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Posse Comitatus

Jul 30, 2009
The Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C., Sec. 1385), passed in 1878, limits the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement.1 The act has allegedly been violated to a significant and alarming degree, as reported on Democracy Now on July 28, 2009.2 The story goes well beyond the outing (via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request) of a military informant, to describe scores of multi-jurisdictional intelligence fusion centers, where local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and national intelligence entities, including the military, pool knowledge and resources to combat terrorism. Pooling intelligence is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. In fact, greater cooperation among federal intelligence agencies just might have prevented 9/11. However, when those intelligence bodies are tasked with domestic spying and include military intelligence, we need to fear a great deal more than the breaking of a 130-year-old statute.

Back in February, in The Gathering Storm, I wrote, “An army unit has been stationed inside the U.S. to control ‘civil unrest.’3 Protestors at the Republican Convention are being tried as terrorists....4 A perfect storm of militarism, domestic unrest, and the criminalization of dissent is gathering. If the spectre of fascism hovered over the Bush presidency, it has come to walk the earth in the second month of an administration swept to power on what are increasingly coming to appear to be fraudulent promises of hope and change.”

We have a do-nothing Congress and a very busy Executive branch, continuing and expanding the atrocities of the Bush administration. Domestic terrorism in the form of an Oklahoma City bomber is bad enough. When our federal government gets into the business of watching, recording, harassing, and, yes, terrorizing its own people, the spectre of domestic terrorism takes on a different and altogether too horrible face.

Will we wake up when they come for the anarchists? Will we wake up when they come for the socialists? Will we wake up when they come for us?
1 Posse Comitatus Act, from Wikipedia, accessed Jul 30, 2009.
2 Declassified Docs Reveal Military Operative Spied on WA Peace Groups, Activist Friends Stunned, from Democracy Now, Jul 28, 2009, accessed Jul 30, 2009.
3 ACLU Seeks Answers on Reports of Domestic Army Deployment, from Democracy Now, Oct 22, 2008.
4 RNC Protestors Tried on Terrorism Charges Despite Acknowlegement They Didn’t Commit Alleged Acts, from Democracy Now, Feb 18, 2009.
tags: Domestic Unrest | Militarism | Terrorism

Noted With Interest, July 2009

Jul 26, 2009

President Obama’s Longtime Physician Opposes White House Health Plan, Advocates Single Payer
An impassioned appeal for single payer. From Democracy Now, Jul 22, 2009. Accessed Jul 25, 2009.

Congrelate lets you see and sort information about your members of Congress. Watch the video to understand what is in Congrelate and how to get it out. From Sunlight Labs. Accessed Jul 25, 2009.

Here is where you can go to track your state’s involvement with the federal recovery program. What is actually going on, how are funds being spent, and a slew of other information about our hopeful journey on the road to recovery. Accessed Jul 25, 2009.

Slow, Costly and Often Dangerous Road to Wind Power
By Kate Galbraith. What is it Dan Rather said? “Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn't block traffic.” From the New York Times. Accessed Jul 23, 2009.

The words of God do not justify cruelty to women.
by Jimmy Carter. Unequivocal and overdue. From the Guardian, Jul 12, 2009. Accessed Jul 12, 2009.

Two Standards of Detention
by Amy Goodman. Kill an abortion doctor and get full access to the media. Let a friend stay in your apartment for two weeks and get buried alive. From Truthdig.com, Jul 8, 2009. Accessed Jul 11, 2009.

Premiere U.S. Fighter Jet Has Major Shortcoming
by R. Jeffrey Smith. The jet the Obama administration is trying to phase out against congressional opposition costs $44,000 per hour to fly and requires 30 hours of maintenance for every hour in the air. From the Washington Post, Jul 10, 2009. Accessed Jul 11, 2009.

Behind the Facade
by Bob Herbert. After all the hype, Herbert reminds us about the real Michael Jackson—a man this world is better without. From the New York Times, Jul 3, 2009. Accessed Jul 7, 2009.

Here We Go
By digby. A pleasing screed on the fading public option. From digbysblog, Jul 6, 2009. Accessed Jul 7, 2009, 2009.

tags: Noted with Interest

Tiger at the Gates

Jul 25, 2009
The Henry Louis Gates encounter with the Cambridge police has been much in the news of late, even prompting the president to put in his two cents’ worth (and his foot in his mouth). I have read much on the issue, from various points of view, in an attempt to understand my own attitude toward the encounter, the significance of which, of course, goes well beyond the incident itself.

The legacy of race relations in the U.S. is the cross we all bear as Americans. Slavery was a crime against humanity as foul as any save genocide and was, indeed, a kind of genocide. The plight of the colored races in this country, since black Americans were freed in 1863, has been scarcely better than slavery and, in some locales and periods, arguably worse.

The fact that America today can elect a black president is cause for enormous pride and celebration. Without minimizing this, however, we must acknowledge that racism still smolders in our hearts, and its effects are still a plague upon a huge contingent of our people. No black person in America lives what any white person would recognize as a “normal life.” They never enter society unaccompanied by some level of fear and apprehension. They have not a moment’s waking peace, and their dreams are troubled by the residue of generations of intense cruelty and injustice.

Into this mix arrives a routine police response to an alleged breaking and entering, ending with the arrest in his own home of one of America's most respected intellectuals. An insufficient I.D., persistent outrage, an unfortunate “clash of egos”—whatever the putative cause of Gates’s short-lived arrest, a simple fact, I believe, remains indisputable: Gates’s anger provoked anger in the policeman, and a policeman in the course of his duties must not allow himself to become angry. Such a debilitating emotional response must be trained out of recruits, or they should not be allowed to serve. You may argue that a policeman’s day consists of scores of provocative encounters with angry and dangerous elements. All the more reason why an appropriate professional response must not include an emotion which interferes with an appropriate professional response.
1 Obama Expresses His Regrets on Gates Incident, by Jeff Zeleny, the New York Times, Jul 24, 2009, accessed Jul 25, 2009.
tags: Domestic Unrest | Human Nature | People

Mending America: A Summary of Where We Aren’t

Jul 19, 2009

We need fundamental, systemic change in this country in the way we:

  1. manage our financial sector, including banking, investment, and consumer credit;
  2. produce and consume electricity;
  3. balance worker and environmental interests against the capitalist profit motive;
  4. pay for and provide health care; and
  5. educate our children.
And we are not seriously addressing any of these issues.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the bank bailouts have rewarded the wrongdoers and punished the victims, guaranteeing trillions in bad loans to predatory lenders while providing a pittance of relief to their prey and an insufficient stimulus to the economy.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act does not adequately support the development of new technologies, gives away too much in carbon credits to dirty energy sectors, and may not even pass in its current inadequate form.

One of the two main provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act—the card check method for voting for representation—was recently removed from the bill, and the other provision, calling for binding arbitration after 120 days of failed negotiations for a first contract, will likely also be removed or weakened out of existence.

Obama’s health care plan has never included the single-payer model, which will have to happen eventually. It is inconceivable the rest of the industrialized world can be wrong while only America—spending twice what others spend and receiving far less for it—is right. In the past days, the public option has also disappeared from discussions. What is left? The absurd notion that since the insurance industry is at the root of the problem, we should require everyone to purchase insurance.

And if anyone can point to a coordinated, coherent, intelligent, energetic, and well-funded plan to lift our urban and rural populations out of their generational slough of ignorance, poverty, and violence by assuring every child a world-class education whatever it takes, then we wish you would point it out. This most important priority has become lost in the helter-skelter of political posturing and faux reforms that is Washington today.

Obama is a good man and could be a great president. However, he is up against a political structure that is bought and paid for by the privileged interests, those fewer and fewer individuals who are amassing greater and greater fortunes, at the expense of the rest of us. In five days, the third and last increase in the federal minimum wage—the only worthy act of the 110th Congress—is due to go into effect, raising the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. This earns a full-time worker $15,000 a year when even the federal poverty level for a family of four (generally acknowledged to be inadequate) is over $22,000. (Can you imagine supporting a family of four on $22,000? On twice that?)

Where we should be coalescing, we are splintering. Where our focus should be on the general welfare, our politicians are serving the few. And where we should be looking to the future to assure our children a healthy life in a healthy world, we are wedded to a status quo that is destroying our country and may, in time, bring down our species with it.

We must build change from the ground up, not the top down. And that means a new political party, of the people, by the people, and for the people. It can be done. It must be done. There is simply no other way.
tags: New Political Party | Economics | Politics

NPP Plank 4: The Economy

Jul 13, 2009
It was Winston Churchill who famously observed, “[D]emocracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”1

One may say the same about capitalism—it is the worst economic system except for all the others we have tried. The essential problem with capitalism is that it can too easily be subverted to the service and enrichment of the few, to the detriment of the many. It happened in the last decades of the 19th century, during the 1920s, and again during the early 2000s, following the extensive deregulation of the financial industry at the end of the Clinton administration.

