Saturday, February 16, 2008

What will the candidates do about civil liberties?

This is another issue that I've not heard either Obama or Clinton talk about. As the previous post points out, talking about decreasing the stupendous size of our defense budget is viewed as political suicide, so there is a fairly good explanation (though not a pleasing one) for why the candidates have left it alone. But the erosion of our constitutional protections against governmental--particularly presidential--power seems to me a electoral winner. So why are civil liberties not addressed by the candidates? (Can you find them anywhere, for example, on the web pages of Clinton or Obama?)

Have the candidates ever been asked about this? What do they think about the theory of the unitary executive? Do they consider the US to be in a state of war, and hence a state of necessarily expanded presidential powers? If so, what act of Congress do they think authorized that war, and how will they know when it's over? And what about all those signing statements--do they feel the next president is given freer rein by them, or do they reject them as unconstitutional? What about the warrantless wiretapping programs and the revised FISA process? Will they continue under an Obama or a Clinton administration?

I would hate to think that Clinton and Obama are keeping mum on these issues because they would like to keep their options open if either of them reach the White House. An imperial presidency is bad for America, regardless whom is president.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Crucial Issue No Candidate Will Touch

Amid all the hoopla over the party horseraces on Super Tuesday, at least someone has his eye on the ball (sorry to mix sports metaphors): good ol' Robert Scheer. In his truthdig column, "The Legacy of Bush II" , Scheer raises the alarm about Bush's budget-busting military spending proposal, which would raise "defense" spending
to a level exceeding any other year since the end of World War II, and there will be precious little left over to improve education and medical research, fight poverty, protect the environment or do anything else a decent person might care about.

This issue is the one that nobody seems to talk about, which is so crucial for addressing all the other things that matter so much: the health care crisis, reducing the impact of climate change, stopping immoral wars, ending poverty, you name it. I am really saddened by the political impasse--Democrats afraid of seeming weak on defense and covetous of the military aura, Republicans who see rising military spending as a given and even more beholden to the military-industrial complex--which makes it impossible to move forward on reducing this obscenely high level of military spending. (Just to be clear, I support fully funding veterans benefits, a cause championed by my erstwhile preferred Presidential candidate, John Edwards.) We spend more on the military than everyone else in the world combined. Much of it is wasted on ridiculously expensive weapons systems and an imperialistic global network of military bases. We simply cannot sustain this level of spending into the future. It is already bankrupting us, not even counting the taxpayer dollars that are being poured down the Iraq drain of death and destruction. Our economy is still big, but it is no longer dominant enough in the world to support a military that runs the world.

It depresses me that both Clinton and Obama seem to have declared this issue off the table. Both seem to be promising increased military expenditures. At least Edwards played coy about it, insisting on re-evaluating and determining the right amount that would be required for future missions. (I thought that was a particularly clever part of his platform: avoiding any concrete promises of increased dollar amounts. He knows how tough it will be accomplish other priorities while the defense industry gorges on our public treasury.) Is there any possibility that the extended primary/caucus season will allow us to push Clinton and Obama to take a more courageous stand on this issue? I suppose it is a lost cause, since they would see it as toxic in the general electoral climate. But we can still dream (imagine).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yes We Can

A very nice video putting Obama's 'Yes we can' speech to music. I slightly embarrassed to say that I don't know many of the people in the video, being an old fogy and all, but it's a pretty powerful piece of agitprop.

You can watch the YouTube embedded video below, but a better quality version is on the original source: