Progressive Calendar 03.19.11
From: David Shove (
Date: Sat, 19 Mar 2011 02:11:29 -0700 (PDT)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   03.19.11

1. Haiti           3.19 10am
2. Israeli BS      3.19 10am
3. Anti-war/BDog   3.19 1pm
4. CUAPB           3.19 1:30pm
5. Northtown vigil 3.19 2pm
6. Coldwater plans 3.19 4:30pm
7. Kolstad/Hoover  3.19 8pm

8. Amy Wilentz   - The Haitian Lazarus
9. David Swanson - Is Obama even worse than Bush? A call for resistance

--------1 of 9--------

From: Rebecca Cramer < rebacramer [at] >
Subject: Haiti 3.19 10am

Also, note that the Resource Center of the Americas has a new name, having
merged with La Conexion:

Coffee Hour: Images of Haiti - Stories of Strength (THIS SAT.3/19/11)¬
Location:  La Conexi√≥n de las Am√©ricas¬
3019 Minnehaha Avenue (Suite 20) Minneapolis, MN 55406
From 10:00am to 11:45am
Language: English

Description:  Troubled by the tremendous gap between media's focus on
negative images (poverty, illiteracy, corruption despair), she has
published Images of Haiti: Stories of Strength (bi-lingual Creole and
English) portraying the life journeys of moms and dads, teachers,
artisans, farmers, students, masons and others in rural mountain villages
of Haiti. Ruth Anne has visited Haiti numerous times since 2007, most
recently in November 2010. The stories of Haitian people, and the hope
they represent for the future of Haiti, will be the focus of her

Biography:  Ruth Anne Olson is a retired local educator whose career
focused on issues of diversity and racism in education. Over several
decades, her writings about education and, more recently about Haiti, have
appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and in academic and popular
journals and magazines.

Contact:  Ruth Anne Olson Email: olson248 [at] Phone: 612-377-5717
MR. DUVALIER'S appearance provided further justification for Mr.
Aristide's return, for if the former reviled dictator can come back, how
about the first democratically elected president

--------2 of 9--------

From: William Bailey <wbailey [at]>
Subject: Israeli BS 3.19 10am

"Facts on the Ground: Questioning the Regnant Israeli 'Security' Narrative"
Presented by Dr. Arland Jacobson   [regnant = reigning]

Israel's "security" narrative (Palestinians/Arabs are a dangerous
existential threat to Israel, and so security concerns trump all other
concerns) is the regnant narrative both in Israel and in the U.S. Given
this political reality (and American complicity in Israeli violations of
Palestinian human rights and use of violence), it is necessary to
undermine confidence in this narrative among the general public and
especially with our Congressional representatives. This can be done by
insistently presenting facts on the ground which call into question
Israel's motives for its behavior.

Mr. Jacobson will focus on two things: Israeli obstacles to the
development of the Palestinian economy, and Israeli actions that devastate
Palestinian food production (the two are closely connected).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

9:30 AM. Refreshments
10:00 A.M. to Noon Program and Discussion
Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer
5440 Penn Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55419
For information call Dixie Vella at 952-941-1341
Visit our MEPN website at
Please consider helping on a MEPN committee.

--------3 of 9--------

From: WAMM <wamm [at]>
Subject: Anti-war/BlackDog 3.19 1pm

Rally: "Bring the Troops Home Now! Out of Afghanistan! End, Don't Extend

Saturday, March 19,
 1:00 p.m. (Gather) Martin Luther King Community Center, 270 North Kent
Street, St. Paul.
 1:30 p.m. (March) Through the streets.
 2:15 p.m. (Rally) Minnesota State Capitol, 75 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. Boulevard, St. Paul.

Join others as they gather in cities throughout the nation to speak out
against the war economy. "Out of Afghanistan; Stop Military spending! Join
others as they gather in cities throughout the nation to speak out against
the war economy. Bring your peace signs and your union signs and be part
of a coalition working to end the wars abroad and the war on workers at
Home.  Those wishing to pay tribute to the late great newpaper columnist ,
Molly Ivins, may bring pots and pans to clang.  (Molly Ivins T shirts will
be awarded to the loudest pot clangers!)

