Obama and Civil Liberties: Talk of the Nation

Today, I will appearing on the National Public Radio (NPR) program, Talk of the Nation to discussing my column in the Los Angeles Times on Barack Obama’s disastrous impact on civil liberties in the United States. The piece has generated some interesting discussion on the LA Times blog as well as other blogs. Despite my disagreement with some of the commenters, any discussion of civil liberties is welcomed in this political atmosphere. Ironically, the day of the column (which specifically discussed the President’s assertion of his right to kill citizens he considers terrorists), President Obama ordered the killing of U.S. cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi and reportedly a second U.S. born cleric. [Update: Here is the TOTN interview].

On another note, I was asked by the editors to clarify the difference between civil liberties and civil rights. Here is the posting:

In Thursday’s Op-Ed pages, Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, wrote that President Obama may prove the most disastrous president in our history in terms of civil liberties. (Ironically, his article ran the same day Obama ordered the killing of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric linked to Al Qaeda, thus further proving Turley’s point.) While the response on our discussion board overwhelmingly agreed with Turley’s Op-Ed, there were a few readers who didn’t understand the difference between civil liberties and civil rights. See below for Turley’s reply.

–Alexandra Le Tellier

My column was on civil liberties, which are those basic rights and freedoms guaranteed under our Bill of Rights and the Constitution. While they do not change in the sense that they are fundamental rights, they have been “recognized” in a belated or evolving fashion by the courts. Civil liberties include those core rights we associate with freedom, such as free speech, privacy, due process. Civil rights generally refer to laws that protect us from unequal treatment or harassment based on such characteristics as race, gender, age, disability, religion/belief, sexual orientation and nationality.

Notably, Obama has been criticized on both fronts. While he recently moved against “don’t ask, don’t tell,” his administration has been in court making the same arguments as the George W. Bush administration in denying that discrimination based on sexual orientation should be treated the same as discrimination based on race, religion or gender. He remains undecided on same-sex marriage. These are viewed as civil rights matters.

The subject of my column is properly called civil liberties. At issue, for example, is the right of the president to unilaterally declare that citizens should be killed on sight because his administration deems them part of a terrorist organization.

I hope that helps a little.

–Jonathan Turley

78 thoughts on “Obama and Civil Liberties: Talk of the Nation

  1. The following link will take one directly to the discussion link, which will be available at approximately 6 pm ET:

    http://www.npr.org/2011/10/10/141213273/op-ed-obama-devastating-for-civil-liberties

    Op-Ed: Obama ‘Devastating’ For Civil Liberties

    October 10, 2011

    “Jonathan Turley argues in a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that “the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties.” He says President Obama has continued many of the most controversial Bush administration programs.”

  2. I’ve been listening to alot of their programing over the past few years and I have been tempted at times to call them National Republican Radio.

    Not that they push a conservative agenda so much as that they fail to point out the lies coming from that quarter.

    It’s sometimes difficult to tell who they support. If they are supposed to be liberal, they better take another look at themselves. If they are supposed to be non-partisan, they should try to find some positive stories about Liberals doing something good somewhere or something. All I hear is a sort of even handed reporting that fails to take note of obvious flaws in the official line.

    Maybe I’m not reading them correctly but as a Liberal station, they are a bit weak.

    Sorry.

  3. they have become little more then a sounding board for every right wing pundit on.everything from health care to politics…The right uses them more then the left because the right is on a constant crusade.and our backed by unlimited conservative resources

  4. I listened to you on NPR today and am in complete agreement with you. The only problem is that there is no alternative to Obama so I, as many others, will swallow hard and vote for him.

    The GOP’s positions are even worse.

  5. I can understand your disappointment on this issue with the Obama administration’s actions. However, can the electorate be expected to judge an official based on one policy? Aren’t all voting choices a compromise on some front? You may be unable to compromise on this issue, but average voters will necessarily have broader criteria than you. And that is a good thing.

  6. I concur completely with Jonathan Turley’s thoughts on Barack Obama. I have for a few years and I am trying to find a way to vote for a President because I do not want to vote for Obama and I will never vote for a Republican – even dressed in Tea Party attire!

