighed conservative principles in the first term and that “Bush was the movement and the cause.”  

To say that “Democrats, including liberals, will accept and push whomever Obama picks,” based on the rationale that “Clinton & Obama like and trust her, and most liberals (myself included) like and trust Clinton & Obama” — even if they know nothing about her, even if she might move the Court to the Right — seems to me to be an exact replica of what I described four years ago.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

The death of Dawn Johnsen’s nomination April 11, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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Friday, Apr 9, 2010 15:10 EDT

By Glenn Greenwald

(updated below – Update II)

After waiting 14 months for a confirmation vote that never came, Dawn Johnsen withdrew today as President Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel.  As I documented at length when the nomination was first announced in January, 2009, Johnsen was an absolutely superb pick to head an office that plays as vital a role as any in determining the President’s record on civil liberties and adherence to the rule of law.  With 59 and then 60 Democratic votes in the Senate all year long (which included the support of GOP Sen. Richard Lugar, though the opposition of Dem. Sen. Ben Nelson and shifting positions from Arlen Specter), it’s difficult to understand why the White House — if it really wanted to — could not have had Johnsen confirmed (or why she at least wasn’t included in the spate of recently announced recess appointments). 

I don’t know the real story behind what happened here — I had an email exchange with Johnsen this afternoon but she was only willing to provide me her official, pro forma, wholly uninformative statement — but here’s what I do know:  virtually everything that Dawn Johnsen said about executive power, secrecy, the rule of law and accountability for past crimes made her an excellent fit for what Candidate Obama said he would do, but an awful fit for what President Obama has done.  To see how true that is, one can see the post I wrote last January detailing and praising her past writings, but all one really has to do is to read the last paragraph of her March, 2008 Slate article — entitled “Restoring Our Nation’s Honor” — in which she outlines what the next President must do in the wake of Bush lawlessness:

The question how we restore our nation’s honor takes on new urgency and promise as we approach the end of this administration. We must resist Bush administration efforts to hide evidence of its wrongdoing through demands for retroactive immunity, assertions of state privilege, and implausible claims that openness will empower terrorists. . . .

Here is a partial answer to my own question of how should we behave, directed especially to the next president and members of his or her administration but also to all of use who will be relieved by the change: We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation’s past transgressions and reject Bush’s corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation’s honor be restored without full disclosure.

 

What Johnsen insists must not be done reads like a manual of what Barack Obama ended up doing and continues to do — from supporting retroactive immunity to terminate FISA litigations to endless assertions of “state secrecy” in order to block courts from adjudicating Bush crimes to suppressing torture photos on the ground that “opennees will empower terrorists” to the overarching Obama dictate that we “simply move on.”  Could she have described any more perfectly what Obama would end up doing when she wrote, in March, 2008, what the next President “must not do”?

I find it virtually impossible to imagine Dawn Johnsen opining that the President has the legal authority to order American citizens assassinated with no due process or to detain people indefinitely with no charges.  I find it hard to believe that the Dawn Johnsen who wrote in 2008 that “we must regain our ability to feel outrage whenever our government acts lawlessly and devises bogus constitutional arguments for outlandishly expansive presidential power” would stand by quietly and watch the Obama administration adopt the core Bush/Cheney approach to civil liberties and Terrorism.  I find it impossible to envision her sanctioning the ongoing refusal of the DOJ to withdraw the January, 2006 Bush/Cheney White Paper that justified illegal surveillance with obscenely broad theories of executive power.  I don’t know why her nomination was left to die, but I do know that her beliefs are quite antithetical to what this administration is doing.

UPDATE:  ABC News‘ Jake Tapper quotes an anonymous “Senate Democratic leadership source” regarding a Senate vote to confirm Johnsen:  “Bottom line is that it was going to be close.  If they wanted to, the White House could have pushed for a vote. But they didn’t want to ’cause they didn’t have the stomach for the debate.”  Take that anonymous quote for what it’s worth, but what is clear is that they were very close to having the votes last year if they did not in fact have them (when the Senate had 60 Democrats plus Lugar’s support) and, in any event, could have included her among last month’s recess appointments.  Had there been real desire to secure her confirmation, it seems likely it would have happened; at the very least, a far greater effort would have been made.