Sponsored by: the Iraq Peace Action Coalition (IPAC).
Info: contact the WAMM

After the March party at Black Dog Cafe

Saturday, March 19, 3:30 to 8:00 p.m. Black Dog Cafe, 308 Prince Street,
St. Paul.  Sing! Dance ! Relax after the march and join us at a great
music event to help raise scholarship funds for activists to ride the WAMM
bus to April's national antiwar rally. Suggested donation $10-$25 (Cost of
bus seats are $205.00 per person)  Can't go?  Send a check to the WAMM
office to send a student in your place!

--------4 of 9--------

From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at]>
Subject: CUAPB 3.19 1:30pm

Meetings: Every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Walker Church, 3104 16th Avenue

Communities United Against Police Brutality
3100 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

--------5 of 9--------

From: Vanka485 [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 3.19 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday

--------6 of 9--------

From: Sue Ann <seasnun [at]>
Subject: Coldwater plans 3.19 4:30pm

The National Park Service has announced plans for land restoration work
around Coldwater Spring and reservoir. A $3-million request is in the
upcoming federal budget and is expected to pass.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, 4:30 PM (gather)
4:45-6:30 talk & eat (we get separate checks)
Bridgeman's/Embers Restaurant
Frontage road east off Hwy 55 at 46th Street (adjacent to Minnehaha Park)

Called by Friends of Coldwater to brainstorm ideas for replying to the
Coldwater Land Restoration plans proposed by the National Park
Service/Mississippi National River & Recreation Area (NPS/MNRRA) NPS reply
deadline for comment is April 7, 2011

(We like to support Bridgeman's because the owners were part of a Park &
River Alliance law suit against MnDOT's Hwy 55 reroute in the early 1990s.
The suit was dismissed "on a technicality.")

*Kindly email back if you plan to attend the meeting so we can tell
Bridgeman's how many people to expect*.


--Get rid of the buildings and roads.
This should be done when the land is frozen for the least amount of land

--Daylight the creek by removing the culvert and pipe where Coldwater
empties out of the reservoir and begins its plummet to the Mississippi.
(Note: This work is an "option" since the $3-million is a lowball figure
Coldwater transition plans.)


--Digging a diversion "ditch" parallel to the south end of the reservoir.

The idea is to preserve the reservoir wall and to prevent further erosion.
The ditch would carry away most waters except the main flow at the Spring
House. Groundwater burbles up from underneath the big warehouse and forms
a creeklet behind the warehouse. This spring water currently helps fill
Coldwater reservoir. Less flow into the reservoir would encourage algae
growth earlier in warm months and more ice in cold months.

--Extensive re-contouring of the land on three sides away from the

The 1880 Coldwater photographs show terraced steps of land around the
reservoir, and pavement rather than vegetation to stay erosion.

The great willow tree, the only tree left around the reservoir, would be
damaged by plans to remove earth from the north, east and south sides of
the reservoir.


--Vegetation (not specified in announced Coldwater plans)
Terracing and pavement did not hold back erosion. Roots hold soil in place.

--Prairie grasses and reforestation
The earliest watercolors of the area show grassy prairie ending with trees
growing in all the ravines where creeks cut paths down to the Mississippi.
Coldwater would have supported indigenous cottonwood trees (like the little
clump that sprouted out of what was a volleyball court during Bureau of
Mines days).

The north end of the Coldwater property includes a grove of burr oaks which
historically would have continued along the prairie's edge.

*The Beauty  *

* Full Moon Walk at Coldwater Spring*
* Saturday, March 19, 2011, at 7 PM
The Equinox Moon*
It is the eve of Spring Equinox, a time of balance. Eric Evenson,
administrator of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, is our special
guest. The watershed district took MnDOT to court in 2001 to save the source
water to Coldwater Spring. Original plan was to dynamite for highway
construction and pipe in city water.

