Posts tagged Obama
Posts tagged Obama
So “Change” would really better be described as “Change Back,” I suppose.
At the age of 24, Aaron was sentenced to three life terms for his role in a cocaine deal. That’s effectively three times the sentence imposed upon Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010. Aaron was a student and football player at Southern University in Baton Rouge. He’d never been arrested. In 1992, he made the mistake of being present for the sale of nine kilograms of cocaine and the conversion of one kilo of coke to crack. Aaron would have earned $1,500 for introducing the buyer and seller. He never actually touched the drugs.
Though his role was minor, Aaron received the longest sentence of anyone involved in the conspiracy when he refused to cooperate with authorities. His case gained national attention in 1999, when he appeared in “Snitch,” a PBS Frontline documentary about prisoners serving long sentences after refusing to turn informant.
This isn’t an accident, or an isolated incident. In order to ensure a constant supply of
slave labor prisoners, the government has introduced both mandatory minimums, and the expectation of plea bargains- god help you if you don’t take the plea they offer. The US Sentencing Commission says, “the value of a mandatory minimum sentence lies not in its imposition, but in its value as a bargaining chip to be given away in return for the resource-saving plea from the defendant to a more leniently sanctioned charge”. Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank, said that, ”the truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used”.
This exemplified a pattern we see over and over today; the subversion of our legal protections through doublethink and ‘reinterpretation’ of long-standing rights. Don’t want to bother with a trial? It’s fine, just pretend that due process doesn’t mean a trial. Annoyed that congress won’t authorize your war? It’s fine, just say it’s not the right “kind of hostilities” so the law doesn’t apply anymore.
You’ll notice in all of these cases, the basic reasoning behind the law isn’t addressed. The executive never mentions why Jefferson and the other founders thought trials-by-peer were so important when it insists it has the right to kill anyone without judicial oversight. The fact that ‘military interventions’ were exactly what the War Powers Act was designed to combat goes unstated. We are a nation ruled by lawyers who are above the law.
Not a week goes by without a new strategic leak from the White House about President Obama’s personal role in the CIA’s secret wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Iran.
U.S. officials have eagerly told the New York Times how Obama personally draws up “kill lists” for drone strikes and directs cyber-attacks on Iran. Commentators have highlighted the role of the leaks in countering the Republicans’ most well-worn avenue of attack against a Democratic president, the charge that he is “weak on defense”.
The White House has even gone public with Obama’s support for CIA rules that count nearly all victims of U.S. attacks as “combatants”. U.S. special forces officers in Afghanistan had already admitted that they count civilians killed in attacks as combatants based on “guilt by proximity”. Now we have confirmation that the CIA follows similar rules, discrediting official denials of large numbers of civilian deaths in drone strikes and other targeted killings.
The White House’s strategic leaks about secret operations have opened a Pandora’s box of troubling questions about Obama’s secret wars and their role in his re-election campaign:
1) Now that the White House has publicly admitted to unleashing cyberwar between countries, how safe will our computers be from cyber-attacks by foreign governments? Why not instead work with other countries on a treaty to prohibit cyberwar, or at least to protect the rest of us as non-combatants — a sort of 4th Geneva Convention for cyberspace?
2) Americans have grudgingly come to accept the notion of a candidate spending up to a billion dollars to win a presidential election, but killing thousands of people and then bragging about it to win an election may still cross a line with many voters. In fact it would be troubling if it didn’t.
3) Half the night raids conducted by Joint Special Operations Command target the wrong person or house, and 86 percent of the people detained in night raids in Afghanistan are released within two weeks for lack of evidence. The White House claims that CIA drone strikes are based on better intelligence, but how much better? When the operations are secret and the innocent are dead along with the guilty, how can we tell them apart?
4) Our government’s militarized, “Whack-a-Mole” approach to counter-terrorism has resulted in a huge increase in terrorism since 2001, according to U.S. State Department figures. Obama’s escalation of targeted killings has done nothing to reverse that trend. By personally investing so much in a failed strategy, has Obama diverted U.S. policy-makers from finding a more effective and legitimate policy that would actually reduce terrorism?
5) Obama is killing innocent people in countries that we are not at war with. If the leader of another country was conducting drone strikes in the U.S., we’d be calling for his head, along with those of any U.S. officials who were collaborating with him. That’s exactly how people are reacting in the countries and regions affected, which helps to explain why this has fueled rather than reduced the spread of terrorism.
6) The 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force gave the president the authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons” he determined to have “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11 terrorist crimes. But most of the people Obama is targeting had nothing to do with September 11, so there is no basis in U.S. law for most of these operations, as Bush’s State Department Legal Advisor John Bellinger has pointed out.
7) Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, has called for an end to CIA drone strikes and warned that U.S. targeted killings are “increasingly used in circumstances which violate the relevant rules of international law.” In plain English, these are war crimes.
The confusion of military and electoral strategy in these strategic leaks to the New York Times is disturbing in itself. What are the families of U.S. troops supposed to make of this? After everything they’ve endured in the past decade, are their loved ones’ lives now to become pawns in a chest-thumping contest between Obama and Romney? This has to be be the very last thing they need or deserve.
I’m not really a supporter of the President, but it’s clear to me that the GOP obstruction of his appointees is unprecedented and unacceptable. His appointments represented a record level of diversity, and faced unique obstruction. The Republicans in the Senate stopped him from appointing Judges or from appointing people to executive branch positions.
Most recently, they stopped him from appointing people during a recess (a common tactic by Presidents facing obstruction) by staying in session, refusing to adjourn. Obama responded by appointing his nominees anyway. Let me be clear: I’m glad Richard Cordray is heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The obstruction of his confirmation was unreasonable, unethical and inappropriate.
Does that excuse a violation of the law by the person who has sworn to uphold it, however? Does the fact that this obstruction was unreasonable give room for Obama to skirt the letter of the law, in favor of what he interprets to be the intent?
My answer is that Obama (and any other President) should be held to a higher legal standard than other citizens, not a more politically convenient one. I’m not generally a fan of “slippery slope” arguments, but the inevitable extension of violating the law for convenience is obvious. What’s the difference between what Obama is doing now, and the GOP in Michigan ignoring roll call votes? In both cases, politicians are willfully ignoring the law in order to facilitate political convenience. True, the effects of the GOP’s illegalities are much more regressive than Obama’s, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are elected politicians ignoring the law for political reasons.
Beyond Obama himself exercising inappropriate powers, we have (at most) four and a half more years before someone other than Obama gets the exact same legal powers as Obama. To tell you just how disastrous this could be, keep in mind that in the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, the democrats blocked all of his appointments (with good reason). Imagine if we elect another Bush-like politician: with the precedent that Obama just set, the regressive executive could simply ignore the fact that the senate was blocking his appointments and simply “recess” appoint when Congress is not in recess (as Obama did).
I’m no legal apologist: I believe citizens have a responsibility to break bad laws. However, if the President of the United States, the man we task with enforcing and upholding our laws, is allowed to break laws whenever he sees fit, the consequences could be disastrous: in the nightmare scenario, Obama might even feel like he can violate the war powers act, or kill any US citizens he believes guilty of a crime, outside of a battlefield, without due process and without legal culpability- and that would just be unthinkable.
“For the last three years, Mr. Obama has expanded government instead of empowering the American people… He’s put us deeper in debt, he’s slowed the recovery…” -Mitt Romney
As you can see, however, the President has presided over a smaller increase to government spending than any recent predecessor, except for Clinton.
State lawmakers took aim at what one representative calls “animal-rights terrorists” who shoot videos or photos on farmers’ property without permission to create propaganda to destroy the agriculture industry…
Similar laws are being drafted in Iowa, Florida, and Minnesota, and the Utah bill has already passed in the Utah House.
So, riddle me this: if the attorney general of the United States says that the President can kill suspected terrorists without judicial oversight, does that mean that he can now kill Animal Rights activists as well?
Allowing Holder (at Obama’s request) to remove the protections of due process has transformed any action that the government disapproves of into a legal shield where you can be killed without review. There is no trial, no appeal, no evidence presented, no defense. How long will we let this go on?
OliverWright said: The law of supply and demand has a hidden sub-clause that Keynes (and Obama and Axelrod) miss or ignore: it involves the same people in both capacities (production and consumption). When that sub-clause is forgotten or evaded, you get the calamity of a Trillion Dollar Stimulus with zero stimulus. The title of consumer must be earned by producing products or services that are then traded to meet earned demand. In other words, producers–not consumers–fuel our economy. The engine of productive prosperity is the middle class family squeezing a few dollars into a savings account every month, the corporate jet owner risking a chunk of his fortune on a young upstart, and everyone in between who finance a better tomorrow and underwrite prosperity. Those who consume without producing are freeloaders in any form: lifelong welfare recipients, government bureaucrats, and trust fund kids alike. Obama’s team does not understand fundamental economics. This is sad but painfully and irrefutably true. Just look around. Notice those 300,000 jobs you tout were in December? There all gone now. Seasonal. Along with the 2,000,000 workers who have left the workforce forever, and give Obama perverse political cover from his own incompetence and a true unemployment rate north of 10%. The numbers from the bureaus are meaningless. Things aren’t better until they feel better. They won’t feel better until new policies are adopted. Obama is a nice guy who is trying his best. He’s just totally unequipped, like nothing we’ve ever seen before. At least prior presidents filled the gaps in their knowledge and abilities with brilliant people from the private sector. Obama did not, and this ship has no captain. Sorry.
Several things to address here: the first is that the ARRA is not the stimulus bill (passed in 2008 by GWB). The reason I highlight this difference is because the ARRA has much more infrastructure bolstering, healthcare funding, scientific research investment, etc. The Stimulus was money and tax breaks directed toward the real estate industry- we agree that it was ineffectual and misguided.
You said that Obama’s team does not understand economics and should have (like previous presidents) ‘filled the gaps’ with private sector personnel. I think it’s extremely naive to think that additional bureaucrats from the private sector would help, but the idea that Obama has somehow been less willing to adopt the best and brightest from the private sector is absolute fiction that borders on dishonesty. Neal Wolin, Mark Patterson, Gene Sperling, Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel, Herbert Allison, Kim Wallace, Karthik Ramanathan, Matthew Kabaker, Lewis Alexander, Adam Storch, Lee Sachs, Gary Gensler, and Michael Froman are all on Obama’s team, and all have lucrative pasts in the private sector (h/t: Mother Jones for the list). If you want more info, I can certainly give it to you- one of my largest gripes with Obama is that he is far too willing to incorporate the private sector (which is absolutely incapable of providing for the public good) into his team.
Another falsehood in your statement was that since December, the jobs have disappeared. Did you fail to read the rest of the link? Let me quote it for you:
It projects that in the current quarter (the first quarter of 2012), there are 200,000 to 1.5 million more people employed because of ARRA.
Your statement that the jobs have entirely disappeared is directly counter to the CBO’s most recent (and most thorough yet) report.
Finally, I strenuously object to the notion that our fiat currency properly represents production. I understand what you mean when you say, “producers–not consumers–fuel our economy,” but I fundamentally disagree that all necessary and important production is currently represented with appropriate funding (teachers, certain healthcare professionals, and almost all migrant laborers are drastically underpaid). Similarly, we overcompensate certain individuals that don’t contribute much to society at all (certain members of the financial sector come to mind).
The reason our fiat currency does not properly value production in our marketplace is because our marketplace was stacked by historical events that would never be allowed today, but are nevertheless and integral part of our societies structure. For instance, the average income for a white family is more than four times the average income of a non-white or Hispanic family- this isn’t because, on average, white people produce more, it’s because the US’ history of violent white supremacy inherently devalues production by people of color.
I will agree that Obama should radically and rapidly change his fiscal policies, but I would agree with the CBO that austerity is bad for a recovery and encourage the president to increase infrastructure, health, educational, and research funding (even if temporary) in order to bolster the economy.
Thanks for the submission!
A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) increased the number of people employed by between 300,000 and 2 million jobs in December. In other words, between 300,000 and 2 million people employed in December owed their jobs to the Recovery Act. This estimate, by Congress’ non-partisan economic and budget analysts, is more comprehensive than the 200,000 jobs that ARRA recipients reported in January, CBO explains.
ARRA succeeded in its primary goal of protecting the economy during the worst of the recession. The CBO report finds that ARRA’s impact on jobs peaked in the third quarter of 2010, when up to 3.6 million people owed their jobs to the Recovery Act. Since then, the Act’s job impact has gradually declined as the economy recovers and certain provisions expire. More than 90 percent of ARRA funds were spent by December, according to CBO.
While the report focuses primarily on the fourth quarter of 2011, CBO also includes new projections of the Recovery Act’s jobs impact through 2012. It projects that in the current quarter (the first quarter of 2012), there are 200,000 to 1.5 million more people employed because of ARRA.
The ARRA is a perfect example of the Keynesian multiplier in effect- when you temporarily support people who would otherwise be out of a job, it gives them time to prepare (through retraining or further education) while allowing them to continue their standard of living. This is much preferable to the mass disenfranchisement and evictions that would have followed without aid, and ensures that drugs and crime aren’t the motivators that they would otherwise be.
In the first two years under Obama, the Democratic Party in the 111th Senate had to break more filibusters than any other Senate in the history of our country. Except for ‘93-‘94, they more than doubled every other Senate’s cloture motions (the vote to break a filibuster). It doesn’t strike me as cynical to address the reality of GOP Obstructionism.