    So who will run and represent us, the people?

  7. The way I figure it, he has about 10 to 12 months to get right with his base or he will indeed be a one term President. If he thinks he has a lock on it because of his silver tongued oratory and having the incumbent advantage, he has another think coming.

    I knew things were not going to go well for progressives when he did not fire all the right wing ideologues occupying the US Attorney offices, en masse.

    Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight says he does not have a solid grip on the keys to the Oval Office. Nate predicted the Obama win in the last election. It is early, but there is now a note of pessimism.

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/despite-keys-obama-is-no-lock/

  8. The Talk of the Nation interview was most disappointing. Turley was consistently misleading and less than candid about the facts, but the host didn’t challenge him or correct him, and there was no other guest to do so from a different point of view. Listeners who haven’t followed these issues and took what Turley said at face value were completely misled.

    It’s simply false that Obama has claimed the right to kill US citizens whom he deems a threat to the US. He claims no more than the usual powers of war, which include of course the power to kill people who are fighting you in a war, citizens or not. The controversial part of his position is in holding that the field of the war extends to cover Al-Awlaki in Yemen. Obama has a quite reasonable case that it does. (For some critics the controversy extends to whether there is a war at all, but the Supreme Court has pretty well settled that in regard to the war against Al Qaeda et al.)

    Contrary to what Turley implied, Obama has acknowledged the desirability of dealing with citizens, and even noncitizens, through civil means where at all possible. In Yemen that isn’t possible.

    The ACLU has already taken this issue to court and lost, and not only on the technical issues but on the substance. They wisely chose not to appeal to the Supreme Court.

    On torture, first of all, Obama has been consistent from the early days of his campaign, so there’s no ground for Turley’s mock disillusionment about this. Obama said all along that he wouldn’t prosecute those who in good faith followed the directions given them, which they believed to be legal. This isn’t primarily a matter of politics. The way the law is written, as a practical matter it would be near impossible to convict someone who met those conditions. Contrary to what Turley implied, Obama has never said he wouldn’t prosecute those who acted in bad faith or exceeded the limits they were given. There has been a major investigation to determine if anyone did so, and some allegations of acting outside the guidelines have been pursued.

    The parallel drawn to Nuremberg is an insult to the victims of Nazi atrocities and the Nuremberg process. The underlying assumption of the rejection of the “taking orders” excuse is that one had every reasonable ground to know the orders were illegal and wrong. No such thing has been established in regard to “enhanced interrogation.”

    Obama has done as much as possible to maintain our civil liberites under difficult conditions. He’s certainly done better than Lincoln and FDR. The main threat to civil liberties is always wars and other emergencies, not well intentioned Presidents.

    Turley made many false and misleading remarks beyond those I’ve addressed. There are important issues at stake here. Turley does a disservice to the discussion and the issues by so willfully miscoloring the facts.

  9. Looks like we have a disinformation propagandist. What a surprise. Sanpete, why did it take this long to for your handlers to get your talking points together for you?

  10. Dolores,

    Yours is such an interesting comment. You write: “…However, can the electorate be expected to judge an official based on one policy? Aren’t all voting choices a compromise on some front? You may be unable to compromise on this issue, but average voters will necessarily have broader criteria than you. And that is a good thing.”

    First this isn’t a question of one policy but many, all of which have profound implications for our society. The failure to uphold the rule of law by refusing to investigate/prosecute those who tortured is one issue. The claim that Obama may kill an American citizen on his own determination is another. Both of these actions are extremely broad in scope as they entail the abrogation of the rule of law and the destruction of our Constitution.

    Usually people take killing and torture very seriously. In the case of Obama, many people do not. Killing and torture have indeed been relegated to actions that people are willing to “compromise on”. Here is a link to an interview of a person whom the US govt. tortured. He was completely innocent of any crime, even according the the US govt. Still, he has been blocked repeatedly by the Obama DOJ in receiving any justice for the crimes the US govt. committed against him. I cannot agree with you that that is a good thing to ignore or compromise on anything having to do with torture or killing based on fiat. The willingness to trade out cruelty towards and the death of others on behalf of electing a candidate strikes me as a real problem for our society. Here is the interview:

    http://docuvideop.blogspot.com/2011/09/wikileaks-and-el-masri-case-innocent.html

  11. It is most amusing to read the tortured logic of J. Turley’s piece on why Obama is a disaster for civil liberties. He writes:

    [Opposition within the Democratic party] “has quieted to a whisper, muted by the power of Obama’s personality and his symbolic importance as the first black president.”

    “. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama’s policies have become secondary to his persona.”

    Turley writes as if the hypocracy on the Left is a one-off thing, to be explained by the unique background, personality of the Commander in Chief. Of course this is truly laughable and could only be entertained by one blinded to the regular train of hypocracies of the Left.

    As one glaring example of Leftist hypocracy before Obama ever came on the scene is the Clarence Thomas hearings instigated by the Democratic Congress at that time. Thomas was accused of being a terrible sexist, oppressing a poor, black woman, Anita Hill. Even if everything he was accused of were true, he is guilty of telling off color jokes to her. He never wernt out with her, never never accused of touching her. On the other hand, for the following 8 years, Clinton is known to have violated almost every feminist prohibition imaginable, and he was accused, by a very credible witness, of rape [Juanita Broderick]. The Democrats turned a blind eye to all of this, saying it was “only sex” and that, in any case, it did not interfere with his work.

    The Left is no stranger to hypocricy and so, the implication that one has to go to strained analysis and suppositions, as in the Turley piece, to explain why it is occuring this time on a truly massive scale is not needed. It’s what the Left has done innumerable times before.

    On the other hand, Mr. Turley is to be commended for at least raising a SMAILL part of the hypocricies of this administration. There are so many, many IMPORTANT ones in all sorts of other areas. An example of the latter is the question of what constitutes justification for using U.S. military force against a nation that is not threatening us. Obama said he was justified in applying military force againt Gadaffi because he was killing his own people but, the Left would not see that as (partial) justification for Iraq when Saddam was killing his own people in much larger numbers. The hypocracies on the Left are too numerous to list.

  12. You’re right that Americans are in denial about this. Those who maintain that “the other guy is worse” are literally blind to what is right in front of them: Obama is “the other guy.”

    What is needed is an analysis informed by the group psychology of cults, one that seeks to “deprogram” Democrats. It is an uphill battle, however, because so many features of this culture reinforce existing worldviews. A change in “leadership” is unlikely to bring about social change because belief in leadership is itself a tool used to enforce conformity.

    But the rabbit hole goes deeper: beyond the difficulties associated with assessing what Obama has done with respect the the Constitution (i.e., given the “secret laws” that seem to be popular of late), are the disturbing circumstances that surround his election. The Democratic party’s alternative was to legitimize 22-26 consecutive years of Bush-Clinton rule. When the foreign birth controversy surrounding Obama is examined in light of Republican candidate John McCain’s birth in Panama, things start to look more than a little scripted. And while it sounds like “conspiracy theory” to point out that, in 2004, both John Kerry and George Bush are both members of the Order of the Skull and Bones, initiated in the same year no less, it’s hard not to see a pattern start to emerge. We, as a nation, still don’t have clear answers about what happened in 2000. Did Al Gore roll over when the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount because he’s just another spineless Democrat, or was there perhaps some other reason?

    In any event, I think this country needs to have an honest conversation with itself not just about the integrity of the election system, but about the integrity of those who seek to attain office. Allow me to argue that the desire to attain high office should disqualify one from such a position:

    Most politicians are literally sociopaths. Compare the behavior of the sociopath with that of a politician. Sociopaths don’t have normal moral reservations about manipulating people like objects; this is precisely how politicians get elected. Sociopaths understand little about human interaction beyond ego gratification; the prestige of high office satisfies this desire for the politician. Sociopaths are often charming, but lie compulsively. Politicians talk nice while plotting to stab their colleagues in the back. If they’re not telling outright lies, they’re “spinning” facts to suit their needs. Sociopaths don’t feel guilt or remorse; no US official that I can think of has apologized for invading Iraq based on a lie, turning 5 million Iraqi’s into refugees, pumping Fallujah full of depleted uranium, or engaging in torture. Sociopaths are authoritarian, secretive, paranoid; their goal is the creation of a dependent, willing victim. Starting to get the picture? Google “sociopathic behavior profile” if you want more detail.

