Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama's New National Security Force

A friend (and loyal reader) send me email about this MSNBC article, U.S. rep: Obama wants Gestapo-like force wondering why Jon Stewart hasn't commented on it.

I did hear it mentioned on Rachel Maddow last night. She commented about Rep Paul Broun's (R-GA) comment about Obama, "That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did... We can't be lulled into complacency .. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler, What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that Road." Maddow gave Brown crap for comparing him to Hitler (since that's what he's doing) and then mentioned that he apologized for "putting it that way". She then gave him crap for apologizing merely for the phrasing.

Maddow didn't at all mention what Broun was complaining about. He complained about Obama's plans for a national security force. He quotes this line from an Obama speech "We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." Broun also combined this with Obama's pro-gun control position to make it even scarier.

Ok, that is a little scary. In 2004 I was in London for all of 11 hours and regularly saw cops with machine guns on street corners. It didn't occur to me to wonder if they were a city or state force or how much English law differentiates. I don't want a heavily armed federal police force wandering around my neighborhood.

So I googled for "Obama national security force" and found lots of rants. First, here's a YouTube clip of Obama's quote:

Ok, now I believe he said it. It was in a speech in Colorado on July 2nd, 2008. I found a bunch of sites ranting about his plans to create a police state.

The right-wing WorldNetDaily wrote last week, Dollars lining up for 'civilian national security force'? that Democrats are "floating an idea" to cut $150 from the annual military budget, that Republicans are already opposing it and that a "report from blogger Jay tea" suggests this would fund the new security force. A "report", here's what he wrote:

"Representative Barney Frank, apparently not content with his role in wreaking havoc on the nation's financial system, has announced that he will push for a 25% cut in defense spending. This could actually work hand-in-hand with one of Obama's proposals for a "civilian National Security Force," which he said would be as well funded as the military. If the defense budget is slashed, then it makes it easier to fund a new organization at the same level."

So Tea made up the connection and now it's a "report". Ok, I've clearly gotten too involved in following stupid blog posts. What's really going on here?

Because of the West Wing, I know that the Posse Comitatus Act prevents the military from being used as police in the US (it's a law from reconstruction). The Insurrection Act says federal troops can put down lawlessness and rebellion only after state and local forces have failed, so it imposes a delay. And unlike Bush, I know that Obama was a law professor and knows about these acts (even if he didn't watch the West Wing) and probably isn't about to ignore them or change them.

Here's Obama's entire 27 minute speech from July 2nd:

It's all about community service and increasing funding to the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps and other groups. That one line appears about 16 minutes in and is a bit vague as to what it means.

The Volokh Conspiracy a site which I regularly read and like, wrote about this topic on July 19th, Funding Barack Obama's "civilian national security force. "If you listen to the whole speech –- or even the couple minutes before his security force proposal — I think that it’s reasonably clear that Obama is talking about expanding a range of domestic and international agencies such as AmeriCorps, the Foreign Service, and the Peace Corps — and adding some new ones."

It also points to Obama's campaign website where it talks about Universal Voluntary Public Service saying: "He will establish a Classroom Corps to help teachers and students, with a priority placed on underserved schools; a Health Corps to improve public health outreach; a Clean Energy Corps to conduct weatherization and renewable energy projects; a Veterans Corps to assist veterans at hospitals, nursing homes and homeless shelters; and a Homeland Security Corps to help communities plan, prepare for and respond to emergencies."

Hey that sounds pretty good. I just read that a "report finds that the nation's defenses against emerging infectious diseases are insufficient, creating serious consequences for the U.S. health system, economy, and national security."

The Volokh Conspiracy article goes on to talk about the scope of Obama's proposal, being as strong and well-funded as the military. There is some cause for concern but I didn't realize that " AmeriCorps currently has about 1.875 million members in its various programs". According to Wikipedia, the DoD had 2.3 million military personnel in 2004. It's hard to find the stats on DoD's website but I found this that said as of September 30, 2008 there are 1,401,757 "Active Duty Military Personnel".

Oh and that 25% cut in military spending Barney Frank proposed? Here it is. He made it at a meeting with the editorial board of the SouthCoast Standard-Times on Oct 23rd, before the election. I saw a bunch of right-wing articles quoting Frank as saying "We don't need all those fancy new weapons systems", here's what that article says:

"I was teasing (U.S. Rep.) Jack Murtha (a key supporter of military budgets) and I said to him, 'For the first time, somebody else has got a bill that's almost as big as yours.' [referring to the economic stimulus package] We don't need all these fancy new weapons. I think there needs to be additional review." This article in The Hill says that while Murtha is warning against dramatic cuts, even he "has expressed willingness to trim the defense budget where he can."

Ok, I've had my fill of reading right-wing conspiracy theory rants for a while. Pulling a single sentence out of context, extrapolating to what it might mean, and ignoring all context and related information is pointless. It's also the bread and butter of the wing nuts on both the right and the left. The problem is the ones on the right have the large public voices of talk radio and Fox News to spread them. (No I didn't cite those as sources above, but I did find Fox News articles on the topic repeating the crap, particularly from Sean Hannity).


Anonymous said...

AmeriCorps has 75,000 members, not 1.875 million. It just has surpassed 500,000 alumni.

Howard said...

Follow the link in the article, "The budget will support 75,000 AmeriCorps members, more than 500,000 Senior Corps participants, and 1.3 million Learn and Serve America students."

Natalie & Jessica's Dad said...

I was planning on asking you lately whether the implosion of the market might perhaps be forcing your hand towards considering going back to work. Hopefully you're not, because we need you to stick around and research stuff like this for us.

-A friend and loyal listener