The big day is finally here. I voted In Massachusetts by absentee ballot shortly after I got to Indiana. I voted for Barack Obama and Joe Biden for President and Vice President, and for Elizabeth Warren for Senator. I voted for my long-time Representative Ed Markey. I also voted in favor of ballot questions on legalizing physician assisted suicide and medical marijuana in Massachusetts.
In 2008, I didn’t care much for Barack Obama, because I didn’t think he had any real ideology and I didn’t trust him to stand up to the Republicans. But I have to admit that he accomplished some good things in his first term.
I still have plenty of problems with President Obama’s policies. I think he should have fought harder for a bigger stimulus and for a public health care option. I think the President should have made a much more serious effort to deal with the foreclosure crisis, prosecute the banksters who brought down our economy, and create jobs through government investment.
I strongly disapprove of Obama’s support for the Patriot Act and for his use of drones to assassinate suspected “terrorists”–along with many innocent civilians–in several foreign countries. I’m glad he found Osama bin Laden, but I think he should have been arrested and put on trial instead of being summarily executed.
On the other hand, the stimulus–though not large enough–did help state and local governments save and create jobs. I think the auto bailout was absolutely necessary and it seems to have saved and created jobs for many U.S. workers. I appreciate that President Obama reversed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and came out in support of same-sex marriage. I believe that this president has grown in office and that he now recognizes that the Republicans in Congress are never going to compromise with him.
I also think President Obama did a very smart thing in appointed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and giving full control over the State Department. Many of Obama’s advisers didn’t want him to appoint Hillary, but he did it anyway. I respect that Obama has asked for Bill Clinton’s help during the past couple of years and has wholeheartedly thanked him for his efforts.
We now face a choice between a President who kept us out of another Great Depression, managed to pass a health care law that is at least a step in the right direction, and appears to have grown in office, and a man who is a pathological liar and race baiter who represents the top 1%–the people who got us into the financial crisis in the first place; who conceals his highly suspect finances and potential conflicts of interest; who refuses to spell out what he would do if elected, who treats the electorate with utter disrespect, and who clearly has no understanding of or interest in what it is like to be poor, or even middle class. We do know that, if elected, Mitt Romney would appoint Supreme Court Justices who would very likely overturn Roe v. Wade, the Voting Rights Act, and other important progressive court decisions.
Obama must be reelected or our country will be be in deep deep trouble.
If Obama wins reelection, I think we must continue to be eternally vigilant. I strongly suspect that he will push for what he calls a “grand bargain,” which is really a “great betrayal.” We cannot let his desire to “reach across the aisle” lead him to accede to the Republicans’ austerity agenda and trade away the social safety net that allows so many elderly, disabled, and poor people to live with some kind of dignity.
Just in my lifetime, the American people have lived through many difficult times politically. Our rights were threatened and curtailed in the McCarthy era, we faced the murder of President John F. Kennedy, and later the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. We dealt with Watergate, Iran Contra, and 9/11. For the past thirty years we’ve faced increasing income inequality and reduced opportunities for upward mobility. Our rights have been threatened anew by fundamentalist crazies and by Bush’s “war on terror.”
Democracy isn’t easy. It’s very hard, as we have seen in the past week watching people in Ohio and Florida struggling to exercise their rights to vote and over the past couple of years as we watched Republican legislatures try restrict voting rights and take away women’s control over their own bodies and their health care choices.
But we can’t quit. We must fight on to make this country a place we can be proud of and a place where our children and grandchildren can have decent lives. We have to try. If Obama is reelected, we have a chance. If Romney wins, we go back to the Bush years–on steroids.
I’ve gone on a rant now and taken up a lot of space in this post, but I wanted to express how I feel about this election. Over the past four years, I’ve realized that we really can’t have perfection–only progress, if we work at it. President Obama has made some progress, and in a second term, he can be pushed to make more. I’m glad I decided to vote for him.
I do have some news items for you.
Unfortunately, the areas that were hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy last week are facing a nor’easter this week.
Storm-savaged New Yorkers still drying out and rebuilding their lives after the fury of Hurricane Sandy face another nightmare barreling up the East Coast — an angry nor’easter packing winds of 55 mph hour that’s expected to pummel the area on Wednesday.
Forecasters say the latest assault from Mother Nature — while not nearly as ferocious or crippling as the Oct. 29 superstorm — is expected to bring renewed coastal flooding to parts of the city and the New Jersey shore, where Sandy obliterated protective sand dunes and age-old natural beach defenses.
New power outages could strike still-ravaged swaths of Staten Island, the Bronx and Westchester — and possibly “undo” some of the repairs Con Ed has made to its battered system, said John Miksad, the utility’s senior vice president of electric operations….
Meteorologists expect howling winds whipping up to 3 inches of rain along the Northeastern shoreline late Wednesday afternoon. Then it may get worse: Forecasters also fear a bone-chilling cold by Thursday morning that could bring several inches of snow to New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.
Dana Millbank says that a new Romney has suddenly emerged in the final days of the campaign. What number incarnation is this?
As he made his closing appeal to voters on the final day before the election, Mitt Romney sounded as though, at any moment, he might burst into a song from the musical “Annie.”
“Tomorrow’s a moment to look into the future and imagine what we can do,” he said.
“Tomorrow, we get to work rebuilding our country, restoring our confidence and renewing our conviction.”
“Tomorrow, on November 6th, we come together for a better future.”
“Tomorrow is a new beginning. Tomorrow we begin a new tomorrow.”
As usual, Romney is talking ragtime–making no sense whatsoever. Either he really believes he’ll win the election, or he’s just blabbering aimlessly waiting for his dream to die. The death stench must be unbearable for anyone who gets close to him.
Still, despite Millbank’s claims, the mean Romney still lives on. His campaign is making robocalls calling President Obama a ‘Threat To Our Religious Freedom.’ Here’s the transcript of the call:
Christians who are thinking about voting for Obama should remember what he said about people of faith: “They … cling to guns or religion.” And remember when Obama forced Christian organizations to provide insurance coverage that was contrary to their religious beliefs?
That’s the real Barack Obama. That’s the real threat to our religious freedom. Mitt Romney understands the importance of faith and family. That’s why so many leaders of the Christian community are supporting Romney.
They know we can’t underestimate the threat Barack Obama poses to our faith, our values, our freedom.
So once again, Romney is playing the race card, suggesting that Obama is not a real American and that he’s lying about his religious beliefs.
Paul Ryan expressed something similar on a conference call with members of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition:
Representative Paul D. Ryan accused President Obama on Sunday of taking the country down a path that compromised Judeo-Christian values and the traditions of Western civilization….
“It’s a dangerous path,” Mr. Ryan said, describing Mr. Obama’s policies. “It’s a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place.”’
A spokesman for Mr. Ryan, Michael Steel, said, “He was talking about issues like religious liberty and Obamacare – topics he has mentioned frequently during the campaign.”
Sigh… if only we could be rid of Ryan tomorrow, but I suppose he’ll be back in Congress if Romney loses.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie refused to appear at a campaign event with Mitt Romney on Sunday.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was effusive in his praise of President Barack Obama when the two leaders toured damage from Hurricane Sandy last week, turned down a request by Mitt Romney to appear with him at a rally on Sunday night in Pennsylvania, The Huffington Post has learned.
Christie’s decision will only add to questions among Republicans about what the governor — who is up for reelection a year from now — is thinking, and why he went out of his way to heap praise on the president, and then refused to appear with Romney.
The Romney rally was held at a farm in Morrisville, Pa., not more than 20 minutes from Trenton, the New Jersey capital. The physical proximity of the event to New Jersey only added to questions in the Romney campaign about why Christie chose not to come.
“You can’t tell me he couldn’t have gone over there for a night rally,” a Romney campaign source told HuffPost.
Meanwhile Christie’s new BFF Barack Obama made Christie’s dream come true: Chris Christie moved to tears by hug from Bruce Springsteen.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Monday that he was moved to tears by recent interactions with singer Bruce Springsteen, who hugged the governor at a benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy on Friday and spoke with Christie by phone on Monday while flying aboard Air Force One with President Obama.
Christie, a Republican, is an ardent fan of Springsteen, a noted liberal who was traveling with the president to Columbus, Ohio, after playing at an Obama rally in Madison, Wis. Christie said during a press briefing that Obama called during the flight to discuss New Jersey’s recovery from Sandy and then handed the phone to Springsteen.
“[Obama] told me in times of real difficulty, he thought that the only thing better than one Jersey guy were two Jersey guys, and he put Bruce Springsteen on the phone,” Christie said.
“Bruce said to me how proud he was of his state and how proud he was of the people of this state and how tough they are,” Christie added. “And he’ll be back to the Jersey Shore soon.”
I can’t help but be happy for the guy. Will he be running against Hillary Clinton in 2016? Who knows? I just hope that sometime tonight we’ll know whether we’ll have an Obama second term or two pathological liars running the country back into the ditch.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
Yesterday I read an interesting essay by William Black over at New Economic Perspectives. In the essay, Black, who headed the forensic audit team during the S&L crisis, pulls forward the Broken Window Theory, a criminological model based on a simple and some have said simplistic idea. The theory was introduced by James Q. Wilson and received a fair amount of popularity during the 1990s, particularly in conservative circles.
Readers might remember Rudy Giuliani’s ‘war against graffiti,’ his zero-tolerance campaign in NYC. That effort, the elimination of the squeegee men and the crack down on street prostitution among other things were based on the broken window philosophy, which uses an abandoned building metaphor.
Imagine a building in any neighborhood [although Wilson focused exclusively on what he termed ‘blue-collar crime.’] The first broken window of our abandoned building if left unrepaired sends a clear message to antisocial types: no one cares about this building. So, it’s open season on all the other windows, on anything of value that’s been left behind. If the owner doesn’t care about the integrity of the building then the street tough is encouraged to vandalize and take whatever’s not nailed down.
The attitude feeds on itself or so the theory goes. Honest citizens are less likely to confront the petty thief, which only encourages others to act out in destructive, antisocial ways. Honest citizens begin to feel overwhelmed and outnumbered and stop safeguarding their own neighborhoods. What’s the point? they say. No one cares. Communities begin to self-destruct.
Now whether you buy into this crime theory or not, I think the metaphor holds when you consider what we’ve been witnessing in the degradation of our financial markets, our legal system, even the refusal to admit that ‘there’s trouble in River City.’
As Professor Black points out, if we were to take Wilson’s theory and apply it to the explosion of ‘white collar crime’ within our financial system, it would be a major step in restoring the integrity of our system and bolstering peer pressure against misconduct. As it stands now, Wall Street movers and shakers and their DC handmaidens have implemented business-as-usual policies that reward the thief and punish the whistleblower. As Black points out in the essay:
We have adopted executive and professional compensation systems that are exceptionally criminogenic. We have excused and ignored the endemic “earnings management” that is the inherent result of these compensation policies and the inherent degradation of professionalism that results from allowing CEOs to create a Gresham’s dynamic among appraisers, auditors, credit rating agencies, and stock analysts. The intellectual father of modern executive compensation, Michael Jensen, now warns about his Frankenstein creation. He argues that one of our problems is dishonesty about the results. Surveys indicate that the great bulk of CFOs claim that it is essential to manipulate earnings. Jensen explains that the manipulation inherently reduces shareholder value and insists that it be called “lying.” I have seen Mary Jo White, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who now defends senior managers, lecture that there is “good” “earnings management.”
My husband had some unsettling experience in this area. Early in his career, he worked as a CPA [the two companies will remain nameless]. But in each case, he was ‘asked’ to clean up the numbers, make them look better than they were. He refused and found himself on the street, looking for employment elsewhere. I remember him saying at the time, ‘Look, I’m a numbers guy. I’ve never been good at fiction writing.’ This was back in the late 70s early 80s, so this attitude has been a long time in the making. Now, we’re seeing accounting fraud that is literally off the charts. Is it any wonder the country’s financial system is on life support?
We can see the destructive results of this careless, corrupt posturing all around us. Professor Black continued:
Fiduciary duties are critical means of preventing broken windows from occurring and making it likely that any broken windows in corporate governance will soon be remedied, yet we have steadily weakened fiduciary duties. For example, Delaware now allows the elimination of the fiduciary duty of care as long as the shareholders approve. Court decisions have increasingly weakened the fiduciary duties of loyalty and care. The Chamber of Commerce’s most recent priorities have been to weaken Sarbanes-Oxley and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. We have made it exceptionally difficult for shareholders who are victims of securities fraud to bring civil suits against the officers and entities that led or aided and abetted the securities fraud. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) has achieved its true intended purpose – making it exceptionally difficult for shareholders who are the victims of securities fraud to bring even the most meritorious securities fraud action.
Reading this, I immediately sensed we could apply the metaphor just as easily to our legal predicament. Dak wrote to this yesterday—about the disheartening disrepair of our justice system, which was badly wounded during the Bush/Cheney years with the help of eager lawyers like John Yoo, stretching, reinterpreting, rewriting the parameters on the subjects of torture, indefinite detention, rendition, etc.
Not to be outdone, Eric Holder stood before Northwestern University’s Law School the other day and with the same twisted logic, explained away due process, otherwise known as ‘how to justify assassination.’ In this case, American citizens, those the President deems are a threat to the Nation, can be killed on native ground or foreign soil. Jonathon Turley, law professor at George Washington University and frequent legal commentator in the media, headed a recent blog post as follows: Holder Promises to Kill Citizens with Care.
Sorry, this does not make me feel better. What it does make me think is lawlessness simply breeds more lawlessness. The Broken Window theory writ large. As Turley explained:
The choice of a law school was a curious place for discussion of authoritarian powers. Obama has replaced the constitutional protections afforded to citizens with a “trust me” pledge that Holder repeated yesterday at Northwestern. The good news is that Holder promised not to hunt citizens for sport.
Holder proclaimed that “The president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen.” The use of the word “abroad” is interesting since senior Administration officials have asserted that the President may kill an American anywhere and anytime, including the United States. Holder’s speech does not materially limit that claimed authority. He merely assures citizens that Obama will only kill those of us he finds abroad and a significant threat. Notably, Holder added “Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.”
Turley went on to comment that Holder was vague, to say the least, when it came to the use of these ‘new’ governmental/executive powers, claiming that the powers-that-be will only kill citizens when:
“the consent of the nation involved or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.”
And as far as ‘due process?” Holder declared that:
“a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process.’”
Chilling! As Turley grimly noted in an earlier post, this is no longer the land of the free.
Seemingly unrelated was this report from the New York Times: the heart of Dublin’s 12th-century patron saint was stolen earlier this week from Christ’s Church Cathedral. The heart of Laurence O’Toole had been housed in a heart-shaped box, safely secured [or so church authorities believed] within an iron cage. The relic’s disappearance was preceded by a rash of reliquary robberies from churches, monasteries and convents around Ireland. According to the article:
The small cage hosting the heart-shaped box containing the relic was tucked away in an innocuous alcove at the side of a small altar. Visitors to the cathedral on Monday stared at the twisted bars and the empty space behind. The bars themselves were sundered evenly.
According to Dermot Dunne, dean of Christ Church, the box had lain undisturbed for centuries. He had no idea why someone would take it.
Whether it’s the heart of a saint or the heart of a Nation, the theft is a grievous insult. The crime betrays the public trust and our basic sense of decency. But the thieves of O’Tooles’s heart performed a curious act before exiting.
The Irish culprits lit candles at two of the Cathedral’s altars. Which means the perpetrators possessed, at the very least, an ironic sense of tradition.
The same cannot be said of our homegrown hooligans. Crass greed and the lust for unlimited power have their own dark tradition. As Americans, we do not expect vice to be confused with virtue. In the past, we could not imagine a blatant disrespect for the Rule of Law–crimes ignored, excused, then openly declared necessary for whatever raison du moment.
Not here, we told ourselves repeatedly. Not in the United States.
Perhaps, we should light candles of our own. A small devotion for the lost and dying.
Maybe we should change the name of the DOJ to the Department of Expedience. The War on Terrorism continues to be a War on the American and our Constitutional idea of justice. Eric Holder’s speech yesterday at Northwestern’s School of Law puzzles many of us that had hoped a change from the Bush/Cheney regime would mean a return to civil liberties. Assassination of US citizens–implying no trial, no jury of peers, and no due process–by classifying them as terrorists is an end run around our Constitution that must not stand. Eric Holder’s thin justification of the Obama policy of assassination sounds a lot like triangulation.
Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. “Due process” and “judicial process” are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.
When Obama officials (like Bush officials before them) refer to someone “who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” what they mean is this: someone the President has accused and then decreed in secret to be a Terrorist without ever proving it with evidence.
This process still seems to be a murky one as pointed out at Empty Wheel. This is beyond unacceptable.
As of a month ago–four months after Awlaki was killed–the Senate Intelligence Committee had not been provided with the legal framework for Awlaki’s kill. This, in spite of the fact that SSCI member Ron Wyden had been requesting that framework for over five months before Awlaki was killed.
I said when Wyden made that clear that it showed there had not been adequate oversight of the killing. By his words–if not his deeds–Holder effectively made the same argument.
The speech appears to be an elaborate justification of a policy that could basically spin on the whims of a president and his/her cronies. This is especially appalling given the FBI “stings” that have been aimed at catching terrorists that seem more aptly labelled as pushing some depressed, emotionally damaged people into becoming aspirational terrorists and then enabling them to do something dangerous. I can only assume that the CIA is probably just as bad if not worse.
The Holder speech was weak as a public explanation. It’s basis in law appears weaker.
Still, the speech contained no footnotes or specific legal citations, and it fell far short of the level of detail contained in the Office of Legal Counsel memo — or in an account of its contents published in October by The New York Times based on descriptions by people who had read it.
The administration has declined to confirm that the memo exists, and late last year, The Times filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act asking a judge to order the Justice Department to make it public. In February, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a broader lawsuit, seeking both the memo and the evidence against Mr. Awlaki.
Last month, Justice Department court filings against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009, provided a detailed account — based on his interrogations — of Mr. Awlaki’s alleged involvement.
Mr. Holder, by contrast, did not acknowledge the killing of Mr. Awlaki or provide new details about him, although he did mention him in passing as “a U.S. citizen and a leader” of Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch when discussing Mr. Abdulmutallab.
Holder also noted that in using lethal force, the United States must make sure that it is acting within the laws of war by ensuring that any target is participating in hostilities and that collateral damage is not excessive. And he noted that law-of-war principles “do not forbid the use of stealth or technologically advanced weapons” — an apparent reference to drones.
More broadly, Holder argued that the targeting of specific senior belligerents in wartime in not unusual, and noted the 1943 U.S. tracking and shooting down of the plane carrying Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
He said that “because the United States is in an armed conflict, we are authorized to take action against enemy belligerents under international law . . . and our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields of Afghanistan.”
Holder said he rejected any attempt to label such operations “assassinations.”
“They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced,” he said. “Assassinations are unlawful killings. Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self-defense against a leader of al-Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the executive order banning assassination or criminal statutes.”
Holder said “it is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible — among other reasons, so that we can gather valuable intelligence from them — but we must also recognize that there are instances where our government has the clear authority — and, I would argue, the responsibility — to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force.”
I am not a constitutional lawyer. I do not even play one on TV so I can’t speak to the finer points of the due process clause. I just know this does not pass my “smell test”. I have read statements by lawyers. Here’s a sampling from MOJO and Adam Sewer.
Both supporters and opponents of the administration’s targeted killing policy offered praise for the decision to give the speech. They diverged, however, when it came to the legal substance. ”It’s essential that if we’re going to be doing these things, our top national security and legal officials explain why it’s legal under international and constitutional law,” said Benjamin Wittes, a legal scholar with the Brookings Institution, who said he thought the speech fulfilled that obligation. “I think [the administration] is right as a matter of law.”
In a statement, Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project, called the authority described in the speech “chilling.” She urged the administration to release the Justice Department legal memo justifying the targeted killing program—a document that the ACLU and the New York Times are currently suing the US government to acquire. “Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power.”
Here’s a point-by-point list of things that I think is worth reading from Lawfare. This is a small portion of that article. I really suggest you go read all of the points to get an understanding of the policy and its process.
That is, the speech asserts that Due Process permits targeting of a citizen at least when the target is:
(i) located abroad rather than in the United States,
(ii) has a senior operational role
(iii) with al Qaeda or an al Qaeda-associated force,
(iv) is involved in plotting focused on the death of Americans in particular,
(v) that threat is “imminent” in the sense that this is the last clear window of opportunity to strike,
(vi) there is no feasible option for capture without undue risk, and
(vii) the strike will comply with the IHL principles of necessity, distinction, proportionality, and humanity
All of this takes away from the many questions surrounding the first recipient of the assassination treatment. Marcy at Empty Wheel reminds of the thin ice upon which Holder skates.
Perhaps it’s because of all the dubious reasons the Administration continues to keep its case against Anwar al-Awlaki secret, but Eric Holder gave the impression of not knowing precisely what evidence the government had shown against Awlaki.
Or, deliberately misrepresenting it.
Holder mentioned Awlaki just once–purportedly to summarize Abdulmutallab’s case against Awlaki they released last month.
For example, in October, we secured a conviction against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for his role in the attempted bombing of an airplane traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. He was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While in custody, he provided significant intelligence during debriefing sessions with the FBI. He described in detail how he became inspired to carry out an act of jihad, and how he traveled to Yemen and made contact with Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen and a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Abdulmutallab also detailed the training he received, as well as Aulaqi’s specific instructions to wait until the airplane was over the United States before detonating his bomb. [my emphasis]
Note, this misrepresents what Abdulmutallab said, at least as shown by the summary released last month (setting aside the reasons DOJ chose not to test those claims at trial). What the summary did say was that Awlaki gave Abdulmutallab specific instructions to ignite his bomb while over the US. It did not say Awlaki was “a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” That’s DOJ’s elaboration, a frankly dishonest one, given the construction (and one that was probably at least significantly challenged by the intelligence Jubeir al-Fayfi delivered ten months after Abdulmutallab gave his testimony).
This is obviously a complex situation that needs full time attention by a lot of folks with a lot more than I can provide here. It’s something, however, we all need to follow.