    What solution would I offer? Vote for yourself as a write-in candidate to create a statistical anomaly that neither the media not politicians can spin. Use this as an opportunity to have a focused discussion about how our elections are conducted. Vote for what you believe in, not against what you fear.

    If you’re a democrat who is afraid that this tactic might help out “the other side,” you need to come to terms with the fact that “the other side” is already in power. In 2000, the Florida recount was triggered by law because less that .5% of the vote separated Bush from Gore. An election so close might as well be settled by chance. Electoral politics isn’t working. This nation needs to come to terms with this.

  13. Jill, what makes you think people don’t take torture and killing seriously? That doesn’t follow from anything you said. Those who follow these issues impartially know they’re not as simple as you make them appear, and many other citizens who have heard from both sides feel the same way.

    To be clear about this, Obama does uphold the rule of law in regard to the issues you mention. I would guess he has a better understanding of the legal issues than almost all of his critics.

    Obama cannot block compensation for victims of torture unless the courts side with his view of the law, which they do.

  14. Donald, If Hill’s accusations were true, then Thomas was guilty of perjury. I have no idea why you think Broaddrick is credible in alleging rape, but her charges haven’t been confirmed.

  15. eniobob,

    That was a very interesting link …

    “He’s playing chess in a town full of checkers players,” … that’s an astute observation that makes, in my opinion, an unintended point … everybody loses.

  16. Yes, the playing chess while everyone else is a checkers player is a great line, however, I am not sure that every President is in a bubble while in the White House.
    OS,
    I agree with your take that Obama needs to become the President that we had hoped for in the next several months. I, too am not very hopeful. How can any President go wrong trying to fight for the rule of law?

  17. I listened to the interview and now have changed my mind. But who else would do better in that office right now?

  18. raff, I think the train has left the station.

    It is not too late to change, and I am an optimist about most things, but also being a realist, have low expectations for the incumbent doing the right thing.

    Frankly, Obama’s best hope for reelection is if the Republicans nominate someone so batshit crazy that even the Koch, Cheney and Pope crime families cannot support them.

  19. Anybody wanna keep me company over at Federal Court – I filed a Biven’s action a couple of months ago against a Federal agent for civil rights violations. I’m standing over there by my lonesome.

  20. JC in CT 1, October 10, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I listened to you on NPR today and am in complete agreement with you. The only problem is that there is no alternative to Obama so I, as many others, will swallow hard and vote for him.

    The GOP’s positions are even worse.
    ===================================
    Interesting view point.

    How would you modify your viewpoint if each of the choices was fatal?

  21. Sanpete 1, October 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm
    =================
    When everything is a war you can kill anybody.

    Killing becomes the foundation of “civilization” under that model.

  22. 36 CFR 7.96 vs. the First Amendment:
    Demonstrations outside the front door of the White House getting broken up to protect the “right to see a bucolic White House” of an imaginary tourist.

  23. rafflaw,

    Please consider the idea that Obama is exactly the president he was paid to be. That’s why the MIC and banksters run the place!

    The most important thing any citizen can do is become the citizen we are meant to be. That is, being a person who works for social justice, for the well-being of our society, for the restoration of the rule of law, for an end to our wars, for healing the planet. There is no savior. We only have people who will show courage and care about others by going to bat for each other.

  24. Jill,
    I do work for social justice, however, show me a Republican candidate who would work harder for social justice. For women, men and all minorities.

  25. cthulhu – for – president

    Barack Obama is a SOCIOPATHIC NARCISSIST – YOU’RE ARE RIGHT THAT THEY ARE ALL NARCISSISTS.

  26. Comments by Jonathan Turley & Eric Posner:

    Obama’s War On Terror: Civil Libertarians Decry Being ‘Stabbed In The Back’ By Awlaki Decision
    by Joshua Hersh

    First Posted: 10/10/11

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/obamas-war-on-terror-awlaki_n_1004161.html

    WASHINGTON — Civil libertarians are expressing dismay over a new report that names two prominent one-time critics of the abuse of presidential power as the forces behind a controversial memo authorizing Obama to assassinate an American citizen.

