DISCLAIMER: I do not attempt to be polite or partisan in my articles, merely truthful. If you are a partisan and believe that the letter after the name of a politician is more important then their policies, I suggest that you stop reading and leave this site immediately--there is nothing here for you.

Modern American politics are corrupt, hyper-partisan, and gridlocked, yet the mainstream media has failed to cover this as anything but politics as usual. This blog allows me to post my views, analysis and criticisms which are too confrontational for posting in mainstream outlets.

I am your host, Josh Sager--a progressive activist, political writer and occupier--and I welcome you to SarcasticLiberal.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Prosecute the Bush Administration -- Part #3: Indefinite Detention and Torture

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration enacted controversial and brutal detention and interrogation programs. Under direction from the executive branch, a combined effort by the United States military and intelligence apparatuses created a system where “suspected terrorist” were captured, held without trial, and tortured. These programs flew in the face of both international and United States laws, and have resulted in massive anti-American outrage abroad.

During the post-9/11 Bush years, people captured by the United States under suspicion of terrorist activities or who were thought to have information about terrorist groups were indefinitely detained. In addition to those captured by US military forces, this program was also used upon people abducted by the CIA and those who were given to the USA under the bounty program for “terrorists”. Unlike in detentions based upon civil laws (imprisonment under criminal charges) or rules of international conflicts (detention of prisoners of war), those detained by the Bush administration were held as “enemy combatants” and were not afforded any rights; these individuals could be held for unlimited amounts of time, be denied any legal process or civil rights, and be subjected to torture. The legal fiction of the “enemy combatant” status was utilized by the Bush administration to create a group of people who they could treat in an unaccountable manner—as they were neither prisoners of war nor civil prisoners, they had few guaranteed rights and the Bush administration could justify their harsh treatment.

The creation of the “enemy combatant” language and the accompanying detention program represent a terrible departure from the standards of the American legal system. The detention of individuals, without trial, for extended periods of time, and in terrible conditions, violates the constitutional protections of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments—unfortunately, as these individuals were in the legal no-man’s-land of the “enemy combatant” status and were held outside of the country, the Bush administration had a legal fig-leaf to cover the fact that they were eviscerating the constitution.

Legally speaking, there is little that can be done to punish the Bush administration for its use of indefinite detention on suspected terrorists. The actions of the executive branch during the Bush years—and, to a lesser degree, the Obama administration—are morally reprehensible and deeply embarrassing to all fair-minded Americans, but they don’t constitute prosecutable crimes; the immunity enjoyed by the executive branch in matters foreign policy shields them from criminal prosecutions stemming from policy choices made in good faith (Those in the execute branch are extremely difficult to prosecute for crimes that they commit while doing their jobs). In the future, Americans will likely look back upon the indefinite detention program of the United States and see it in much the way we look at the Japanese internment program of the mid-twentieth century: a national disgrace and illustration of how our country can make terrible moral choices while in the thrall of fear.

While the indefinite detention program may be difficult to prosecute, the torture program which was attached to it is far more clear-cut. During most of the Bush years, the United States implemented a torture program which operated in a series of lawless and secret prisons. Many of the individuals who were indefinitely detained by the United States were subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment during their detention.

It is now common knowledge that the United States military and intelligence organizations practiced many recognized torture techniques during the Bush administration. By reverse-engineering interrogation techniques from the US military SERE program (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the Bush administration created a torture program which would rival that of any repressive regime. A variety of techniques, most of which are expressly forbidden by international and US domestic laws, were implemented against “suspected enemy combatants”. As if the use of torture weren’t bad enough, most of those subjected to these techniques were innocent, yet had never been afforded any legal process to prove their innocence. Here are examples of several techniques that the USA utilized which are considered torture:
·         “Water-Boarding” – A torture technique that simulates drowning and causes extreme stress on the body; the United States has long-considered this interrogation technique a form of torture and previously executed several Japanese officers for water-boarding Americans during WWII.
·         Sleep Deprivation – Prolonged and forced wakefulness causes extreme psychological and physical stress.
·         “Stress Positions” – Forcing prisoners to maintain uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time is a form of torture; it causes extreme pain and eventually can result in nerve/joint damage.
·         Beatings – Beating prisoners is among the most common tortures utilized by repressive regimes; unfortunately, the USA has utilized a widespread program of interrogation where “head-slapping” and “throwing prisoners against walls” are accepted interrogation techniques.  

