The following is a column by Norman Solomon regarding the Progressive Caucus, a loosely committed collection of House members committed to “progressive” politics. Lately, however, they must be finding it rough going. The column was found on COUNTERPUNCH, a great website.
FEBRUARY 27, 2013
Not Taking a Stand Against Cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
Progressive Caucus Folds
by NORMAN SOLOMON
For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.
While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive Caucus haven’t signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment: “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”
More than 10 days ago, Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano initiated the forthright letter, circulating it among House colleagues. Addressed to President Obama, the letter has enabled members of Congress to take a historic stand: joining together in a public pledge not to vote for any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
The Grayson-Takano letter is a breath of fresh progressive air, blowing away the customary fog that hangs over such matters on Capitol Hill.
The President has been saying and doing some scary shit. He wants to start killing Americans who, on the advice of some smart people, are just too dangerous to keep around. So, on Tuesdays, he picks and chooses. This is the scary part: this week he’ll be looking at people who I don’t know, or if I met, might not like. But next week, or next year, he might choose my neighbor, or a cousin on my Dad’s side. Or, because I have this blog, me.
It’s scary because most people don’t want to be thinking about this sort of topic. They refuse to look at anything that’s even slightly off the beaten track. They at least won’t think it’s serious.
And, too, most people don’t want to think about anything that’s serious. It makes them an outcast amongst their friends if they “have concerns,” or spend too much time paying attention to “issues.”
Popular culture has a way of making people shy away from political attentiveness, which, is how American Pop culture destroys American politics. It just isn’t cool to leave one’s concerns about football and corporate work mode and try to find one’s way through the maze of political arguments.
Hence, no one is going to do much to stop the President, or limit where he can kill Americans, or under what circumstances, or after having maybe enough evidence, or, and here’s asking for the Moon, maybe a trial.
Popular culture is able to determine our politics is the same way that any cult controls the minds of its members. It sets itself up as the arbitrator of all value and merit and truth, and then punishes you if you think or feel anything that might vary from the line. Step out of line, or lift your lips off its boots, and catastrophe will occur. You won’t find friends. You might lose a job. You won’t be listened to at parties.
Anyway, what we have now is not new. It isn’t that unique. It is a process that sneaks up on you and turns things to crap.
"What happened was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to be governed by surprise, to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security ...
The following discussion makes the point that there is a misconception that the President’s proposed Assassination Policy has to do exclusively with “Drone Killing.” The idea is that since the Assassination Policy is bundled with discussion of drones, the two must be related. However, the President is suggesting a policy that allows him to kill Americans whether or not he’s using drones to do it.
On October 28, 2009, the FBI set out to arrest a man they claimed, in the complaint justifying the arrest, was “a highly placed leader of a … radical fundamentalist Sunni group [the primary purpose of which] is to establish a separate, sovereign Islamic state.” The leader of the group “calls his followers to an offensive jihad.” The complaint states the group trained in the use of firearms and martial arts and explains that “Abdullah is advocating and encouraging his followers to commit violent acts against the United States.”
The arrest was staged at a warehouse controlled by the FBI, outfitted with 5 closed circuit video cameras that gave the FBI full visibility into anyone entering and leaving the warehouse, as well as pallets loaded with sandbags to provide cover. Altogether 66 FBI Agents participated in the arrest, with 29 Agents, including a K-9 team and snipers, inside the warehouse itself, along with helicopter cover, another K-9 team, and a control room nearby. Members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue and SWAT teams participated, with Agents flying in from Columbia, South Carolina and DC via a previous operation in Los Angeles. The team had practiced the arrest scenario up to 10 times before the actual arrest.
The arrest started when the FBI detonated 3 pre-positioned diversionary explosives in the room in which the leader, 4 accomplices, two undercover officers and an informant had been moving boxes (the FBI insiders had already left the scene). That allowed the FBI team, wearing bullet proof gear and helmets, to move into place.
On orders, “FBI, show me your hands, on the ground!” the leader’s four accomplices put their hands up and got down on the ground (for a variety of reasons, the FBI doesn’t have recordings of the audio of the event). The leader hesitated, but then got face down on the ground, though the FBI claims his hands were not visible.
