Tag - Barack Obama

A Climate of Unaccountability

They’re back!  John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney – the people who pushed the U.S. into the devastating mistake that was the 2003 invasion of Iraq, have discovered yet another existential threat ready and able to destroy the world.  Back then it was Saddam Hussein and his mythical cache of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Now it is ISIS and its army of fanatical jihadists who are torturing, raping, crucifying, decapitating and genocidally killing anyone who stands in the way of the new caliphate they are building in what is left of the nations of Iraq and Syria.  It is precisely because there is a political, military, and economic vacuum in the heart of the Middle East that ISIS is able to thrive and expand.

The tragedy of American foreign policy is that the people who helped create that vacuum – who set into motion a war of aggression and choice – have never been held accountable for their mistake.  So here they are, this time doing the bidding of ISIS, spreading terror and fear into the hearts of the American people, priming the country for yet another war of aggression.  The foreign policy of these cheerleaders is encapsulated in one sentence, which ought to be carved on the tombstone of Bill Kristol, the man who said this: “What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?”   Read More

Obama Despair

It seems like so very long ago, many of us here at The Agonist gave up on Barack Obama.  It was long ago – six years now – which is a long time considering the progress the United States could have made had Obama been the leader he promised to be.  My disillusionment was almost instantaneous, the minute he announced that the nation must look “forward and not backward” when it came to the criminal behavior of those in government who committed torture.  That was quickly followed by the surprise and disgust I felt when he appointed Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.  Wasn’t Obama serious about reforming the banking industry and Wall Street?  He had said all the right things on the campaign trail, so why was he putting in power people who had been instrumental in causing the problem?  Sean Paul and others at The Agonist came to the same, quick, disappointment in Obama, and we all announced our sense of betrayal publicly, which was not a safe thing to do in liberal land. Read More

Reporters Arrested!!!

How many exclamation points should be added to the headline above? I sure hope three is enough to reflect the shock of the news that reporters from both The Huffington Post and The Washington Post were arrested last night in Ferguson, Missouri. Worse – they were just doing their job, sitting at a McDonald’s, writing copy, when a SWAT patrol entered and ordered everyone in the restaurant to leave immediately. The reporters were arrested because they refused to give the police their names. Worst of all – one of the reporters had his head slammed into a window, entirely gratuitously, and was given no apology by the police!!!!

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The Great Expectancy

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Pax Americana continues to crumble before our eyes. The belief that the United States has a divinely-inspired obligation to police the entire world has always been most strongly held among Americans themselves; some of the beneficiaries of this largesse, such as the Vietnamese and most recently the Iraqis, never quite showed the gratitude America felt it had earned by bringing them liberty, freedom, justice, and a Starbucks Grandé Mocha every morning on their way to work. Of course, it takes a lot of effort to keep Americans invested in the Pax Americana dream, especially since to make the dream mean anything the U.S. has to have “boots on the ground” in strange places that seem to have little to do with American security. Read More

The Problem is not The POTUS, but The GOTUS.

Okay, I ought really be shoveling the 4 foot drift blocking my one and only egress from my apartment, but instead I wondered over to Ian’s blog. After reading this post I left this comment.

If Obama were truly a dictator you could lay the blame for the increased income disparity at his feet. However, he has to contend with another branch of the government. A branch of government that has not even allowed him to hire the people he wants to work in his branch of government.

I’m not a rabid Obama supporter; I believe he is wrong about drone use, as well as not getting behind reigning in the NSA fast enough. However, as an American I’d rather it be recognized that more people than Obama are responsible for crafting and implementing the laws in our country. Had Obama had to deal with a progressive, left-leaning congress, perhaps we would be seeing less of an income disparity.

It’s really an irritating habit of people (inside and outside of the US) to speak of President Obama as some sort of all powerful leader when the rules of being the President of the United States were purposefully written to prevent just that from happening. And as the Constitution of the United States was written by imperfect people (hence the “more perfect union” statement), it’s rather dubious to demand that a leader be perfect.

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Will the Tumbrels Roll in 2014?

Magical mystery tour of 'slam dunk' blame Syria intelAt an east coast cocktail party several weeks ago, a reporter asked a CEO what he feared most in regards to the global economy.  The billionaire, who asked to remain anonymous, replied, “the guillotine”.

When even the hyper-wealthy are looking anxiously over their shoulder, something is badly wrong with the economic order.  For several years there have been prominent billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates publicly calling for a cap on executive pay, and the SEC took a first step in that direction by requiring public companies to report the totality of executive compensation in their annual statements.  Naturally, quite a lot of companies have circumvented that rule completely and continue to hide important compensation details from the public.  But a growing number of companies are in compliance, and the SEC was surprised recently how many companies wrote in to support efforts to strengthen the regulation.  More and more, the very rich are looking for ways to reduce income inequality in the US, but are just now beginning to realize how difficult it is to redistribute wealth in America, and how completely the cards are stacked against the poor and what is left of the besieged middle class.  Consequently, 2013 was a year of widening income and wealth inequality, because even the wealthy seemed powerless to change things.

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The Debt Machine Grinds to a Very Temporary Halt

The temporary shutdown of the US government begins tonight.  The immediate consequence will be the furloughing of federal government employees who are considered “non-essential”.  Some government offices will be operated on shortened hours or closed altogether, as will the national parks.  Defense and intelligence agencies will remain open, though perhaps with fewer staff.  Statistics gathering and economic releases will be halted, as will many of the hundreds of analytical reports that are issued monthly.  Agencies that are independent of the federal government, such as the Federal Reserve and Congress, will operate as usual, though obviously in the public mind this is not necessarily a good thing in the case of the Congress.

The United States went through this once before in the 1990s, and there is a strange sense of calm this time around, as if everyone knows what to expect, including the public.  That is probably an unwise assumption, at the very least because the amounts of money involved now are staggeringly larger.  Tomorrow – October 1st – the US Treasury has to make $122 billion in payments for military salaries, veterans benefits, and Medicare reimbursements.  On the 3rd of October a $25 billion Social Security payment is due into public bank accounts, and $12 billion more is payable to recipients on the 9th.  The Treasury’s cash balances going into October are large enough to cover these payments, but after that things get trickier.

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Syria: Even if we’re going to win, we’re going to lose

and082513webThe indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable and — despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured — it is undeniable…. This international norm cannot be violated without consequences.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

I’ll freely admit to not being an objective observer when it comes to Syria. I’ve travelled throughout the country, and it’s still one of my favorite places. Damascus is a city I find endlessly fascinating. Dating back to the 2nd millennium B.C., it’s a city simultaneously modern and ancient, with smells and sounds completely unlike anything I know here in Portland. Aleppo and its citadel are breathtaking, a sight mere words can’t do justice to. I could go on, but you probably get the point.

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You’ve been warned: Fear the Black Guy in the White House

In a different time and place, I’d file this under “Too Stupid For Words”. Then I’d forgot about the drooling, knuckle-dragging numbskull behind this mind-numbingly ignorant screed, published as it was in World Nut Daily World Net Daily. WND is where the paranoid and heavily medicated get their conspiracy theories “news.”

Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch, where Muslim-haters and conspiracy theorist go for legal analysis that comports with their feverish lunacy, appears convinced that President Obama was behind the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. To Klayman’s razor-sharp mind, the explosion was actually a Islamofascist terrorist plot directed at former President George W. Bush.

Welcome to today’s “WTF???” moment, brought to you by the makers of Thorazine.

The Stupid is strong, y’all….

(read the full post at What Would Jack Do?)

Barack Obama: Community Organizer

People joke about President Obama’s abilities at eleven-dimensional chess. I think that Obama has a long-term strategy, more understandable than eleven-dimensional chess. I also think that it’s quite different from much of what passes for strategy in political Washington.

Obama came into office in January 2009 with an enormous number of problems facing the country. He had been dealing with the financial crisis since his election. That crisis was, in a way, the culmination of the financialization of the American economy, which, along with tax and other policy, had hollowed out prospects for the middle class. The country was stuck in two wars that had very little to do with its national interests. Other aspects of the “War on Terror” that damage the perception of the US abroad and damage civil liberties at home persisted long after any utility had disappeared. North Korea had demonstrated nuclear weapons, and Iran was engaged in pursuit of technology that could make nuclear weapons possible for them.

Perhaps the most difficult problem Obama faced, though, was an apathetic electorate and media that depicted that president as the only political actor in the country. Democracy can’t work without the participation of the people.

Obama would have seen that apathy before, as a community organizer. Poor communities are often demoralized or do not know how to fight for what they need. The organizer’s job is to get citizens active in helping themselves. This involves many things: educating citizens on their rights and ways to go about changing their circumstances, which would include the political process; and encouraging the citizens to take action on their own behalf. Read More

The Forward: Mainstream Jewish Organizations Will Not Oppose Hagel Nod

Apparently the contracted services of Lanny Davis and apocalyptic clownshoes agit-prop of Billy Kristol and co. are the tip of a spear with no shaft. As Nathan Guttman of the JD Forward reports, organized Jewish opposition to President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary evaporated following yesterday’s announcement:

Most Jewish groups have made clear they will not lobby against Hagel’s confirmation in the Senate, leaving the floor for only smaller groups on the right wing of the Jewish community to attack the former Nebraska Senator as anti-Semitic and unfriendly to Israel.

Jewish activists were unhappy with the choice but fell in line with their traditional reluctance to challenge a president’s right to pick his cabinet members.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely seen as the lobbying group Hagel spoke about in his 2007 remarks referring to the “Jewish lobby” that has “intimidated lawmakers,” notably refrained from taking any stand, either public or private, regarding Hagel’s nomination.

“AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations,” said the lobby’s spokesman Marshall Wittmann in an email to the Forward. Capitol Hill sources confirmed that they had not heard from AIPAC on the issue.

“AIPAC’s perspective is that they need to work with the next defense secretary,” explained Steve Rosen, a former lobbyist with the group. “They can’t just look from a standpoint of how you feel about a nomination but also from the day after and how you learn to work with Hagel.” Rosen, who is a critic of Hagel, added that as Secretary of Defense, Hagel and his deputy and assistants will have significant influence on many issues the pro-Israel lobby deals with daily, including foreign aid, procurement, military cooperation and defense technology.

[…]

Other Jewish groups have also relaxed their criticism, stressing the need to move forward rather than dwell on whether Hagel is worthy of the post. The Anti Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, in a statement issued Monday said that while Hagel would not have been his first choice, “I respect the President’s prerogative.”

Foxman told the Forward on Monday he did not change his views on Hagel, since he had never flat-out opposed the nomination.

“We never said we were going to fight him,” he said, adding that “from the moment that [Obama] announced it, this is a different reality.”

Foxman, who was widely referred to as the first Jewish leader to speak out against Hagel, stating that the Nebraska Senator’s comments on the Jewish lobby “border on anti-Semitism”, explained he did not accuse Hagel of being anti-Semitic. “In the world we live in, one cannot be nuanced,” he said.

The only mainstream Jewish group to actively address the Senate on Hagel has been the American Jewish Committee, which in a letter urged Senators to “fully probe” Hagel.

PreviouslyHagel, Brennan, Kerry – Business As Usual

The Deal: Various Responses

Zaid Jilani:

Because the payroll tax cut is expiring and the Make Work Pay tax cut is not coming back, most working Americans will also see a tax increase. The most galling thing is that 98 percent of Americans will actually see a larger tax increase than some of the richest Americans. Working with our friends at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, we compiled the following chart to demonstrate this:

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AJE: Gaza: How can the US manage the crisis?

AJE:

To Hamas and other Palestinian groups, the US president sent a strong condemnation, saying there is no justification for “the cowardly acts” of launching rockets into Israel.

To the Israeli prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, he sent a message of support and simply urged him to “avoid” civilian casualties.

[As of Friday] around two dozen Palestinians have been killed including six children and a pregnant woman. Three Israeli civilians have been killed.

WATCH: