Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Campaign '08 Update: Open Letter to Sen. Barack Obama -- This is Not a "Food Fight." This is a *Civil* War

The Candidate, A Film by Robert Redford (1972)

Campaign '08 Update: Open Letter to Sen. Barack Obama -- This is Not a "Food Fight." This is a *Civil* War

By Richard Power

Dear Sen. Obama,

Triangulating and pandering is not the way to distinguish yourself from the politics of the last two decades in general, or Sen. Clinton in particular.

I have been trying to open my mind to you, and I have been trying to see beyond the empty platitudes and discover what it is that Cornell West, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, Ophrah Winfrey and Stephanie Miller have found in you.

Only a few days ago, I was encouraged by watching Buzzflash's delightful, insightful interview with your barber at Blackstone and 53rd. It communicates something important and wonderful about you that is lacking in your rhetoric. (Click here.)

But recent comments highlighted by Digby, Kos and others are a powerful reminder about what is wrong with your concept of how to run this race and your prescription for what ails the body politic:

In a speech this afternoon in central Iowa, Barack Obama seems to have widened his criticism of the politics of the past to encompass not only Hillary Clinton but John Kerry and Nobel Laureate Al Gore.
Making an argument for his electability, Obama said, "I don't want to go into the next election starting off with half the country already not wanting to vote for Democrats -- we've done that in 2004, 2000," according to a person at the event.
Spin Cycle, Newsday, 12-31-07

Sen. Obama, Al Gore is not Sister Souljah.

Al Gore is the 2007 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore also won an Emmy and an Oscar in 2007. If he had entered the race, you would be on the sidelines, jumping up and down and hoping for a chance to get into the game.

Sen. Obama, please stop referring, as you do in almost every speech, to the last two decades in Beltwayistan as a "partisan food fight."

Ask the wrongly jailed Susan McDougal if it has been a "food fight."

Ask wrongly imprisoned former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama if it was a "food fight."

Ask Vince Foster's wife if it has been a "food fight."

Ask Valerie Plame and those who put their lives on the line to work with her if it has been a "food fight."

Ask all of those in the US military, intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement communities (most of them Republicans) who have resigned from the services they loved -- rather than enable tyranny, treason or torture. Ask them, if it has been a "food fight."

Ask the African American people of New Orleans abandoned before, during and after Katrina if it has been a "food fight."

Ask the African American people of Fraudida who were wrongly purged from the voter roles if it has been a "food fight."

Ask the African American people of Ohio who stood in the cold rain for hours to cast votes that were not even counted if it has been a "food fight."

Ask Pat Tillman's brother if it has been a "food fight."

Ask the Jersey Girls and the other activist survivors of 9/11 victims if it has been a "food fight."

Ask the families of the thousands of men and women of the US military who died in Iraq for nothing more than a neo-con wet dream if it has been a "food fight."

Ask the fired US attorneys (all Republican) if this has been a "food fight."

Ask Michael Schiavo if it has been a "food fight."

Ask Michael J. Fox and all the others who have fought for stem cell research funding if it has been a "food fight."

The arrogance of these remarks, sir, is insufferable, and it is eclipsed only by their naivety.

In truth, Gore won Florida and Kerry won Ohio, which means, in truth, they both won the electoral college vote and should have been sworn into office.

Both elections were stolen.

I am not surprised that you deny the theft of the 2000 and 2004 elections (most of the political establishment you pretend not to belong to denies it); but I am surprised and disappointed that you would seek to gain political advantage by embellishing the false narratives of 2000 and 2004 with the insinuation that somehow it was the way that Gore and Kerry waged their campaigns led to the two "defeats."

Are you really ready for what 2008 is going to be like?

I have noticed you enjoy invoking Abraham Lincoln.

Sen. Obama, Lincoln fought to his own death to save the Republic against its enemies, and he did not talk of peace until he had crushed them on the battlefield.

Sen. Obama, Lincoln did not pretend the divide did not exist, nor did he use high-borne rhetoric to create an unstable bridge across it.

No, Lincoln collapsed that divide. Lincoln went to war.

What you have in common with Lincoln is the state of Illinois, not the state of denial.

Wake up, Sen. Obama.

I have included two recent pieces of important analysis from the Blogosphere: Glenn Greenwald on "Oligarchical Decay" and "The Death of the Bill of Rights: A Timeline of Infamy" from the Daily Kos.

They underscore the profound nature of the threat to this Republic, as serious as anything since the time of Lincoln.

Surely, you have noticed?

