Archive for October, 2011

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

”I spent 33 years….being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and the bankers.  I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912.  I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1916.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City (Bank) boys to collect revenue in.  I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street….  In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

Marine Major General Smedley Butler

August 21, 1931 to an American Legion convention

The more things change the more they stay the same.  America has a long and illustrious history of imperialistic feats as was so eloquently portrayed by Smedley Butler in 1931.  The recent intervention of NATO led by the United States in the Libyan civil war is just the latest example of U.S./Western imperialism.

It all started with a massive deception.  Security Council Resolution 1973 was limited in scope and simply called for the imposition of a “No Fly Zone” over Libya to protect threatened civilians from tyrant Muammar Qaddafi’s wrath.  The intent was clear and mostly responsible for its passage through the Security Council as members Russia, China, India, Brazil, and Germany voted to abstain instead of against the resolution.

However, from the very beginning NATO’s intent to liberate Libya not just protect its citizens became clear.  NATO bombings went beyond aircraft, anti-aircraft batteries and the like to troop formations, oil installations, and other infrastructure.  Even though Obama said there would be no need for “boots on the ground”, reports broke that American Special Forces had been on the ground prior to the beginning of the social unrest?

Why the special interest in Libya?

There is no doubt it has nothing to do with the well-being of the Libyan people.  It is all about Libya’s oil reserves.  In 2004, after Qaddafi ended his quest for weapons of mass destruction, President George W. Bush lifted sanctions against Libya.  Since then American companies have invested heavily in Libya.  For instance, energy giants ConocoPhillips and Marathon have each invested about $700 million.

Perhaps not understanding how the system of Western corporatism functions, Qaddafi over time began demanding tougher contract terms, big bonuses up front, and most remarkably he demanded that global oil companies operating in Libya pay the $1.5 billion bill for Libya’s role in the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks or face “serious consequences” for their oil leases.  Possibly the last straw for Western imperialists was Qaddafi’s plan to unite African and Arab states under a new currency to rival the dollar and Euro.  Under the proposal, oil and other resources would be sold only for gold dinars.  The economic implications for the West would be immense.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Tripoli last week shortly after Qaddafi’s slaying in the streets of Misrata, it was difficult for her to hold back her glee at another conquest for Western corporate interests.  Even before Qaddafi’s death on October 20, representatives from 80 French firms arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council.  And in the meantime, British defense minister, Philip Hammond strongly advised British companies to “pack their Suitcases’ for Libya.

If you look up ‘western companies returning to Libya” on Google News there are a slew of articles about American and European security, construction, infrastructure, and oil companies being ready, willing, and able to “carve-up” the spoils of war there.  Funny how those same corporations didn’t spend the billions of dollars it took to “liberate” Libya.  Of course, that was done by the taxpayers in NATO countries.

And so the more things change the more they stay the same.  In Smedley Butler’s day, the admissions in his speech rocked the country to its core.  Perhaps someday in the future another courageous American commander from the Libyan war will make a similar speech acknowledging his complicity in Western imperialism in that country.  But with the internet and the growth of the alternative media that speech is unnecessary.  Anybody has the ability to find the truth on their own.

Article first published as The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same on Blogcritics.

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The Gold Standard would Prevent Economic Bubbles

By just about every measure the U.S. economy continues to be mired in a depression.  Unemployment remains high.  Housing prices are still falling. Retail sales are lackluster.  Since Barack Obama became president in 2009 the national debt has ballooned by about $4 trillion with very little to show for it – unless you consider the rebound and hearty growth of the stock market.

Yes, while Main Street continues to struggle to make ends meet, Wall Street is prospering.  After losing more than half of its value due to the financial crisis of 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has bounced back brilliantly recapturing more than 75 percent of its value lost.  The numbers are enough to make even a casual observer of the markets sit up and take notice.  The big question is why the disconnect between a significantly rising stock market on the one hand and a depressed economy on the other?

When the Dow was making its precipitous decline in November 2008 Ben Bernanke and his Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced Quantitative Easing 1 (QE1).  From November 25, 2008 to March 31, 2010 the Federal Reserve Bank pumped about $1.5 trillion into the economy by purchasing treasury bonds from its primary dealers (banks such as Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan).  After bottoming out at 6626 in March 2009, the Dow went up a remarkable 65 percent to 10927 by the end of March 2010.

After QE1 ended, the markets began to drop once again.   In August 2010 Bernanke formally announced that QE2 would start in November.  On August 27, 2010 the Dow closed at 10150. When QE2 concluded at the end of June 2011 after close to $700 billion more was pumped into the economy through treasury purchases the Dow closed at 12582 – a 24 percent increase.

When QE2 ended the Dow experienced a 15 percent drop in value.  But In the last two weeks with no fan fair, the Fed has purchased $39.9 billion of treasuries from banks in the same fashion it did during QE1 and QE2.  Needless to say, stocks made an about face and have rebounded higher by about 9 percent.

So what does all this tell us?  It tells us that the boom and bust theory of the Austrian School of Economics is vindicated.  That is to say that monetary policy conducted by the Federal Reserve (low interest rates, monetizing federal debt, and asset purchases) causes artificial booms (bubbles) in the economy.  There is no economic reason for the stock market to be up in the current economy except for the aforementioned correlation between Fed asset purchases and rising stock prices.  It is clear over the long haul that the current stock market cannot maintain its price level without the Fed propping it up. Similar to the dot.com and housing bubbles before it, when the Fed pulls support from the current stock market bubble it begins to burst.  It is only a matter of time before a permanent bursting of the bubble happens.

There is only one way to prevent the Fed from inflating the dollar to benefit its member banks and therefore wreak havoc on the rest of us.  There is only one way to prevent the Fed from inflating the dollar thereby causing financial bubbles which have contributed greatly to the widening gap between rich and poor.  A gold backed dollar would restrict the Fed’s ability to manipulate the currency.  It would protect savings and purchasing power.  And in the above case it would have prevented the current stock market bubble which when it bursts will devastate millions of Americans who will then realize how phony their financial health actually was.

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I took the subtitle of this post from Glenn Greenwald’s October 22 post at Salon.com. Greenwald is at his best here. Everyone in the country ought to read this article and reflect on it.

On May 1, President Obama announced the end of Osama bin Laden’s life. That evening I talked with my son on the phone. He lives in Washington, DC, and mentioned the celebrations in his city that night. He noted the celebrations as troubling, and also noted in passing that many celebrants were students who had some alcohol to assist their energetic cheering in the streets. I took some heart from that, and I suppose from knowing that up here in Boston the response was more temperate.

Then came the Awlaki killing. That assassination represented a breakthrough in our constitutional history – not just a chip but a huge chunk removed from our Constitution. If the government will assassinate an American citizen without due process – a plain violation of the Fifth Amendment – what won’t it do? Which is worse: torture or summary execution? Don’t trouble yourself: both acts count as a crime. They are criminal acts not because the Constitution and international law specifically prohibit them. The Constitution and international law prohibit them because they are criminal acts.

The distinction matters. We may ask, how do we know something is a crime? Then we look at the wording of our laws to determine if a particular act counts. If legal language and precedent leave room for maneuver – they invariably do – you write a long memo to explain why the act you want to commit does not count as a crime. Such legalistic reasoning reverses the relationship between legal and moral thought. You can’t resolve ambiguity in the moral sphere with a legal memo. We do – and ought to – resolve legal ambiguity with moral reasoning. Moral reasoning tells us that civil – not savage – societies cannot permit torture and summary execution. Civil societies use legal frameworks to codify these moral conclusions.

I’ve written a lot about torture, so let’s concentrate on summary executions. To celebrate summary executions is beyond anything we could have imagined before 9/11. After 9/11, I argued that we would have to find new legal frameworks to govern the prosecution of this war. I did not like the idea that every time we captured someone suspected of waging war against us, we would haul the individual back to the United States and inaugurate the same legal process we undertake when an American citizen is charged with a crime. Yet we had little precedent to guide us. Strictures of international law reflect precedents and rules used to govern wars among states. International law had virtually nothing to say about war between a state and a loose network of combatants scattered around the globe. I said that we would have to work with our allies in Europe to fashion new rules for this kind of warfare.

