President Obama this week nominated experienced close associates to fill three major cabinet posts.
In a ceremony Jan. 7, the president introduced former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as his choice for defense secretary. The president picked as CIA director John Brennan, currently the deputy national security advisor. Shown in the White House photo at left, are (from left to right, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Hagel, the president, and Brennan.
Separately, Obama picked White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew, right, to become Treasury Secretary, succeeding Timothy Geithner.
Each of the nominations is expected to pass, albeit with objection primarily from Republicans. Neo conservatives fear that that Hagel, a Republican and Vietnam War vet who supported Obama in 2008, does not support current and future Mideast wars with sufficient groundtroop commitments. Less publicly, some suspect that Brennan, a CIA officer and executive most of his career except during the 2008 period, used underhanded tactics during the 2008 campaign to help Obama.
Lew, another career government official aside from a lucrative period managing hedge funds on Wall Street, is feared by conservatives as too progressive and by progressives as advocating policies too supportive of financial titans. Lew has fought Republicans on occasion in budget battles. He earned a $950,000 bonus in 2009 for work with Citibank, which suggests yet another example of the revolving door between government and private sectors.
After Obama's failed experiment of trying to work with Petraeus during the first term as CIA director, he emphasized loyalty along with experience in several of remaining high-profile cabinet nominations. Thus, he retained Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Their retention also prevented contentious confirmation hearings and maintained a diversity level reduced in top posts. The Washington Post emphasized these themes in a front page article in its Jan. 11 print edition, A team of rivals to a band of brothers. Also, it published an overall chart: Who's in, Who's Out.
The Obama administration has floated Hagel's name for several weeks for the defense post to test reaction to the former GOP senator. Hagel was from a modest, small-town background in Nebraska. An enlisted man during the Vietnam War, Hagel received medals after twice being seriously injured. After the war, he rose in Republican politics. The Reagan administration named him to a Veterans Administration post, and he later acquired cellphone licenses that made him a multi-millionaire. In 1996, he won an upset victory in a Senate race against Nebraska Governor Ben Nelson, a popular Democrat. Hagel became prominent early in his Senate career as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He worked closely with the two leaders, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana and Joe Biden of Delaware.
A traditional conservative, Hagel showed an independent streak in the Senate in 2007 by voting against continuation of the Iraq War. Also, he occasionally criticized Israel's most aggressive policies. Hagel resigned his Senate seat in 2008, supported Obama for president, and received appointment to co-chair the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. The other co-chair was University of Oklahoma President David Boren, a former senator. Hagel also chairs the Atlantic Council, one of the country's most prominent foreign affairs think tanks.
Obama obviously found Hagel's experience, views, and loyalty attractive, especially after the Petraeus experience. The president's nomination on January 7 prompted an unprecedented push-back on policy grounds against a presidential nominee for the defense post. Leaders of the opposition have been neo conservatives, led by Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, a leaders since the mid 1990s of advocating for U.S. troops to fight wars in the Mideast.
The president's nomination of Brennan to run the CIA is another controversial choice, especially among partisan conservatives who undertake deep opposition research and among those opposed to drone warfare on countries without a declaration of war or similar formal statement of hostilities. Brennan was a career CIA officer who had served as station chief in Saudi Arabia, a post with levels of intrigue that critics are unlikely to penetrate.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, however, Brennan took an interlude from government service advise the Obama campaign on national security issues. Also, he led The Analysis Corp. a private security firm that earned millions of dollars from intelligence work. Additionally, Brennan chaired the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an association of intelligence professionals.
One employee of The Analysis Corp. working on contract with the State Department was caught illicitly accessing the passport files of Democratic contender Barack Obama. The employee was caught also examining the confidential files of two other 2008 presidential contenders, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Republican John McCain.
Brennan denied knowledge or responsibility. The State Department's Inspector General issued a long but heavily redacted report the following year. It revealed little meaningful information to opposition sleuths who suspect that Brennan's firm was trying to purge Obama's files of embarrassing information, and accessed the Clinton and McCain files simply to blur the motive. Two employees form another private contractor that works with passports were implicated also in in snooping, but not so much as with the Brennan subordinate.
The matter largely faded from any public interest until this week. Several conservative websites have been running commentaries, excerpted below. The most thorough is by Jerome Corsi, shown at left. He writes for World Net Daily (WND), and is best known for his best-sellers. One was Where's the Birth Certificate? Another was Unfit for Command, which touted the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" charges against 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Corsi holds a doctorate from Harvard University and tends to be well-funded in his research, which is thus unique in certain respects. My practice, therefore, is to examine his documentation, but I have not found reason to adopt his most famous ultimate conclusions. In that spirit, I excerpt it and other commentaries below.
One area that remains largely unexplored so far in public is Brennan's role in the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus. Conventional wisdom is there is no story there, and the knows what it needs to know. But as Bush biograher and investigative reporter Russ Baker wrote this week for Business Insider:
We do not yet understand what role if any Brennan might have played in the still mysterious affair that brought down David Petraeus, the man Brennan replaces at CIA. If you don’t think there are power struggles going on that determine, for example, which adulterous relationships in high places come to light and which don’t—then you don’t know Washington very well.
A year ago, Obama appointed Lew to be chief of staff. The promotion took Lew from his post as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Lew is regarded as a tough bargainer. "Some Republicans complain," an AP reporter wrote, "that Lew has been unyielding in past fiscal negotiations. If confirmed, Lew would assume the post in time for the administration to tangle anew with Republicans over a confluence of three looming fiscal deadlines – raising the $16.4 trillion federal borrowing limit, averting automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, and the expiration of a congressional resolution that has been keeping the government operating. Those three events, if unresolved, would have a far greater negative effect on the economy than the "fiscal cliff" that Obama and Congress avoided a week ago."
William K. Black, a former federal regulator who now teaches at the University of Missouri, wrote of Lew:
Obama is clearly comfortable bringing another ex-Wall Streeter into an administration that, beyond a recent ratcheting up of populist rhetoric, has done relatively little to rein in the financial industry. That, in turn, reflects the ease with which Washington hands like Lew shuttle between the Street and the Hill.
Case in point: Lew's predecessor as budget chief, Peter Orszag, left the agency and joined Citi as vice chairman of global banking. A job in politics is no longer a back-door to a lucrative job in banking -- it's a red carpet. The revolving door keeps spinning. The Citi [alternative investments] division ultimately lost billions.
As for Lew, he naturally made big bucks during his three-year stint at Citi, including a roughly $950,000 bonus in 2009 -- after the company's federal bailout. Lew helped establish finance policy under President Clinton. Lew served as OMB chief from May 1998 to January 2001 during the Clinton administration, when Clinton signed into law the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 -- two pieces of legislation at the heart of the deregulation of Wall Street. The first repealed the law that had long kept commercial banks from offering products or engaging in services more common with investment banks; the second "eliminated virtually all regulation" over the kind of derivatives that trade outside regulators' view.
Lew's predecessor as chief of staff was William Daley. Daley is a lawyer. Daley was on the executive board of J.P. Morgan-Chase during the crisis and before that he was on Fannie Mae's board of directors. Daley is a member of "Third Way's" controlling board. Third Way is a Pete Peterson ally that lobbies in favor of austerity and cuts to the safety net. It pushes Wall Street's, and Pete Peterson's, greatest dream -- privatizing Social Security. Privatization would allow Wall Street to increase its profits by hundreds of billions of dollars in fees for managing our retirement savings.
Not surprisingly, the president had a more positive interpretation. "Over the past year, I’ve sought Jack’s advice on virtually every decision that I’ve made, from economic policy to foreign policy," the President said in a Jan. 10 ceremony announcing the appointment. The president is shown in a White House photo at right congratulating Lew at the ceremony, with Geithner at far right.
