I’m still away for the week working on my book, but in order to create a new comment section and to illustrate our political culture of Change, I’d like to note these three incidents from this week:
First, in Collapsing Empire News, the Democratic House — not deterred or even slowed in the least by what the WikiLeak-ed documents revealed — voted overwhelmingly to appropriate unconditionally another $37 billion for the war in Afghanistan while the political class prepares massive teacher lay-offs and (coming soon) slashing cuts to Social Security; this action — with 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans opposed — was taken in violation of the emphatic pledge of virtually every Democratic politician not to fund wars through supplemental appropriations. Perfectly illustrating how our political culture functions, one of the GOP House members to vote against the war funding (Jason Chaffetz of Utah) is now being attacked by his Democratic challenger, Karen Hayer, with the type of Rovian rhetoric that poisoned the country for the last decade (Chaffetz is “irresponsibly” failing to “support our men in uniform who are currently in harm’s way”); Greg Sargent has more on what this role reversal means.
Second, as was painfully predictable and predicted, the bulk of political discussion in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures focuses not on our failing, sagging, pointless, civilian-massacring, soon-to-be-decade-old war, but rather on the Treasonous Evil of WikiLeaks for informing the American people about what their war entails. While it’s true that WikiLeaks should have been much more careful in redacting the names of Afghan sources, watching Endless War Supporters prance around with righteous concern for Afghan lives being endangered by the leak is really too absurd to bear. You know what endangers innocent Afghan lives? Ten years of bombings, checkpoint shootings, due-process-free hit squads, air attacks, drones, night raids on homes, etc. etc.
Numerous government officials are predictably threatening not only WikiLeaks’ sources with criminal prosecution, but WikiLeaks itself. That, of course, would be a major escalation of the Obama administration’s war on whistle blowing leaks, which already easily surpasses the war waged by the Bush administration. And while some TV ”journalists” are clearly receptive to such suggestions (MSNBC’s Savannah Guthrie yesterday seemed downright excited by, even insistent on, such prosecutions), allowing prosecutions not for those who leak classified information, but also for those who receive and publish it, would obviously allow criminal sanctions to be aimed at journalists who publish or report on classifed information.
Third, the Obama administration is now advocating changes to the law that would empower federal law enforcement agents to compel companies to turn over citizens’ Internet records without a warrant or any other form of judicial oversight. I wrote previously about the Obama DOJ’s extremely dubious (and dangerous) arguments in court that the law already allows them to access such Internet and email records with no warrant, but now they are attempting to have Congress re-write the law to vest them with that power. Kevin Drum, Marcy Wheeler, and Adam Serwer have more on what this very significant expansion of oversight-free Surveillance State powers would mean.
So there’s your Week in Change: tens of billions more appropriated for war through supplemental spending tricks and without conditions or timetables, attacks on war opponents for being Troop-Haters, threats to criminally prosecute journalistic outlets (such as WikiLeaks) which publish classified information on the grounds of being Traitors, and a major expansion of the Government’s ability to spy on your private communications without even obtaining warrants. And it’s only Thursday morning, so think how much more Change can happen in the next two days.
UPDATE: A new ACLU Report examines the first 18 months of Obama’s civil liberties record and documents how his embrace of the prior administration’s policies has transformed Bush/Cheney radicalism into the “new normal.”