It didn’t happen. We build Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib on our own. We instituted extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, extra-judicial capture and punishment, enhanced interrogation techniques, exculpatory memos and executive orders, targeted assassinations, secret drone operations, warrantless surveillance, military tribunals, executive findings, and compliance positions for prisoners on our own. We decided that collaboration with our allies would unduly delay and hamper prosecution of the Global War on Terror. So we acted on our own.

As a result, new international rules to accommodate new forms of warfare did not evolve. As a result, we’re compelled to choose between apparently legal but plainly immoral procedures of our national security state, and cumbersome, long procedures embedded in our criminal law. No one cares to argue that we should infuse our domestic criminal courts with prisoners captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. The debate over Guantanamo shows we don’t want them here as prisoners, let alone as defendants in criminal trials. Yet we have no procedures to handle prisoners other than the ones we have seen develop since 9/11. We have not consulted with our allies, launched any proposals, or pursued any public initiatives to determine how to treat individuals captured in the current war.

This determination to develop our own procedures for prosecution of this war – unilaterally and secretively – affects our domestic legal environment, our political culture, and the sanctity of our own Constitution. Consider two instances of warfare, one in September 2001, the second ten years later in September 2011. An emotional, indignant reaction to bin Laden’s attack on 9/11 would have been, “You can’t do that!” Bin Laden replies, “Of course I can. Look, I just did.” That’s your enemy taunting you. An American citizen would rightly utter the same words after Awlaki’s killing in September 2011: “You can’t do that!” Obama responds likewise: “Of course I can. Look, I just did.” In the latter case, the speaker isn’t your enemy taunting you, it’s your own president! Your own president claims he can do whatever he wants.

This presidential claim of authority to assassinate an American citizen isn’t only a general statement of powers the president says he needs to prosecute this kind of war successfully. This claim extends to every American citizen individually: to you, and you, and you. The claim says, “If we the authorities determine that you endanger the state’s survival, we will kill you. If you speak against us, if you advocate the state’s abolishment, we will kill you. You have no right to counsel, you have no right to hear the charges against you, nor have you the right to respond to our charges. We will kill you.”

The next time government produces a dead body and expects you to cheer about it, think about that.


Steven Greffenius writes for The Jeffersonian, Next Free Voice, and Pacific Sunrise. Preview his recent books, Revolution on the Ground and Revolution in the Air, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Apple Books. To contact Steve, write to steveng @ techwritepublishing.com.

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The Regime Should be Questioned More than Ever

The drumbeats for war with Iran are pounding fast and furious in Washington.  The Obama Administration claims that it foiled a plot financed and directed by the Iranians to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. on American soil.  According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Iranians acting through an Iranian-American intermediary were in the process of hiring a Mexican drug cartel to make the hit when DEA agents intervened to save the day.  Obama and Holder are accusing the Quds Force, a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, of orchestrating the whole plot.  Those that desire war with Iran are using the allegation as a pretext for military engagement with the Islamic Republic.  For his part, Obama claims that all options are on the table for the U.S. to deal with the most recent “dangerous and reckless” behavior of the Iranian government.

But Iran specialists who have followed the operations of the Quds Force for many years say the plot just doesn’t make any sense.  They question what Iran would have to gain from assassinating the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on American soil.  At a time when Iran has been focused on evading further sanctions against it by hiding its nuclear program and building relationships with non-Western allies why would it risk all that for bumping off the Saudi diplomat?  Why would it draw attention to itself through an act that has no conceivable benefit?

Additionally, experts say that the Quds Force is a sophisticated special operations unit.  They doubt it would utilize the likes of a former used car salesman, Mansour Arbabsiar, the Iranian-American intermediary implicated in the plot, and a Mexican drug gang infiltrated with both Mexican and U.S. intelligence agents.to carry out this sensitive operation in the U.S.  The whole scenario is beneath their modus operandi.

But, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton press on with their story.  Secretary Clinton stated that the plot is “”a flagrant violation of international and U.S. law and a dangerous escalation of the Iranian government’s long-standing use of political violence and sponsorship of terrorism.”  The hypocrisy should not be lost on anybody who even remotely follows international news.  The Iranian regime is certainly a rogue cabal of henchmen and butchers, but the United States government is also engaged in “flagrant violations of international and U.S. law”.  What about “Fast and Furious,” the ATF’s operation which allowed Mexican drug lords to illegally purchase guns in the U.S. to be used in Mexico so the agency could “track” the weapons and facilitate arrests?