This is not a "food fight," Sen. Obama, this is a struggle for the life of the Republic.

In case after case, our political establishment has adopted the “principle” that our most powerful actors are immune from the rule of law. And they’ve adopted the enabling supplemental “principle” that any information which our political leaders want to keep suppressed is — by definition, for that reason alone — information that is “classified” and should not be disclosed.
The instruments used to secure these prerogatives are numerous and growing. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick this week summarized the Bush administration’s 10 most egregious legal inventions to enable lawbreaking, including the “states secrets privilege” which has now “has ballooned into a doctrine of blanket immunity for any conduct the administration wishes to hide” and the claim that “everyone who has ever spoken to the president about anything is barred from congressional testimony by executive privilege.” All of these developments have a common strain, a shared objective: ensuring that our highest political officials and our most powerful corporations are beyond the reach of the law.
Thus, our establishment believes that any information that would shed light on whether our most powerful actors have broken the law is information that shouldn’t be disclosed. In those accidental cases when — via unauthorized leaks — information is disclosed that demonstrates that crimes have been committed, our establishment bands together to insist that nothing be done, that there is no need to investigate or hold anyone accountable, and that the only real wrongdoing is by those “the leakers” who disclosed the lawbreaking.
This is the same pattern seen over and over: leakers reveal that Bush broke the law for years by spying on Americans without the warrants required by law, and every investigation — legislative and judicial — is successfully blocked, and Congress then moves to legalize the lawbreaking. The top aide to Bush and Cheney, Lewis Libby, is found unanimously by a 12-person jury to have lied deliberately with the intent of blocking an FBI and Grand Jury investigation into illegal leaks and is sentenced by a conservative judge to prison, yet is protected from jail time by the President while our media and political establishment cheer almost unanimously. ...
There is a mildly increased desperation that is palpable among our political and media elites to protect and defend their system. The extent of their wrongdoing over the last several years — political, legal and economic — is so extreme that the potential for upheaval in the event of accountability is extreme as well. Their chief weapon to protect those privileges is immunity from the rule of law, and most of our political controversies — over presidential power and state secrets and executive privilege and torture and eavesdropping and these CIA videos — really share the same root: the effort of the establishment to maintain their immunity from impropriety-exposing legal proceedings and, thus, from political consequences.

Glenn Greenwald, Oligarchical Decay, Salon, 12-30-07

For what its worth, here it is:
January 2001
• President Bush signs off on a presidential directive that delays [indefinitely] the scheduled release of presidential documents authorized by the Presidential Records Act of 1978, pertaining to the Reagan-Bush administration. (Here)
• The Bush regime begins the process of radically broadening scope of documents and information which can be deemed classified. (Here)
February 2001
• The National Security Agency (NSA) sets up Project Groundbreaker, a monitoring program for domestic call infrastructure. (Here)
February -- April 2001
• A secret order issued by the Bush regime authorizes NSA monitoring of domestic phone and internet traffic. (Here)
September 2001
• In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, over one thousand suspects are brought into detention over the next several months when the Department of Justice authorizes detention without charge for any terror suspects. (Here PDF)
October 2001
• U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announces unprecedented shift in Department of Justice (DOJ) policy. According to the new policy DOJ will impose far more stringent criteria for the granting of Freedom of Information Act requests. (Here)
September – October 2001
• The NSA launches massive database of info on US phone calls. (Here)
October 2001
• The USA Patriot Act becomes law. Among other things, the law makes it a crime for anyone to contribute money or material support for any group on the State Department’s Terror Watch List; allows the FBI to monitor and tape conversations between attorneys and clients; permits the FBI to order librarians to turn over information about patron’s reading habits, and allows the government to conduct surveillance on internet and email use of US citizens without notice. The act also calls for expanded use of National Security Letters (NSLs), which allow the FBI to search telephone, email and financial records of US citizens without a court order, exempts the government from needing to reveal how evidence against suspected terrorists was obtained and authorizes indefinite detention of immigrants at the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities. (Here)
• A NJ Superior court judge and civil liberties scholar Anthony Napolitano, author of A Nation of Sheep, has described the law’s assault on first and fourth amendment principles as follows, "The Patriot Act’s two most principle constitutional errors are an assault on the Fourth Amendment, and on the First. It permits federal agents to write their own search warrants [under the name "national security letters"] with no judge having examined evidence and agreed that it’s likely that the person or thing the government wants to search will reveal evidence of a crime... Not only that, but the Patriot Act makes it a felony for the recipient of a self-written search warrant to reveal it to anyone. The Patriot Act allows [agents] to serve self-written search warrants on financial institutions, and the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 in Orwellian language defines that to include in addition to banks, also delis, bodegas, restaurants, hotels, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, telecoms, HMOs, hospitals, casinos, jewelry dealers, automobile dealers, boat dealers, and that great financial institution to which we all would repose our fortunes, the post office. (Here)
November 2001
• Bush issues Executive order 13233. It limits the release of presidential documents. The order gives incumbent presidents the right to veto requests to open any past presidential records and supersedes the congressionally passed law of 1978 mandating release of all presidential records not explicitly deemed classified. (Here)
January 2002
• The FBI and Department of Defense (DOD), forbidden by law from compiling databases on US citizens, begin contracting with private database firm ChoicePoint to collect, store, search and maintain data. (Here)
February -- March 2002
• Bush issues a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to wiretap the phones and read emails of US citizens. (Here)
March – April 2002
• The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) acknowledges it has created both a "No Fly" and a separate "Watch" list of US travelers. (Here)
May 2002
• The U.S. Department of Justice authorizes the FBI to monitor political and religious groups. The new rules permit the FBI to broadly search or monitor the internet for evidence of criminal activity without having any tips or leads that a specific criminal act has been committed. (Here)
June 2002
• The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of school administrators to conduct mandatory drug testing of students without probable cause. (Here)
November 2002
• The Homeland Security Act of 2002 establishes separate Department of Homeland Security. Among other things the department will federally coordinate for the first time all local and state law enforcement nationwide and run a Directorate of Information and Analysis with authority to compile comprehensive data on US citizens using public and commercial records including credit card, phone, bank, and travel. The department also will be exempt form Freedom of Information Act disclosure requirements. The Homeland Security department’s jurisdiction has been widely criticized for being nebulously defined and has extended beyond terrorism into areas including immigration, pornography and drug enforcement. (Here) and (Here)
February 2003
• Draft of Domestic Security Enhancement Act (aka Patriot Act 2), a secret document prepared by the Department of Justice is leaked by the Center for Public Integrity. Provisions of the February 7th draft version included:
(a) Removal of court-ordered prohibitions against police agencies spying on domestic groups.
(b) The FBI would be granted powers to conduct searches and surveillance based on intelligence gathered in foreign countries without first obtaining a court order.
(c) Creation of a DNA database of suspected terrorists.
(d) Prohibition of any public disclosure of the names of alleged terrorists including those who have been arrested.
(e)Exemptions from civil liability for people and businesses who voluntarily turn private information over to the government.
(f) Criminalization of the use of encryption to conceal incriminating communications.
(g) Automatic denial of bail for persons accused of terrorism-related crimes, reversing the ordinary common law burden of proof principle. All alleged terrorists would be required to demonstrate why they should be released on bail rather than the government being required to demonstrate why they should be held.
(h) Expansion of the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty.
(i) The United States Environmental Protection Agency would be prevented from releasing "worst case scenario" information to the public about chemical plants.
(j)United States citizens whom the government finds to be either members of, or providing material support to, terrorist groups could have their US citizenship revoked and be deported to foreign countries.
(k) Although the bill itself has never (yet) been advanced in congress due to public exposure, some of its provisions have become law as parts of other bills. For example The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge. Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause. (Here) and (Here)
March 2003
