Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I'm not even sure I'm going to vote in 2012, to be honest. Kevin Zeese is such a handmaiden to Barack that I worry now about voting for Ralph Nader. (Otherwise, I'd be happy to vote for Nader again.) But here's a piece about how people who want to vote may not be able to. This is from Deborah J. Vagins and Georgeanne M. Usova's "So You Think You Can Vote?" (ACLU):

Election Day should be a time to reflect on our country’s hard won history of expanding access to the polls. But on this Election Day, we are faced with a dramatic rollback of that access — a sweeping trend of voter suppression laws that have been introduced and enacted in state legislatures across the nation. During just the 2011 legislative season alone, regressive measures were introduced in more than 30 states, and 14 states advanced measures that would create more barriers to voting.

These laws could keep people like Joy Lieberman, who has faithfully voted in every election since she first registered in 1952, from casting her ballot in the future. Joy’s original birth certificate does not include her middle name, under which she is registered to vote, which will make it difficult for her to prove her identity. She also suffers from a hand tremor that will prevent her from duplicating her signature accurately on a provisional ballot. If a 2012 ballot initiative allows Missouri legislators to enact a voter ID law, Joy could be kept from voting.

That bothers me and it bothers me how when you do something like deny that woman the right to vote based on a hand tremor or what have you then you are going too far.

I just believe that every citizen who wants to vote should be allowed to.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