And there are far more serious violations of international law committed by the U.S. government.  Currently we have secret commandos (special hit teams) on the ground in more than 70 countries and that number is expected to rise to 120.  And let’s not forget about our undeclared drone war in Pakistan which has killed hundreds if not thousands of non-combatants.

At the end of the day, we live in very dangerous times.  Many in and out of our government will always need an enemy to demonize.  With the economy headed for an even bigger collapse than the 2008 financial crisis, scapegoats and distractions will be needed to deflect the blame from those that deserve it.  When all else fails failed regimes turn to war to rally the masses.  Americans need to question the veracity of our leaders even more and understand that in many cases what we allege of others we also are guilty of and therefore contribute to an unsafe world.  The last thing we need is war with Iran.  If Americans become more vigilant they can silence those drumbeats.

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How many times did we hear during the health care debate in 2009 that thirty million people in the United States don’t have health insurance? Every time I heard that statistic, I asked, So what? What is the breakdown? How many of that thirty million don’t want health insurance? How many of that thirty million don’t care one way or another? How may would like to have insurance if they could get it, but aren’t that concerned about going without? Lastly, how many people don’t have health insurance, and wish strongly that they could obtain it?

Interestingly, the people who cited the statistic did not show any interest in questions like that. The number was enough. For advocates the size of the number mattered: the more Americans uninsured, the more urgent the need for reform. You can beat down the opposition if you repeat a number like that often enough.

The advocates for reform never did address the so what question, but after their triumph in early 2010 they began to reveal their thinking a little more candidly. You saw more references to the Massachusetts plan after the bill passed. Massachusetts originated the idea of an individual mandate to achieve nearly universal coverage in 2007. The reformers held up the Massachusetts plan as their model in 2010. Look what Massachusetts achieved with their health care reform: we can accomplish the same thing all across the nation.

I live in Massachusetts. I can tell you that RomneyCare is not a model for the rest of the country. It has not achieved what its advocates said it would achieve. Neither does it have any prospect of success. Yet people look to this plan as a reform model for all the other states. Why would that be?

I want to say something that reveals my prejudices, but I’m not sure that’s helpful. The fundamentals of the Massachusetts plan come from the mind of a pointy-headed professor at MIT. Whenever I learn that a professor conceives something that’s supposed to work in the real world, I know it’s destined for failure. I used to be a professor. Professors don’t have any idea about the real world. That’s why they’re professors. That’s my prejudice, based on my experience as a professor. People who teach at academic institutions do a lot of good work, but devising reform plans that change real institutions for the better is not something academics do well.

I heard the reasoning behind the Massachusetts plan on the radio not long ago. The simple-mindedness of the reasoning dismayed me somewhat. Ordinarily I like simple explanations and simple reasoning. It’s elegant and rapidly carries you from premises, through connections and reasons to conclusions. Simple reasoning won’t do for health care reform, though. It just won’t.

The main goal and motivation for health care reform in Massachusetts was to cut costs. Health care was too expensive for everyone: for individual patients, for taxpayers, for the state government, for the insurance carriers, and of course for health care providers as well. Everyone involved stood to gain from making health care in Massachusetts more efficient and therefore less costly. The state government in particular stood to gain a great deal, as its outlay for health care expenses greatly exceeded its resources.

The professor at MIT reasoned this way. If you want to pay for an expensive health care system, you have to expand the number of people who pay to support it. High quality health care, after all, is a collective good. If you have too many free riders, the cost becomes unbearable for the people who actually pay. That’s how professors reason. They think in terms of collective goods. If you see health care as a collective good, you have to solve the free rider problem in order to make the system work for all participants. To solve the free rider problem, you have to force people to participate. Thus the individual mandate.

How does an individual mandate contribute to lower costs? If you bring all parties together in a health insurance exchange, the purchasers of health insurance have more bargaining power than they do under the current system. Therefore they can keep prices lower, or at least keep them from rising so rapidly. That’s the reasoning. Universal coverage means greater bargaining power.

I don’t want to criticize the Massachusetts plan or the reasoning that underpins it here. I did that at length in another article. I do want to point to the intellectual dishonesty of that statistic we heard so often. When you cite a number – or any piece of evidence, for that matter – so often that it becomes a cornerstone of your argument, you owe your listeners an explanation. You can’t cite your argument over and over, and presume that its significance is self-evident. You have to answer the so what question.