At that point, 62 seconds after the diversionary explosions, the K-9 handler, who had been briefed that the leader was the main target of the investigation, released the dog and gave the “bite” command, the first time he had ever done so in the year he had been a K-9 handler; the dog lunged at the leader’s arm or face. The FBI claims the leader raised a gun and shot the dog three times. One accomplice disagrees, describing that the leader had both hands on the dog, trying to keep him away from his face. Two FBI Agents who admitted shooting their rifles also had Glocks, though of a different caliber than the one allegedly used by the leader. There was no gunpowder residue found on the leader and no fingerprints found on the Glock.
In the next 4 seconds, 4 different FBI officers shot the leader with their Colt M4 rifles (3 were from the Hostage Rescue Team that had flown in for this arrest), set on semiautomatic. He was hit a total of 21 times. He died within a minute.
My grandmother, grandma Alida, lived for a long time. She died about a month short of her 100th birthday. She lived long, but she wasn't well for a large part of that time.
When I was very young she lived on her own in apartment buildings in Portland. I remember going with my Dad to see her. We would walk up to her door. I was maybe a foot tall at the time so I could see under the door, which I did, to watch for her to walk up to the door and open it from the inside. I remember she wore black shoes with maybe inch high heels. There was a window above her door. You could hear her walk with those heels. I guess there were no rugs.
I don't remember much of what my grandmother did for me. She was probably good to me, but, I remember the last time I saw her for a long time. I threw a fit. I didn't want her to take care of me. I probably didn;t want her to be telling me what to do. Stupid me.
It might have been a few months later. My Dad and Mom spoke about how she couldn't take care of herself. She was talking to herself. They were going to have her committed. She was going to a hospital somewhere near Salem. I wasn't going to see her anymore for awhile.
I later came to feel guilty about what I said to my grandmother. I felt I might have pushed her over the edge.
My Dad said my grandmother came from Oslo. She came here and worked hard as a maid and housekeeper. He said she had a hard time because she was an immigrant. An unsophisticated Norwegian immigrant. My grandmother didn't tell me this, but my Dad said, she came to the United States because this was where the men were. I've come to think this is one of the great things that makes my grandmother interesting. It must have been an adventure for her.
My grandma was in this hospital for mental illness for a long time. She left and moved into an apartment in a care center out on 82nd street. My Dad went to visit her there. I didn't go with him. I was going through old letters that I've saved. I found a birthday card that she sent me from that time. I saved the two dollars she included in the card. I had forgotten about it.
Apparently, living in that place and the other one she was in on McGloughlin Blvd was hard on her because the friends she made would die. The losses were very hard.
My parents were divorced in 1970. My Dad was living in Canby. He had my grandmother come live with him and his new wife Patty in their mobile home. They took care of her there for ten years, I think. I went to see her there a few times. My Dad always reminded me that his Mom would remember my name but she would always ask him who he was. He thought she didn't remember him. I told him she was pulling his leg.
The claim here is that the United States Government has been choosing to focus on Geo-Political issues, relating to military domination, at the expense of its economic needs. One might respond by pointing out that the military-security-industrial sector of the U.S. economy is using this geo-political focus to maintain its own influence and government support, despite whatever injury that does to the rest of the economy.
One of the reasons why Obama is not a good President has been how destructive he’s been to democracy and the rule of law. Examples of this are how he has continued the aggressive wars initiated by his predecessor in Iraq, Afghanistan, and started his own in Pakistan, Yemen, and several African countries, continuing the practice of torture, and the secret recording of our private communications. Furthermore, Obama has recently asserted that Presidents should have the power to kill Americans wherever he can find them on his say so alone. This is a power that many have been discussing. One critic has been Glenn Greenwald, now a contributor to the Guardian newspaper in Britain. Below is part of a recent essay about this controversy along with a letter I wrote in response.
Chilling legal memo from Obama DOJ justifies assassination of US citizens
The president's partisan lawyers purport to vest him with the most extreme power a political leader can seize
The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due process, far from any battlefield. The Obama administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice. In September 2011, it killed US citizen Anwar Awlaki in a drone strike inYemen, along with US citizen Samir Khan, and then, in circumstances that are still unexplained, two weeks later killed Awlaki's 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman with a separate drone strike in Yemen.
Since then, senior Obama officials including Attorney General Eric Holder and John Brennan, Obama's top terrorism adviser and his current nominee to lead the CIA, have explicitly argued that the president is and should be vested with this power. Meanwhile, a Washington Post article from October reported that the administration is formally institutionalizing this president's power to decide who dies under the Orwellian title "disposition matrix".
When the New York Times back in April, 2010 first confirmed the existence of Obama's hit list, it made clear just what an extremist power this is, noting: "It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing." The NYT quoted a Bush intelligence official as saying "he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president". When the existence of Obama's hit list was first reported several months earlier by the Washington Post's Dana Priest, she wrote that the "list includes three Americans".
What has made these actions all the more radical is the absolute secrecy with which Obama has draped all of this. Not only is the entire process carried out solely within the Executive branch - with no checks or oversight of any kind - but there is zero transparency and zero accountability. The president's underlings compile their proposed lists of who should be executed, and the president - at a charming weekly event dubbed by White House aides as "Terror Tuesday" - then chooses from "baseball cards" and decrees in total secrecy who should die. The power of accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner are all consolidated in this one man, and those powers are exercised in the dark.
In fact, The Most Transparent Administration Ever™ has been so fixated on secrecy that they have refused even to disclose the legal memoranda prepared by Obama lawyers setting forth their legal rationale for why the president has this power. During the Bush years, when Bush refused to disclose the memoranda from his Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that legally authorized torture, rendition, warrantless eavesdropping and the like, leading Democratic lawyers such as Dawn Johnsen (Obama's first choice to lead the OLC) vehemently denounced this practice as a grave threat, warning that "the Bush Administration's excessive reliance on 'secret law' threatens the effective functioning of American democracy" and "the withholding from Congress and the public of legal interpretations by the [OLC] upsets the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government."
But when it comes to Obama's assassination power, this is exactly what his administration has done. It has repeatedly refused to disclose the principal legal memoranda prepared by Obama OLC lawyers that justified his kill list. It is, right now, vigorously resisting lawsuits from the New York Times and the ACLU to obtain that OLC memorandum. In sum, Obama not only claims he has the power to order US citizens killed with no transparency, but that even the documents explaining the legal rationale for this power are to be concealed. He's maintaining secret law on the most extremist power he can assert.
Again, this is only part of what Greenwald had to say about what Obama has been arguing and the problems we should see in giving him this power. As Greenwald concludes, “If you believe the president has the power to order US citizens executed far from any battlefield with no charges or trial, then it's truly hard to conceive of any asserted power you would find objectionable.”
This is an argument found on Counterpunch wherein Lindorff claims people have to stop this effort by Obama to assert this right to assassinate.
FEBRUARY 07, 2013
Who Will Step Up to Defend the Constitution?
Why Obama Should be Impeached
by DAVE LINDORFF
If the Constitution is to have any relevance, and if America is to remain a free society, then there is really no alternative: there must be a bill of impeachment drawn up and submitted in the House, and there must at least be a hearing on that bill in the House Judiciary Committee.
The disclosure, by NBC, of a so-called “white paper” by the White House offering the legal justification for the executing of American citizens solely on the authority of the executive branch and the president exposes a White House so blatantly in violation of the Constitution that it simply demands such a hearing.
As Juan Cole explains clearly in an essay in Informed Comment, there are five ways that the white paper authorizing executive execution of Americans violates the Constitution. These, he explains, are:
1. There has to be an actual crime for there to be a punishment, and this paper authorizes execution without any crime.
2. If, as the letter suggests, the president’s authority to order executions without trial derives from the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by the Congress, that would constitute a so-called bill of attainder, which he explains is a declaration that a certain person or class of people (i.e. terrorists in this case) are prima facie guilty of a crime. But as he notes, the Constitution specifically outlaws bills of attainder, saying in Article 1, Section 9, “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed…”
3. The letter violates the separation of powers, according the president the powers of executive, legislature and judiciary.
4. The letter violates the Sixth Amendment in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which guarantees everyone the right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” Needless to say, an execution ordered by the president skips all of this.
Reliance on the AUMF for presidential executions such as that of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son means that President Obama, like President Bush before him, is claiming that the whole world (including the US) is a battlefield, and that he therefore has the absolute authority as Commander in Chief, to kill anyone , anywhere in the world, that he deems to be an enemy or a threat. But such a concept is a complete violation of international law and sovereignty as defined by the UN Charter, a solemn treaty to which the US is a signatory, making it a fundamental part of US law.
There is no way around it. This president is a grave violator of the law and of the US Constitution. Like