November 8, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the Turkish military wants the peshmerga to fight the PKK, Nouri and his power grab, a Senate hearing that makes it clear Iraq and Iraqis just don't matter, and more.
We'll start by dropping back to last Wednesday when the Senate's Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues held a joint-hearing with the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. Senators Barbara Boxer and Bob Casey co-chaired the hearing. Senator Jim DeMint was the Ranking Member. What stood out the most?
How important Hillary Clinton's work on women's issue in the 90s was.
Dismissed, attacked and belittled in the 2008 Democratic Party primaries, even Barbara Boxer had to acknowledge the work when introducing witness Melanne Verveer who worked with Hillary on women's rights while Hillary was First Lady. So much heavy lifting did Hillary do during that period that even Republican Senator Jim DeMint had to acknowledge her and quote her ("Women's rights are human rights."). Hillary created a benchmark which can still be used as a benchmark.
Subcommittee Chair Barbara Boxer: But I want to talk about why we thought this was a very timely and important hearing and, from the attendance here, I think we were right. In December 2010, the world turned its attention to Tunisia after a young street vendor set himself on fire to protest the government's unjust treatment of the Tunisian people. His actions and his subsequent death sparked widespread protests and within weeks the government fell. Since then we have seen dictators toppled in Egypt and Libya and anti-government protests erupt from Syria to Yemen. And, in each of these countries, we've seen women fighting for change -- whether it was the young female students marching in Tahrir Square or the women in Yemen who took to the streets in their veils in a sign of defiance. These women have much at risk and their courage has inspired women around the world.
Ambassador Melanne Verver noted Mahnaz Afkhami "was the minister for women in Iran at the time of the revolution and as she was mentioning nobody thought that revolution was going to create the theocracy and the kind of Iran that exists today."
Appearing as witnesses at the hearing were five women. As already noted, Melanne Verveer was one. She's the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issue. The State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs and Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions, Dr. Tamara Wittes and Verveer made up the first panel. The second panel was Women's Learning Partnership's president Mahnaz Afkhami, Freedom's president and CEO Sandra Bunn-Livingstone and a name this community is already familiar with: Manal Omar. She is the United States Institute of Peace's Director of Iraq, Iran and North Africa Programs.
We know Manal Omar's work from interviews and speeches she's given and most of all from her book Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos which we've noted here many times and which, at Third, we picked as one of the ten most important books of the last ten years. And since our Iraq is our focus, that's who we would emphasize, right?
Wrong. She had no interest in Iraq -- it rated a fleeting single sentence mention and that was when it was lumped in with other countries. Oh well, at least she got a book out of the country, right? In fairness to her, none of the senators demonstrated interest in Iraq either.
Considerable time was spent by Senator DeMint addressing religious freedom in the Middle East. He and Bunn-Livingstone were very interested, for example, in the targeting of Christians in Egypt. Apparently Iraqi Christians can just rot in the hell the US government has created for them?
Joining them in that US created hell will be not just Iraqi Christian women but all Iraqi women. I asked a senator (not named above) who briefly participated in the nonsense hearing how in the world this hearing takes place with no recognition or acknowledgement of Iraq and was told (this is a direct quote), "Come on, you know we don't want to face what we've done to that country." Exactly.
Another senator (who is named above) told me after the hearing that Iraq "isn't really part of the Arab spring." And Libya is? Seriously? That was civil protestors conducting aerial night bombings of Tripoli? As for Iraq and the Arab Spring, of course that got avoided. No way in the world is the US Senate ready to get honest about that.
Nouri ordered protesters attacked, you may remember. The US government looked the other way. February 25th, Nouri ordered the press assaulted. The US government looked the other way. Nouri spied on protesters via electronic devices that track cell phones and internet use. The US government didn't look the other way. No, the US government sold a would-be Saddam Hussein that equipment. Nouri demonized the protesters, in speech after speech, as "Ba'athists." The US government looked the other way. Hadi Mehdi -- journalist, activist and critic of Nouri -- is murdered in his own home and Nouri's security forces are the chief suspect. The US government looked the other way.
And it was cute to watch as the US Senate endorsed that response (looking the other way) by refusing to address Iraq in the hearing. I think Gore Vidal needs to change his United States of Amnesia which was always far too kind of a description of the government's actions and motives. We're living in the United States of Denial.
And in this land, according to the Department of Justice Statistics reported by Lynn Langton ("Women in Law Enforcement, 1987 - 2008"), women are a visible part of law enforcement:
By 2007, nearly 4,000 state police, 19,4000 sheriff's and 55,3000 local police officers were women. In 2008, across 62 reporting federal law enforcement agencies there were about 90,000 sworn officers, of whom approximately 18,200 (20%) were women. These 2007 and 2008 numbers suggest a combined total of almost 100,000 female sworn officers nationwide in federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
What's it like to be a police woman in Iraq? Kholoud Ramzi (niqash) answers that question in a lengthy report detailing how police women "cannot wear uniforms or badges of rank because male officers don't want to salute them." I'm remembering Barbara Boxer's encounter with the military in one hearing where she corrected the witness and informed him he could call her "Senator" because she'd earned that title. It's a shame her concern is only with what she earned and that she receives respect. Iraqi women will have to look elsewhere to find someone concerned about their right to respect and what they've earned. Ramzi reports:
Ministry of Interior official statistics indicate that there are around 600 women among the ranks of the country's police. There are also 4,150 plainclothes policewomen working in inspections -- that is, they man security checkpoints on roads and in places like offices, airports and other public areas where security is required.
Besides not being able to show their rank, most policewomen also are not allowed to wear their uniforms on the street. They arrive at work in civilian clothing, then change into uniform during the working day and then must change back into civilian clothing before leaving their place of work. This is ostensibly to keep the female officers safe. But questions arise as to whether this rule is in fact motivated by social opinions because male officers are not expected to do the same.
Sexism within the police force doesn't stop here. In Iraq, a policewoman's work is usually restricted to administrtaion or to working at a checkpoint. More physical or dangerous activity outside of the office is left to male officers and generally there is the perception that women cannot peform these more demanding tasks.
Ramzi notes that the situation is better in the Kurdistan Regional Government where "police women can work as investigators on criminal cases and they are able to wear uniforms as well as badges of rank." Michael M. Gunter (Foreign Policy) looks at Kurdish nationalism in the Middle East and this is from his section on the Middle East:

In Iraq, of course, autonomy had already been achieved with the creation of the KRG following the Gulf War in 1991 and the KRG's constitutional recognition in 2003. However, many wonder what will happen to the KRG once remaining U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011. Already the KRG and Baghdad have come perilously close to blows over Kirkuk and their disputed internal border, often referred to as "the trigger line."