Advocates of health care reform would difficulty were they to explain why thirty million uninsured is a significant number. They would have to break the number down to see why people are uninsured, whether they want to be uninsured, or whether they even care. Advocates of health care reform take the desirability of universal coverage as a given. That’s obvious enough. Once you take universal coverage as your goal, however, you can’t use the number of uninsured to show why the goal is desirable. That begs the question.

Here’s why. If you reason forward from the number of uninsured, you would include analysis of people who are insured as well. If you reason backward from the desirability of universal coverage, you would compare systems that have an individual mandate, or some other means to ensure universal participation, with those that don’t. If you do both, though – if thirty million uninsured becomes your reason for advocating universal coverage – you bypass all analysis and comparison. Your argument is self-contained because you don’t look at anything else. If thirty million uninsured is a bad thing, then of course universal coverage is a good remedy.

Here’s where we rest. Honesty leads to the truth. Dishonesty leads to disaster. When lawmakers and leaders say they will make health care less expensive for employers and for individuals, but enact a plan that does nothing of the sort, that’s dishonest. When lawmakers and leaders say they will make health care more rational and efficient, easier for all participants to understand and navigate, they ought to do so. If they enact legislation that instead makes health care more complicated and costly, that’s dishonest.

The dishonesty started with the initial statistic of thirty million uninsured. Health care reform advocates didn’t appear to care that much why thirty million people lacked health insurance. Yet they made that high number their rhetorical centerpiece. Advocates wanted universal coverage, no questions asked. You want to know why thirty million is unacceptably high, why we should have an individual mandate to bring the number to zero? Don’t answer questions like that. Honesty won’t get you anywhere.

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Here’s another analysis of Occupy demands from my perspective.

Many libertarians and conservatives have been criticizing Occupy based on a list of proposed demands that has not been approved which is all about big government economic proposals only.

This list is more official:

A Message From Occupied Wall Street (Day Five)
Published 2011-09-22 07:51:42 UTC by OccupyWallSt
at OccupyWallStreet.org

p] I’ll highlight the demands I agree with and explain where I differ:

On September 21st, 2011, Troy Davis, an innocent man, was murdered by the state of Georgia. Troy Davis was one of the 99 percent.

Ending capital punishment is our one demand.

p) I agree!

On September 21st, 2011, four of our members were arrested on baseless charges.

Ending police intimidation is our one demand.

p] I agree!

On September 21st, 2011, the richest 400 Americans owned more than half of the country’s population.

Ending wealth inequality is our one demand.

p] I sort of agree. My belief is that right now government taxes and regulations serve to preserve entrenched privilege and keep poor people down. I don’t support forced wealth redistribution schemes by the government (or looting mobs), but I do believe a truly freed market would serve to redistribute wealth more evenly because it would be more turbulent, with fewer people sticking to the top and bottom, and for shorter lengths of time.

On September 21st, 2011, we determined that Yahoo lied about occupywallst.org being in spam filters.

Ending corporate censorship is our one demand.

p] I disagree with government (or looting mobs) forcing owners of websites to convey information they do not wish to convey. However, I do believe that in a truly freed market, without all the ways government currently tilts the playing field towards the big established players, news and information exchange sources that do anything akin to what yahoo did in this case would find themselves displaced so fast that it would not be long before any sane organization trying to remain either profitable or relevant would not even think about it.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly eighty percent of Americans thought the country was on the wrong track.

Ending the modern gilded age is our one demand.

p] Hard to interpret. There are many ways in which the country is on the wrong track. See discussions above and below for more specifics.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly 15% of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing.

Ending political corruption is our one demand.

p] I agree!

And some, but not most, protesters would agree with me that the only real way to end political corruption is to reduce the power of politicians.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of Americans did not have work.

Ending joblessness is our one demand.

p] I oppose government make work programs. In the USSR we had full employment (by law) and the 99% lived in shared misery. However, I do believe that in a truly free market, there would be such an explosion of economic creativity that involuntary joblessness would be a thing of the past. It would also mean an explosion in immigration of people from all parts of the world, so racists and cultural homogeneists wouldn’t be happy. I don’t see that as a bad thing.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of America lived in poverty.

