Dennis Loo

 Dennis Loo is an award-winning sociologist, co-editor of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, Associate Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly Pomona and an honors graduate in Government from Harvard. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is a former journalist and his research specialties include polling, public policy-making, social movements, and criminology.He can be reached via his blog: http://dennisloo.blogspot.com

The Water Line: Morality, the Rule of Law, and Leadership III

 

By Dennis Loo
 
Part 3 of a three-part series
 
On What Foundation?
 
Obama has ridden a great wave of hope and expectation into office fueled by a desire by millions to see a radical departure from what Bush and Cheney have been, done and represent. What Bush and Cheney did and personify has been so extreme that most people can see with their own eyes, despite the mass media’s misrepresentations and distortions, that their reign was a disaster. The joy accompanying Obama’s victory has, therefore, perhaps no U.S. electoral precedent. But one finds when one examines more closely what he has said and what he has done, a very different tale than what most people have seen and understood up till now.
 
Before becoming president, Obama as a Senator co-operated with the Bush regime’s policies. In some instances he voted against Republican/White House sponsored bills, but in no instance did he filibuster them – which would have been meaningful opposition. Speeches by public officials are cheap. Actions are precious. When the Military Commissions Act of 2006 – a bill that legalized torture and indefinite detention, something more brazen than the Nazis ever attempted – Obama should have, but refused to filibuster it. Even the New York Times said, “If you’re going to filibuster anything, filibuster this.”

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Empathy for the Devil: Obama and Bush

by Dennis Loo
 
Rachel Maddow on MSNBC on February 26 interviewed Jane Mayer, New Yorker columnist and author of The Dark Side, a book about Bush and Cheney’s torture policies. Maddow asked Mayer how we can prevent any other presidents from suspending Constitutional rights by simply declaring, on his or her say so alone, someone an “enemy combatant,” allowing the government to then hold someone indefinitely, stripped of any rights, and subject them to torture.
 
A very appropriate question for Maddow to ask. Mayer, unfortunately, didn’t say what needs to be said: You prevent this from happening in the future by prosecuting those who did it in the past. Otherwise, it will happen again, as surely as the sky is blue.
Instead of saying this, Mayer said that Obama’s going to put something on the public record decrying it. But decrying something and saying that it’s wrong and that “America doesn’t torture” over and over again doesn’t mean diddly unless you back it up by actual prosecutions.
 

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A Law of Social Nature: Obedience, Conformity and Leadership

By Dennis Loo

A debate has broken out at my Open Salon blog around the question of whether or not the chief problem we face in this country can be laid upon the shoulders of individuals (among the public) and their actions or inactions. I refer people to that back and forth discussion in the comments section there as a preface and to my Water Line article. This debate invariably comes up and merits digging into in depth. You cannot effect a dramatic change in society if you do not understand deeply - theoretically - the underpinnings of the status quo and the key factors that have produced change historically. If we don’t study history, sociology, anthropology, and psychology, to name a few, then how can we possibly know what we need to know about what works and what doesn’t? Personal experience is just not enough.
As Harry Homeless put it in a comment on my blog:
“[A]s a con man I can tell you the single most important insight on society is that all the world is a byproduct of our personal lives. A nation of assholes can never have a good government in the end. The assholes will see a ‘good’ man as a threat and kill him (just ask the Kennedys). The reverse is true also.
"The single greatest driving force is the need for self-expression.”
I do not agree with this view and believe its persistence to be not just a mistake but also a hindrance to the resolution of the problems and crises we face. I say this not to undermine the importance of individuals acting on behalf of morality and justice; in fact, I want to underscore the importance of individual action. But to really make a difference we have to understand the actual conditions that we face, otherwise we’ll be spinning our wheels and thinking we’re making a difference when we are doing much less than we think.

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From the Uncola to Cola: Obama Rebrands Rendition, et al

by Dennis Loo
 
The New York Times on March 8, 2009 featured an article entitled “Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of Taliban.” As far as I can tell, the reactions to this story have focused on Obama’s attempts to work with some parts of the Taliban. The bigger story here, however, has been overlooked.
 
Some excerpts from this article accompanied by my commentary in italics, followed by some other relevant source materials:
 
“The president went on to say that ‘we don’t torture’ and that ‘we ultimately provide anybody that we’re detaining an opportunity through habeas corpus to answer to charges.’"
 
So you have a right to challenge your detention, “ultimately.” Be warned then, you could wait a very long time. Ultimately you have a right, but in the long run, as they say, we’re all dead. Obama’s a constitutional lawyer by training. It’s a bit disturbing that he would qualify a right such as habeas corpus this way. And, by the way, there’s yet another qualification.

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If You Undermine the Foundation, What Becomes of the Structure?

by Dennis Loo

Obama during a September 8, 2008 campaign rally stated: "Habeas corpus ... is the foundation of Anglo-American law, which says very simply, if the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, 'Why was I grabbed?' and say, 'Maybe, you've got the wrong person." (Thanks to Rachel Oswald’s article in Raw Story for this reference.)
crumbling foundation 
"The reason we have that safeguard is we don't always have the right person," said Obama at the campaign rally. "We don't always catch the right person. We may think this is Muhammad the terrorist. It might be Muhammad the cab driver."
 
On March 12, 2009, the Obama Justice Department kicked this foundation out from under the edifice of Anglo-American law by arguing that the June 2008 Supreme Court decision (Boumediene v Bush) that held that Gitmo detainees had a right to challenge their detention did not apply to those detainees held (and tortured) prior to Boumediene.
 
The Justice Department states in its brief:
 
"Boumediene - decided four years after plaintiffs' detention ended - cannot support a finding that the law was so clearly established that a reasonable official would have known that his or her conduct violated the Constitution or the RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] statute."

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Is That All You Got?

By Dennis Loo

 It was 1974
“The Rumble in the Jungle”
Ali v Foreman in Zaire
The world heavyweight crown
 
It was 1974
Sportswriters said Foreman’s
The most unbeatable heavyweight in history
He leaves dents in the heavy bag
Whump whump whump
 
It was 1974
George arrived in Zaire
Steps off the plane with his German Shepherd
Unaware that Belgian colonialists
Used snarling German Shepherds for riot control
 
It was 1974
Ali out to recapture his belt
Exiled from boxing for forty-three months
For saying
“Keep asking me, no matter how long,
On the war in Vietnam, I'll still sing this song:
I ain't got no quarrel with no Viet Cong.”
 

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“You Knew What I Was When You Picked Me Up”

by Dennis Loo
 
On March 24, 2009 Norman Solomon in a truthout.org article entitled “These Colors Won’t Run … Afghanistan” calls for a “national debate” about Obama’s escalation of the war upon Afghanistan and Pakistan.
 
He begins the article:
 
“Is your representative speaking out against escalation of Afghanistan war?” Solomon then goes on to cite approvingly the letter signed by eleven Congress members asking Obama to “reconsider” his escalation in Afghanistan and complains that there ought to be far more representatives signing this letter.
 
The question that ought to be posed here isn’t “what is your representative doing?” The question that Solomon should be asking is: “what are you doing to create a political atmosphere in this country that forces Obama and his war- and empire-makers to back down from their war crimes and policies?”
 

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News Flash: the Obama Administration Announces Nuremberg Verdicts Were Wrong

Hermann Goering’s descendants file wrongful conviction and wrongful death claims.
 
By Dennis Loo
 
At least, that is the way the headline should read, based on Thursday's news.
 
From April 9, 2009’s McClatchy’s newspaper, “CIA to Close Secret Overseas Prisons, End Security Contracts:”
 
“The CIA is decommissioning the secret overseas prisons where top al Qaida suspects were subjected to interrogation methods, including simulated drowning, that Attorney General Eric Holder, allied governments, the Red Cross and numerous other experts consider torture, the agency said Thursday.
 
“In an e-mail to the agency's work force outlining current interrogation and detention policies, CIA Director Leon Panetta also announced that agreements with the private security firms guarding the so-called black sites will be ‘promptly terminated,’ and contractors no longer will be used to conduct interrogations.
 
“Panetta, however, said that CIA officers who were involved in interrogations using ‘enhanced’ methods authorized by the Justice Department during the Bush administration ‘should not be investigated, let alone punished.’”
 
The Obama Team, you have to give it to them, are very skilled at PR.

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The Unexpected

By Dennis Loo

I did not expect that Obama upon becoming president would actually usher in the state of change that he so famously promised.
 
His actions as a Senator and Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of him, the same woman who shielded – and continues to shield - the Bush White House from any prosecutions for its manifest and multitudinous crimes, as well as the powerful backing given him by major political and economic players, demonstrated that Obama would not and did not represent any major departure from the Bush years.
 
If you examined closely his arguments and speeches – as I did in a number of articles, such as this one – what stood out was Obama’s strategic agreement and tactical disagreement with the Bush Doctrine.
 
He endorsed and accepted, in other words, the underlying logic, but advocated shifts in the manner by which that logic was to be realized.
 
What I did not expect, however, was that once in office, Obama would not merely uphold the Bush Doctrine’s main tenets, but that he would go even further in carrying forward the fundamental trajectory of Bush and Cheney (a trajectory, by the way, that began under Ronald Reagan.)

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The Unexpected

 By Dennis Loo

 I did expect that Obama upon becoming president would not actually usher in the state of change that he so famously promised.
 
His actions as a Senator and Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of him, the same woman who shielded – and continues to shield - the Bush White House from any prosecutions for its manifest and multitudinous crimes, as well as the powerful backing given him by major political and economic players, demonstrated that Obama would not and did not represent any major departure from the Bush years.
 
If you examined closely his arguments and speeches – as I did in a number of articles, such as this one – what stood out was Obama’s strategic agreement and tactical disagreement with the Bush Doctrine.
 
He endorsed and accepted, in other words, the underlying logic, but advocated shifts in the manner by which that logic was to be realized.
 
What I did not expect, however, was that once in office, Obama would not merely uphold the Bush Doctrine’s main tenets, but that he would go even further in carrying forward the fundamental trajectory of Bush and Cheney (a trajectory, by the way, that began under Ronald Reagan.)

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“Lack a Certain Polish:” Torture and the American Conscience

 By Dennis Loo

"Someone must have traduced Joseph K. for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning." (Franz Kafka’s The Trial)
“These memos I wrote were not for public consumption. They lack a certain polish, I think.” (John Yoo, 3/4/09)
“With respect to the small confinement box [in which he cannot stand or sit], you have informed us that he would spend at most two hours in this box. You have informed us that your purpose in using these boxes is not to interfere with his senses or his personality, but to cause him physical discomfort that will encourage him to disclose critical information. Moreover, your imposition of time limitations on the use of either of the boxes also indicates that the use of these boxes is not designed or calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.
For the larger box, in which he can both stand and sit, he may be placed in this box for up to eighteen hours at a time, while you have informed us that be will never spend more than an hour at [a] time in the smaller box. These time limits further ensure that no profound disruption of senses or personality, were it even possible, would result. As such, the use of the confinement boxes does not constitute a procedure calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.” (Memorandum for John Rizzo, Acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency, from Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, August 1, 2002.)

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.