    The memo, described Sunday in an article in The New York Times, was reportedly signed by David Barron and Marty Lederman, two law professors who frequently challenged President Bush’s legal stances on his war powers before joining the Obama Office of Legal Counsel.

    “It’s always more painful for civil libertarians to be stabbed in the back by a friend,” said Jonathan Turley, a scholar at George Washington University law school who has long been a fierce opponent of expansive interpretations of executive powers. “There’s a real feeling of the Ides of March, that the Obama administration has enlisted civil libertarians to sort of do its dirty work.”

    …and the article continues…

    “We all denounced the Bush administration use of secret law — secret memos giving them authority and then resisting demands to review them,” said Turley, who is currently representing several members of Congress in a lawsuit challenging the Libya decision reportedly advocated by Koh. “The Obama administration is doing the same thing, strategically releasing parts of the memo or their conclusions.”

    But it was the seeming shift of yet another set of longtime critics that struck a chord.

    “The legal academy is still reeling from the participation of so many law professors in the Bush abuses. I knew John Yoo” — who famously scripted the memo authorizing the use of torture in the Bush years — “before he went into the Bush administration — we’d always been friendly, and we actually agreed on a bunch of things in the past. I was shocked when I first heard of his involvement in these things. It’s always shocking to read about people like Koh and Lederman being so quickly corrupted by their involvement in government.”

    Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, disagrees with such a stark outlook, telling HuffPost that the job of legal counsel to the president doesn’t afford the same latitude as being an analyst or academic.

    “It’s a little glib to [call them hypocrites],” he said. “First, you need to know exactly what they wrote, and the second, more important point, is you just have to realize they’ve taken on a different role in the government. When you’re in the OLC in the executive branch, you’re an employee, you have a certain job, it’s different from being a professor but is more like being in a firm. You can’t go into a firm and say I’m only going to profess my own views.” (end of excerpt)

    FWIW, Eric Posner is the son of Richard Posner:

    http://jonathanturley.org/2011/09/19/posner-ridicules-right-of-citizens-to-film-police-in-seventh-circuit-oral-argument/

  27. rafflaw,

    I wish we had thousands more like Professor Turley and the like-minded lawyers on this blog. You’re the good guys, as I’ve said before.

  28. “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.” -Edward R. Murrow

  29. “So who will run and represent us, the people?”

    There’s the problem. There’s no viable third party. No Democrat wants to buck the power of the incumbency.

  30. “Looks like we have a disinformation propagandist. What a surprise. Sanpete, why did it take this long to for your handlers to get your talking points together for you?”

    I don’t know that this is true. This could be a person expressing his opinion – or not.

  31. Dear Professor Turley:
    I am a converted republican.I did support president Obama the last time around. I will not do so again. He will not fool me twice. I have been hungry for your comments from the very first time that I heard you speak. Today I was fascinated listening to you express the ideals that we as americans have claimed as our own since Nuremburg. I believe that for our people to accept the excuse that “I was just following orders” and therefore am not prosecutable is truly the demise of what we have held ourselves up to the world to be. How in Gods name can we as the inheritors of the fight against the RED COATS follow sheepishly while president Obama lays the groundwork for himself and his sucessors to kill american citizens simply by dictate?
    Professor Turley, is there anything that you can do to bring this action to a court of law?
    If we as a people continue down this path of lawlessness, if we accept that the president is an emporer of old, then truly our time as free men under law has come to an end. If this is left to stand as our way then every man has no responsibility to uphold and obey any law. If this is left to stand then the great gift to the world “american liberty” is dead.

    Sir, I will be in Washintgon in the future to show my five year old son the monuments and the Smithsonian. Would it be possible to introduce my son to a truly great citizen?

    Sincerely,
    Stephan G. Patterson
    sgp64@hotmail.com

  32. rafflaw,

    I know you work for social justice! You keep missing my point. Here’s what you wrote: “show me a Republican candidate who would work harder for social justice. For women, men and all minorities”.