A White House news bulletin said:
Jack Lew has decades of experience tackling some of the nation's toughest economic challenges. As director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton, Lew helped to negotiate the deal that balanced the federal budget -- and led to a budget surplus. In the Obama Administration, even before becoming chief of staff, he has helped to manage the day-to-day operations at the State Department and shepherd through the Budget Control Act to reduce federal spending in a second stint at OMB.
"One reason Jack has been so effective in this town," the president said, "is because he is a low-key guy who prefers to surround himself with policy experts rather than television cameras. And over the years, he’s built a reputation as a master of policy who can work with members of both parties and forge principled compromises."
Political appointments have not been typical topics for this site. In the aggregate, they obviously affect justice and related issues, however. My forthcoming book, Presidential Puppetry, examines each of these appointments in more detail along with the implications for the public.
Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
Related News Coverage
Washington Post, A team of rivals to a band of brothers, Scott Wilson, Jan. 10, 2012. Obama’s second-term Cabinet reflects a president who wants to complete his first term’s objectives. Obama has worked closely with all of the recent nominees — either in the Senate, during his abbreviated term there, or in the White House during difficult times. Only Kerry was a second choice, named after U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, one of Obama’s first and most loyal foreign policy advisers, bowed out last month in advance of a confirmation fight that the president did not want. Unlike Geithner and some other previous Treasury secretaries, Lew has spent only brief time on Wall Street, running a hedge fund for Citibank for a couple of years before joining the Obama administration. In nominating Hagel and Kerry to run defense and state, Obama may secure a place in history. If they are confirmed, it would be the first time in U.S. history that the top four national security posts — president, vice president, defense secretary and secretary of state — are held by men who served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All three nominees support Obama’s approach to U.S. foreign policy, which favors multilateral efforts and alliances, the use of intelligence, drones and diplomacy to further national security goals, and holding out war as a last resort. “These are people he knows well and feels are in line with his worldview,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, referring to the national security picks. “They share a similar orientation but have their own views, as well. That’s the dynamic the president likes in his national security team.”
Washington Post Chart: Who's in, Who's Out, Jan. 10, 2012.
Wall Street Journal, In GOP, All Eyes on Jeb Bush, Neil King Jr., Jan. 6, 2012. Close aides and friends say former Fla. Governor Jeb Bush is actively weighing a run for president, something he didn't do in the last election cycle. But the Republican party is divided about another Bush candidacy. As Republicans begin the early jockeying for the 2016 presidential race, the intention of one man, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, dominates conversations and informal strategy sessions. Within the party, Mr. Bush is seen as the one potential candidate whose decision on whether to run—yea or nay—has the power to scramble the rest of the field.
FireDoglake, Obama Administration Won’t Show Secret Legal Opinions for Targeted Killings to US Senator, Kevin Gosztola, Jan. 14, 2013. Ahead of the confirmation of Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan to the position of CIA director, US Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has sent a letter to Brennan asking him to provide Congress access to “secret legal opinions outlining the government’s ability to target and kill Americans believed to be involved in terrorism.” Wyden, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, by law is supposed to provide oversight and have access to classified legal opinions, but, as he shares, the Obama administration has refused to provide him access to a copy of secret legal opinions for targeted killings. Wyden, right, explained that the decision by the Obama administration to claim intelligence agencies may kill American citizens while at the same time refusing to provide Congress with access to all legal opinions explaining the administration’s understanding of the authority is “alarming and indefensible.”
Business Insider, Talk About Politicizing Intelligence! Meet John Brennan, CIA Chief Designee, Russ Baker, Jan. 10, 2013, John O. Brennan, nominated by President Obama to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a crafty character. Not surprising for a spy.