Traditional group howl!

Directions: Coldwater is south of Minnehaha Park, in Minneapolis. From Hwy
55/Hiawatha, turn East (toward the Mississippi) at 54th Street, take an
immediate right, & drive South on the frontage road for Ĺ-mile past the
parking meters, through the cul-de-sac & the gates, & past the abandoned
buildings. Follow the curvy road left & then right down to the pond, next to
the great willow tree.
Free. Open to all. Info:

--------7 of 9--------

From: John Kolstad <jkolstad [at]>
Subject: Kolstad/Hoover 3.19 8pm

The Riverview Showcase Presents:

Papa John Kolstad & Clint Hoover
with the great Gary Shulte on violin and groove master Matt Senjem on bass

~In Concert~
Saturday, March 19th, 8:00 PM

This is your last chance to see Papa John and Clint perform together in an
intimate concert setting before Clint leaves town. It promises to be a
great night with the added musical attraction of violin master Gary Shulte
and Mr. Solid, Matt Senjem on the bass. Don't miss it!

The Riverview Cafe
3753 42nd Ave S, Mpls <>

Tickets: $13
Advanced sales at the Riverview Cafe
(612) 722-7234
Seating is Limited

--------8 of 9--------

[Included in item 1 above]
The Haitian Lazarus By AMY WILENTZ Published: March 15, 2011 NYT
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Vivienne Fleshe

SAY the name Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti this week, and it's as if
the revolutionary slave leaders Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques
Dessalines were still riding over the plains and mountains here, astride
Delacroix-worthy steeds, making their descent with sabers drawn upon the
vast plantations of the French masters.

The Haitians one meets on the street or in their little shops or in the
market or on the byways of the countryside and in the shantytowns of the
provincial capitals are for the most part pleased at the prospect of
former President Aristide's return this week from seven years' exile in
South Africa. But when members of Haiti's tiny elite, small middle class
and growing international community here discuss Mr. Aristide, they look
over their shoulders, shake their heads, raise their eyebrows. They speak
in whispers or in great gulps of nervousness.

Cut off their heads and burn down their houses, Dessalines told his
troops, who went on to win a historic and singular victory over the French
Army in 1804. Two centuries later, the elite, some of whom are descendants
of the French colonists, still have a profound fear of the
poverty-stricken general population. They understand fully that the
triumph of the slaves never brought about the structural changes in
Haitian society for which those early, bloody battles were fought. The
ruling class still fears the overturning of the customary order.
Revolution is a scary thing.

When the slaves gathered in 1791 to plot the end of French rule, there
were about 500,000 of them on the island, and some 40,000 French
colonists. Today the demographics are even more skewed, with about nine
million people living in unimaginable poverty, while a microscopic elite
guards among themselves whatever wealth is to be had here. Among all this
flits the aid and development community, who have arrived in droves since
the January 2010 earthquake, with their airy expensive apartments,
S.U.V.'s, vans and pickup trucks, and packets of money to hand out.

In some places, the schism between haves and have-nots is almost farcical.
Around the Place Boyer in Pétionville, the wealthy town above
Port-au-Prince, clubs and restaurants with security guards cater to the
elite and to foreigners, while across the street, in a refugee camp,
hundreds of Haitians huddle under tarps and in tents in the mud and wind
of the season's unpredictable rains.

It's perfect volatile tinder in which to toss the match of Mr. Aristide's
return. Plunk a three-cornered hat on Mr. Aristides' head and sit him on a
horse, and he is another revolutionary leader. The people in those camps
are his people - though not, by far, his only people.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide has a complicated history. During the troubled
times after the ouster of the dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, he
repeatedly confronted the interim junta with enormous, even foolhardy,
personal courage. A Roman Catholic priest from a shantytown parish, Father
Aristide gave sermons in those days that were biting and vituperative,
intended both to enrage the country's rulers and make the people laugh
at power. His amazing escapes from the many assassination attempts against
him made him a kind of folk hero, a Lazarus who could not be eliminated. I
knew him then, and remember him rising from these attacks, each time with
a greater following.