It is absolutely inarguable that the tortures authorized by the Bush Administration were illegal and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Torture is an extremely serious crime under American domestic law, and is considered a war crime under the Geneva Convention—under both legal standards torture is punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. There is no legal excuse that would protect a politician who orders torture, either in US or international law, and it is shameful that the Bush administration has gotten away without consequences.

The American people were largely ignorant of the American detention and torture programs for years, but even when it was reported in the news, there was no significant backlash against politicians. Much of the outrage that should accompany these programs was mitigated by the fact that these programs were very rarely used upon Americans and the Bush administration endlessly proclaimed that the people being detained were the “worst of the worst” and dangerous terrorists. As many Americans were afraid of another 9/11, they stifled their outrage at our government’s actions and tolerated our government’s betrayal of our values.

Not only is there substantial evidence that the Bush administration created a torture program, but we also have comments by the highest officials of the Bush administration that virtually brag about the implementation of torture. In his book “Decision Points”, President George W. Bush claims that his response to being asked to authorize water-boarding was simply “Damn Right”. Vice President Dick Cheney, a self-admitted architect of the US torture program, has admitted several times in interviews that “I was a big supporter of water-boarding”. The Bush officials’ absolute lack of shame (if not the presence of pride) surrounding the American torture program reflects very badly upon us, as a country—if we desire any international credibility on the issue of human rights, the United States must begin by punishing our own abusers.

Whether in the courts of the United States justice system or in the war crimes tribunals of the world court, the criminals of the Bush administration must be brought to justice. Ultimately, it may be politically impossible to prosecute an ex-president within the United States, but it is certainly possible to transfer all evidence to the international courts and avail the Bush administration officials to their jurisdiction. A refusal to prosecute torture, merely because the criminals are our former leaders, is an abrogation of the rule of law and an invitation to future abuses. The fact that those who committed the crime of torture were elected officials doesn't mitigate their crimes rather, it makes it that much worse: not only did these people torture, but they did so in our names. Unless we swiftly punish these criminals, there will be a terrible precedent set, where those in power are given the right to violate our most sacred laws and simply walk away without fear of legal consequence.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Predictions for the 2012 Election - Part #2

The Post-2012 Election Republican Response

For the purposes of this prediction, I assume that the 2012 election results in a divided government: Obama has been reelected, the Democrats control the Senate, and the Republicans control the House. For details on the justifications behind these predictions, please refer to the “2012 Predictions” section above this one.

In the face of a major election, people tend to get tunnel vision and fail to look at what will happen after the election is over. Ultimately, while every election is important, the negotiations and interactions of elected officials and parties after the elections are decided are vitally important. If government becomes dysfunctional, then a small minority of politicians is often able to stall progress and prevent an elected majority from pursuing their agenda. Unfortunately, modern politics have become so polarized, and those on the right so extreme, that an Obama reelection will likely result significant conflict in Washington.

When Obama is reelected, the Republicans will utilize every possible opportunity to prevent his second term from being successful—this includes blocking legislation as well as ensuring that blame for the pain of the American people is placed squarely upon Obama. They will attempt to prevent any meaningful legislation from passing into law and will take every chance that they can to undermine the Obama agenda.

The primary goal of the Republican Party’s obstruction of the Obama agenda is to prevent any liberal, or even moderate, policies from being signed into law. The conservative movement has swung so far right that moderate policies, even those that they created in previous decades, have become intolerable (ex. the individual mandate). The modern Republican Party isn’t just extreme, but it has also become captured by wealthy/corporate interests. As these interests don’t want their taxes increased, nor do they want any sort of regulations which would cut into their profits (ex. worker/environmental/consumer protections), the Republican Party will do everything within its power to stop Democrats from enacting these policies. Because any significant deviance from the conservative movement’s extreme-right wing agenda is politically fatal to a Republican politician (due to primary challenges), it is unlikely that many Republicans will reach across the picket line and deal with Democrats.

In addition to stalling the passage of a Democratic agenda for the sake of policy, Republicans will attempt to set up a favorable playing field for the 2014 midterm elections as well as the 2016 presidential election. If they can prevent Democrats from being seen as successful and exacerbate the pain of the American people, it will create a situation where the Republicans have the ability to sweep into power during the next electoral cycles; massive voter dissatisfaction creates a climate where the party which is not in power has the  Just as the terrible failures and low approval ratings of the Bush presidency brought a wave of Democrats into power during 2008, the Republicans hope to create a similar situation which will benefit them.