WND, Did CIA pick sanitize Obama's passport records? Employee breached files when eligibility issue during 2008 campaign, Jerome Corsi, Jan. 10, 2013. John Brennan, the Obama counter-terrorism adviser nominated this week to head the CIA, played a controversial role in what many suspect was an effort to sanitize Obama’s passport records. On March 21, 2008, amid Obama’s first presidential campaign, two unnamed contract employees for the State Department were fired and a third was disciplined for breaching the passport file of Democratic presidential candidate and then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Sundance, President Obama: Part II – After High School Through College(s), Conservative Treehouse, April 26, 2011. Just two weeks before this speech and surprise announcement of his 1981 visit to Pakistan, employees of John Brennan (who would become Obama’s terror chief) were caught tampering with Obama’s passport files. It should be noted that “Obama’s top terrorism and intelligence adviser, John O. Brennan, heads a firm that was cited in March 2008 for breaching sensitive files in the State Department’s passport office, according to a State Department Inspector General’s report released July 2009.
Associated Press/Huffington Post, John Brennan, Counterterrorism Aide To President Obama, To Be Nominated As CIA Director, Julie Pace, Jan. 7, 2013. President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, two potentially controversial picks for his second-term national security team. Hagel, even before being nominated, has faced tough criticism from congressional Republicans who say the former GOP senator is anti-Israel and soft on Iran. And Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew from consideration for the spy agency's top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to harsh interrogation techniques used during the George W. Bush administration.The White House said Obama will announce both nominations Monday afternoon. Along with secretary of state nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Hagel and Brennan would play key roles implementing and shaping Obama's national security priorities in a second term. All three men must be confirmed by the Senate. In nominating Hagel, Obama signaled he is willing to take on a tough confirmation fight. Once Hagel emerged as Obama's likely nominee, GOP lawmakers began sharply questioning his commitment to Israel and his willingness to take a hard line with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
National Journal, The Neocons vs. Chuck Hagel, The attacks on the Defense nominee reflect an old struggle—and a philosophy that’s in eclipse, Michael Hirsh, Jan. 9, 2013. Among the chicken-hawks of Washington William Kristol is the bantam rooster. Though Kristol never served in the military, for almost two decades the editor of The Weekly Standard has been the true brains behind the neoconservative movement, advocating the aggressive projection of U.S. military might around the globe. And now Kristol is leading the neoconservative fight against Chuck Hagel, right, the Defense secretary nominee whose policy record amounts to a living rebuttal of Kristol’s worldview. In a recent "special editorial" in his magazine, Kristol delivered the following diatribe against the former Nebraska
Huffington Post, Chuck Hagel Defense: The Combustible Politics Of Obama's Clearest Break From Bush, Sam Stein and Joshua Hersh, Jan. 7, 2013. President Barack Obama's nomination Monday of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as secretary of defense reignites an uncomfortable, and potentially combustible, debate over the foreign policy of the George W. Bush presidency. The anticipated nomination had been under fire for weeks, as Hagel critics sought to use his positions on Israel and gay rights to fight the appointment. But under the surface, the controversy centers on Hagel’s outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq, and Republican fears that the appointment would represent a clean break for Obama from the policies of the Bush years.
Associated Press/Huffington Post, Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary Nominee, Will Face Looming Fiscal Deadlines, Jim Kuhnhenn, Jan. 9, 2013. President Barack Obama's nominee for treasury secretary, is a premier federal budget expert who would take the helm of the government's main agency for economic and fiscal policy just as the administration girds itself for a new confrontation with congressional Republicans over the nation's debt and deficits. Obama will nominate Lew on Thursday afternoon, continuing to put a second-term imprint on his Cabinet by choosing yet another close ally to a key government post.
Huffington Post, Jacob Lew: Another Brick in the Wall Street on the Potomac, William K. Black, Jan. 10, 2013. The New York Times has just run two articles confirming that President Obama intends to appoint Jacob Lew as Treasury Secretary Geithner's replacement. Most people assume that Geithner is a creature of Wall Street through direct employment, but Geithner never drew a paycheck directly from Wall Street. Geithner worked for a wholly-controlled subsidiary of Wall Street -- the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Lew is the real deal, another brick in Obama's creation of Wall Street on the Potomac. While the first NYT article ignored Lew's work on Wall Street, the second article simply tries to minimize it. Mr. Lew had a brief turn in the financial industry before joining the Obama administration four years ago, working at the financial giant Citicorp, first as managing director of Citi Global Wealth Management and then as chief operating officer of Citigroup Alternative Investments. "Global Wealth Management" refers to banking services for the wealthiest people in the world, a club in which mere millionaires are barely worth having as a client. "Alternative investments" refers to financial derivatives traded for the bank's own account. Lew's training was as a lawyer.
