Two moments in the past week have confirmed what has been clear for two years or more: the administration of Barack Obama is the greatest threat to personal liberties the United States has seen for decades, and possibly ever. You have to go back to the late 18th and 19th centuries -- Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, Jackson's forced removal of Native Americans and censorship and the Alien and Sedition acts under John Adams -- for similarly draconian assaults on basic liberties.

On Wednesday last week, Obama issued an executive order that would seize the assets of anyone who "directly or indirectly threaten[s] the peace, security, or stability of Yemen". This refers to the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the former vice-president who replaced long-time dictator and US ally Ali Abdullah Saleh in February. Hadi is nominally committed to a transition to democracy after a bizarre one-candidate election, but Saleh’s family and key supporters remain in control of crucial sectors of the régime like the security forces.