    I’m not certain if you mean that Obama works towards social justice. The facts do not support that assertion. Likewise the current front runners of the Republican party care nothing about social justice. Elaine mentioned a Republican candidate, Jon Huntsman. I haven’t done my research on him yet, but she seems to think well of him, so perhaps he is a candidate you might also like.

    My point is different. If Jesus was elected president that would still not solve our problems. Citizens are more important than the president. Citizens who are against war, torture, economic injustice, environmental ruin, etc. and will speak out against these these things and try to right the many wrongs we face are the force that has the best hope of turning things around .

    Many people seem stuck in a loop, defending Obama for president, even though he is a war and financial criminal. As JT said in his interview, what a Republican candidate might do isn’t important to civil libertarians. That, to me is where a strong citizen movement comes in. The essential health of a society depends on the defense of justice from the populace. Which person in office commits injustice doesn’t matter. If it does, we get into another of JT’s points, the overlooking of injustice due to a cult of personality. Many Democrats do seem ensnared in this cult of personality. Instead of a personality cult, we need an ethically consistent, vibrant group of citizens dedicated to justice, unconcerned with personalities or party affiliation. I will repeat this because it is the most important point I can make. Citizens are far more important than a president. It’s up to us.

  33. S.M.,

    Thanks for the info on Huntsman. I hadn’t done research on him so I appreciate links!

    My point is vastly different than who people should vote for. It is– If Jesus was elected president that would still not solve our problems. Citizens are more important than the president. Citizens who are against war, torture, economic injustice, environmental ruin, etc. and will speak out against these these things and try to right the many wrongs we face are the force that has the best hope of turning things around .

    Many people seem stuck in a loop, defending Obama for president, even though he is a war and financial criminal. As JT said in his interview, what a Republican candidate might do isn’t important to civil libertarians. That, to me is where a strong citizen movement comes in. The essential health of a society depends on the defense of justice from the populace. Which person in office commits injustice doesn’t matter. If it does, we get into another of JT’s points, the overlooking of injustice due to a cult of personality. Many Democrats do seem ensnared in this cult of personality. Instead of a personality cult, we need an ethically consistent, vibrant group of citizens dedicated to justice, unconcerned with personalities or party affiliation. I will repeat this because it is the most important point I can make. Citizens are far more important than a president. It’s up to us.

  34. Jill, I really don’t think there is much of a cult of personality any more. We are just trying to avoid total tea party republican dominance.

  35. After hearing the interview on Mr. Obama and eroding civil liberties, I was stuck with the impression everyone missed that Robert Gates stayed on at the White House for several years. Mr. Gates is the consummate Washington insider. I always assumed this tenure was at the behest of the Washington Establishment. Mr. Obama needed a personal tutor because of his (lack of) Executive Office experience and he was given one. Mr. Obama must either scare easily or bend to pressure quickly.

  36. Elaine, Elaine, Elaine M.,

    Oh my….You actually looked outside of the Democratic Lineup?

    For shame, for shame, for shame….I am going to now have to look at everything you write with askance…..I would have never have guessed….

    Call me NOT shocked….Most intelligence people explore all of the options (or should) before making bone head decisions….and forced to vote for Obama because he is the lesser of the two weevils (HenMan)……

    Now, I am going to have to go back to the Huntsman Thread and reread what you posted….

    Thank you for my morning chuckle….

  37. You started it then and I was funnin Elaine for what she had said on the Thread….If you have a Guilty Conscience….Talk to someone that actually gives a shit….

  38. I had a little personal encounter with Robert Gates, and he’s not any shining example of military anything – he got in on the ground floor
    and rode the elevator to the top.

  39. You know…I put you in the same class as Jill…You cannot communicate with anyone that you perceive that disagrees with your opinion….and remember Opinions are like asses…. everyone’s got one…….It just depends on how much you show it in public…and you’re doing a great job….swarthmorjill….

  40. Elaine,

    Thanks for your update since the other day. I had just started looking into him after your post stating that you would consider voting for him.

    I completely agree with your statement: “in this country, it’s the wealthiest citizens who have become the “important” people to most politicians and many members of the media.” The one thing that has a chance of moving around the stranglehold of the ruling elite over every aspect of our lives is an informed, energized, ethically consistent population. OWS is correct, we are the 99% What we lack in connections to the elites we make up for in numbers.

    I did find some parts of Moore’s film, “Capitalism a love story” quite interesting. Citigroup had written an analysis calling the US a Plutonomy. The authors pointed out that the concentration of wealth was only likely to continue. One thing that might stop this concentration from continuing was people being without jobs, getting fed up, then using their numbers to unite together to fight back. I believe this is why we see a great deal of police state violence directed at OWS. Even in my town, there was surveillance and what looked like sharp shooters on tall buildings surrounding our protest. The elites are afraid. I don’t underestimate their power but we should not underestimate our own.

  41. S.M.,

    This is a sincere question. I am not trying to attack you. It is a problem that I don’t understand. You write: “Jill, I really don’t think there is much of a cult of personality any more. We are just trying to avoid total tea party republican dominance.”

    Please help me understand why you believe supporting Obama will avoid the abuses of tea party Republican dominance. Here’s why I ask. The following is a short list of things Obama has done. He broke our law by refusing to prosecute people who committed torture and war crimes. Further, many of these same war and financial criminals were appointed to key positions within the Obama administration. Just as you point out there is something at least fishy about Erin formerly working for GS, most of Obama’s top advisers worked for GS and were implicated in the 08 economic crash. People who committed torture were appointed to key positions within the military.

    Illegal surveillance of the population has increased under Obama.

    The wars have continued with a troop increase in Afghanistan and a completely illegal invasion of Libya. The use of drones has increased by an order of magnitude under Obama since Bush with the resulting death of nearly 2000 civilians; men, women and children. The US uses cluster bombs. The US is in 6 hot wars. The US greenlighted the massacre of protesters in Bahrain, afterwords selling that govt. some of our most sophisticated weapons. Obama is building another huge prison in Afghanistan which will be off limits to any law, US or Afghan. Obama conducts extra judicial renditions to nation’s besides us who torture. Obama has declared his right to kill any American citizen he deems a threat on his say so.

    Obama’s Federal Reserve has been secretly doling out trillions of dollars to his donors, money we as taxpayers are on the hook for. Obama is refusing to prosecute or stop the illegalities in the banking industry which are still occurring (see the blog nakedcapitialism for a very good list of those illegalities). The banks have devised even more sophisticated gambling instruments which most non-govt. sponsored economists point out will crash the economy again, only much worse even than in 08.

    Obama supports public money for religious institutions to run schools and some other formerly public programs. Obama cut off the ability for the highest risk, most impoverished women in our nation from purchasing abortion coverage. He took single payer off the table from the beginning.

    While spending 30 million every hour for his wars, he supports the reduction of social security and medicare/medicaid. He has consistently supported oil and gas drilling/fracking and cut funds to alternative energy companies.

    So many questions arise in my mind. First, if Obama is doing all this and more while still needing votes from loyal supporters, what will he do when he no longer needs your vote? Why do you trust someone who did all these things not to institute more of the very worst policies one can imagine.

    Further, how is supporting a person who does all this going to prevent Tea Party abuses? It seems to me that it would guarantee them. Should someone from the Tea Party get elected every single power claimed by Obama passes to that person. Wouldn’t it make more sense to withdraw support, consent to any president who has claimed all these illegal powers so that any succeeding president will know they may not claim these powers to break our law? Wouldn’t a firm, no to Obama send a message to the elites who run all the major party candidates that we the people will not tolerate such illegalities and cruelties in our political class?

    I’m laying this out the best I can and I hope you can help me understand your thinking on the matter. I would appreciate your response and I give my word in no way will I attack what you say. I may have further questions but I will ask them in a respectful and kind manner.

  42. Jill, I have a lot of work to do today and don’t have the time to answer all of your questions. I think we should wait until the election approaches next year and assess the possibilities. There is a debate tonight on Bloomberg news. It is supposed to focus exclusively on economic issues.

  43. The reason I will not answer you is as follows:

    I really don’t have a legitimate answer for you that you would not laugh me out of the room.

