Dan Hamburg: Obama Declares Wrong Emergency


It’s often said by supporters of President Obama, with some justification, that too much has been expected of him. Sure he went in with high ideals about moving the country in a more progressive direction, but the reality of money and power in the nation’s capital have rendered him unable-at least in the two years he’s been in office-to achieve the objectives he so glowingly promised.

Contrary to this view of the president’s predicament, we would direct our fellow citizens’ attention to the action taken by the president on September 10. On that day, the White House released the text of a letter sent by Mr. Obama to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi entitled “Letter from the President on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks”.

The letter reads in major part:

Dear Madam Speaker:

Consistent with Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), I have sent to the Federal Register the enclosed notice, stating that the emergency declared with respect to the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, is to continue in effect for an additional year.

The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2010, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.



In extending the nation’s State of Emergency for a ninth consecutive year, President Obama retains the power to declare and implement a series of executive orders which enable his government to “take over all modes of transportation and control of highways, airports, and seaports” (10990, 11004), “seize and control the communication media” (10995), “relocate communities and establish new locations for populations” (11004), “develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institutions” (11921) and much more.

The country does face an emergency brought on, at least in part, by the attacks of 9/11-a fiscal emergency! Since 9/11, the nation has gone on a frantic military spending spree financed by borrowing abroad. Trillions have gone into a preemptive war against Iraq and what is shaping up as a Vietnam-style quagmire in Afghanistan. U.S. military budgets are at an all time high, with the United States spending more than the rest of the world combined. In fact, more money is spent on war-making than is spend by all fifty states together on health, education, welfare, and public safety. Eisenhower’s worst fears have been realized.

The emergency we face is economic. As Joshua Holland wrote recently on AlterNet: “The Great Recession that began in 2008 wiped out $13 trillion in Americans’ household wealth-in home values and stocks and bonds-stoking the kind of anger we’ve seen from pissed off progressives and from the Tea Partiers who dominated the news in the summer of 2009.”

In the latest twist on the old James Carville aphorism, “it’s the mortgages, stupid.” As Robert Scheer writes, “With 11 million homeowners underwater on their mortgages and 3 million more already foreclosed, we have to assume, given the average household size, that some 40 million Americans are feeling mighty strapped.”

And now, in the fall of 2010, we face the very real possibility of a 1994 redux in the midterm elections, with the Republicans retaking the House and stymieing any meaningful reforms for the balance of Obama’s term.

This is not about Democrats versus Republicans. It was Bill Clinton who pushed NAFTA, leading to deindustrialization and the loss of millions of high-wage jobs. And it was Barack Obama who continued to bail out bankers while ignoring the pain caused to practically everyone else by toxic mortgages. Regarding the $700 billion bailout accorded the largest financial institutions in the country, Scheer writes, “Not surprisingly the bankers pocketed the gift and did precious little in return.”

We have heard ad nauseum from the beginning of Obama’s presidency that “nothing can be done without sixty votes.” This requirement for a senatorial supermajority in order to do the people’s business is mostly a dodge by those who really don’t want that business to be done in the first place. Many scholars have shown how a focused majority, currently the Democrats, could alter Senate procedures to restore majority rule. At the very least, the majority could require that filibusters actually be carried out rather than simply “declared.”

Regardless of an inept Congress, the president does have the power to make massive changes; in fact, the State of Emergency affords him near-dictatorial powers. The president actually has the authority to take the actions necessary to provide for the national security by pursuing our enemies, whether they work from Afghan caves or K Street suites.

The president has the power to force the banks to halt foreclosures by reissuing mortgages at a lower rate. He has the power to put people to work rebuilding the infrastructure of the country. He has the power not just to ferret out terrorists, but to keep American citizens in their homes and in their jobs until the economic crisis abates.

In fact, unless he does so, the economic fortunes of the vast majority of the nation’s citizens will continue to crater and the negative political consequences to the president and his party will be dwarfed by the consequences to society as a whole.
Lewis Seiler is president of Voice of the Environment.  Dan Hamburg, a former US congressman, is executive director.




I hate being a scold, but what other rational response is possible? The liberal dream is dead. American Liberalism is a wonderful thing in its idealism and energy. Some of my best friends, few though they are, are liberals. But this sort of panglossian view of the world capable of being made right by good works only applies under the rule of law. In the US, and throughout the US imperium, there is no rule of law in its egalitarian form. Law in the Imperium is a tool available to the gangsters who run the place to better dispossess the rest of us. Sorry.

Calm reflection reveals that virtually every government declared emergency for the last thirty years has resulted in the gangsters gaining even greater control over our lives. We are the robbed person at the side of the road waiting for the Good Samaritan. Vainly it turns out. Our self centeredness ignores the profusion of greater injustices that surround us on all sides. When we start feeling sorry for ourselves, best we look elsewhere in the world, at the countless millions condemned to unimaginable violence and miserable deaths to support the life styles of the gangsters who live largely in the US.