For a long time, Mr. Aristide had no money; he had no social standing; he
had no political party; he had no powerful foreign friends; his own church
reviled him. These were all points in his favor among the Haitian people.
For a long time, the people were his only power. While all other
politicians (except for those whom he has supported) have had to rush
around stuffing ballot boxes, altering counts and paying for votes, Mr.
Aristide has twice been elected in clean balloting.

The first time was in 1990, in the first successful election after 29
years of dictatorship by Mr. Duvalier and his father, François. He won
handily, but, with his leftist rhetoric and his huge support from the
poorest sectors, he was not exactly the leader that the international
community had envisioned when they promoted democracy and elections in
Haiti. Reluctantly, international monitors certified his election.

Finding himself alone in a political sea of the entitled and the
empowered, Mr. Aristide believed that all he could trust in the end was
the brute power of the street - the "rouleau compresseur," as it is called
in Haitian politics, or the steamroller.

He was almost pathologically reluctant to work toward agreement among his
advisers, among equals. He shares this distaste with many Haitians, who
believe that theirs is a fatally polarized society and that
consensus-building here almost inevitably leads to capitulation to the
elite, and by extension to the international community.

Seven months after he took office, Mr. Aristide was overthrown by the
Haitian Army with the tacit approval of the United States and the
international community. The steamroller did not save him, and he was sent
into exile. His second term was much more violent, with supporters
repulsing perceived conspirators with guns and machetes. There were also
allegations of human-rights abuses and corruption.

It ended with another coup, in 2004, that was again supported by members
of Haiti's business elite and tolerated, at least, by Haiti's
international allies, putting an end to the people's flailing baby steps
toward power.

Mr. Aristide gave the Haitian people two invaluable things:
self-confidence and a voice, and thereby earned their lasting loyalty .
That's not nothing, after 200 years of repression, but it is perhaps his
only positive legacy.

During his first exile, in Washington, Mr. Aristide agreed to make
compromises and concessions that were entirely the opposite of what he'd
always stood for. Like a kidnapping victim negotiating his own ransom, he
was willing to accept any demand in order to be allowed to return to

Here was a people's president who, from a comfortable banishment, lobbied
successfully for a brutal embargo against his own country, and who,
returning to power in 1994, accepted international demands for a rapacious
end to Haiti's import bans. Here was a Haitian patriot and intransigent
denouncer of all collaboration with "imperialists" who was brought back to
Haiti on the shoulders of an international military intervention led by
the United States, and who countenanced the establishment afterward of
what was essentially an international occupation force run by the United
Nations, which controls the forces of order in Haiti to this day, Mr.
Aristide having disbanded the army that helped oust him.

Mr. Aristide, of course, did not see this as hypocrisy. Above all, he
felt, the people wanted him to return. And he was right the first time he
returned, and he'll be right the second time. The Haitian people want
justice and a decent life, and they think he's the man to give that to
them. Yet they have already poured their love onto him and he has repaid
them with nothing but dreams.

By the end of Mr. Aristide's two abortive terms, the Haitian revolution
had once again failed. The only Haitians whose lives he improved were
those to whom he personally gave jobs or for whose communities he
personally - for reasons of political loyalty or old connection - provided
housing or schools. He changed nothing structurally; he put in place only
one institution, his own Aristide Foundation for Democracy, which runs a
small university, mobile schools in five earthquake camps and many youth
and women's groups.

In the past weeks, as Mr. Aristide plans his return, the United States has
been putting pressure on the South African government to prevent him from
coming back to Haiti at such a fraught political moment. Jean-Claude
Duvalier, the ousted scion of the old dictatorship, has just come back to
Haiti himself in a surprise move, and can be seen here and there, dining
in expensive restaurants like the ones in Place Boyer, and moving around
the city in big, rich-man's cars.

MR. DUVALIER'S appearance provided further justification for Mr.
Aristide's return, for if the former reviled dictator can come back, how
about the first democratically elected president? Haitians are preparing
to vote (or not to vote) on Sunday in a contested runoff presidential
election . The sudden entrance onto the proscenium of both controversial
former leaders - one stage right, the other stage left - has highlighted
the unreality of the current campaign, which pits a constitutional scholar
against a popular musician.

Mr. Duvalier is unlikely to be permitted to run for office. And Mr.
Aristide has said that he wants to return as a simple educator and to open
a medical school. Having technically served his constitutionally allotted
two terms, he could come to power now only if he were to pull off some
Machiavellian scheme.

Whatever Mr. Aristide chooses to do in Haiti, his voice is likely to be
very powerful, as long as he can avoid assassination. Given his
popularity, he should be able to influence election results far into the
future, if not the one immediately upon us. As always at election time,
violence simmers just below the surface, and has exploded once already in
this voting season because of anger over fraud.

Meanwhile, those who helped to overthrow Mr. Aristide or who thwarted his
ambitions or who disagreed with him are worried for their own security
after he returns. "Aristide does not have to open his mouth for his
vengeance to be done," one young man said to me last week, with
admiration. There is a perception of an impending payback time.

The incredible thing is that a narrative most Haitians thought was over is
now to begin again. Because he is such a potent symbol of democracy for a
huge number of people here, Mr. Aristide keeps popping up in Haitian
history like a return of the repressed. In traditional Haitian belief, a
person's soul goes back to Africa, or lan guinée, when he dies. For
Jean-Bertrand Aristide to reappear in Haiti from his African exile would
be a real resurrection.

Amy Wilentz is the author of "The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier."

--------9 of 9--------

A Call for Resistance
Is Obama Even Worse Than Bush?
March 16, 2011

When I advocated the impeachment of George W. Bush, I did so despite, not
because of, all the animosity it fueled among impeachment supporters. I
didn't want retribution. I wanted to deter the continuation and repetition
of Bush's crimes and abuses. Specifically, and by far most importantly -
and I said this thousands of times - I wanted to deny all future
presidents the powers Bush had grabbed. One-time abuses can be
catastrophic, but establishing the power to repeat them can multiply the
damage many fold, especially when one of the powers claimed is the power
to create new powers.

There's a common tendency to confuse politics with reality television
shows or to imagine that politicians are, even more than fictional heroes,
your own personal friends. This tendency is only compounded by the
partisan framework in which we are instructed to imagine half the
politicians as purely evil and the other half as essentially good. So,
let's be clear. There's very little question that Barack Obama speaks more
eloquently than Bush, and that Obama at times (and more so as a candidate
than as a president) expresses far kinder and wiser sentiments than Bush.
It seems quite likely to me that had Obama been made president in 2000 he
would have done far less damage than Bush by 2008. Obama is probably a fun
guy to play basketball with, while Bush might be expected to throw elbows,
kick opponents, and pull your shorts down. But I'm interested in something
more important than the spectacle of personality here. I think Obama would
make a wonderful powerless figurehead, and I dearly wish that were what he
was. I think Americans clearly need one.

Three rough ways of looking at a president might be as follows. First, in
the unimaginable circumstance in which a president encountered a homeless
person on the street, would he invite him to live in the White House, or
help him find a home, be nice and give him $1, ignore him, shout at him to
get a job, kick him in the guts, or help him into a van and take him off
to be tortured? I don't care about that way of looking at presidents.
Second, do the policies the president pursues lead to massive numbers of
people becoming homeless or worse? Third, do the policies the president
pursues empower all future presidents to make unfathomable numbers of
people suffer horribly? My contention is that Obama has not yet done as
much damage as Bush in the second view but has, in a certain sense, done
worse in the third view.