• Bush issues Executive order 13292, which radically tightens the declassification process of classified government documents, as well as making it far easier for government agencies to make and keep information classified. The order delayed by three years the release of declassified government documents dating from 1978 or earlier. It also allowed the government to treat all material sent to American officials from foreign governments — no matter how routine — as subject to classification, and expanded the ability of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to shield documents from declassification. Finally it gave the vice president the power to classify information. (Here) and (Here)
• In a ruling seen as a victory for the concentration of ownership of intellectual property and an erosion of the public domain, the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft held that a 20-year extension of the copyright period (from 50 years after the death of the author to 70 years) called for by the Sonny Bono copyright Extension not violate either the Copyright Clause or the First Amendment. (Here)
April 2003
• The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Demore v. Kim that even permanent residents could be subject to mandatory detention when facing deportation based on a prior criminal conviction, without any right to an individualized hearing to determine whether they were dangerous or a flight risk. (Here)
September – October 2003
• The FBI changes its traditional policy of destroying all data and documents collected on innocent citizens in the course of criminal investigations. This information would, according to the bureau, now be permanently stored. Two years later in late 2005 Executive Order 13388, expanded access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined. (Here) and (Here)
October – November 2003
As authorized by the Patriot Act, the FBI expands the practice of national security letters. NSLs, originally introduced in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, enabled the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. This was extended by the Patriot Act to include permitting clandestine scrutiny of all U.S. residents and visitors whether suspected of terrorism or not. (Here)
January 2004
• The FBI begins keeping a database of US citizens based on information obtained via NSLs. (Here)
February – March 2004
• U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft invokes State Secrets privilege to forbid former FBI translator Sibel Edmunds from testifying in a case brought by families of victims of the 9-11 attacks. Litigation by 9-11 families is subsequently halted. (Here) and (Here)
June 2004
• The U.S. Supreme Court upholds Nevada state law allowing police to arrest suspects who refuse to provide identification based on police discretion of "reasonable suspicion." (Here)
January 2005
• The U.S. Supreme court rules that police do not need to have probable cause to have drug sniffing dogs examine cars stopped for routine traffic violations. (Here) and (Here)
June 2005
• U.S. Supreme Court rules that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana users even in states which have laws permitting medical marijuana. (Here)
July – August 2005
• Due to expire at the end of 2005, The Patriot Act is reauthorized by Congress. (Here)
December 2005
• The U.S. Senate blocks reauthorization of certain clauses in Patriot Act. (Here)
March 2006
• The U.S. Senate passes amended version of Patriot Act, reauthorization, with three basic changes from the original including: recipients of secret court orders to turn over sensitive information on individuals linked to terrorism investigations are not allowed to disclose those orders but can challenge the gag order after a year, libraries would not be required to turn over information without the approval of a judge, recipients of an FBI "national security letter" — an investigator’s demand for access to personal or business information — would not have to tell the FBI if they consult a lawyer. New bill also said to extend Congressional oversight over executive department usage guidelines. Shortly after bill is signed George Bush declares oversight rules are not binding. (Here) and (Here)
June 2006
• Supreme court rules that evidence obtained in violation of the "knock and announce" rules can still be permitted in court. (Here)
September 2006
• US Congress and Senate approve the Military Commissions Act, which authorizes torture and strips non- US citizen detainees suspected of terrorist ties of the right of habeas corpus (which includes formal charges, counsel and hearings). It also empowers US presidents at their discretion to declare US citizens as enemy combatants and subject to detention without charge or due process. (Here) (Here) and (Here)
October 2006
• The U.S. Senate passes the John Warner Defense Authorization Act. The act allows a president to declare a public emergency and station US military troops anywhere in America as well as take control of state based national guard units without consent of the governor or other local authorities. The law authorizes presidential deployment of US troops to round-up and detain "potential terrorists", "illegal aliens" and "disorderly" citizenry. (Here) and (Here)
May 2007
• The White House issues National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51). It establishes a new post-disaster plan (with disaster defined as any incident, natural or man-made, resulting in extraordinary mass casualties, damage or disruption) which places the president in charge of all three branches of government. The directive overrides the National Emergencies Act which gives Congress power to determine the duration of a national emergency. (Here) and (Here)
June 2007
• In "Bong Hits for Jesus" case the Supreme court ruled that student free speech rights do not extend to promotion of drug use. (Here)
July 2007
• Bush issued Executive Order 13438: "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq, issued. The order asserts the government’s power to confiscate the property "of persons determined to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people." (Here)
October 2007
• The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act passes the House of Representatives 400 to 6 (to be voted on in the Senate early in 2008). The act proposes the establishment of a commission composed of members of the House and Senate, Homeland Security and others, to "examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States" and specifically the role of the internet in fostering and disseminating extremism. According to the bill the term `violent radicalization’ means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change, while the term ‘ideologically-based violence’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs." (Here) (Here) and (Here)
That my friends is perhaps the most odious timeline ever. But, it leaves us with a choice. We can turn yet another blind eye to another egregious usurpation of power or we can stop the VRHTA dead in its tracks. Please click the link below to contact your senators. They'll probably be voting on this piece of crap as soon as vacation is over.
Tell them HELL NO!!! on the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act. It is unconstitutional. It is unamerican.
Senate Contact Information
Be relentless.
Markthshark, The Death of the Bill of Rights: A Timeline of Infamy, Daily Kos, 12-28-07

See also Campaign '08 Update 8-12-07: Open Letter to Democratic Primary & Caucus Voters -- Turn This Race Upside Down! and Hard Rain Journal 9-17-07: An Open Letter to Al Gore -- The List, & What Will Happen to the USA & the Planet if We Don't Address It In 2008

For an archive of Words of Power posts on Campaign '08, click here.

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