Will the KRG and Baghdad begin fighting once the U.S. troops are no longer there to separate them? In addition, despite warming economic and even political relations between Turkey and the KRG, Turkey began bombing PKK militants in northern Iraq in August 2011 and then even sent troops over the border to pursue them in October. Turkey also asked the KRG for help in these efforts, even though it is clear that the KRG does not want to fight against fellow Kurds in the PKK. Iran, too, has been shelling the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) -- dissident Iranian Kurds -- entrenched just over the border in northern Iraq. How will all this play out once U.S. troops are withdrawn and both Turkey and Iran have a freer hand in intervening in northern Iraq? It remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Kurds have had their own "Kurdish Spring" of sorts. First, the anti-corruption Gorran (Change) Party split the long-entrenched Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the KRG elections held on July 25, 2009. Subsequently, violent demonstrations broke out in Sulaymaniya on February 17, 2011, the KRG's second largest city, and continued until they were forcibly curtailed by the KRG leadership on April 19.

The Kurdistan Regional Government is a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. Turkey borders it from the north. The problems between the two governments start with the fact that Turkey doesn't want the KRG to exist and fears it fuels dreams and hopes for Kurds within Turkey.

The Kurds are said to be the largest ethnic minority on the globe without a homeland. Amar C. Bakshi (CNN) observes, "As way of very brief background, the Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group without a state. After World War I, when great powers careved up the Middle East, the Kurds, riven by internal strife at the time, did not get a seat at the table. In turn, they did not get a state on the map." Many groups fight for Kurdish independence. Among those are the PKK. Throughout the Iraq War, the Turkish military has bombed northern Iraq with the latest wave of attacks beginning on August 17th and they intensified last month. The Turkish government has maintained the attacks are targeting the PKK. Hurriyet Daily News reports, "During a meeting with Ankara officials on Nov. 5, Turkish officials requested [KRG President] Masoud Barzani's peshmarga forces tighten airport controls, particularly in the capital of Arbil, as the PKK often prefers to transfer money from various European countries into the region through flight routes. The Turkish side also urged Barzani's forces to heed intelligence provided by Turkey regarding such money transfers and to seize such cargo and apprehend the couriers. Officials also reportedly handed Barzani a 'red fil' that included updated information regarding the movements of the PKK's leading cadres inside northern Iraq, places they frequent and where they receive logistical support, according to daily Hurriyet." Iran's Press TV picks it up there, "Turkish media reported on Monday that the red dossier calls on Peshmerga fighters (former Kurdish resistance forces currently known as the Iraqi National Guards) to get engaged in fight against the PKK militants. The reports about the red dossier comes as Barzani, in his remarks made in Turkey, had made it clear that he was against armed clashes with the PKK, indicating the Peshmerga forces will not turn their weapons on the Kurdish militants."
Meanwhile, Alsumaria TV notes that the move by Salahuddin Province to explore semi-autonomy is leading to renewed talk that Nineveh Province should become a province for minorities. Iraqi Christians have been calling for the creation of such a province for some time now and these calls intensified following last years attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.

Another province that's had talk of becoming semi-autonomous is Anbar Province whose governor Qasim al-Fahadawi was the target of an assassination attempt yesterday. Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) notes, "Because the bomb was planted and detonated within sight of an Iraqi Army checkpoint, Sunni leaders said the attack showed the Shiite-dominated central government's disregard for their safety, or worse." Al Rafidayn adds that al-Fahadawi has accused the Iraqi military of the attempted assassination noting that the attempt took place near a military checkpoint. He declares that in the past he's been attacked by al Qaeda in Mesopotamia (he lost a leg in one such attack) and that he knows the way they operate but this one was less than 100 meters from the military checkpoint run by the Muthanna Brigade. Kramer quotes Sahwa leader Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha stating, "I accuse the Dawa Party, in collusion with the Muthanna Brigade, for trying to assassinate the governor of Anbar." Nouri al-Maliki's the leader of Dawa.

And at the Islamic Dawa Party's official website, you can contact Nouri with their "Ask The PM" section. And then there's these section "Dawa People" featuring Nouri (of course) and Imam Muhammad Bagir Al-Sadr.
Nouri is also over the Iraqi military. Muqdad Noori (Rudaw) weighs in on Nouri:

But I believe that Prime Minister Maliki has now ensured that the Americans will leave Iraq by the end of the year. The news of the American pullout came as surprise to many. Given Maliki's ambitions to rule Iraq unchallenged, however, it is likely that he has sped up the American withdrawal.
With the Americans gone, he can go about imposing the will of his own party and ruling elite and sideline by any means necessary any opponent standing in his way.
The Iranian influence on the Iraqi prime minister is undeniable. For Maliki, appeasing the Iranians -- who funded his Dawa Party for decades and have stood by him ever since -- by making sure the American troops leave Iraq, seems to matter more than the rightful demand of some Iraqis that American soldiers remain in Iraq, which may prevent new hostilities and civil war.
In his second term in office, Maliki hasn't missed a chance to show who is in charge of Iraq. He frequently ignores the Parliament and House of Representatives and does what he wants to do.