  44. S.M.

    I certainly appreciate that it would take time to answer this question and this not being a good day to do so. So if you could, if you decide to advocate for Obama before the election approaches next year, if you would help me understand that advocacy, I would be very grateful to you for that explanation. Thanks!

  45. Jill, the reason you can’t understand other views about this may be that you start with at best highly controversial, unsubstantiated premises that you don’t question the way you’d apparently like others, like Obama supporters, to question their beliefs.

    Almost everything you say about Obama is false or unsubstantiated opinion, but to take just one example to illustrate, you start your list with “He broke our law by refusing to prosecute people who committed torture and war crimes.”

    Unless you have in mind some as yet unpublished examples, this is just false, but that doesn’t stop it from being taken as an article of faith on the far Left, who have absolute certainty that everyone from President Bush to Rumsfeld to Yoo to . . . [insert midlevel authorities] . . . to the lowest CIA operative who conducted waterboarding is clearly guilty and should be prosecuted. People know this without a trial where the facts and a defense could be presented, and usually without knowing the applicable law very well, without having read the relevant documents, such as the Margolis letter explaining why no sanctions would be recommended against Yoo, and so on. That’s a faith-based approach to the issue.

    US law regarding torture essentially requires that there be proof of bad faith to get a conviction, that those charged knew they were breaking the law or had plenty of reason to know it. There’s simply no good evidence to show that in the cases of those who created the “enhanced interrogation” guidelines and applied them. Therefore the most likely outcome of prosecutions would be acquittals.

    Is that what you want, for those who abused detainees with techniques that most regard as torture to be found innocent, setting an affirmative precedent for future abuses?

    Prosecutors have some latitude in deciding what to prosecute, based on factors including how strong the evidence is. In general it’s an abuse of power to bring prosecutions where there’s no likelihood of conviction; in this case it would unavoidably be a huge political circus likely to actually set back the cause of human rights with undesirable precedents.

    The root problem here lies in the law as written, which needs to be more precise. That’s where progressives should be focussing their efforts, but apparently the desire for retribution is stronger than the desire to accomplish something practical.

    Some people have a tendency to see things in simple, clean black and white, a kind of of fundamentalism. That has its uses, I suppose. But if you (or others here) have that tendency, it will keep you from understanding Obama and his policies, and the complex, messy facts that underlie them.

  46. There is a new piece which ran in OpEdNews, FireDogLake and HPUB (Huffington Post Union of Bloggers) on this same topic titled : Free Speech and Civil Rights in the PR Age of Obama. It is written by Jeanine Molloff, a Huffpo blogger. It covers the Awlaki murder and the arrest of Jubair Ahmad for the crime of speech.

  47. Do people really read what you people write? First of all, I tried to find a train of thought, and couldn’t do it. And you should blog on Huffington Post. Maybe you’ll get a badge.

  48. For those people looking for an alternative to Obama, someone who is strong on civil liberties then go to http://www.GaryJohnson2012.com and do some research. There are at least two candidates in the GOP race that would be better than Obama on civil liberties: Johnson, Paul, and maybe Huntsman. Paul is just too old, but when the issue of torture was asked in the first debate Johnson and Paul were the only ones who said no to torture.

    Johnson on al-Awlaki:

    ” At the same time we cannot allow the War on Terror to diminish our steadfast adherence to the notion of due process for American citizens. The protections under the Constitution for those accused of crimes do not just apply to people we like — they apply to everyone, including a terrorist like al-Awlaki. It is a question of due process for American citizens.”…

    “If we allow our fervor to eliminate terrorist threats to cause us to cut corners with the Constitution and the fundamental rights of American citizens, whether it be invasions of privacy or the killing of someone born on U.S. soil, I could argue that the terrorists will have ultimately won.”

    http://www.garyjohnson2012.com/gary-johnson-killing-of-u-s-citizen-raises-questions

  49. “For those people looking for an alternative to Obama, someone who is strong on civil liberties then go to http://www.GaryJohnson2012.com and do some research.”

    I read your link until I read “privatized half the prisons.” Prisons should be run by state employees. Prisoners transferred to private prisons change from prisoner to slave.

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