Business Insider, Talk About Politicizing Intelligence! Meet John Brennan, CIA Chief Designee, Russ Baker, Jan. 10, 2013, John O. Brennan, nominated by President Obama to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a crafty character. Not surprising for a spy. We do not yet understand what role if any Brennan might have played in the still mysterious affair that brought down David Petraeus, the man Brennan replaces at CIA. If you don’t think there are power struggles going on that determine, for example, which adulterous relationships in high places come to light and which don’t—then you don’t know Washington very well.
Al.com, Sen. Jeff Sessions vows to block Jack Lew as Treasury nominee, George Talbot, January 10, 2013. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, is vowing to block President Barack Obama's attempt to nominate Jack Lew as U.S. Treasury Secretary. Sessions, the top Republican the Senate Budget Committee, said today that Lew, who serves as the White House chief of staff, is the wrong man to guide U.S. economic policy. “Jack Lew must never be Secretary of the Treasury," Sessions said. "At this time of unprecedented slow growth, high unemployment, and huge deficits, we need a Secretary of the Treasury that the American people, the Congress, and the world will know is up to the task of getting America on the path to prosperity not the path to decline. Jack Lew is not that man.” Sessions has sparred with Lew over budget issues, particularly Lew's statement during Senate hearings in 2011 that the president's budget would not increase the national debt. "His testimony before the Senate Budget Committee less than two years ago was so outrageous and false that it alone disqualifies him," Sessions said.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Huffington Post, Darrell Issa Probing Prosecution Of Aaron Swartz, Internet Pioneer Who Killed Himself, Ryan J. Reilly, Ryan Grim, Zach Carter, Jan. 15, 2013. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is investigating the Justice Department's prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide on Friday after fighting felony hacking charges for two years. Issa's inquiry comes amid bipartisan expressions of sympathy for Swartz on Capitol Hill, including a statement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Praising Swartz’s work toward “open government and free access to the people,” Issa told HuffPost that the government's case against Swartz is problematic enough to warrant further investigation. I’m not condoning his hacking, but he’s certainly someone who worked very hard,” Issa said. “Had he been a journalist and taken that same material that he gained from MIT, he would have been praised for it. It would have been like the Pentagon Papers.” Issa said he didn't have enough information to say whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts overprosecuted Swartz. He said he had dispatched an investigator to gather more facts. Also on Tuesday, Warren praised Swartz's character and life's work.
FireDogLake, Pardon John Kiriakou, CIA Whistleblower Convicted of Classified Leak, Kevin Gosztola, Jan.15, 2013. Days before John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer convicted of a classified leak, is scheduled to be sentenced to thirty months in jail, support for him is growing. Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, Joan Claybrook, a lawyer who once served as president of Public Citizen and Bruce Fein, lawyer active on civil liberties issues, have signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to pardon Kiriakou. The letter explains Kiriakou pled “guilty to the crime of providing the name of a former colleague to an author who was writing a book and searching for former CIA officers to interview.” They find this is “an act which seems much less censorable than Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s disclosure” of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity “to reporter Robert Novak with impunity.”
Legal Schnauzer, Chilton County Resident Bonnie Wyatt Is Out Of Jail, But Now She Is Being Forced To Sell Her Home, Roger Shuler, Jan. 14, 2013. A central Alabama woman who was unlawfully incarcerated for almost five months now is on the verge of being thrown from her home. Bonnie Wyatt, of Clanton, was released from the Chilton County Jail on December 18, but her freedom came with a major caveat. Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds issued an order on that date, giving Ms. Wyatt 30 days to be out of her home so it could be sold to satisfy an alleged debt from her divorce case. That means Ms. Wyatt must exit the premises by this Thursday, January 17, so that it can be shown by Amber Darnell, an agent with RealtySouth in Clanton. Are the fine folks at RealtySouth aware that Judge Reynolds' order is unlawful? Are they aware of how many ways it is unlawful? Do they care about the rule of law or only about the nice commission a court-ordered sale will bring?
Huffington Post, Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks After Almost 7 Years Of Silence, Mike Sacks, Huffington Post, Jan. 14, 2013. On Monday morning, Justice Clarence Thomas broke nearly seven years of silence at Supreme Court oral arguments. Problem is, what he said was apparently so funny that you had to be there. Really -- the court's official transcript didn't catch his words. What we do know is that Justice Thomas was speaking to a lawyer representing the state of Louisiana. The state was arguing that its five-year failure to fund a lawyer for an indigent defendant facing the death penalty did not undermine the defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial. Before Thomas spoke in Boyer v. Louisiana, Justice Antonin Scalia was asking the state's attorney about the competency and experience of the lawyers for the capital defendant, Jonathan Edward Boyer. After learning that the lawyers went to Harvard and Yale law schools, Scalia said, "Son of a gun." Then Thomas spoke. According to the transcript, he said, "Well -- he did not --," followed by laughter. Louisiana's lawyer then responded, "I would refute that, Justice Thomas." What came between? SCOTUSBlog, which had its reporter in the courtroom, tweeted, "Thomas, J. (Yale, JD), speaks: funny at argument—Yale degree could mean lawyer is incompetent, not competent, capital trial counsel." Another person present at the oral argument, law student Billy Freeland, tweeted, "Thomas might have cracked, 'Thats not effective counsel.' But hard to hear."
Rob Kall, OpEd News, And the Winner of the Golden Globes is... The MIIC, Rob Kall, January 14, 2013. Last night the Golden Globes gave out their awards for Movies and TV shows. The winner was the CIA, or more the Military Intelligence Industrial complex (MIIC)-- comprised by the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, Military Intelligence, black Ops, TSA, Fusion Centers, the ever increasingly militarized local police, the prison system... a sprawling, malignantly growing collection of agencies sucking hundreds of billions out of our economy, while simultaneously destroying our bill of rights. Homeland won best TV series, best TV actor and actress. It IS a highly entertaining show which actually portrays some of the flaws of the MIIC system. Argo won best movie and best director. It glorifies the CIA and Ben Affleck spoke with the highest praise for the CIA. And best actress went to Jessica Chastain of Zero Dark Thirty, a movie that has been vilified for propagandizing the use of torture. Sure, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Les Miserables took some well deserved wins, but it's really odd that so many awards went to movies that focus on the CIA and the MIIC. Or maybe it's not so odd. The Military Industrial Intelligence Complex is playing a more and more pervasive role in our lives. In the next few years we'll be seeing movies that focus on the use of drone technology in police and spy work in the USA. We've already been seeing movies that show how spies can violate every aspect of our privacy -- of the most intimate parts of our lives. By making movies and TV series that celebrate these cancerous extensions of the police state, Hollywood and the big studios are normalizing the ideas they present us with-- lying to the public, routinely creating fraudulent stories as covers for what's really going on. At the same time, Obama, one of the worst expanders of the militarization of and removal of privacy from American life, has talked about transparency. That's a sad irony. Now, members of congress-- Democratic sycophants, are encouraging us to support Obama ignoring congress-- taking on even more Executive power.
Guardian/OpEd News, Will Obama's "War On Weed" Really Ride Roughshod Over American Voters? Naomi Wolf, Jan. 12, 2013. Initially, I found it hard to care much about the grassroots movement to legalize pot -- the right to get high with impunity seemed like a very trivial concern given the other issues facing the nation. But when one sees how the "war on drugs" generates far bigger consequences than mere buzz suppression -- from racist incarceration outcomes, to prison lobbies writing our laws, to the mass disenfranchisement of the felons convicted of marijuana possession, whose conviction prevents them from being allowed to vote -- then the move toward decriminalization by these two states seems urgently needed, and a model for others. And the White House's response appears especially benighted. The larger critique also make the case that US drug laws go to heart of the issue of who controls our justice system. Besides the trend toward privatization of local police forces, which I've written about, many of our prisons too are being privatized, and for these businesses, punitive marijuana laws are at the center of this growth strategy. Indeed, marijuana legalization groups argue that some prison lobbies are so powerful and intrusive that they directly affect state law -- to make sure that prisons have 90% occupancy. (This is hard to achieve solely by prosecuting violent crime, major hard-drug trading, and white-collar crime.) Forbes notes that any easing of the laws that ensnare small-scale users also threatens the profitable spin-off of the "war on drugs" -- the businesses that want to grow privatized incarceration.
Huffington Post, Joe Walsh: Obamacare Opposition Prompts Tea Party Favorite To Suggest People 'Break The Law', Paige Lavender, Jan. 10, 2013. Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, suggested people "defy and or break the law and engage in civil disobedience" in response to Obamacare restrictions or new gun laws. "We may have to shed blood every couple hundred years to preserve our freedoms," Walsh told supporters at a rally, according to Chicago's DNAinfo. Walsh also criticized conservatives who don't "understand we're at war [with progressives.]" DNAinfo reports: Walsh said there is a battle between the old values of freedom against the new emphasis on government control. "These two Americas are having it out," he said, adding it was the old, traditional conception of America against the new, progressive America. "I do want to go back," he said. Although he talked tough politically, saying, "We have no Republican Party in this state — none," he added, "I'm not there yet with a third-party movement." He also said, "Don't yet give up on the Republican Party." During his time in Congress, Walsh continually expressed opposition to the Affordable Care Act, once saying he "would have voted to repeal ObamaCare" once a month if he were the House Speaker. Walsh spent two years in Congress before being defeated by Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth in November.
Huffington Post, 'Zero Dark Thirty' Is a Despicable Movie, Even if Bigelow and Boal Didn't Intend It That Way, Dan Froomkin, Jan. 9, 2013. Do yourself a favor, and don't go see Zero Dark Thirty. Don't encourage film-making that at best offers ambiguity about torture, and at worst endorses it. Spend the two and a half hours and the $10 on something more valuable, and moral.
Buzzfeed/Truthout, The FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism, Bill Berkowitz, Jan. 7, 2013. As Trevor Aaronson tells it in his new book, The Terror Factory: Inside The FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism (IG Publishing, 2013), a large percentage of the so-called terrorists nabbed by the FBI since 9/11 more aptly dubbed “sad sacks.” After extensive research Aaronson and his research assistant Lauren Ellis compiled a “database of 508 defendants whom the U.S. government considered terrorists. Of the 508, 243 had been targeted through an FBI informant, 158 had been caught in an FBI terrorism sting, and 49 had encountered an agent provocateur.
Huffington Post, Obama Gets Debt Ceiling Support From Harry Reid, Senate Democrats, Sabrina Siddiqui, Jan. 11, 2013. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other members of Senate Democratic leadership issued a letter to President Barack Obama Friday, urging the White House to bypass Congress on raising the debt ceiling."I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they have already racked up through the laws that they passed," Obama said last week. "If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic."
Rightwing Watch, Klayman: 'Revolution' Needed to Bring Down 'Black-Muslim' Obama, Brian Tashman, Jan. 7, 2013. In his latest WorldNetDaily column, Larry Klayman calls for a literal revolution to overthrow President Obama that mirrors the American Revolution against King George III. Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch, claims in his column “Revolution!” that the recent fiscal cliff deal, the “moral decay that has swept the nation” and the unsuccessful birther legal challenges to Obama’s eligibility (among other reasons) provide a rationale to topple the “black-Muslim, anti-white, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian ‘Manchurian candidate’ fraudster.