Reflection on Obama’s origins in the cesspool of Chicago politics should have been enough to give us pause. Remember, confidence criminals are charming and convincing as long as the con is producing loot. Obama may just be a very inspired con man, but I would not be surprised, if I had the privilege of getting to know him personally, to come to the firm conclusion that Obama is actually sincere. I would expect him, in the impossible situation where he could be frank and revealing about “state secrets,” to try to convince me that politics is only the art of the possible and he is doing everything possible for the benefit of the country given the limitations of leading in a country controlled by criminal syndicates. I would agree with his argument. I am also sure that my rejoinder of “then why even try” would be considered rude and ignorant.

Without the primacy of non-discriminatory legal system, without a Constitution that is revered by those in controlling positions, our society is without a way to rescue itself. When the criminal mind achieves dominance in a society the road back to justice and equality becomes virtually impossible without revolution. But the engineered lack of solidarity between all segments of society in todays US makes revolution impossible. If we wish to indulge in fantasies of self rescue best we start with getting to know our neighbors and tearing down the artificial walls of predjudice and ideology. If you would run, first learn to crawl.

Yes, I would agree that the US is in an emergency situation, but, in agreement with Peter Philips of Project Censored, the emergency is not related to “Terrorism,” it is a Truth Emergency. Minds denied the truth to anchor themselves to reality go mad. Hence we are a nation gone mad. Nothing much seems to make sense because that is the definition of madness. When it becomes too difficult for the population to test reality. whole societies go mad, the wheels come off, and another page is turned. There are countless examples of this in history and currently. How to explain Columbia or Israel, Burma or Sri Lanka? It is always easier to see the madness in others. The next step is to realize that we ourselves have gone mad for a lack of truth. Only then can we even think about starting to work our way back to societal mental health. Maybe then we can stop murdering and locking each other up at the incredible rates current in the US.

Unfortunately, history also teaches that oppressed people, pushed to the wall and fearing for their very survival under oppressive rule, tend to react violently out of their ignorance and fear. Rage always disappoints. Let’s hope that we can remain calm as the level of societal pain ramps up further and decide to choose the path of personal and societal insight rather than indulging in justifiable rage. Increasingly it seems that we are continuing down the wrong path and indulging in murder and mayhem to slake our fears.


Hi Dave,

I viewed the transition video. I am happy for those people. Anything that results in people coming together and exercising mutual aid (see Kropotkin on Mutual Aid available on line) is a move in the helpful direction. One observation I curmudgeonly make is that Britain is not the US. A semblance of representative democracy and the rule of law still exists there. They are starting from a much higher spot than we are. Walking is not a challenge for those who know already how to crawl. Learning how to crawl, to do the unimpressive, the seemingly inconsequential, is a really hard step. In the US now we have NO political culture in the population. None. Only by comparing notes in a trusted space with trusted neighbors can we begin to fight off the drugged somnolence induced by wrap around propaganda and social engineering. The things that divide us are illusions deliberately constructed by those willing to ply the science of “public relations” (i.e. professional lying) in the service of concentrated power and wealth. Of course shaking off a life long dependency, wether it is to narcotics or a delusion about identity can be a very, very painful process similar to the experience of restoring circulation to a sleeping limb. Scary. The first step for most folks coming out of the dream is to see one’s self as disloyal to ones country and community, to suddenly experiencing one’s self as the “other” we have been taught to distrust and even hate. That only wears off after finding other “others” with whom one can have meaningful relationships. Something the people in the video seem to already have accomplished.

We are all insurgents now, just like George Washington and his band of revolutionaries, wether we know it or not, because survival demands it. Only by a massive refusal, such as with the general strikes in Europe, to go along with our criminal elite in order to get along in our daily lives is going to signal an impending change. If the Transition Town movement succeeds in furthering this revolutionary consciousness, great. My concern is that TT has the trappings of middle class entitlement. That is a very destructive illusion. How so ever we treat the least among us is what counts. When we have solidarity we will naturally pursue sane ecological paths. I can’t imagine progress without solidarity, and I still fail to see how entertaining competing social movements, each with its own priorities and class identity, unionism, TT, ACORN (RIP), racial justice, etc., each with a natural life cycle of initial enthusiasm followed by gradual disillusionment, corruption and betrayal, is going to help us deal with the underlying problem of confronting a predatory plutocracy.

But then what do I know. As the saying goes, if I was that smart I would be rich and enjoying my wealth rather than pursuing a marginal existence commenting on blogs.


    Thom Hartmann: “I’ve observed that people tend to live at one of two extremes in the spectrum of life: those who live on the edge, and those who avoid the edge. Those who live on the edge are hanging out in the most dangerous and unstable places — yet they’re also often the most powerful agents of change, because the edge is where change is happening; away from the edge, things are naturally unchanging.”