UPDATE II:  Dave Weigel, now of The Washington Post, becomes the latest to observe the core similarity between the Obama and Bush/Cheney approaches to civil liberties, Terrorism and national security.  If you were Barack Obama and were pursuing the policies that he ended up pursuing, would you want Dawn Johnsen in charge of the office which determines the scope of your legal authority as President?

 

Olbermann on Obama’s Assassination Program April 9, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, War on Terror.
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NOTE: TO VIEW THE VIDEOS MENTIONED BELOW, PLEASE GO TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/04/09-4
Published on Friday, April 9, 2010 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald

There are many legitimate criticisms voiced about Keith Olbermann, but he deserves substantial credit for his coverage [Wednesday] night of a story that is as self-evidently significant as it is under-covered:   Barack Obama’s assassination program aimed at American citizens.  He not only led off his show with this story, but devoted the first two segments to it, and made many of the key observations and asked virtually all of the right questions.  The videos of those two segments, worth watching, are below. 

What’s most striking to me about all of this is that — as I noted yesterday (and as Olbermann stressed) — George Bush’s decision merely to eavesdrop on American citizens without oversight, or to detain without due process Americans such as Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, provoked years of vehement, vocal and intense complaints from Democrats and progressives.  All of that was disparaged as Bush claiming the powers of a King, a vicious attack on the Constitution, a violation of Our Values, the trampling on the Rule of Law.  Yet here you have Barack Obama not merely eavesdropping on or detaining Americans without oversight, but ordering them killed with no oversight and no due process of any kind.  And the reaction among leading Democrats and progressives is largely non-existent, which is why Olbermann’s extensive coverage of it is important.   Just imagine what the reaction would have been among progressive editorial pages, liberal opinion-makers and Democratic politicians if this story had been about George Bush and Dick Cheney targeting American citizens for due-process-free and oversight-less CIA assassinations.

Republicans are not going to object to any of this.  With rare exception, they believe in unlimited executive authority and denial of due process.  They see Obama’s adoption of the core Bush/Cheney approach as a vindication of what they did for eight years (and also see it, not unreasonably, as proof that progressive complaints about Bush’s “shredding of the Constitution” were not genuine but rather opportunistic, cynical and motivated by desire for partisan gain).  As a result, even the most Obama-hating right-wing extremists will praise him and cheer for what he’s doing.  At the same time, the people who spent eight years screaming about things like this (when Bush/Cheney were doing them) are now mostly silent if not finding ways to justify and defend it (we don’t need due process because the President said this is an American-Hating Terrorist).  As White House servant Richard Wolffe said in the second Olbermann segment below (and Wolffe’s commentary was actually fairly good), the White House is “very proud” of its presidential assassination program, which is likely why they decided to leak it to the NYT and the WP yesterday.

Here again, we see one of the principal and longest-lasting effects of the Obama presidency:  to put a pretty, eloquent, progressive face on what (until quite recently) was ostensibly considered by a large segment of the citizenry to be tyrannical right-wing extremism (e.g., indefinite detention, military commissions, “state secrets” used to block judicial review, an endless and always-expanding “War on Terror,” immunity for war criminals, rampant corporatism — and now unchecked presidential assassinations of American citizens), and thus to transform what were once bitter, partisan controversies into harmonious, bipartisan consensus:

UPDATE:  Here’s the segment I did yesterday on Al Jazeera — along with The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Roggio and GWU Professor of Media and International Affairs Steven Livingston — regarding the WikiLeaks/Iraq video:

UPDATE II:  The American Prospect‘s Adam Serwer has an interesting post reporting that civil rights groups have issued a joint letter opposing the closing of Guantanamo if it means — as the Obama administration has suggested — that Guantanamo and its defining injustices will simply be re-located to U.S. soil.  As part of his reporting, Serwer writes this:

[B]road assertions of executive power haven’t even been limited to the last administration. Instead, we’ve seen the powers of the president expand, with the Obama administration asserting the right to assassinate American citizens without any due process or finding of guilt whatsoever.

From a civil libertarian point of view, we’re in a much worse place than we were during the Bush administration, when Democrats were willing to oppose Bush’s expansive claims of executive authority. Now we have only muted criticism from Democratic legislators and hysterical cries from Republicans that Obama isn’t going far enough.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s the point that cannot be stressed enough.  And it’s particularly good to see its being highlighted in a liberal publication like the Prospect (though Serwer has been pointing out such things there for quite some time).

Copyright ©2010 Salon Media Group, Inc.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

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