An Olbermann/ Scahill Report … And Is It Time For a Dictatorship in America?
... really want a public plan, and they're the people who turned out for Obama.â€ According to the Web site, the ActBlue page had raised...
This is health-care reform's endgame, or close to it. Next Wednesday, Barack Obama will give a prime-time address before both houses of Congress. But that's not all he's giving Congress. The administration is going to put a plan down on paper. The question is what it will say.
Conversations with a number of White House officials make it clear that, at this point, even they don't know. The argument was raging as recently as last night, and appears to have hardened into two main camps. Both camps agree that the cost of the bill has to come down. The question is how much, and what can be sacrificed.
The first camp could be called "universal-lite." They're focused on preserving the basic shape of the bill. They think a universal plan is necessary for a number of reasons: For one thing, the insurance market regulations don't work without universality, as you can't really ask insurers to offer standard prices if the healthy and the young don't have to enter the system. For another, it will be easier to change subsidies or improve the benefit package down the road if the initial offerings prove inadequate. New numbers are easier than new features. Creating a robust structure is the most important thing. This camp seems to be largely headed by the policy people.
The second camp is not universal at all. This camp believes the bill needs to be scaled back sharply in order to ensure passage. Covering 20 million people isn't as good as covering 40 million people, but it's a whole lot better than letting the bill fall apart and covering no one at all. It's also a success of some sort, and it gives you something to build on. What that sacrifices in terms of structure it gains in terms of political appeal. This camp is largely headed by members of the political team.
Both camps accept that the administration's proposal will be less generous than what has emerged from either the HELP or House Committees. The question, it seems, is how much less generous.
The answer appears to hinge on Sen. Olympia Snowe. "I'm a Snowe-ite," joked one official. Her instincts on health care have proven quite a bit more liberal than those of many Democrats. In the Gang of Six meetings, she joined Sen. Jeff Bingaman in focusing on affordability and coverage — putting her, in practice, somewhat to the left of Conrad and Baucus. The problem is that Snowe is scared to be the sole Republican supporting this bill, not to mention the Republican who ensures the passage of this bill. The reprisals within her caucus could be tremendous.
If Snowe drops off the bill, using the budget reconciliation process will probably be a necessity. The bill then goes through Sen. Kent Conrad's Budget Committee, giving him much more power over the product. The absence of any Republicans repels at least a couple of conservative Democrats. Passage becomes much less certain, which means a scaled-back bill becomes much more likely. This is the irony of the health-care endgame: The bill becomes much more conservative if it loses its final Republican.
Olbermann: As horrific as all of this sounds, it's just part of what you describe in the piece today. Flesh it out for us.
Scahill: Well, I mean obviously to hear the term murder and Blackwater in the same sentence is no great surprise, particularly to people who've been following the history of this company. It's been at the center of some of the worst violence in Iraq. Killing civilians repeatedly. Five of its men are going to be tried on manslaughter charges for the Nisoor Square massacre in Baghdad in September of '07. Another one plead guilty. The Congress is investigating. The IRS is investigating. This is a scandal plagued company.
What is explosive about what's happened here, and you just went through some of the most explosive of these details is that you have two former Blackwater officials, I have learned from sources that John Doe #2 was actually in Blackwater management and was privy to some of the inner workings of the company.
Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater remains the sole owner of the company no matter that he stepped down as CEO and the founder of the company. He micro-manages every aspect of Blackwater's operations and that's well known. On the Christian supremacists angle, let's remember that Erik Prince used Blackwater as a neo-crusader force and has from the beginning. This is a guy who comes from one of the power-house families of the radical religious right.
His father was a major bank roller, and gave the seed money to Gary Bauer to start The Family Research Council, James Dobson, Focus on the Family. And then we have his forced deployed in Iraq as part of a war against a Muslim nation that George Bush characterized as a crusade.
What we have here Keith is a confirmation from insiders at Blackwater that in face Erik Prince did have a neo-crusader agenda, and most explosively, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals that were intending to or did cooperate in the investigation of Blackwater. This is deadly serious.
Scahill also appeared on Democracy Now to discuss Blackwater.
Full transcript available here: Blackwater: From the Nisoor Square Massacre to the Future of the Mercenary Industry.
September 1st, 2009 | By: Michael Merritt
I think it is well past time to grant dictatorial powers to office of President of the United States.