Richard Nixon's White House Counsel John Dean, while Bush was president,
predicted that Bush's successor would be one of two things, either the
best or the worst president in history. He, or she, would either undo the
damage and prosecute the crimes, or protect the criminals and continue the
abuses. Obama has protected the criminals, continued many of the abuses,
more firmly established the power to commit those abuses, and expanded
abusive powers beyond what Bush ever attempted. I'm not trying to quantify
and determine whether Obama has grabbed "more" new abusive powers than
Bush did. I'm simply pointing out that, as with previous presidents, Obama
has retained the powers bequeathed him and added some.

Whether the third way of looking at presidents (the powers they leave
their successors) is more important, and how much more important, than the
second way (the immediate damage they do to the world) involves
speculation. When William McKinley sent troops abroad without
congressional approval, people died. But a lot more people died when later
presidents did the same thing. Most of the killing and torturing done by
the CIA has occurred long after Harry Truman left office. The pattern is
that powers, once established, are augmented, not curtailed; and they are
used, not neglected. A pattern doesn't predict the future, but it can
establish potential dangers.

U.S. political debate, chattering, organizing, activism, and campaigning
focuses most heavily on domestic issues - even in discussions of a
federal budget that devotes more than half our money to the military. And
it is on domestic issues that the biggest differences can be found between
the two parties and their leading members (which is why the debate tends
to stay there). Obama appears to have appointed less crazy justices than
Bush to the Supreme Court, more sane individuals to the National Labor
Relations Board, etc. Obama's healthcare bill may have been disappointing,
but at least there was one. However, that's a very charitable view.
Presidents controlling the drafting of legislation in accordance with
their secret negotiations with corporate cartels is a bad precedent to be
entrenching, the health insurance reform bill arguably does more damage
than good (including through the requirement to purchase a corporate
product), and the bill makes it very difficult for states to put serious
healthcare solutions in place as Vermont is attempting to do - and the
impediments were insisted upon by Obama.

The Education Department pushes corporatization, privatization, and
testing. The trade agreements are all corporate. Obama has promoted the
development of nuclear energy and "clean coal." The damage of Hurricane
Katrina has been left in place, but been compounded by the BP oil gusher,
during which disaster the White House's priority seems to have been
deceiving the public about the extent of the damage. The environment may
be more than a domestic issue, but it is also one where disaster looms. As
we march forward into worse weather and more frequent "natural" disasters,
one might reasonably place ever greater blame on each successive president
who declines to make any attempt at survival (much less one who goes to
international conferences and sabotages possible global accords, as Obama
did in Copenhagen). And this is all before we look at the budget.

President Obama is taking the budget from the Bush years, adding to the
military, and cutting or freezing everything else. The budgetary crisis in
state governments and in people's homes continues to worsen. The Wall
Street and corporate bailouts that Obama helped Bush impose on us have
only escalated since Obama moved to the White House. But Obama wants
everything non-military that might divert money anywhere other than the
richest of the overlords to be frozen, cut, or eliminated. When Bush tried
to cut off poor people's heat in the winter, ACORN raised hell and stopped
him. When Obama did the same, ACORN had already been eliminated. Obama now
wants to eliminate what's left of taxes on corporations.

Obama has not added as much to the military budget as Bush did, but he has
added to Bush's largest military budget, enlarging it further each year -
and with activist groups and news reports tending to falsely report that
he's cutting it. This leads to more money for wars, less money for people,
and less activism protesting these policies at the very moment when much
of what remains of the peace movement has chosen to focus on budgetary
issues rather than on ending wars. Bush's budgets were worse than they
appeared because he used off-the-books supplemental bills to add more
money to wars. Obama campaigned against that practice. Since becoming
president, Obama has done just as Bush did, establishing off-the-books war
spending as a normal practice favored by both parties, and establishing
campaign lying as the norm as well.

For a time, Obama had more troops and mercenaries in the field than Bush
had ever had. Now he doesn't, as a result of a partial withdrawal from
Iraq. But Obama has embraced the myth that a 2007 escalation in Iraq
caused a reduction in violence there, and he has applied that myth to
Afghanistan with escalations in each of the past two years leading
predictably to increased violence. Obama has taken a low-scale war in
Afghanistan and dramatically worsened it. He has ignored, covered-up, and
passed the buck on endless war crimes. He has radically expanded the use
of drones, including into Pakistan. He has sent troops into Pakistan and
at one point, according to news reports, into 75 nations, 15 more than
Bush. Whether you count small-scale death squads as "wars" or not, the
drone bombing of Pakistan certainly looks warlike, and that has happened
without even the pretense of congressional authorization, and in the face
of United Nations condemnation of illegality. Obama has added more U.S.
military bases in more foreign nations, boosted weapons sales to nations
we may some day have the opportunity to fight wars against, and continued
the privatization of the military and the employment of the most notorious
corporations of the Bush era - helping to establish their immunity.

"Well, well, yeah, but he closed Guantanamo!"

Obama never intended to free prisoners or put them on trial. He always
intended to keep people in prison without any due process. He just thought
he might do some of it in Illinois instead of Cuba. He's been unable to
make that move, but frankly who cares? The question is not how many people
we're lawlessly imprisoning in Afghanistan and how many in Virginia. The
question is whether we will lawlessly imprison people. Apparently we will.
Secret abuses under Bush have become public formal policies under Obama.
Whether to lock someone up, and even whether to torture them, has become a
matter of policy preference, not of law. Even the power to assassinate
anyone, including Americans, has now become - by Obama's decree - a
matter purely of presidential whim, with no authorization from any other
person or court or legislature required.

Obama announced the end of torture, not its prosecution in court. But he
continued to claim the privilege to torture if he chose to, as Leon
Panetta and David Axelrod made clear. And he openly claimed the power of
extraordinary rendition, that is, the power to kidnap people and send them
off to be secretly tortured in other countries. We don't know if this has
happened. But we wouldn't. We do know that torture has continued in
Guantanamo, in Bagram, and in the US-backed Iraqi government. Warrentless
spying, likewise, continues and grows, while Obama has assured corporate
co-conspirators of immunity.

In fact, Obama has publicly instructed the Justice Department not to
prosecute torturers at the CIA, and his Justice Department has worked
night and day to protect the architects of countless war crimes, including
through the establishing of privileges of secrecy and immunity that Bush
never even sought. This Justice Department and our courts are establishing
the right of powerful officials to immunity from criminal or civil suits
that might expose what they have done while employed by our government.
Obama has also pressured a number of European nations not to prosecute the
crimes of his predecessor. And much of this has gone almost unremarked.
The outrage at crimes committed by Bush becomes vague disinterest upon
learning that Obama has badgered Spain not to prosecute those very crimes.

This is the magic, the disastrous magic, of having a president of the
other political party pick up the baton. Obama gave a Nobel Peace Prize
acceptance speech in which he glorified war. He gave a speech on wars from
the Oval Office in which he embraced a whole series of lies about Iraq. He
stood in front of the U.S. Constitution in the National Archives and
tossed habeas corpus into the trash bin. Can you imagine the raging
inferno of outrage had Bush done any of those things? The process of
normalizing crimes is not purely one of repetition and expansion. It's
also one of fading the crimes into the background, making them part of the
national furniture, forgetting collectively that we ever got along without

I mentioned the power to create new powers. This is where we risk
exponentially worse damage - to our system of government and to the world
- in the coming years. We don't guarantee it, but we do risk it. Avoiding
it would require unprecedented steps of restraint and reversal. Obama came
into office advertising himself as the president of sunshine,
transparency, and openness. The age of secrecy was at an end! I'm not
measuring Obama against the standard of his campaign promises, although it
seems fair to do so. I'm measuring Obama against the standard of Bush, and
noting that part of how Obama operates is through deceptive propaganda.
Obama has refused to release White House visitor logs from the period when
he met with health insurance corporations, has maintained the right to
hide any others he chooses, but released some and announced this as a
breakthrough. Meanwhile, he sends staff to meet with lobbyists just off
the White House grounds in order to avoid writing anything in the
visitors' logs.

This is Bush-Cheney-level secrecy with the pretense that it isn't. And
it's worse. Obama has set records for rejecting Freedom of Information Act
requests and for prosecutions of whistle blowers - not to mention the
lawless imprisonment and torture of alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning,
a policy Obama has defended by reference to unnamed secret standards set
by the military. Just as Obama escalates wars when and how the military
publicly tells him to, he takes responsibility for torturing a prisoner on
the military's say-so. This rhetoric is not just rhetoric. It threatens
civilian rule.

Obama campaigned on the constitutional idea that the legislature makes
laws. He denounced Bush's practice of altering laws with signing
statements. As president, Obama, for a while, used signing statements just
as Bush had, to claim more powers for the president (and every future
president), including this power to claim more powers. Then Obama
established the practice of assuming that prior signing statements or
executive orders or secret legal memos could be used in place of new
signing statements. This is even worse and more secretive than Bush's
practice of announcing which laws he would violate. Obama announced that
he would review Bush's signing statements and decide which ones to keep,
but not whether those decisions would be public, and with no explanation
of how that process was any more constitutional than Bush's. Obama also
began making law, including "law" on lawless imprisonment by executive
order. Congressional Republicans like Buck McKeon want that particular law
to be even worse, and so have objected to its imperial announcement. But
they won't push that balance-of-powers fight very far.

Both parties have now established as flawless heroes people who engage in
some of the same abuses. And whoever's next will be hard pressed to even
call those abuses abuses, should he or she miraculously want to. The U.S.
Supreme Court accepts powers used without opposition by multiple
presidents as established presidential powers. Signing-statementing laws
is now one of those powers.

So is secret and imperial war-making. John Kerry and John McCain want
Libya bombed. John Yoo, not yet prosecuted for having "legalized"
aggressive war, agrees with them. Obama, to his great credit, has not yet
taken that step. But the debate is over policy choices, not laws. The fact
that bombing another country is illegal is no longer considered a fact in
Washington, D.C. It's a fringe opinion. And that is what scares me.

So why not impeach Obama? I clamored for the impeachment of Bush. I say
Obama is as bad or worse. Why am I such a corrupt hypocrite that I haven't
built a movement to impeach Obama? Well, I'll tell you, as I've told
people more times than I can count. Obama should be impeached and
convicted and removed from office. Obama should be prosecuted for his
crimes. So should his subordinates. So should his predecessor, his
subordinates, and all corporate co-conspirators. The reason I can't get 20
people into the streets to demand Obama's impeachment (and if I did,
they'd want him impeached for being born in Africa to aliens from Planet
Socialism) is that nobody in Congress is even pretending to give a damn.
We were able to produce a sizeable movement for impeachment when Bush was
in office, because a lot of Democrats in Congress, especially in 2005 and
2006, pretended they were on our side. I say "pretended" as a way to
indicate not that they didn't agree with us, but that they were not
committed to trying very hard.

The abolition of slavery started with one person saying it was wrong and
demanding change. We have to do that when it comes to the matter of ending
the imperial presidency and establishing a representative republic. I want
anyone who engages in the abuses discussed above impeached, prosecuted,
voted out of office, and shamed. We have to pursue justice for 4 or 8
years with liberals resenting us and 4 or 8 years with rightwingers
resenting us, and so on, back and forth. That means pushing where we spot
a little bit of give in the machinery. It means exposing the torture of
Bradley Manning and supporting anything Congressman Dennis Kucinich does
to expose it and anything any other congress members do if any ever join
him. It means demanding a complete end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
and Pakistan. And it means building viable movements of resistance at the
state level as Wisconsin is doing. Join us at the White House at noon on
March 19th. Get involved here:

David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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