Samir’s Selection 06/10/2013 (p.m.)
All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need, Courtesy of Bush and Obama – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic
Behold the items on an aspiring tyrant’s checklist that they’ve provided their successors:
– A precedent that allows the president to kill citizens in secret without prior judicial or legislative review
– The power to detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial
– Ongoing warrantless surveillance on millions of Americans accused of no wrongdoing, converted into a permanent database so that data of innocents spied upon in 2007 can be accessed in 2027
– Using ethnic profiling to choose the targets of secret spying, as the NYPD did with John Brennan’s blessing
– Normalizing situations in which the law itself is secret — and whatever mischief is hiding in those secret interpretations
– The permissibility of droning to death people whose identities are not even known to those doing the killing
– The ability to collect DNA swabs of people who have been arrested even if they haven’t been convicted of anything
– A torture program that could be restarted with an executive order
Even if you think Bush and Obama exercised those extraordinary powers responsibly, what makes you think every president would? How can anyone fail to see the huge potential for abuses?
Part of the problem is how much the Bush-Obama paradigm permits the executive to do in secret. Take that paradigm, add another successful 9/11-style attack, even after many years of very little terrorism, and who knows what would happen?
No one does.
That’s because we’re allowing ourselves to become a nation of men, not laws. Illegal spying? Torture? Violating the War Powers Resolution and the convention that mandates investigating past torture?
No matter. Just intone that your priority is keeping America safe. Don’t like the law? Just get someone in the Office of Legal Counsel to secretly interpret it in a way that twists its words and betrays its spirit.
You’ll never be held accountable.
This isn’t a argument about how tyranny is inevitable. It is an attempt to grab America by the shoulders, give it a good shake, and say: Yes, it could happen here, with enough historical amnesia, carelessness, and bad luck. We’re not special.
E.J. Dionne Jr.: Libertarianism’s Achilles’ heel – The Washington Post
Michael Lind: “If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early 21st century is organized along libertarian lines?”
In other words, “Why are there no libertarian countries?”
Lind asks another question: “If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world?”
The answer lies in a kind of circular logic: Libertarians can keep holding up their dream of perfection because, as a practical matter, it will never be tried in full. Even many who say they are libertarians reject the idea when it gets too close to home.
But this inconsistency (or hypocrisy) contains a truth: We had something close to a small-government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn’t work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily.
And when the Great Depression engulfed us, government was helpless, largely handcuffed by this anti-government ideology until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along.
In fact, as Lind points out, most countries that we typically see as “free” and prosperous have governments that consume around 40 percent of their gross domestic product. They are better off for it. “Libertarians,” he writes, “seem to have persuaded themselves that there is no significant trade-off between less government and more national insecurity, more crime, more illiteracy and more infant and maternal mortality . . . .”
Is the N.S.A. Surveillance Threat Real or Imagined? – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.