Tag Archives: obama

TPP – Obama Punches Democracy in the Gut

Obama is in big trouble. Progressives already are not thrilled with Obama. NDAA authorizes defense spending and indefinite detention of American citizens without charge, there’s his wishy washy defense of the environment (BP oil spill, fracking, pipelines),  his use of drones, his continued engagement in war, and his bail out of banks. But hey, Progressives leave room to grow and he talks a good game, plus he had a much more typically American upbringing than his privileged opponent in that he struggled with a single mom and worked his way up. Obama talked about empathy, his wife is into growing organic gardens, the family is much more “of the people” and can speak to the people better than the Romneys, for a while it seemed like Obama would win easily.

Now it doesn’t. Continue reading

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Judge Blocks NDAA – One Small Constitutional Victory

“The government was given a number of opportunities at the hearing and in its briefs to state unambiguously that the type of expressive and associational activities engaged in by plaintiffs — or others — are not within Section 1021,” Forrest said. “It did not. This court therefore must credit the chilling impact on First Amendment rights as reasonable — and real.” (this morning from Bloomberg)

Katherine Forrest would be the federal judge that blocked – if only temporarily – the law that allows for the indefinite detention of pretty much anyone the U.S. Govt. wants to say is associated with terrorism – including Americans and permanent residents of America. Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winner and foreign journalism correspondent (featured in my post on Monday here) along with RevolutionTruth were the lead plantiffs – both argued that the language of the National Defense Authorization Act was so ambiguous that they themselves could be considered to be a “person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces” as the law states. Hedges has done reporting on many foreign entities that could be considered to be al-qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces, RevolutionTruth has worked with wikileaks and whistleblowers in such a way that their work could fall under a governmental determination of “support” even though the government will not define any prosecutable actions. To refresh yourself on the NDAA you can check my blob post here.

The quote above sums up the case, the government called no witnesses, offered no evidence, but did cross examine the plaintiffs. It was an unusual case because the plaintiff’s didn’t really have complaints yet about what the government was doing, but they both knew that once they did have a complaint, that there would be little chance of a fair trial as they normally knew it in this country. They would be silenced. They could be whisked through the looking glass and find themselves in an orange jumpsuit without trial – FOREVER! They might never even be told why they were detained.

This report from the Huffingtonpost:

Forrest found the language too vague, and repeatedly tried to get government attorneys to say that the reporters’ fears were unfounded. The lawyers declined.

“At the hearing on this motion, the government was unwilling or unable to state that these plaintiffs would not be subject to indefinite detention under [section] 1021,” Forrest wrote. “Plaintiffs are therefore at risk of detention, of losing their liberty, potentially for many years.

“An individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so,” Forrest wrote. “In the face of what could be indeterminate military detention, due process requires more.”

Whew! At least one judge has her constitutional principles intact.

Since the House is debating amendments to the NDAA today, perhaps they will take note that a federal judge has blocked a portion of the law. I did skim through the proposed 142 amendments to the law to be sure that at least one of them dealt with the issue of indefinite detention and/or more clearly defining the objectionable behavior.

Ironically, last week I titled a post “Obama as Progressive“, because he made the announcement about gay marriage. I think for the less politically obsessed, Democrats roughly equal liberals who roughly equal progressives – I would not be so generous. Democrats do not always propose and support progressive ideas, many times their affiliations, establishment, and corporate ties do not enable them to publicly support ideas that are progressive. While I think Obama certainly thought of his statement politically, I do feel that he made it due to more of a personal obligation to the GLBT community, to recognize their contributions to society at large and to acknowledge their normalcy. Also, not making a statement at that time would have also made a statement.

The laws and ideas that are put forth in the NDAA were born out of the fear following 9/11. Those fears birthed many institutions that used to be an insult to Americans – increased surveillance, increased infringement on liberty, increased invasions of privacy, and increased false accusations of terrorism. Bush/Cheney were wrong to implement them and Obama is wrong to uphold them as if he is proud (or afraid) of the culture they promote. Hey, with a name like Patriot Act, only wholesome American activities can result, right? Is your eagle/flag pin on the correct lapel? George Orwell would approve.

The Patriot Act and the NDAA are not the same, but they work together to cinch down the freedoms, curiosities, expressions, explorations, and accountability we have as US citizens. Upon learning about the Patriot Act, before it was actually passed – in a teach-in at a local library by a constitutional atty – I was shocked at what was being done in the name of America. I was even more shocked to learn that because the constitutional atty. teaching about the Patriot Act was, in fact, on a governmental watch list as an activist, I was automatically his “associate” for listening to him and could be treated the way any other “terrorist suspect” was treated. This was compounded by the fact that at least one other audience member was knowingly being tracked by a govt. task force. He emphasized that the likelihood was low, but according to the new way of unconstitutional law, the language written was purposefully written in such a vague manner that lil’ ol’ me sitting in a public library conference room on a Saturday afternoon could be construed as a terrorist operative. The NDAA could – if unblocked – provide the legal means to vanish me forever from general society.

Obama has failed us on his constitutional scholar credentials, why he did not take a constitutional stand, we may never know. Hedges and RevolutionTruth have every right to worry about indefinite detention – the government won’t even deny it. What used to be the unspoken 4th estate of our country – a free press – is quietly being chilled. It seems that the government would be quite happy to freeze them out totally  so they will stop digging for any contradictory information to what the state is reporting.

I for one would like to thank Judge Katherine Forrest for being brave and making a ruling that will make some waves. Thanks for knowing our Constitution and taking a stand with it.

 

 

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Obama As Progressive

Obama’s announcement about his feelings towards gay marriage signals a shift in American cultural history. The conservative reactions range from accusations of “radical social engineering” to schadenfreude at how foolishly Obama is behaving. Why does it all matter? There is no action implied – no legislation or acts in process.  It matters because of the values enforced. Obama is signaling a shift in what is considered to be normal. He is the authority of the land, and conservative’s top two values are authority and tradition.

A progressives top value is empathy; that is why the President’s announcement was such a happy moment. It really isn’t that everyone knows a gay couple lining up to get married, the issue is one of civil rights. It’s also a testament to a “live and let live” attitude that is part of the American identity.

As the general election heads our way, much of the progressive base was grumbling a bit about Obama. This announcement gives progressives something to point at, we all know in our gut when something goes mainstream. Gay marriage just went mainstream. It’s okay for families to be themselves. This offer of goodwill does so much to energize the base because it strongly reinforces the empathy value. If instead Obama had spoken of some thin legal line that GLBT families could walk to to get some rights, the reception would have been cold. This is an issue based on principles and they are not very complicated.

In hard times, you’ve got to feed your base, otherwise they will become disinterested or disconnected from what is happening. Trying to appeal to the “middle” is no use and while it might look ok on a political calculator the reality is that playing to the middle deactivates both sides of the debate. The middle is imaginary. Averaging positions out over a broad range of socioeconomic issues is not an effective measure of ones political stance; the linear concept of left to right is flawed. Most voters tend to be left, right, ambiguous, or ignorant on each individual issue. People don’t advocate “mostly killing” criminals on death row; they either believe in the death penalty or not. Nuances of the law may also be accepted or rejected, but each decision can be broken down into yes or no answers. All of these answers will not line up neatly on the spectrum of liberal to conservative. That is why when speaking in an empathetic manner, many of those “switches” around issues will be flipped simultaneously to an empathetic perspective. When you change someone’s mind at the very root of their thinking, the cascading effect is exponentially successful to trying to win each individual policy nuance. This is why walking the middle is counterproductive for either side of the debate.

I wrote a previous post about this here.

Even though compromise is necessary to govern, rhetoric goes a long way to building expectations and values as a people. Obama’s move will produce more good than harm because at its root are those empathetic, all American values of peace, prosperity, equality, opportunity, love, and even tradition. We all can relate to that and most of us can attest to a moral code that honors love and committment.

 

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Democracy Infusion Needed – Stat

Democracy is in peril. This election season is different than those before it. We now have Citizens United, which is a game changer. While citizens are still allowed to vote (at least most of them), the information by which we learn about the candidates and issues is hopelessly compromised. In this country of capital worship, the election most often goes to the highest bidder. In turn this makes the average schmoe feel like their vote is a joke – why should they even disrupt their day? Democracy is a dead man walking.

The Citizens United ruling is so much of an issue, our democracy is shifting to shareholders. The owners of corporations have more and more power over the rest of us, and now they can decide whether or not they want to pull the puppet strings of our pseudo-democracy. The shareholders of Bank of America and 3M will vote on a referendum whether or not to use the company money to wade into the fray of politics. The difference between their corporate democracy and our “We the People” democracy, is that their main mission is to make money, ours is to secure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare.”

Our best bet is that the threat of boycott for a political misstep will cause shareholders to eschew political meddlings. Our democracy is at the mercy of the corporations. Continue reading

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Pat for Pot, No Rush for Restitution

Mechanisms of justification are what we come up with to make our facts fit the frame. In other words, when we have a concept in mind we want to keep, we will don our scientist cap to seek out and manufacture evidence to support our favored concept. We all do it unconsciously so there’s no need to feel guilty about it, it’s a survival technique. We can, however, call people out on the mechanism when it drums up weak “facts” to fit that frame.

Two standbys in current political discourse are getting tired. They are used so much that it probably doesn’t even raise a red flag when they are used. I’m sure there is a fancy logical fallacy name I could apply to it if I wanted to be fussy, but I’m going to call them like I see them – the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule and “separate but equally bad behavior” theory.

Continue reading

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