Not like a life-long dictator, mind you. I’m not talking about a Saudi Arabian-like monarchy, where the King’s word is absolute. Or even a Saddam Hussein-like dictatorship, where you’re the “democratically elected President,” but everyone knows the real game. No, our dictatorship would last four years at minimum and eight years max. Our dictator president would still be indirectly elected by the people, and subjected to a final vote by the electoral college. He (or she) would be required to leave office after eight years. Yet he would have all the powers of a dictator for at least four years.
So, why do I hate America, you ask? After all, we don’t have dictators, we have democracy! To which I would argue that the Executive Branch is already a dictatorship.
Let me get one thing out of the way, before I worry my colleagues here at Poligazette. My account has not been hacked by the regular commenter known as Doomed.
That said, I find myself in sympathy with some of Doomed’s views. Why? It’s simple. It seems that whatever a president does, it is not challenged. Oh sure, they are still “challenged” after the first four years, but unless the incumbent president is truly incompetent or seen to have performed some unforgivable act, they remain in office, thus allowing them yet another four years of unchallenged rule.
I can really only speak for the last two presidents, since that it what my political conscious self knows best, but I think we have seen this problem for a long time. However, the last two presidents, or some of their subordinates, have authorized actions that some could argue as being illegal.
For example, George W. Bush authorized the torture of a number of detainees in both Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Even with the measures that were explicitly defended by Justice Department attorneys, there remain some that were most certainly illegal. Yet, by and large, many conservatives have defended these actions because “they produced information,” or “were necessary to protect national security,” even if such arguments (in my opinion) remain unproven.
Then there is domestic policy. Both George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama have produced “bailouts” of large corporations without first consulting Congress, which is supposed to be the guardian of our money. The arguments given to them were similar to those used for torture, namely “if we don’t do these things, businesses that should not be allowed to fail will fail and the economy will come crashing down.” By and large, liberals have supported these actions.
The arguments given for both the bailouts and torture are forms of alarmist knee-jerk responses at best, and propaganda at worst. Then there are the sheer amount of examples I could give that are similar to the above. So what recourse for illegal actions taken by our government, whether it be human rights violations, or economic tampering is there? What response is there to over-reaching by our executive branch? There really isn’t any.
First of all, most any response to these things is done after-the-fact, and most are politicized, or are perceived that way by those who oppose the investigations. Two presidents in the history of the U.S. have stood trial for impeachment. Both times the proceedings were highly politicized, and whenever the procedure has come up again as a possibility, this is the biggest argument against it. Therefore, I am skeptical that impeachment could ever be an effective tool for a president who unambiguously commits a “high crime or misdemeanor” while in office, because the president’s supports will always declare it a political move by the other side. The legitimacy of impeachment has almost always been questioned when it has arisen, and I see no reason for this to change in the future.
Post-term investigations carry similar problems. We’re seeing it right now. Any attempt by the Obama Justice Department to discover if illegal tactics were used in the interrogations of Guantanamo detainees are being declared by conservatives as carrying partisan intentions, even though a presumably independent investigator has been appointed by Secretary Holder. I’m not entirely sure why this is a problem. After all, other independent prosecutors, like Patrick Fitzgerald, have been celebrated by left and right alike for their ability to keep facts in and politics out. There must be others like him. Conservatives are, of course, right to be wary of Holder, given his past involvement in the Marc Rich pardon, but should keep an open mind in the here and now.
However, I myself am open to the thinking behind calling these investigations politicized, precisely because it does seem odd to place in charge of the investigation of the previous administration one who is a different party, and is thus is likely to have a political incentive to open an investigation.
It should be left to Congress. After all…oh wait, never mind. I almost forgot that Congress has politicized its investigations, too.
So, I must conclude that there seems little real way anymore to investigate the misdeeds of the Executive Branch during or immediately after their term in office, and depending on what party is in power, their supporters will support the opposite policies of the previous administration, no matter how bad they are. Actually, they are just as likely to support the same actions as the previous administration, so long as its their guy doing the task. Basically, presidents get to do what they want while in office, and nobody has the ability to tell them otherwise. It’s really does seem it is as Nixon said, “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” That is, to say the least, kind of a scary thought.
In the end, the only legitimate way that we have to effectively check executive power is elections. So why not just go the whole way and make the presidency an elective dictatorship? There will need to be rules, of course. You can’t go around murdering, enslaving, or “making disappear” Americans, but other than that, the rest is more or less fair game. Surely it’d be a relatively benign dictatorship. Nothing could go wrong.
I mean, why not? After all, it’s pretty much what we already have, and have had for a long time.