Ending poverty is our one demand.

p] See points above regarding joblessness and
wealth inequality.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly fifty million Americans were without health insurance.

Ending health-profiteering is our one demand.

p] See detailed answer at





On September 21st, 2011, America had military bases in around one hundred and thirty out of one hundred and sixty-five countries.

Ending American imperialism is our one demand.

p] I agree!

On September 21st, 2011, America was at war with the world.

Ending war is our one demand.

p] I agree!

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Why was al-Awlaki Denied His Constitutional Rights as an American Citizen

On November 25, 2001, American citizen turned Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan by Afghan Northern alliance forces.  Eleven months later after confessing to fighting with the Taliban against the U.S. and its ally in Afghanistan he was sentenced to 20 years in prison without parole.  On September 30, in Yemen, American citizen and alleged terrorist organizer Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by two Predator drones firing hellfire missiles.  Two Americans treated in two totally different ways.  What could account for the difference in treatment?

Perhaps it’s racism?  John Walker Lindh was a white man from California.  On the other hand, Anwar al-Awlaki was a person of color and worse yet of Arab descent.  Now, if I were a so-called progressive this explanation would fit right in with my world view that whenever anybody who lacks even a drop of Caucasian blood is treated differently than their white counterparts racism is to blame.  But I am not a progressive and therefore have an open mind about why the two men were treated differently.  There are many potential reasons why the two men were treated differently and I don’t believe racism was one of them.

Let’s not forget what happened when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Administration intended to try Gitmo detainees in federal court in New York City.  There was outrage from the families of 911 victims and Americans in general.  Going into an election year with his approval rating at rock bottom anyway, Obama could ill afford to be in a position where he had to decide the fate of an American in custody accused of terrorism.  Would he grant al-Awlaki his constitutional protections as an American citizen and try him in a federal court or would he throw the Constitution out the window and try him as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal? He certainly would have alienated a portion of voters with either decision.  Maybe Obama decided that Americans have short memories and it would be politically expedient to murder al-Awlaki now more than a year before Americans cast their votes to give them time to forget?

A third explanation for the difference in treatment of Lindh and al-Awlaki could be that our leaders have just become more fascistic over time.  Way before al-Awlaki was murdered, the administration proclaimed its right to murder Americans “suspected” of plotting terror attacks against Americans.  Under this edict, John Hinckley, Jr. Tim McVeigh, and Jared Loughner would simply have been killed after committing their heinous acts.  But instead, the first two were afforded a fair trial and the third is awaiting his date with justice.  What if al-Awlaki was insane like Hinckley?  Because of Obama’s kill order we will never know.

And if anyone thinks congressional leaders or the top two Republican candidates for president were going to speak out against Obama’s homicide you had another thing coming.   Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination Mitt Romney was quoted as saying, “The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki is a major victory in our fight against Islamist terrorism and proper justice for the numerous attacks and plots he inspired or planned against America”.  Romney went on to commend Obama for his “continued efforts to keep Americans safe”.  Not to be outdone by Romney, Republican presidential candidate, Texas governor Rick Perry called al-Awlaki’s demise “an important victory in the war on terror.  Perry also congratulated Obama for “sticking with the government’s longstanding and aggressive anti-terror policies – for getting another key international terrorist.”

Neither candidate expressed any concern whatsoever about Obama’s total disregard for the rule of law and the rights of an American citizen.  It is not like al-Awlaki was killed on the battlefield.  The hit took place in a desolate part of northern Yemen.  He was riding in a vehicle and had been tracked by intelligence sources.  The U.S. military knew exactly where he was and could have dropped commandos in to capture him like Seal Team 6 allegedly did with Osama bin Laden.

Killing al-Awlaki without regard for his constitutional rights as an American citizen is a threat to every American’s protection against tyrannical government.  In fact, more killings may be coming soon.  Reuters has reported that the White House has created a secret panel in charge of building a kill or capture list of suspected militant Americans.  The panel was established under the authority of no law and without any requirements to keep public records of its decisions or operations.  Reminiscent of what Nazi Germany did to its own citizens, Obama has fully assumed the power to unilaterally assassinate Americans he suspects are a threat to America.  Thus, the explanation for the difference in treatment between Lindh and al-Awlaki:  our leaders have become more fascistic.

Article first published as Why Was al-Awlaki Denied His Constitutional Rights as an American Citizen? on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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Why does the left use corporate as a shibboleth without compare? Honestly, what qualities of corporations make progressives hate them so much? Let’s take a look at the nouns that writers on the left pair with corporate: corporate power, corporate greed, corporate corruption. Power by itself can’t be bad. We know progressives are happy when their own political party holds power. No, corporations use their power to advance greedy aims. Because their purpose – profit – is evil, because they oppress their workers, pollute the environment, evade taxes, buy and manipulate politicians, cheat customers, endanger people with unsafe products, over-consume natural resources, and pay their executives too much, they are bad, bad, bad. To limit their bad effects, we have to make them weak. To make them weak, we have to tax them, for money yields power. Beyond taxation, we must monitor, regulate, derogate, reprimand, fine and prosecute them.

Where do these ideas come from? One argument holds they come from Karl Marx and more generally from the socialists. That might be true in Europe, but here in the United States Marx didn’t have that kind of influence. You might say here in the United States these ideas came from Theodore Roosevelt. I know, the argument sounds a little odd: the evidence for it is scattered and somewhat obscure. Moreover, Roosevelt had plenty of help to promote these ideas during the Progressive Era. But in fact, our attitudes about corporations formed not long after some corporations – notably Standard Oil and the railroad trusts – became powerful. Corporations grew large enough to become powerful not so long before the advent of the Progressive Era. The fourth president on Mount Rushmore, TR, became president during this time of corporate growth. He was America’s first Progressive president.

Contemporary criticisms of corporate power sound like a broken car alarm where the horn honks again and again. Let’s take a quick example. Suppose a couple starts a small business. They incorporate, higher some employees, work their tails off for a decade or more and at last force it to make a little money for them. Are they evil because they started a for-profit corporation? Of course not, the Progressives say. Size is what counts – you can’t have pernicious corporate power without large size. Alright then, let’s take General Motors: large and powerful in its day, now large and conspicuously weak and dependent because it has difficulty making a profit. Is that our example of bad corporate power? No, no, says the Progressive, you want to constrain corporations that are large and healthy. Those are the ones that can do so much damage. The healthy corporations have power.

Like Microsoft? Is that why the government pursued Microsoft, because it was large and healthy? That’s exactly right! You can’t let any corporation get too large or powerful. You let it get too big, and it can challenge the government itself. No private business organization should be powerful enough to do that.

I guess that argument speaks for itself: no private business organization should be powerful enough to challenge the government. That tells you why Progressive attitudes about corporations have endured for such a long time. When you honestly believe that government protects you, protects you moreover from business firms that have so many ways to threaten you, you hope that no corporation has sufficient power to challenge your protector. You want your protector to have the upper hand in the struggle, all the time. You want your protector to make the greed and the power go away.

Let’s make a brief comparison between General Motors and BP before we close. As BP struggled to contain the oil gusher at the bottom of the gulf, President Obama assured Americans that we – the government – “will keep our boot on its neck.” What sense does an image like that make, if not within the framework of corporation as villain and government as protector? In the middle of a crisis, why would you talk like that unless you see large corporations as the source of bad things?

Around the same time, the U. S. government applied the too big to fail standard to General Motors. Here lay a sick company – it had been in poor health for a long time. Now it’s financial health was so poor that jobs were at stake, not only at GM but throughout the automobile industry. In the balance  between evil corporate power and good corporate jobs, good corporate jobs (with benefits) held the stronger hand in this instance. In the government’s estimation, a sick corporation is safer and more deserving of help than a healthy one.

At this point Obama would say, the oil spill was a bad thing, and GM was too big to fail. I don’t care to argue those points. I only want to highlight the contrasting treatment these two companies in trouble received from the U. S. government. In both cases, Washington was aggressive, both in wringing money from BP and in forcing money on GM. In both cases, government made a point of maintaining the initiative. In the contest between government and large corporations, you don’t want large corporations to fight back. You don’t want to deal with CEOs like Bill Gates. You want everyone – from insecure, fearful citizens to angry, contemptuous progressives – to depend on you for protection and catharsis.

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