The Oman Tribune notes the move of Salaheddin Province to become semi-autonomous and Nouri's crackdown on political opponents (arresting them for allegedly being "Ba'ahtists") and quotes the International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann stating, "There is a severe dysfunction between the centre, Baghdad, and the provinces; and there are big tensions between the prime minister and his opponents. The two phenomena converge on provinces, which blame neglect from Baghdad on sectarian motives. The arrest campaign has reinforced this." iNewp.com adds, "People are fearing that Maliki may become another Hussein, especially as he is delaying the appointments of individuals to senior government positions that would co-lead the security forces. He is also being criticized for running the Ministry of the Interior as interim minister and the Ministry of Defense alone with a few other power holders." Though Nouri claimed and the press trumpeted in December 2010 that he would appoint ministers to head the Ministries of Defense, National Security and Interior in a matter of weeks, nearly a year later that has not happened increasing the initial assertion that he never intended to name people to the posts and that he was launching a power grab. Saturday, the New York Times editorial board served up "Prime Minister Maliki and the Sunnis:"

The authoritarian tendencies of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq are well known. But the arrest of more than 600 Iraqis whom the government describes as suspected former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and army is particularly cynical and reckless. With American troops scheduled to withdraw by year's end, the last thing Mr. Maliki should be doing is stoking sectarian tensions.

The Nouri-run Ministry of the Interior is in the news this morning. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Iraq's Interior Ministry has denied that a detainee, called Kazim Munshid, has died under torture, but said he died after committing suicide in southern Iraq's Muthanna Prison, according to an Interior Ministry statement on Monday." While it is very likely that anyone trapped in what passes for a 'legal' system in Iraq might take their own life, Nouri's repeatedly getting caught running torture cells and secret prisons as well as the Iraqi security forces well known utilization of torture makes it equally likely that Kazim Munshid was tortured to death. The US government installed Nouri in 2006 and they were determined to keep him on as prime minister following the March 7, 2010 election. Reidar Visser (Gulf Analysis) reflects on how the US went about keeping Nouri:
The problem was that this and other US proposals for "intervention" only envisaged a desirable end result, i.e. a coalition of Iraqiyya, State of Law and the Kurds. They did not address or engage with the question of how their preferred nominee for prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, would actually end up getting that position in accordance with Iraqi constitutional procedure.
When the Americans found themselves unable to square desired end games with constitutional process, instead of looking more carefully at the constitution or ideas circulating among the Iraqis at the time, they began making up the rules themselves. This included complete inventions like the strategic policy council -- designed as a consolation prize for Ayad Allawi in lieu of the premiership -- as well as a last-minute attempt to oversell him the largely symbolic presidency. Khalilzad's own preferred solution was a suggestion for splitting the premiership in two two-year terms, which again was unconstitutional and almost certain to end up with an acrimonious struggle once the first term neared expiry, if not earlier.
The disastrous outcome of these failures -- both that of the largely passive Obama administration as well as the general haplessness of the minority "hands-on" crowd that preferred the Khalilzad approach -- is the oversized, still-not-quite-seated Iraqi government of today, unable to deliver Washington the extension of the SOFA that at least the Pentagon, if not the White House, had been craving for.
What the Americans could have done instead was to listen to the Iraqi debate at the time, where ideas that could have solved the whole issue actually existed. The first step would have been the formation of a super-bloc of Maliki's State of Law and the secular Iraqiyya. This coalition could have ruled itself with a majority of about 180 deputies in parliament, or could have added the Kurds later on (the Kurds had signalled they would not be part of a greater bloc formation, so the premiership issue would have to be settled between Allawi and Maliki). The key point is that the new bloc could have agreed on a prime minister, most probably Maliki, that would not have been dependent upon the Sadrists or Iran.
In today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Ramadi roadside bombing which left four police officers injured, a Baquba roadside bombing which targeted a Sahwa leader and left him injured, a second Baquba roadside bombing which left 1 mayor injured, a third Baquba roadside bombing which targeted a judge's home (no one was hurt) and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people in need of medical attention.
Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office issued the following:

For Immediate Release

November 7, 2011
Murray: 202-224-2834

Cantwell: 202-224-8277

McCaskill: 202-228-6502

VETERANS: Senators Murray, Cantwell, McCaskill Send Letter to GAO Urging Evaluation of VA's Center for Veterans Enterprise

Senators: As our veterans face an unprecedented rate of unemployment, Congress must continue its work fostering our nation's service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses
(Washington, D.C.) -- Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) sent a joint letter to Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller Gene Dodaro about the critical need to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE). In 2006, to support service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, Congress created the Veterans First contracting preference program. VA was charged with implementing procedures to verify the ownership, control, and status of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses seeking to participate in Veterans First. Congress also emphasized the importance of ensuring that veterans' preferences in federal procurements are used to benefit only eligible service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. CVE began verification of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses in May, 2008. Since that time, CVE has struggled to implement an effective verification program. The letter urges the GAO to assist the CVE in developing the tools, resources and capacity necessary for an effective, timely and efficient verification process.

"Service disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses are key partners in our economic recovery. These veteran-entrepreneurs continue to face red tape, delays and hurdles as they work to verify their businesses with CVE," said Senator Patty Murray. "After sacrificing so much to serve their country, they should not have to face such challenges when they return home. As Veterans Day approaches, there is no better time to be reminded how much we owe these brave men and women in uniform. I hope the GAO will assist CVE in identifying the changes necessary to make its verification program efficient and reliable, so that CVE can better serve these veteran-owned small businesses as they work to make America's economy strong."

"Veterans who have fought for our freedom deserve our support in their civilian lives," said Senator Maria Cantwell. "We need to make sure that returning troops have fair access to veteran small business programs that support jobs. That's why we're asking GAO to look into the process the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Veterans Enterprise follows for verifying the authenticity of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. We need to ensure there's an efficient and timely verification program in place, so veterans can focus on growing their businesses and putting Americans back to work, instead of dealing with excessive red tape."

"Our veterans have already made a tremendous sacrifice for our country, and we should do everything possible to ensure job opportunities for them after they return to the civilian workforce," said Senator McCaskill. "There is clearly a problem with the VA's ability to verify that contracts are going to the right businesses under the law. We want to see the GAO help the VA get its house in order and ensure that truly veteran-owned businesses are getting the contracts targeted to them."

The Senators' letter also requests that the GAO assess the steps that would be necessary for CVE's verification program to be scaled and implemented government-wide. Such a verification program would apply to all service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses participating in federal procurement preference programs. The letter also asks for suggestions for actions CVE can take to achieve readiness for this expanded role.

The full text of the Senators' letter is below:

November 3, 2011

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General of the United States

Government Accountability Office

441 G Street, NW

Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

As our veterans face an unprecedented rate of unemployment, Congress must continue its work fostering our nation's service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses. These small businesses fuel America's economy, are key partners in our fight to get veterans back to work and are vital to our long-term economic vitality. One such step that Congress can take to support these businesses is to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE).

In 2006, to support service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, Congress created the Veterans First contracting preference program. VA was charged with implementing procedures to verify the ownership, control, and status of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses seeking to participate in Veterans First. Congress also emphasized the importance of ensuring that veterans' preferences in federal procurements are used to benefit only eligible service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses.

CVE began verification of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses in May, 2008. Since that time, CVE has struggled to implement an effective verification program. Indeed, the VA Office of Inspector General found that as many as 1,400 contracts were awarded to ineligible businesses in FY 2010. While VA has made some progress in improving its verification program, questions remain as to the program's overall effectiveness. Indeed, it appears VA may need to better develop the tools, resources and capacity necessary for an effective, timely and efficient verification process.

Therefore, we are requesting a GAO evaluation of the verification program operated by CVE. Specifically:

§ How have CVE's businesses processes and procedures evolved from inception to their current-state following passage of P.L. 111-275, what metrics does CVE utilize to evaluate its processes and procedures, and are such metrics sufficient to provide CVE with an objective and measurable review of its own performance;

§ How effective is CVE in processing, reviewing and verifying eligibility of service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses, and in conducting appeals and quality-control reviews of its verification decisions in a timely and accurate manner;

§ What steps can be taken to improve CVE's total in-process, aged inventory and requests for reconsideration statistics;

§ Do CVE appeal and quality-control review reversal rates reveal any systemic or substantive errors in CVE eligibility decision-making policies, processes and procedures, and, if so, how can such errors be remediated;

§ How effective are CVE communications to an applicant business at informing the business of its application status at each stage of the review process, and are such communications timely and consistently made;

§ Has CVE issued effective guidance to applicant businesses regarding its interpretation and application of 38 C.F.R. § 74 et seq., "Veterans Small Business Regulations", and has CVE applied such regulations in a manner that is clear and consistent to applicant businesses;

§ What progress has CVE made in developing capacity by updating and maintaining its data systems to reduce manual data entry by staff and to improve the timeliness and accuracy of application process; and

§ What steps has CVE taken to analyze and assess core competencies and workforce needs for each of its business units, and to align these competencies and needs with its personnel training, performance evaluation, and recruitment and retention strategies?
Finally, we would like you to assess the steps that would be necessary for CVE's verification program to be scaled and implemented government-wide. Such a verification program would apply to all service-disabled veteran-owned and veteran-owned small businesses participating in federal procurement preference programs. To the extent that you find further development is needed before CVE can perform government-wide verification, please include suggestions for actions CVE can take to achieve readiness for this expanded role.

Please contact David Brown, Counsel to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, at (202) 224-9126, and Margaret Daum, Staff Director to the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, at (202) 224-4462, to discuss this request.


Patty Murray

Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Claire McCaskill

Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Maria Cantwell

United States Senator

Yesterday Conor Friedersdorf published "A Plea to Liberals: Stop Marginalizing Peace and Civil Liberties" at The Atlantic. It should be required reading for the week. Excerpt:

During the Bush Administration, up right until the end, it was unthinkable that mainstream media organizations or prominent center-left writers would offer general assessments of President Bush that just glossed over his aggregation of executive power, his secrecy, the unchecked militarism and collateral damage of his foreign policy, his attacks on journalists working to shed light on his actions, or the domestic civil liberties abuses, whether the Patriot Act, which Obama extended, the warrantless spying on Americans, which is ongoing, and other policies besides. Ask someone at the ACLU or the Center for Constitutional Rights or the Cato Institute and they'll affirm that all of these post-9/11 excesses are still problems -- that Obama is better on torture, but that he's also gone farther than the Bush Administration on various objectionable policies, and that his actions have lent to Bush/Cheney policies the veneer of bipartisan consensus.

But to read about the Obama Administration, even in publications like The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, both of which do phenomenal work on these subjects in isolation -- to read pieces even by exceptional journalists who agree with the ACLU on most issues -- it is too often the case that these policies are invisible, as if they're so insignificant that they need not be mentioned, when it comes to articles that step back and assess the Obama presidency.

They're just left out of the master narrative.

Is Obama better than all the Republican candidates on these issues? Certainly not. He is worse than Gary Johnson and Ron Paul; arguably worse than Jon Huntsman too. Is he better than anyone likely to win the GOP nomination? Perhaps. Does it matter? What does "better than the Republicans" get you if it means that executive privilege keeps expanding, the drones keep killing innocents and inflaming radicals and destabilizing regions, the Pentagon budget keeps growing, civil liberties keep being eroded, wars are waged without Congressional permission, and every future president knows he or she can do the same because at this point it doesn't even provoke a significant backlash from the left? Is the dysfunction of the Republican Party license to oppose those policies less vociferously than they were opposed during the Bush Administration?

These aren't fringe concerns, or peripheral disappointments to lament in the course of leaving them to the Charlie Savages and Jane Mayers of the world -- they are issues of maximal importance that are central to the Obama Administration. They ought to be raised as such in every assessment of Obama's tenure. What few of us saw in 2008 is that Bush Administration wasn't "a temporary detour from our history's long arc toward justice," and the Obama Administration wasn't a vehicle of change -- it was the normalization of the post-9/11 security state. If it is still to be a detour, there must be a backlash. The Republican establishment isn't inclined to help. And libertarians, civil and otherwise, are too few to bring about a backlash alone.

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