The Republican Party will utilize four main tactics in order to achieve their agenda—Obstruct, Extort, Impugn, and Blame:


During Obama’s first term, particularly in the post-2010 election years, the Republicans have utilized every obstructionist tactic that they have access to. Obstructionist stalling tactics are aimed at slowing down the government’s decision-making process to the point where it stops functioning; these tactics may not allow a party to pass its agenda, but they are often extremely effective in preventing opposing parties from enacting their agenda.  While there are a wide variety of ways that partisans can obstruct policymaking, here are a few of the more common examples:
  • Stalling legislation in committee (as was done to the ACA)
  • Declining to bring legislation up for a vote (as has happened in the House with Democratic legislation from the Senate)
  • Maintaining a perpetual filibuster
  • Stalling bills through the addition of numerous amendments (each amendment must be voted upon, thus this can take up huge amounts of time)
  • Manipulating vote scheduling on order to increase the time it takes to pass legislation (ex. postponing votes until after vacations)

In the American legislature, a majority isn’t needed for many of these types of obstructionism—a committed and highly partisan minority block of politicians can easily disrupt the legislative process. Unfortunately, it appears that the modern Republican Party is both willing and able to obstruct governmental processes in service to their agenda.

By leveraging their control over the House, the Republicans will continue to block every piece of legislation that the Democrats bring forth. We will see the Republican majority in the House utilize parliamentary rules and scheduling in order to prevent any Democratic legislation from passing or, in many cases, even being voted upon. Even when Democratic legislation from the Senate is brought to a vote, it is unlikely that it will pass the unified front of Republican opposition.

In the Senate, the Republican minority will continue its overuse of the filibuster, thus preventing the Democratic majority from passing significant legislation. While it will be possible for the Democratic majority to pass legislation using reconciliation (a process to pass certain legislation with a simple majority), or through heavy compromising with the Republican majority, it is unlikely that any liberal legislation will pass this roadblock.   


In the past several years, the Republican Party has utilized a strategy of extorting policy concessions from the Democrats in exchange for fixing crises which they cause. While they are in the minority, the Republicans have enough power to prevent vital legislation from passing and are able to cause significant disruption to the operation of government. Through utilizing this power to disrupt the government, the Republicans have forced the Democrats to make concessions just to pass things that, in normal years, would be bipartisan and uncontroversial.

Here are two examples of this tactic from 2011 and 2012:
  1. During the fight over the extension of the Bush tax cuts in December of 2011, the Republicans refused to extend unemployment benefits unless the Bush taxes were extended for those making over $250,000. In this situation, the Republicans literally held the economic welfare of the poor hostage (and risked putting the country into recession), in order to preserve tax cuts on the rich.
  2. During the 2011 fight over the debt ceiling increase, the Republican Party attempted to force draconian cuts on entitlements/social programs in exchange for allowing the debt ceiling to be increased. A failure to increase the debt ceiling is economically irresponsible and would lead to a government default, thus it is wholly inappropriate to use it as a political lever.

By creating a situation where the country, or at least a significant portion of the population, will be harmed unless action is taken, a minority party is able to compel the majority to act. If the majority ignores the crisis created by the minority and it harms the country, the minority can blame the majority (they are in power) and get a PR win. If the majority decides to deal with the minority in order to fix the engineered crisis, then the minority is able to extract policy concessions from the majority that would otherwise be impossible.

After Obama is reelected, there is no reason to assume that the Republicans will stop utilizing their hostage-taking tactics. As they will still control the House and enough of the Senate to filibuster, the Republicans will be able to disrupt the government enough that their hostage-taking will remain effective. Throughout Obama’s second term, we will see the Republicans engineer a string of crises in order to compel the Democrats in the Senate and executive branch to acquiesce to Republican demands.

Unfortunately, there is no effective way to combat political hostage-taking by a political party other than to make sure that the guilty party receives most of the blame—the separation of powers and the protections of the partisan minority built into our legislative structure allow an irresponsible party to abuse their power in this way. The primary reasons that this tactic hasn’t been more common are that it is irresponsible and only utilizable by a party which cares more about installing its policy than the welfare of the country.  


During Obama’s second term, the Republicans will make every effort to attack his character, as well as that of everybody associated with him. These attacks will not be based in reality and are extensions of the right wing frustration that they lost and will be unable to rid themselves of Obama for four more years.

These are a few attacks that Obama and the Democrats will face the most during the 2012-2016 presidential term:
  • Being labeled as a socialist: The accusation of supporting socialism is a common right wing attack on people who are to their left. Unfortunately, the lack of public understanding of what actually constitutes socialism has led for this attack to be somewhat effective and has resulted in many people thinking that the current Democrats are far farther left than they really are.
  • Being labeled as an extremist: Because the right wing has pulled the political spectrum so far to the right, most leftist policies to be suggested will be considered radical and extreme policies. I predict that the rightward trend will continue and that the right wing will label everything that Obama suggests as radical, even if they recently supported it (such as what happened with the individual mandate).      
  • Challenges to individuals’ “Americanism”: A common attack by the right wing is that their opponents aren't “real Americans”, “patriots”, or “possessing “American values”. These accusations are really coded attacks on opponents that actually mean:  “not white”, “not  blindly nationalistic” and “not Christian conservative”. Due to the longstanding use of these attacks by conservatives, it is virtually certain that they will continue to be a significant line of attack during Obama’s second term.
  • Accusations that Obama is apologizing for the USA: Throughout his first term, Obama has been besieged with accusations that he is apologizing for the USA when he speaks abroad; these accusations are simply false and exist as a straw-man argument to attack the president with in the absence of any major foreign relations blunders. Barring a significant foreign relations blunder that is actually based in reality, I see no reason why the right wing will do anything but intensify this line of attack on the president into his second term.

By feeding the public a steady dose of accusations against Democrats, coded attacks on Obama, and misinformation against Democratic policies, the Republicans will attempt to poison the American people against the Democratic Party. The blind hatred that most conservatives have for Obama, combined with their frustrated helplessness over losing the election, will exacerbate the frequency and extremity of these attacks far beyond what we have seen directed at past politicians.

In addition to making every effort impugn Obama in the public, I predict that House Republicans will attempt to open numerous investigations and begin a campaign to impeach Obama within a year of Obama’s reelection. I don’t know what the attempt to impeach Obama will be based upon, but I predict that it will originate from a Tea Party congressman and will result in nothing more than several weeks of controversy.

Throughout the next few years, we will see numerous political witch-hunts started by right wing partisans in an attempt to bring down Obama and anybody allied with him. While I predict that these with-hunts will become more common in Obama’s second term, we have already seen several examples of this type of persecution during Obama’s first term. The “fast and furious” scandal—a completely manufactured and specious attack on Eric Holder for a DOJ program gone wrong—is the best example of such a witch-hunt and it is indicative of the types of “scandal” that we will see in the future. It is likely that none of these scandals will actually amount to anything, but they will result in a lot of bad press for the Obama administration and will dog him for the duration of his second term.  


During the next four years, the Republicans are going to spend a great deal of time attempting to shift public opinion away from the Democrats. They will blame everything that they can on Obama and the Democratic Party so that by 2016, (the next major election cycle), the Democrats are as unpopular as the Republicans were in 2008. Through convincing the public that the Democrats are to blame for everything wrong with the country, the Republicans will try to gloss over the failure of their policies while simultaneously positioning themselves for significant wins during the next presidential election. If they manage to drive Obama’s poll numbers down to the mid-twenties (like Bush was in 2008), the next Democrat to be running for president will likely be at a significant disadvantage against their Republican challenger.

As the media has largely neglected fact-checking of modern political attacks, the Republican blame machine will completely disregard reality in order to achieve its goal. Republicans will automatically label anything that goes wrong as a Democratic failure and everything that goes correctly as a Republican success, regardless of the facts.

Put plainly: the Republicans will attempt to link literally every hardship, policy failure, and international incident that affects the United States during the next four years to the Democrats and to Obama’s presidency.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Predictions for the 2012 Election - Part #1

This is Part #1 of a two part article: Part #1 deals with my predictions as to the results of the 2012 national elections while Part #2 deals with my predictions of what the Republican response to the elections will be

© Josh Sager – September 2012

2012 Predictions
Presidential: When one considers the recent likely voter poll numbers, it appears that Obama has a very good chance of being re-elected during the 2012 election. These polls show that Obama not only holds a national lead, but also significant leads Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. Romney’s Libya embassy comments and the mid-September release of the “47% Tape” are both significant strikes against his candidacy and only solidify the prediction that the Romney candidacy will result in failure. I predict that Obama will win the election by carrying the swing states of Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Romney will lose the election, but will carry the states of Florida (depending upon voter disenfranchisement measures), North Carolina, and New Hampshire.

Senate: While polling at the beginning of 2012 suggested that Republicans would retake the Senate, it now appears that momentum has stalled and that the Republicans are unlikely to make significant gains. I predict that Democrats will hold onto the senate in 2012, and will remain in control without a super-majority (it is impossible for the Democrats to capture 60 seats)—the likely result of the elections is that between 51 and 53 Democrats (counting Bernie Sanders as a Democrat) and 49-47 Republicans will be elected to the Senate in 2012.