An economic system, like a political system, must be administered for the benefit of society in general, and in order for that to happen, it must be rigorously restrained and guided by a set of rules. The New Political Party (NPP), in setting out its fourth platform plank on the economy, proposes that the following should be among those rules:

  • Lenders may not dissociate themselves from the risk involved in their lending. Without having to retain risk, lenders make bad loans. When they sell off those loans in complex and opaque bundles of derivatives, the system embarks on a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, the public is the player left standing.
  • Interest rate limitations will be placed on all business and consumer credit products, perhaps indexed to the prime rate.
  • States are required to live within their income. Individuals are well-advised to do so. In order to assure future generations of an equal opportunity to better their economic lives, the federal government will operate on a balanced budget that includes a significant annual reduction in the deficit.
  • Globalization has lifted millions out of poverty around the world and kept down prices on thousands of consumer items. However, it has done so at the expense of American manufacturing and with a disregard for hard-won labor and environmental protections. This needs to be reversed, both in the cause of economic and political justice, and in order to save human civilization from the perils of global warming. The U.S. will not admit manufactured goods from countries which do not observe the minimal labor and environmental protections enjoyed in this country. This includes the right of workers to organize and bargain for enhanced working conditions and environmental protections at least as stringent as those required at home.
  • Shared labor and environmental protections will serve to level the playing field among international competitors. To level it further, the U.S. will cease subsidizing American farmers and industry, a practice which plays havoc with the economies of developing countries, often forcing them to focus on limited and exotic products to the detriment of their ability to support their local population with staples.
  • Plank 1 and 3 (a living wage and universal health care) will act as powerful improvements to our national economy.
What other issues should the New Political Party address regarding our economy?
1 Winston Churchill, from Wikiquote, accessed Jul 12, 2009.
tags: Economics | New Political Party | Politics

Aux Barricades!, July 2009

Jul 12, 2009

Those who profess to love freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are those who want crops without plowing. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did, and it never will.
—Frederick Douglass, 1857
Follow us on Twitter.com for early notice of these Action Items, and click the Aux Barricades! tag in the left-hand column to display earlier Action Items. Send your Action Items to us and we will add them to this list.

  • July 12, 2009: Read Nicholas Kristof’s column on charity: water, then donate HERE.

  • July 11, 2009: Sign a Color of Change petition asking the Department of Justice to look into a suburban Philadelphia swimming club that turned away 65 predominantly Black and Hispanic campers who had a contract to swim there. Sign HERE.

  • July 2, 2009: Sign an Avaaz.org petition to Obama and Medvedev, to make substantive plans at their summit to eliminate nuclear weapons in the world. Sign HERE.

tags: Aux Barricades! | Working Together

Happy Daze, July 2009

Jul 05, 2009
Happy Daze will compile only good news on a monthly basis, rather like Aux Barricades! lists action ideas, and Noted with Interest provides monthly short takes of interest.

Happy Daze is devoted to reminding us that good things do happen, progress is being made, and that even Armageddon may, at times, seem to have a silver lining.

Send us happy news we missed and we will add it to our monthly listings. Here comes this month’s so far:

Palin Move Shocks G.O.P. and Leaves Future Unclear
by Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg. For our money, she is gone from politics, probably as part of a plea agreement. From the New York Times, Jul 3, 2009. Accessed Jul 5, 2009.

Franken’s Win Bolsters Democratic Grip in Senate
By Monica Davey and Carl Hulse. We look for great things from this brilliant comic and writer. From the New York Times, Jul 1, 2009. Accessed Jul 2, 2009.

tags: Happy Daze

Independence Day

Jul 04, 2009
On this most important American holiday, six months into an administration which promised hope and change, with our In-box filled with requests for our signature and our dollars from MoveOn, Democracy for America, True Majority, and other such organizations which we have helped and supported over the past difficult years, we pause to consider just where we are today, and where we (and the country at large) would wish to be and how we are to get there.

For the true Progressive, those organizations noted above, all of which support, tolerate, and/or ignore the continual flipping, backsliding, and repudiations of the progressive agenda by the White House, have removed themselves from any claim to our loyalty or our funds. Progressives have an agenda which, in the last election, was most clearly articulated by Ralph Nader. We voted for Obama, however, because we wanted to win. In doing so, we got more of the same, as the worst excesses of the Bush administration, including kidnapping, torture, domestic spying, and preventive detention, continue to be supported today.

One liberal initiative after another is now being passed with much fanfare and little substance. A credit card bill fails to set a ceiling on interest rates; an energy bill is universally acknowledged, by supporters and detractors alike, to be grossly insufficient in addressing a life-and-death issue; a tobacco bill ensures the survival of a toxic industry. Other initiatives are effectively stalled (EFCA), or strangled and trampled beyond recognition (a health care bill which is gradually but inexorably abandoning a public option, let alone the single-payer plan favored by 76 percent of Americans).

The Obama administration, the Democratic party, and the grassroots organizations which have grown up on the Internet to support an agenda for change no longer represent the progressive voice in America. On this day, of all days, we should declare our independence from all three, and begin the long and difficult task of building a new political party that represents the will of a people still eager to believe in, embrace, and realize the promise of a great and noble idea.
tags: Politics | New Political Party | Obama

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