Friday, January 6, 2012

The Great Fear

The great fear is that the NDAA will be used to support massive civil liberties abuses. And, that is a really legitimate fear. The Obama administration wrote a secret legal memo to justify the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, and the memo drew its justification from the authorization to use military force (AUMF) against Al Qaeda that Congress enacted shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Now, the NDAA extends the detention provisions of AUMF to US citizens at home. So, by extension, I imagine they could write a memo that draws on NDAA to justify domestic terrorist assassinations. The courts are our last line of defense here. I imagine any President or administration that tried to use the NDAA detention provisions simply to round people up and put them in FEMA prisons would face fierce legal challenges. I think the reason they added the offensive language to NDAA was to allow for military detentions and trials of US citizens captured in the US who may be collaborating with al Qaeda. There were a few 9/11 collaborators who meet that definition and were tried in civilian court and they wanted to keep them in military court. We can only hope the intentions are so benign, but should not have to. These laws should never have been written and we can only hope they will soon be repealed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blame Yourself for Nuclear Iran

Out of all the thrilling and entertaining moments in the 2012 Republican Presidential campaign, perhaps the most galvanizing was when Herman Cain said, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”  It echoed all that is good and true in the conservative movement and its religious belief in taking personal responsibility. It is why Herman Cain rose higher and longer than any of the other non-Romney candidates, and why I think he had a serious shot at the nomination if it turned out he had a grasp of foreign policy and was true to his wife.

I find it ironic that for all of the GOP’s fervor for taking personal responsibility and getting government off our backs, that instead of blaming themselves, most conservatives seem content to blame immigrants, welfare recipients, big government and Barack Obama for most of what is wrong with America. Rather than taking responsibility and enjoying the benefits of one of the least regulated, smallest government, most capitalistic countries in the world it seems that many on the red side of the street spend more time worrying about Obama’s birth certificate, or a non-existent crime epidemic in border cities, or government regulations, instead of knuckling down and building better businesses and better communities.

Like Herman Cain, Ron Paul has it wrong with his small-government, laissez-faire economic policy. But, Paul at least has it half-right on US foreign policy. The part he has right: we should let Iran have nuclear power and become a nuclear country; the wrong part: cut almost the entire military and foreign aid budgets and disengage from the rest of the world completely.  I think we need a balance somewhere between the two.  We can cut the military budget in half over 5 years and invest in retraining the returning soldiers and out of work contractors in new energy technology. After all, energy security is national security.

Iran knows that one day their oil will dry up and their source of wealth and power as a country will dry up as well unless they have diverse industries and energy resources. It is the same reason Dubai has been diversifying its portfolio for years including the controversial deal to buy part of a US port in 2006. Under pressure from Israel and AIPAC, Democrats and Republicans will do anything to stop Iran from going nuclear. Yet, mutually Assured Destruction has worked everywhere else in the world, so why can’t it work between Israel and Iran? A nuclear Iran is a small price to pay for maintaining the American Empire.  

Yes, we are an empire. The US has only 5% of the world’s population, but we use 25% to 50% of its resources and our military budgetequals the next 20 countries’ combined. To many people outside the US it feels like they are being held hostage at gun-point by the US so that we can enjoy an extraordinary standard of living, while everyone else barely gets by.

So, stop your belly-aching, Democrats, and realize that even our poor and oppressed have it great compared to the rest of the world. And stop your whining, Republicans, and notice that the reason everyone wants to kill us is because we are no longer seen as liberators from the Nazis and Japan. That story has gotten old.

Rather, we have become a new empire and “the force” may not be with us. The fact that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator does not absolve us of the crime that was Iraq. The US supports far more dictators and oppressive regimes than we liberate. We’ve also lost our moral authority by gutting the Bill of Rights with the Patriot Act, Guantanamo and now indefinite military detentions of US citizens as codified in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.

So, instead of being seen as liberators or a beacon of freedom, the US is seen increasingly as a blood-sucking pig spewing green house gasses in the wake of its vast military and industrial empire. It’s gotten to the point where many in the outside world see us in the same way Republicans view welfare recipients:   pointing a gun at their head and forcing them to pay a small percentage of their taxes as welfare.

So, buck up and start blaming yourself America! There’s a reason much of the world hates us, even as they aspire to our standard of living. Mitt Romney can accuse Barack Obama’s foreign policy of “appeasement” all he wants, but Ron Paul and the rest of us will see through that lie and realize that a new US foreign policy requires everyone to take responsibility for their own actions. Even if that means talking to the enemy occasionally and letting them diversify their energy portfolio, just as we need to diversify our own.

The poster that could launch a thousand 3rd party candidates...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Is there a 2012 NDAA and FEMA Conspiracy?

In 2002, when I found out about Patriot Act II, which called for indefinite detention of US citizens without due process, that was the galvanizing moment that got me out in the streets, marching against the Iraq War. I thought, if Ashcroft, Cheney and Bush are crazy enough to start an illegal war based on flimsy WMD evidence, then maybe they are crazy enough to implement martial law and go after dissidents who disagreed with their theocratic worldview for the US.

The Internet was ripe with 9-11 conspiracy theories and all the brainwashing and bad intelligence that went into making the case for Iraq along with the brand new and ominous sounding Department of Homeland Security made me desperately afraid of what the Bush Administration would do in the wake of another terrorist attack.

Now we have an equal amount of paranoia coming from the right toward Barack Obama. Yet, instead of the paranoia being based on evidence or on actual policy decisions, the paranoia seems driven by racism, an unfounded fear of creeping socialism, and the fear-mongering and hate-speech being driven by talk radio and Fox News. I think a lot of that is embodied in a recent article on one of Alex Jones' Web Sites where he spins lots of conspiracy theories.

Jones argues that the detention provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) along with contingency and continuity planning in a recent FEMA RFP are connected dots in an ominous New World Order conspiracy. As much as I detest the detention provision in the NDAA, I also understand that it and FEMA continuity plans may have more benign purposes. For example, a suitcase nuke planted by a terrorist could necessitate the need to detain a US citizen who is helping coordinate either a domestic or foreign-based attack. FEMA contractors involved in continuity plans following such a nuclear strike, would need to coordinate with DOD and intelligence officials. Natural disasters also pose legitimate contingency planning for continuity.

The possibility of an economic collapse is real, but if you think that collapse is a Bilderberg-led, controlled demolition aided and abetted by the Fed, or if you believe Obama is a really a Kenyan Communist Manchurian Candidate, or even just illegitimate, then you have reason to fear being targeted, tagged and rounded up and put into a FEMA jail. The same way I feared being rounded up by John Ashcroft or Dick Cheney.

But, if you don't fear those things, and instead see a real threat of armed, domestic militias inspired by Ron Paul and Rick "Secessionist" Perry, targeting an "illegal" Communist President and his corrupt government, then perhaps some of the NDAA provisions and FEMA docs just make sense and aren't so scary after all.

Another issue I have with this is that on the Flickr site where Alex Jones has posted the FEMA Scope of Work, his comment reads,"Where the government talks about continuity of government and distinguishing the US citizens as the enemy." I read all the docs he posted and nowhere does the it talk about "distinguishing US citizens as the enemy." Alex Jones is a wing nut and should not be taken seriously. 

But that does not mean we should not take the detention provisions in the 2012 NDAA seriously. Glenn Greenwald has done fantastic reporting on this vital issue on  Maybe the detention provisions are more a symptom of our crony capitalist system and a need to reform the presidency than anything in an Alex Jones conspiracy theory.