House: During the 2010 election, the Republicans and Tea Party (inasmuch as there is any real distinction) took a vast majority of the House and swept many Democrats and moderate Republicans out of office; this right wing tide was largely due to Democratic demobilization and high levels of Republican voter turnout, thus it is unsustainable for the 2012 election. Since getting into office, these congressman have become immensely unpopular and have presided over the lowest public opinion numbers of any congress in the history of public opinion polling (by some polls, they had a 9% approval rating at their lowest). Due to the presidential coattails effect, Democratic voters will come out to vote in 2012 at much higher numbers than in 2010 and control of the house will become contested. I predict that the Republicans will retain the house, but only by a margin of less than ten seats (probably on the lower side of this prediction).\; the areas which they suffer most will be the marginal areas (purple states) where a disproportionately large amount of Republicans were elected during the 2010 election. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Conservatives Really Mean When they Say “Small Government”

© Josh Sager – September 2012

In modern American politics, conservatives across the country near-universally support the ideal of “small” or “limited” government. In invoking the idea of a small government, conservatives attempt to paint the picture of a large, intrusive, wasteful, and ineffective government that they are trying to reign in and make effective. Oftentimes these conservatives claim that government is the thing holding the United States back, thus simply removing regulations, cutting “wasteful” program and reducing taxes will result in success for all Americans. Unfortunately, the conservative ideal of “small government” is merely a fantasy, created by conservative elites as a smokescreen for the true intentions of the conservative movement.

In reality, the modern American conservative’s ideal of “small government” manifests through the cutting of programs which don’t benefit the wealthy individuals and special interests that fund the conservative movement—examples of such programs include entitlements, welfare, environmental/worker protections, and education. Because the people who lead the conservative movement are motivated primarily by “enlightened self-interest” (Read: greed), and garner no benefit from programs which help the poor/middle classes, these conservative elites see such programs as wasteful “big government”. Once the elites who run the conservative movement determine which programs are useful to them and which should be labeled as “waste”, they propagate this determination down to the average conservative individual; as these individuals have little to no knowledge of the actual effects of policy, the conservative elites have little problem convincing the rank and file conservative to vote against their own interests in favor of the interests of the elites.

Put plainly: conservatives want a country where they get big government benefits and small government restrictions, while imposing small government benefits and big government restrictions on everybody else.

Programs which prevent wealthy individuals and corporations from exploiting others are held in particular contempt by modern conservative elites. Regulatory bodies such as the EPA and the FDA, as well as numerous worker protection laws have endured incessant conservative attacks over the past decade, despite the very real good that they do for society. These programs not only “waste” money on helping the poor, but are specifically designed to interfere with the wealth entity’s “freedom” to act as they see fit. In protecting the rights of society, these programs prevent those with power from exploiting or harming others for a profit; conservative elites (many of whom are the exploiters) see this intervention as an attack on their “liberty” and will do virtually anything to remove these obstacles.

In the minds of conservatives, money which is “wasted” on things that other people rely upon is simply money that could be given to them in the form of a tax break. By this mindset, the individual simply doesn’t care about the needs of their neighbor and is content only when they are exempted from paying into any program which they don’t receive a direct benefit from. An utter lack of empathy into the situations and needs of others has become and endemic characteristic of the modern conservative movement to an extreme which has never been seen in the history of the ideology.

With social issues, particularly surrounding gay rights and abortion, we see an illustration of the conservative “small government” fiction. Despite claiming to support a small and unobtrusive government, the conservative movement has pushed heavily for increased governmental regulations on personal activities that they find objectionable—gay marriage and abortion rights being the most common things that modern conservatives decry and attempt to legislate away. These conservatives don’t see these restrictions as “big government overreach” simply because such regulations don’t overreach into THEIR lives, only the lives of others. The conservative hypocrisy in the realm of social issues is indicative of their ideological mindset and gives us a clear look into the conservative views on the size of government.

While there is a legitimate argument about the size and scope of government to be had, the modern conservative movement is not even attempting to make this argument. Rather than pushing for a truly limited government, the modern conservative movement promotes a government which gives its members big government benefits while ensuring that everybody else only receives a small government pittance; small government regulations are put on to guns, religious institutions, and civil rights, while big government restrictions are imposed upon gays, women, and atheists. This vision is a product of a selfish minority and all Americans should reject it on its premise, regardless of ideological vision.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Prosecute the Bush Administration -- Part #2: The Iraq War

The war in Iraq was promoted by the Bush administration to be a direct response to the 9/11 terrorist attack and a preventative measure against the Iraqi regime utilizing weapons of mass destruction against their enemies (the USA and Israel). As we know now, these justifications were wholly falsified by the Bush administration and the war in Iraq was a neo-conservative endeavor that had nothing to do with the events of 9/11—these justifications were not an error or honest misinterpretation, but rather intentional fabrications aimed at pushing the USA into an unnecessary war. Reputable sources have reported that the Bush administration’s foreign policy team had been planning a pre-emptive war on Iraq from the start of the Bush presidency, months before the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The use of the 9/11 terrorist attack to justify an unrelated war is not only negligent and immoral, but it is also arguably a criminal offense. If the administration lied to congress in order to get them to sign a declaration of war, then they are guilty of perjury, if not worse crimes; depending upon the interpretations of federal law, it is arguable that, since the perjury of these officials led to deaths, the perjurer is guilty for the deaths. Individuals have been prosecuted for 1st degree murder under federal law when their perjured statements intentionally led to the deaths of others. As starting a war will inevitably lead to deaths (whether of Americans or the other country’s citizens), it is inarguable that the lies which led to the Iraqi war represent potential criminal charges. If murder-by-perjury charges have been applied in cases of a single death, then why has it not been applied for a larger lie, which led to a correspondingly larger amount of deaths? The simple answer is politics, and the setting of a precedent that would threaten future politicians if they choose to kill people with lies.

Dick Cheney in particular bears significant blame for the war in Iraq, and the misery which this war has caused. Cheney was not only a major proponent of the war but the evidence seems to indicate that he had alternative motives for starting the war. Halliburton, the company that Cheney once was CEO of (and which he still has a financial interest in), received billions of dollars in government contracts as a direct result of the war. While collusion has yet to be proven (or even investigated), it appears that Cheney had a strong financial incentive to start a war in Iraq.

In addition to the Halliburton conflict held by Cheney, it also bears mentioning that Cheney was engaged in private talks with oil company personnel regarding Iraqi oil months before 9/11. As explained in this article from DailyKos, leaks of documents related to these closed-door meetings seem to indicate a plot by Cheney and oil executives from several corporations to negotiate contracts for the Iraqi oil fields; these meetings seem to indicate the assumption that the US government would have control over the Iraqi oil fields within several years, something that would be impossible without an invasion. Given the content of these meetings before the attack of 9/11, it is virtually inarguable that Cheney was aiming to intentionally start a war for profit and simply exploited the terrorist attacks to facilitate his plans.

If the Iraq war was started under false pretenses (as the evidence point to), then it represents a truly historic example of negligent homicide—those in power knew that thousands of civilians and American troops would die due to their reckless and dishonest conduct, yet they continued to act anyway. To make this situation worse, the negligent conduct appears to have been motivated not by ideology but by a cold calculation, trading American lives for oil company profits. Unfortunately, as the executive branch has widespread immunity and can obscure their intentionally dishonest conduct as simple incompetence, it is unlikely that these crimes will be prosecuted. Unless proof of the motives and intent to start the war for profit is found during an investigation (one that hasn’t happened yet), it is very unlikely that the Bush administration officials will be convicted.

In order to pursue justice for those killed during the Iraq War, the United States Department of Justice should begin a full investigation into all aspect of the lead-up to war. Every document should be reviewed and the private sector individuals involved in these meetings should be squeezed for information. Hopefully, the threat of prosecution will cause a break in the chain somewhere and will provide evidence that the war in Iraq was an intentional fraud geared only to profit a select few individuals. When an individual kills somebody for money, they are prosecuted and can spend the rest of their lives in jail—we, as a country, cannot let those who we trust with power kill thousands of people for money, yet walk away without consequence.    

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prosecute the Bush Administration -- Part #1

© Josh Sager – September 11th 2012

The "just following orders" excuse is not an acceptable defense for war crimes and corrupt conduct.

On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, it is important to look back and reflect upon the day which pushed our country down a very dark path. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed over 3000 Americans and have resulted in debilitating health consequences for the first responders who were exposed to toxic chemicals—hundreds of these brave individuals have developed cancers and respiratory problems and are still in need of treatment. The largest terrorist attack in American history not only killed our citizens, but it brought about widespread fear, paranoia, and a willingness to do virtually anything to feel safe again.

While it is wrong to minimize the loss of life which came from the 9/11 terrorist attack, arguably the most serious damage done by this attack did not come from the planes flying into buildings, but rather our response to this attack. The American people shut their eyes and let their government do immoral, unethical, and un-American things in their name, all under the aegis of preventing future attacks; pointless wars were started, killing thousands more innocents. Our country began detaining people without due process and torturing them. An American security state was created and egregious laws, such as the Patriot Act, were signed into law.  

With the death of Osama Bin Laden and the virtual dismantling of the Al Qaida terrorist network, the terrorists who conspired to kill our civilians and create terror in our population were brought to justice. While it took many years longer, and cost us much more blood and treasure, that it could have, the architects of the 9/11 terrorist attack were punished for their crimes against the United States. Unfortunately, the individuals who used the tragedy of 9/11 to push an ideological agenda and justify the widespread breaking of laws in our names have not been punished, and may be allowed to walk free.

Certain elements within the Bush administration used the tragic deaths of thousands of Americans to justify their extreme agenda and excuse the subversion of the rule of law. As of yet, the Obama administration has refused to act upon the clear evidence implicating members of the Bush White House in official misconduct, war crimes, and the disregard of American lives in favor of a political agenda. With this unfortunate refusal to apply the law, even to ex-politicians, future administrations will be able to point back and say “if torture is illegal, why weren’t they prosecuted?” They will be able to act in disregard of the law, secure in the fact that precedent protects them from the legal consequences of their actions.

In order to stop the guilty members of the Bush administration from walking away and to prevent this terrible precedent from being set, The Obama Administration must begin legal proceedings aimed at charging the guilty. The fact that Bush administration officials utilized their official power to break the law, commit war crimes, and tell lies which resulted in multiple deaths, does not exempt them from consequences—rather, it makes the pursuit of justice even more vital. These people committed crimes in our, the American peoples’, names and we should not be willing to let them slide. Americans need to protest and demand that everybody, regardless of partisanship or position, pay for their crimes and be held accountable under the law.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Progressive Tactics: Promote Ideas Rather than Politicians

By Josh Sager

In order to be successful in the long term, the progressive movement must promote ideas and ideological position rather than simply politicians. If the progressive movement focuses on policies rather than politicians, then there is a greater chance that progressive policies will be enacted. Progressive policies can be pushed by any progressive politician and are not dependent upon the success of a single political race.

This focus on policies over politicians has three key components:
  1. The progressive movement’s focus should be on getting progressive policies passed over keeping individual politicians in office; if an individual politician must take a short term loss in order to achieve a substantial progressive policy win, then the policy should take priority over keeping the politician in office.
  2. Once elected, all progressive politicians must be held to their support of progressive policies. Allowing elected politicians to ignore their promises creates a situation where many supposedly progressive politicians are elected, yet few progressive policies are advanced.
  3. The partisan affiliation of a politician should never overshadow the policies which they support; if we say that something is immoral and wrong when the opposition does it, then we must not tolerate it when our own allies act similarly.  

The purpose of getting a politician elected is not simply to win an election, but to have some say in the national/state policy. In any situation where an individual politician must risk their position in order to pass a significant progressive policy, the progressive movement should prioritize the policy over the individual. For example: during the 2009 healthcare fight, the Democratic Party should have put much more pressure on the Blue Dog/southern Democrats in order to force them to support single payer healthcare. While these politicians may have lost their next election due to this support, the passage of such a significant piece of progressive legislation would be well worth the sacrifice and would endure far longer than the short term loss of the politicians. Every progressive politician to be elected should be made to understand that their position is not an end unto itself, but rather a way of facilitating the passage of progressive policies.

Promoting individual politicians is ultimately irrelevant when these politicians abandon progressive policies once in office. If progressives are more attached to individual politicians than policy positions, then these politicians are able to get away with not supporting progressive policies. An individual politician is often not totally reliable and is far less stable than a policy position. Politicians can often be compelled to compromise their ideology’s policies in order to serve political games; individual politicians can also be ignored, suffer scandals, have their character impugned, or lose office. A policy isn’t tied to a human, can be supported by many politicians, and will often outlast an individual’s political career.

Once elected into office, progressive politicians should be held to their support of progressive policies. If a supposedly progressive politician does not act like a progressive once in office, they should lose the support of the progressive movement and be challenged during the next possible primary. When a politician claims to be a progressive, yet doesn’t support progressive policies, there is no reason why the progressive movement should consider them an ally, or support them (ex. Blue Dog Democrats).

The current Democratic Party’s acceptance of President Obama’s drone campaign has illustrated exactly why a focus on policy rather than politicians is necessary. When President Bush was utilizing drones, and sometimes killing civilians, the Democratic Party was visibly outraged. One would think that, given this outrage, the Democratic president Obama would immediately begin fixing the flaws in this program which his party was outraged over when Bush ran it. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as the Obama administration’s drone program is far more egregious than Bush’s, and has expanded upon the worst aspects of the Bush drone program—more civilians have been killed, more drones have been sent into Yemen and Pakistan, and the USA has begun using “signature strikes” to kill unknown people based upon patterns of behavior. If the drone program of Bush’s administration is immoral and needs to be protested by progressives, then Obama’s program is just that much worse. The fact that many Democrats have been silent about the Obama drone program demonstrates just how party affiliation can eclipse policy.

In a world where Democrats and progressives focused upon policy, rather than supporting individual politicians, Obama would never have dared continue the abuses of the Bush administration. Upon attempting to continue many of the Bush era policies (ex. drone strikes, tax cuts, austerity, etc.), he would have lost the support of his base and would likely have faced a significant primary effort during the 2012 election. In this world, the progressive movement would be able to ensure that every politician who claims to be a progressive acted like one, even when no election was imminent.

The conservative movement has been utilizing this tactic for decades and has been very successful—the promotion of tax cuts and “trickle-down” economics are two examples of conservative policy goals which have received particular focus. Conservative politicians are held to the conservative movement’s ideological goals, or are immediately jettisoned (ex. pro-choice Republicans are largely extinct). While an extreme party line is ultimately destructive, as it stifles all compromise, the progressive movement should adopt a less extreme version of it in order to facilitate policy wins. Progressive politicians should be allowed some autonomy of beliefs, but should be expected to conform to a majority of the progressive platform. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Progressive Tactics: Economic Non-Disarmament

By Josh Sager

Modern American politics has become flooded with money, most of which supporting politicians who are willing to sell out to moneyed interests; this money is used to fund gigantic and widespread ad campaigns that are targeted at changing public opinion. As progressive policies are less popular among the wealthy and corporate interests, much of this money has been funneled to groups which directly compete with progressives. Despite the weighted scales of money between the conservatives and the progressives, there are large-money donors who are willing to fund progressives.

Unfortunately, the fact that virtually every politician has taken money from corporate interests means that any politician not to do so is at a comparative disadvantage. If a politician is to fund their campaign through only small donors, they will be overwhelmed by the large money donors to support their opposition. In the modern political climate, refusing to take money from large donors is simply an unfeasible political campaign strategy. While it may feel good for an honest politician to refuse potentially corrupting money, it is an empty victory if this refusal allows the corrupt politician to win. This unfortunate situation has forced progressives to ask themselves the question: “Is it worth standing on principle during a campaign and not taking big-money, if you know that such acts will ensure that the corrupt opposition wins election?”

In order to succeed politically, progressives must raise significant amounts of money with which to fund campaigns. Progressives should not unilaterally disarm in terms of fundraising, and should take large money donations from rich individuals and entities. A campaign based upon small money donations is good in theory, but it will rarely win against a campaign which has the backing of a single donor who is willing to spend millions (ex. Sheldon Adelson); the big-money campaign will simply inundate the public with ads and totally eclipse the small-money campaign.

Despite the fact that many progressives are extremely hesitant (and rightly so) to take big-money donations, it has become necessary for survival. Progressives must take money from large donors, or they will simply be outgunned by corporatist Democrats and Republicans. It may be impalitable, but this concession is the only way that progressive will be able to compete at the level of other political groups.

While progressives should never unilaterally disarm politically, there should be limits on progressive political conduct that prevent progressives from becoming too much like conservatives. Progressives should utilize large-donor money but they should never let donor money have any control over policy or politics—this distinction is what separates legitimate political patronage from legalized bribery. With every donation, progressives should make it clear to the donor that the act of giving money to a campaign will do nothing to affect policy positions by the politician. In all likelihood, this clarification will limit corporate donation (corporations only spend money when there is advantage to them), but it will allow progressives to take large-money donations without compromising their ethics or values.  

Once in power, progressives should immediately begin a push to remove money from politics through a constitutional amendment. At the very first opportunity, progressives should remove money from politics and institute a campaign system which is independent of donors (strict donation limits or publically financed elections). For as long as our election system is dependent upon money, progressives must live with the unpleasant necessity of taking large-money donations; once they succeed in the current system, progressives should reject the lure of money and begin changing the political system to be one where big money patronage is illegal.