Tag: Obama

Do Not Arm Rebels

At least two Senate Democrats — Jim Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Begich of Alaska — have stood up against Administration plans to arm the rebel forces fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Manchin made the point that all too often arms we send to “moderate” or “friendly” rebel groups end up in the hands of our sworn enemies. Begich said the same thing and added that before he can support the latest first-step-to-war, “we must have greater assurance that we aren’t arming extremists who will eventually use the weapons against us.”

Nobody can give such assurances. It’s not in the nature of the combat, the conflict, or the culture. Anyone who claims to give such assurances is lying through his or her teeth and they know it.

Arming rebels is the first sound of the drumbeat of war that President Obama and his bellicose cronies and advisers would have us embark on. He should know better. We are a war-weary nation.

No arms for rebels.

 

Admitting Ignorance and Uncertainty Can Bring Hope

In the wake of President Obama’s clearly (and intentionally) misunderstood comment about not having a policy in northern Africa and the Middle East, it is good for us to recall this observation by famed physicist and clear thinker, Richard P. Feynman:

It is in the admission of ignorance and the admission of uncertainty that there is a hope for the continuous motion of human beings in some direction that doesn’t get confined, permanently blocked, as it has so many times before…

In fact, it is the expression of confidence and certainty in delicate, complex situations that is the greater sin here. His opponents like this in neat little bumper sticker sayings because they in turn believe that that is the deepest level of thinking of which their adherents are capable. I judge them to be better thinkers, more insightful in the presence of actual knowledge, which includes the simple act of saying, “I don’t know” when you really don’t.

 

Obama to Bypass Congress, Establish Informal Accord on Global Climate Change

President Barack Obama, who has lately been taking a number of executive actions to circumvent a Congress hell-bent on doing nothing at all, has come up with another solid idea for doing so, this time on global climate change.

Republican congressional members are mostly climate change deniers and anti-science reactionaries. Any global treaty that the Obama Administration would attempt to enter into would run afoul of the need for Congressional ratification by a 2/3 vote. (Another outdated and ludicrous provision of a Constitution badly in need of reform.) So the White House has announced that it will spearhead an effort to get an agreement among the nations of the world on global climate change whose only “teeth” would be a “name and shame” approach.

It’s not promising, it’s not enough, but it’s better than the nothing we’ll end up with if short-sighted and ignorant Republicans get to continue to block any meaningful legislation until Chicago is ocean-front property and all the corn that grows in Kansas — all 500 stalks — comes out pre-popped.

 

Important Column by Frank Bruni

Frank Bruni is one of the more observant and thoughtful of today’s political columnists. He bends left but he acknowledges the Right’s good ideas. I find him generally helpful in understanding what’s going on in the nation. That’s why his latest column is so important, so chilling and so damning of our current political scene.

He starts off by saying:

More and more I’m convinced that America right now isn’t a country dealing with a mere dip in its mood and might. It’s a country surrendering to a new identity and era, in which optimism is quaint and the frontier anything but endless.

I agree. Not that my opinion matters all that much to more than a handful of people. But it has been my observation for the past couple of years that the core of the capitalist economic and political system is fundamentally broken because it’s based on a faulty assumption: boundless growth. That is a myth, pure and simple, and the system is on the verge of collapse because we can’t shake our addiction to that idea.

no-hopeBruni points out that the American people broadly are disaffected, angry, pessimistic and resigned to their fate. We don’t think our children will have it better than we did. I know mine already don’t. We don’t see a clear leader on the horizon who can solve our problems because the system in which any such leader — if he or she existed — would have to work simply doesn’t. We are mad at President Obama (29% approval), the Supreme Court (30%) and the Congress (7%).

But as Bruni points out, “The tyranny of money, patronage, name recognition and gerrymandering in American politics” guarantees no change through the system. 

We are on our way out as a nation. My kids will grow up in an America that is no longer seen as the best example of how to run a country, how to lead the world, how to take care of your people.

And then global climate change will wipe out huge swaths of humanity as our Planet issues its next verdict of how we’ve treated it.

Only a spiritual awakening among a tipping point of people on the planet can avoid this fate. I remain hopeful that this awakening will happen in time. But then, I’m still optimistic enough to write about this stuff when the end is so clearly in view.

 

Where Are America’s Interests Here?

A New York Times report today says that a high-ranking Obama Administration national security official has indicated that military action against ISIS is possible. “If you come against Americans, we are going to come after you,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, said.

anti-syria-warWhere in the world is ISIS going to “come against Americans” with the possible exception of those who have either been ordered into harm’s way by our trigger-happy President or are there in direct violation of State Department warnings not to be there? Where are America’s interests in the region? Where?

The law already requires the President to notify Congress within 60 days of starting hostilities in a foreign nation. That same law should, at the very least, be strengthened with the requirement that the President spell out, in very specific detail, what American interests are at stake. And if those interests are corporate profits rather than national security, then the corporations should be left on their own.

Too often throughout our nation’s history (see A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn) we have shed American blood to protect American greed. I don’t know if that will be Obama’s justification (real or imagined) in this case, but he’s going to have to convince me that there are legitimate American interests involved in this fight before I’ll support spending one more dime or one more soldier there.

Do you hear us, Mr. President? We are many and we are angry.

Maureen Dowd to Obama: Do Something Bold

In a column that is sharply critical of President Obama’s first six years in office, New York Times op-ed writer Maureen Dowd challenges him.

Why should the president neutralize himself? Why doesn’t he do something bold and thrilling? Get his hands dirty? Stop going to Beverly Hills to raise money and go to St. Louis to raise consciousness? Talk to someone besides Valerie Jarrett?

Why indeed?

If Obama is, as Dowd charges, disaffected from his own party, it is because when he took office six years ago, he promised — both explicitly and implicitly — an era of change, of bold new prescriptions and challenging thinking. But it turns out he doesn’t like politics very much. He likes campaigning. And he likes the techno-levers of governance and how they can be made to respond to little tweaks and nudges. But politics — the stuff of which American governance is, for better or for worse, made — just makes him feel..well…yukky.

He came into office with more political capital than any President since JFK and some of the same sheen and glitter. And he has squandered essentially all of it.

But he could still surprise. He could still wake up to the fact that he has but two scant years in which to cement a legacy. And the legacy he is bearing down on right now is not one that will result in his earning the accolades that were so on his supporters’ lips when he took office amid the Nobel Peace Prize. For that to happen, he’s going to have to toss caution to the wind and depend on the questionable belief that the American people would rather have a President who cares deeply enough about something to make something happen than one who takes his cues from the obdurate competition while doing nothing.

Iraq-Vietnam Comparison Not Complete, But Not Inept Either

President Obama is reportedly sending about 300 troops into Iraq as “advisors” to help “retrain” Iraqi forces who have seemed from press reports to be increasingly out-fought and out-manned by insurgents in recent months. How in the world he expects 300 men to do what tens of thousands have already failed — quite recently — to do, is beyond me. As he withstands pressure to use airstrikes to help the increasingly beleaguered Baghdad government, this use of military advisers has the feel of appeasement.

iraqnamBut it is not perhaps imprudent to remember that the Vietnam War began in precisely this way. The early U.S. presence in Nam was called the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group Vietnam (MAAG-V).That was later shortened to Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). Notice the word “assistance” as the focus of both names.

There have been reports — as well as a smaller number of weaker denials — that Iraqi military forces have abandoned their weapons and uniforms on the field of battle and melted into the civilian population rather than fight the ISIS forces. That, too, if true, would be eerily reminiscent of what we encountered fairly often during the first few years of the Vietnam War. In both cases what might be taken for cowardice might just be wisdom. Having been down this road before for many, many years, the futility of continuing to fight becomes a dominant meme.

Obama seems intent on alienating what little is left of his base by toying with the weapons and tactics of war. He has long since lost the support of those who, like me, falsely hoped for a progressive Presidency. Now he begins to shift to the right on military and foreign affairs and leaves behind the middle-left who have clung to their support of him because of his mediocre — but by contrast marvelous — work on social justice issues.

Such a waste, really. And perhaps a good, sound lesson. No politician can lead this nation in a progressive direction without deep roots in and understanding of the movement and the undeniable reasons for the necessity for it to begin to dominate our political scene. Behind that, if the best the Democrats can manage is a Clinton re-tread…well, then, hope for the nation is at best faint.

Presidential Signing Statements Are Undemocratic, But What’s Good for the Goose…

In the current dustup over the decision by the Obama Administration to trade five Guantanamo detainees for the only remaining American POW in Afghanistan, the President seems to rely largely on a signing statement he issued at the time he signed the Defense appropriations bill that included a provision demanding he seek Congressional approval for any transfer of Gitmo detainees.

There is no doubt his actions in the trade are covered by the signing statement. The question is whether a signing statement ought to have the force of law. If they do have that effect, then Obama’s within his rights and the discussion should end. If not, well, then, we have a different issue.

But it should be remembered that Obama’s predecessor used signing statements almost routinely to increase the imperial nature of his Presidency. President George W. Bush used signing statements to challenge about 1,200 provisions of 172 laws he signed — twice as many as all his predecessors combined, according to Kevin Evans, a Florida International University professor who has researched the practice of presidential signing statements. By contrast, Obama, who promised to use signing statements lightly, has used less than 30.

Still, this is a difference in number, not kind or intent. Signing statements date back to at least the Andrew Jackson administration, but that doesn’t make them right or legal. If Congress passes a law, the President has but two choice: sign it into law or veto it. To sign it and then in an accompanying signing statement to indicate he has no intent to enforce or follow the law is at least disingenuous. To allow this practice to usurp Congressional power seems to me a dangerous thing in a democracy.

But it is simply dishonest for Republican leaders today to take Obama to task for the behavior they adored and worshipped in his predecessor, who happened to be one of them. Having raised no hue and cry about their leader’s use of this questionable tactic, they cannot now be heard to scream “unconstitutional” in the face of a member of the opposition party using the same tactic.

As for the specific incident at issue now, I find myself sympathizing with Obama’s position that exigent circumstances presented themselves here that would have endangered the POW’s life if he had taken time in advance to notify Congress 30 days in advance of his plan. I don’t think that language should have been included in the bill to begin with; it’s best to leave foreign policy in the Executive Branch. But having signed it, I think Obama was both bound by it and empowered to override it in these specific circumstances. That’s assuming of course we haven’t been lied to about those circumstances.

ATTN: Democrats. No More Money for You!

I figure it’s even money that one or more of the Democratic Party organizations who has my email will see this. And even money they’ll read it and give a crap. But it will make me feel better, so I’m going to post it any damn way.

Attention Democrats: You will not get a single dime of my money donated to the party. Ever again. I may choose to donate to individual candidates from your party. But never again to the party apparatus. You have let me down for the last time with my money.

I am unsubscribing from your lists as fast as I get new emails. It may take years for me to disentangle. But I will escape your clutches.

Over the past eight years, you — through your President and to a lesser degree through your Congressional leadership — have too often fallen short of the Democratic Party ideals as I understand them. You have compromised in advance with some of the worst people ever to hold public office, taking legitimate positions off the table before negotiations even began. (Can you say “single payer,” Mr. President?)

Worse, you have not only refused to criticize anti-American policies of the two preceding administrations, you have perpetuated — and in some cases extended — them. Not one torturer went to jail. Not one banker went to jail. Guantanamo didn’t close. Drones are epidemic and out of control; soon, they will blossom into the airspace around us, disrupting and destroying American life in ways the Republicans could only imagine in their wildest dreams.

You have, in short, been so hell-bent on out-Republicaning the Republicans that you are no longer recognizable as the Party of the People. There is no room in your shrinking camo tent for real progressive thought or action.

Green Party USA Logo

Green Party USA Logo

I’m outta here. Next stop: the Green Party. I just voted for every Green on the ballot in the June 3 elections. And even though I’m on Social Security and Medicare, unable to bring in any extra money thanks to the economy you helped tank, I’m donating small amounts to my newly adopted party. I don’t expect them to win many elections. Maybe none. But I do expect they’ll influence the debate, shift you ever so slightly left, and at least stand for something.

As a party, you revolt me. Goodbye.

 

Obama Ups Military Ante in Uganda

For a guy who won the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama sure does like his military adventures.

The President has notified Congress that he’s upping the number of American forces in Uganda to 300 “advisers” who are not allowed to engage in combat except in self-defense. He’s also sending in an  unspecified number of Osprey helicopters, all in the cause of trying to track down Central African bad guy Joseph Kony.

There’s no doubt Kony is a war criminal. He’s been indicted by the International Criminal Court. Although his organization is said to have been pretty much erased in recent months by defections and attack, he remains at large. But it’s really hard to see how adding a few Special Forces advisers and some choppers to the Ugandan arsenal is going to make any difference in the effort to track down one bad guy through thousands of miles of jungle.

This is just one more way in which Obama has turned his back on his base of liberals, who are fundamentally peace-loving people who prefer diplomacy to guns. I got the idea long ago that he’s not a liberal, even though he tries to sound like one at election time. But I guess it’s more disappointing when he adopts a Bush-like military posture in some obscure conflict to no particularly obvious good purpose.