Friday, September 07, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #72 - Part 5

Ten reasons why Barack Obama does not deserve your vote

Okay. Anyone who watches this show could surely come up with a multitude of reasons why no one should vote for Witless Romney. I'm going to tell you why no one should vote for our own president Hopey-Changey.

First, let me dispense with a couple of reasons people give why we should vote for him.

One is the Lily Ledbetter act, the equal pay act. He didn't have a damn thing to do with getting that passed. It had passed Congress the year before, in 2008, but Bush vetoed it. Everyone knew it could and would be passed again in 2009. Yes, Obama signed it - which is a good thing - but quite bluntly he didn't have a single thing to do with getting it passed.

It's like when the Moon landing occurred in July 1969. It always annoyed me that it was Richard Nixon's name on that plaque that was left on the Moon. He had nothing to do with the project, nothing to do with the Mercury program or the Gemini program or the Apollo program, nothing at all. He just happened to be the president when the landing happened - so it was his name recorded for however many millennia it will be before that plaque turns to dust. Same thing here: Obama deserves none of the credit for the Lily Ledbetter act.

Another one, one that particularly gripes me, is the claim "He ended the war in Iraq!" No, he didn't. In the fall of 2008, before the election, the Iraqis forced George Bush to accept a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq by the end of 2011. All Barack Obama did was stick to that timetable. He did nothing to create it, nothing to advance it, nothing to change it - which is notable only because the O crowd wanted to change it; they tried to push the Iraqis into allowing for troops to stay beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline. They failed. That is why the troops are out, that is why the was over. Not because of anything Obama did but because of what the Iraqis made George Bush do and because of what Barack Obama failed to do.

All right, so how about a few reasons why you should not vote for Obama.

One. He has presided over a massive expansion of government surveillance of our personal lives. For example:

- William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA, said during a panel discussion at a conference in July that the agency was indeed collecting e-mails, Twitter writings, internet searches and other data belonging to Americans and indexing it.

- There is today being built in Bluffdale, Utah, a $2 billion center for the NSA designed to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they pass through international, foreign, and domestic networks. It should be up and running in a year. This is the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the Bush administration, which was killed by howls of protest from the now-silent liberals.

- Already operating in several cities is a surveillance system called Trapwire, designed to pick up and transport data to a central database center, where it will be combined with other intelligence "for the purpose of," quoting a press release, "identifying patterns of behavior that are indicative of pre-attack planning.” Shades of Minority Report.

Two. He has engaged in an unprecedented attack on whistleblowers. The Obama administration has already charged six people under the Espionage Act for allegedly leaking classified information. That is literally twice as many such cases as were seen under all previous administrations combined across the entire history of the act, which dates to 1917.

Three. Related to that, he has abused secrecy. He has claimed to be an advocate of government transparency and oversight, he promised the most transparent administration ever, but Obama has instead established the most secretive administration of modern times, with major programs and policies - especially as related to the use of military force - carried out without public debate or even knowledge. And he has done it, it has been noted, more thoroughly and effectively than anyone might have imagined.

Four. He has waged secret wars in Yemen and Somalia and has dramatically expanded the drone war on Pakistan.

Before Barack Obama came into office, there had been one US military strike in Yemen. During his administration there have been as many as 110.

Under George Bush, there were 50 drone strikes in Pakistan. Under Barack Obama, there have been 294.

Under Bush, there were 429 casualties from those strikes. Under Obama, there have been 2,133.

Five. He has failed to prosecute war criminals and torturers. After coming into office loudly declaring "nobody is above the law," Obama immediately set out to actively shield the war criminals of the Bush gang - including those who tortured prisoners - not only from criminal prosecution, but from Congressional investigations and private civil suits as well.

The final page of this disgusting chapter was written on August 30, when the DOJ announced it was ending its investigation into the only two cases relating to the torture regime that it even considered prosecuting. Those cases, both involving detainees who were killed by their interrogators, one by freezing and one by asphyxiation, were the only two of over 100 such deaths that even got to the point of being investigated.

As far as the Obama administration is concerned, torture, it seems, is not a crime - if we do it.

Six. He has engineered the widest, most serious expansion of executive power ever, to a degree Bush and Cheney only dreamed of. He claimed he was against the Patriot Act but when it came up for renewal, he supported it. Under the NDAA, which he signed, he has the power to indefinitely detain without trial or even charge, anyone he in his personal, unreviewable, judgment deems to be giving "substantial support" to some terrorist or "associated forces," whatever they are. He has even asserted the authority to kill anyone, including American citizens on foreign soil, if again in his personal, unreviewable, judgment that person is a terrorist.

Seven. He has beaten the war drums against Iran, talking about "red lines" and staging large-scale military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf. This despite the fact that US officials will admit when asked directly that there is no evidence that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon - and bluntly, if it were, why would that give us the right to launch an attack? Why do we get to say who can have nuclear weapons and who can't? Sitting on what is still the world's most destructive nuclear arsenal doesn't exactly give us any moral high ground.

It goes beyond tough talk. On Obama's orders, the US released the Stuxnet worm, a computer worm, into Iran's nuclear facilities to shut down and damage its computer-controlled centrifuges. In May 2011 the Pentagon declared that if some country engaged in a cyber attack on the US, it could be considered an "act of war." Which means Obama's program on Iran has included committing outright acts of war.

Eight. He has failed to prosecute Wall Street crooks. In fact, the administration went so far as to specifically refuse to follow up on criminal referrals from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission regarding one of Goldman Sachs' mortgage deals and to insist it could find no evidence of crimes in the report of a Senate investigation that included emails from Goldman Sachs proving the company had defrauded investors.

The bankers got away with, in the words of one source, "theft, wire fraud, bank fraud, loan fraud, securities fraud, and commodities fraud" while millions of Americans lost their life savings and their homes. The banks are right back at the same rigged game that got us into this mess. The too-big-to-fail banks are even bigger. And Obama's plan to deal with this is to replace Tim Geithner with Erskine Bowles.

Nine. While he's all tough and macho in private and when dealing with whistleblowers, when it comes to public policy, to in-the-trenches policy debates, he's a damn wimp, surrendering to the GOPpers at every turn, often even before the game has started.

In many cases, it's not so much what he failed to do that infuriates people like me, it's that he never tried in the first place. If someone fights the good fight and loses, that's forgivable, even admirable. To talk the talk and not even try to walk to walk is neither.

An obvious example is the public option in health insurance reform. Feeble as such an option is compared to an actual national health service, it still would be clearly better than what we got - but he gave it up, openly surrendered on it, before the actual Congressional debate even began.

Another, even starker case, is the stimulus package. The head of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, said that $1.8 trillion was needed for a real stimulus, one that would really rally the economy. That was rejected as not politically feasible. Eventually, the proposal was $800 billion because that's what they thought would pass.

So we got a stimulus the administration had been specifically told was less than half of what was needed because the O crowd couldn't be bothered to fight for anything better. The result was that, yes, the stimulus did keep things from being worse than they otherwise would have - but it wasn't nearly enough to make things better and we are still stuck in the most anemic "recovery" in a heck of a long time, one that looks no better than the recession that supposedly had ended.

I've said before: We need less Kumbaya and more Lyndon Johnson.

Finally, ten. Get it through your thick skulls: Barack Obama wants to cut Social Security! He wants to cut Medicare! He has whined that he doesn't get enough credit for being so willing to do so!

So there you have ten good reasons why Barack Obama does not deserve your vote. And if I've gotten you depressed, welcome to reality.



ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

he's a damn wimp, surrendering to the GOPpers at every turn

I think this is calculated. For instance, the insurance companies didn't want a public option, and so the Administration didn't want it.

"The need for compromise" was simply cover to screw the people who voted for Obama (I was one). And he uses it over and over.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I think this is calculated. For instance, the insurance companies didn't want a public option, and so the Administration didn't want it.

Considering that 2 Republican votes were necessary to pass the legislation, I find it unrealistic to think a public option was a realistic goal.

In politics, like in most of the real world the 'need for compromise' is actually how many things get done.

Lotus said...

the 'need for compromise' is actually how many things get done

Tossing aside the thing you claim to believe in even before the negotiating begins is not compromise, it is preemptive capitulation.

I'll repeat something I said in the post: What gripes a lot of people the most about Obama is not what he failed to get done but what he failed to even try to get done.

Anonymous said...

Instead of asking whether Obama capitulates to Republicans, or whether the Ds in the Congress "compromise with" the Rs in the Congress,

why don't you ask why Obamacare is the same thing as Romneycare, and therefore why the Ds and Obama offered a plan that doesn't even try to enter into bargaining and compromise?

By starting with Romneycare they have no forward bargaining position, they can move backward only.

Given the billions spent on strategy, canvassing, and merit-stuffed resume hires, you'd think they would realize this strategic gaffe.

They do, of course.

Because they're not doing what you assume. The Ds aren't adversarial toward the Rs.

They are conspiratorial, cooperative, glad-handing with the Rs.

You simply confuse the theatre (the drama of D vs R and tribe-vs-tribe) for the real workings.

Lotus said...

Hyman -

I must confess, I'm not sure just who that comment was aimed at. Still, a quick reaction:

To be technical, Obamacare is not exactly the same thing as Romneycare, although they are quite similar and the former was openly based on the latter - which is one of the reasons the O crowd figured it could get passed: "It's a Republican plan, fer crissake!"

Part of the reason that argument didn't really work is that it wasn't a GOPper plan; it's what the Democratic-controlled state legislature in Massachusetts cobbled together to save what it could of Michael Dukakis's failed attempt to establish universal access to health care. Romney just happened to be governor at the time.

More to the central point, it's easy to imagine conspiracies and secret handshakes and the like, but I think that it's much more a matter of yes, there are some differences between the parties, but they are almost exclusively matters of procedure, not principle; on the latter score, the overlap far exceeds the difference. Put another way, it's that they are much more alike than either will admit.

Still, it needs be said that whether it's by conscious conspiracy or the natural confluence of similar worldviews, the result is the same: The non-elites, the "outs" as I call them (whether measured by wealth, race, or whatever else), get screwed.

Anonymous said...

tdraicer: I'm a normally Democratic voter who has never supported Obama (I saw through him in 2004) but on the question of Iran and nukes, I confess I'm not interested in the "moral high ground". Iran getting nukes-despite the argument in Foreign Affairs-is unlikely to be a good thing, and I'd be all for stopping it were possible at an acceptable price. Alas, it isn't.

I oppose US (or Israeli) military action not because we don't have the "right" to decide who gets nukes but because practically speaking it is unlikely to work, and even if it did, the consequences of a military strike are likely to be as bad as the consequences of Iran getting the bomb. So I'm on your side of this issue, but not for the same reasons. (Similarly, it was a cost-benefit analysis that caused me to oppose the 2003 war with Iraq, not because the dictatorship of Saddam had some "right" to its continued twisted existence.)

Lotus said...

Iran getting nukes is unlikely to be a good thing

This goes to the crux of the whole debate: All the bluster coming out of Washington and Israel is based on the (often tacit) assumption that Iran is trying to get The Bomb, even though, as I said in the post, "US officials will admit when asked directly that there is no evidence that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon."

Since I assume we could agree that any spread of nuclear weapons "is unlikely to be a good thing," would it then be acceptable to put sanctions on and commit acts of war (cyberwar) against, say, Canada on those grounds?

Yes, I know that Canada is not trying to build nuclear weapons. That is exactly the point: So far as our own intelligence services can tell, neither is Iran.

So why is a notion that seems outrageous when directed against Canada merely a "cost-benefit" question when directed against Iran?

jurassicpork said...

Magnificent, Larry. Bravo. I've been screaming about these things constantly whenever they come up. What have I gotten for my efforts? Lost readers, lost followers on Twitter. I constantly run into the same stupid question: "Well, who're ya gonna vote for? ROMNEY???"

No. We have options. We have Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party. We do not have a Two Party system. That's what we've been fooled into believing.

Anonymous said...


>"US officials will admit when asked directly that there is no evidence that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon."

Which US officials?

No doubt there are some people in the government who feel that way (and they may be right) but there are plenty of people in governments around the world who believe otherwise. Since none of us has access to the raw intelligence data, we all have to make our own judgement call, but I personally would be very surprised if Iran wasn't trying to get a bomb after seeing the fate of an Iraq without one.

In any case, my broader point is that in a world of armed and independent nation states, abstract principles will always give way to what nations consider their vital interests (whether those interests are really vital or not is another question). As a status quo power the US has a vested interest in International Law, but since there is no international law enforcement beyond the power of individual nations, one shouldn't confuse "international law" with the sort you have to obey or risk arrest.

Talk of "moral high ground" may make one feel righteous, but in the conflict between states it is always shaky ground to stand on. After all what moral high ground allows dictatorships to freely kill their own people? To oppose the invasion of Iraq based on the sanctity of international law or the "right" of Saddam to murder his own people in peace as long as he leaves his neighbors alone is a bizarre sort of morality. I'll take the somewhat more solid ground of it not being in the national interest instead. The same with military action against Iran-which, again, I also oppose.

Lotus said...

Which US officials?

Here are a few:

- A National Intelligence Estimate is intended to express the consensus of all 16 US intelligence services. One released in December 2007 concluded with "high confidence" that "in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

- In 2009 then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told Congress that Iran had not decided to pursue the production of weapons-grade uranium.

- That 2007 NIE was reaffirmed in 2010 and was still the consensus view in February 2012.

- On January 31, 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that there was no evidence that Iran had decided to build a nuclear weapon. CIA Director David Petraeus agreed.

- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the same thing around that same time.

- In fact, Panetta had laid out an "aggressive" timeline for Iran to get The Bomb and then had to walk it back, with his press secretary saying the next day that "we have no indication that the Iranians have made a decision to develop a nuclear weapon."

You might also consider that we have been raising an alarm that Iran is right on the verge of having nuclear weapons for well over 30 years.

Lotus said...

Before I go any further, I want to thank you for your input and your comments. I always enjoy having reasonable disagreements with folks. Occasionally they change my mind but even where they don't, the discussion forces me to sharpen my own arguments and thereby increase my own understanding of the issue at hand. With that said...

the "right" of Saddam to murder his own people

Name me three people that there is a reasonable chance people have heard of who actually argued that - and I mean that, not any of the "oh, so what you really mean is..." twisting-their-words claptrap, and you will have an argument. Until then, you don't.

(And are you actually arguing, as it appears you are, that the Iraq war was about "freeing" Iraq?)

Meanwhile, be sure to bear in mind that many of those who opposed the Iraq war from the beginning were also among those who most strongly condemned Saddam's regime even when the US was cozying up to it.

It's unhappily easy to dismiss discussions of morality under assertions of logic and rationality, but to adopt that argument ultimately approves of reducing all of international relations to matters of cold-blooded calculation of advantage backed by force - that is, it becomes merely a matter of "might makes right." And I don't mean approving it as a means of analysis, I mean approving of it as practice.

That is not a step I am willing or ever will be willing to take.

Lotus said...

Magnificent, Larry. Bravo.

Well, ::blush::. Thank you!

Yeah, I've gotten some of that same reaction. To quote something I said elsewhere about the "so you want Romney?" argument:

To make such a thesis [i.e., the GOPpers are always worse] the basis for political, specifically voting, decisions is to give carte blanche to the Dems ... to get continually worse.

The lesser of two evils is still an evil; "less bad" is still bad. The question is, when does "less bad" cross over, as it must at some point if we are not to be reduced to merely offering palliative care to a terminally-ill body politic, into "not good enough?"

I don't live in a swing state and I am voting for Jill Stein. If I did live in a toss-up state I have to admit if I'm to be truthful that I would be sorely tempted to vote for Obama in spite of it all as a way of slowing down (but not stopping) the deterioration.

So I haven't quite gotten to the point of "it makes no difference," but I am damn close to it. Revolt!

Anonymous said...

tdraicer: The question of Iran's nuclear program is not nearly as one-sided (alas) as you present, but since I agree that a military strike is a bad idea regardless of whether Iran is working on the bomb, I'll not pursue that further (if interested, Google Iran "breakout scenario").

As for morality in international affairs:

No, I'm not suggesting that we invaded Iraq for the welfare of the Iraqis, though it is certainly true that some people supported the invasion for that reason. (Again, I opposed it.) But (and I'm not talking specfically about you since I don't know your views well enough) the general Leftist position (btw I'd call myself an FDR liberal) that military intervention by the US is always morally wrong is itself morally suspect: one can argue that as many people died in the last two decades from our failure to intervene where we could and should have-for instance Rwanda or earlier in Yugoslavia-as our intervening where we should not have.

As for international law, it was created to protect the rights of states rather their people, and is only just starting to deal with the fact that those two interests can be very different. Ultimately I can see no moral argument for, say, the world standing by watching the slaughter in Syria-but I do see many practical arguments for not intervening.

Morality, like rational self-interest, is rarely clear cut. But unlike arguments over self-interest, taking a moral position for or against a particular action, shuts down debate, and leave the practical realities to fend for themselves.

On the other hand, inherent in a world run by self-interest are the interests of others. In international relations might ultimately does make Right (or we'd hand this land back to the native Americans) but in that structure "might" is a shifting element. Nations that ignore the interests of other nations ultimately see those nations band against them, which is why Napoleon, the Kaiser, Hitler, and Tojo never ruled the world.

There is in that sense an inherent morality in international relations not in spite of self-interest but because of it. It is why the realpolitik of people like Kissinger was never "real" enough-because it assumed a level of power to impose our will the US has never had. As I said, as a status-quo power the US has an interest in strengthening international law and institutions, even if people like W. (or Obama) are too blind to see it.

But if-in most cases-I end up on the same side as the anti-war Left, why does any of this matter? Because nationalism remains the most potent political force in the world. (See John Lukacs on this point.)

I'm not saying the Left should embrace nationalism, but ignoring it doesn't make it go away. If the Left had stuck to arguing that the Vietnam war was not in OUR interests, rather than in too many cases embracing the cause of North Vietnam, they might have won a lot more support a lot sooner*.

We are tribal animals, and arguments made from the position that this is in "our rational self-interest" will imo always carry more political weight than "our nation is the bad guy." We need more of the language of FDR (who while in many ways our most internationalist President never forgot he was President of the US first) and less that of, say, Noam Chomsky. IMO of course.

And now I won't take up any more of your hospitality; I just wanted to make my views clear, so you can disagree with them-to the extent you do-rather than a false impression of them. Thanks for your time and blog space.

*And for the record I was 17 at the end of the Vietnam war, so I speak in part from personal observation of that era.

Lotus said...

Your I take it final (and longest) comment gets my final (and longest) reply. Thank you for an interesting exchange. :-)

The question of Iran's nuclear program is not nearly as one-sided as you present

Um, first, you asked "What US officials?" and I answered, but second and more importantly, yes it is that one sided. The consensus opinion of US intelligence (and also of the IAEA, I might add) is that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon. Period. I am well aware of the so-called "breakout scenarios" (there are more than one) but that simply adds speculation on top of presumption. In a variation on a previously-unanswered question, if we are going to start imposing sanctions on and threatening war against nations that have the mere future capacity to build nuclear weapons (which is what the "breakout scenarios" are based on), my gosh, there are dozens of nations in that category. We could start with the one that has already shown the ability to build nukes but abandoned the program: South Africa. Then we could go to nations that could start having nukes pretty much any time they wanted to, such as Canada and Australia.

If the response is "well, those nations are not going to be hostile to the US," then you've reverted to "might makes right," or, more exactly in this case, OUR might makes right. "Might makes right" is a really poor place to hang an argument for what should be US policy, sine it has been the underlying logic of every dictator, every oppressor, every imperialist or colonialist or expansionist nation down through history.

This is important because I would maintain that "the general Leftist position" is not that "military intervention by the US is always morally wrong" but that military intervention by the US must always be subject to moral judgment. That, contrary to what you appear to espouse, policy should not merely a question of "will it work" but also of "is it the right thing to do." (I'm reminded of the lawyer teaching a class on legal ethics who said it is the duty of an attorney to sometimes tell a client, "Yes that is legal - but don't do it because it's really scummy.")

Put a different way, "the general Leftist position" is that our selfish interests are not the only ones involved.

one can argue

Yes, one can - one can argue anything - but it is a hard argument to make because it's based on the assumption that such interventions would have been relatively tidy and neat and clean and would have stopped the killing (not merely interrupted it only to have it break out again later) without producing any killing of their own. Rather than "argue," I would say the proper word is "claim."

Two other points on this: One, I find it interesting that you raised Yugoslavia, since that is actually a case where there were voices on the Left calling for intervention early on amid charges that the only reason the West didn't intervene was that it was Muslims who were being killed so the West didn't care. Two, if the case for what are known as "humanitarian interventions" comes down to "if we did the 'good' interventions and not the 'bad' ones, the same number of people would have died," that does not strike me as a particularly persuasive argument - especially since it would leave dictators free "to murder their own people in peace," which I thought was to be a bad thing.

As for international law

You've referred to international law a couple of times. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be responding to something I said, but if so, since I never mentioned international law, I'm not sure to what.


Lotus said...


inherent in a world run by self-interest are the interests of others

I'm sorry, but that's internally-contradictory nonsense. In a world run by self-interest, the interests of others exist only to the extent that they advance that self-interest. They do not exist on their own. Arguing that in international affairs pure self-interest produces morality - especially after specifically embracing "might makes right" - is, I'm sorry, I keep trying to come up with a polite word but I keep coming back to garbage, especially since the "morality" is that of "a shifting element" of might which becomes a guarantee of international war. It's like saying that the thief who says "I'd rob that bank except I couldn't get away with it" is making a moral decision.

What, for a real-life example, of the 16% of Wall Street professionals who said in a recent survey that they would break the law by trading on insider information "if they could get away with it?" Are they acting morally?

It's said that "morality is what you do when no one is watching." Those - nations as well as people - who do not do wrong because the price is too high are not acting morally. Those who do not act even if they could, are.

nationalism remains the most potent political force in the world

I would argue that religion is more potent than nationalism and tribalism (which is not the same as nationalism; just ask the Kurds, just ask the Pashtuns) is more potent than either.

If the Left had stuck to arguing that the Vietnam war was not in OUR interests, rather than in too many cases embracing the cause of North Vietnam, they might have won a lot more support a lot sooner.

Oh, puh-leeese! The Left started out opposing the war by doing precisely that: by arguing it was "the wrong war in the wrong place." By making a specific, conscious point of criticizing "communism" at least as strongly as is it did US actions. And got almost nowhere. In fact, it wasn't until the morality of the war started to be questioned that the peace movement grew significantly. (Yes, events in the war itself also affected that.)

To the extent that anyone on the Left "embrac[ed] the cause of North Vietnam" - and bluntly,they were few - it came in the wake of the movement's growing strength (and as an outgrowth of moral questions about who was in the right and who was in the wrong in the war, questions I take it you insist should never be raised) and thus not as a hindrance to it.

"More of the language of FDR and less that of Noam Chomsky?" If we'd had more of the language of Noam Chomsky, the Iraq War would never have happened. The Afghanistan War would never have happened. If we'd had more of the language of some earlier "Noam Chomsky," the Indochina War would never have happened.

Finally, you were 17 at the end of the Vietnam war? I'm not sure if by "end" you mean the Paris Peace Accords (1973) or the final withdrawal (1975), but no matter. When the ceasefire went into effect in January 1973, I was 24. I was not merely an "observer" of that era, I was a participant: a protestor, a marcher, a draft resister, a tax resister. I'll match up my knowledge and memories of the peace/justice movement of that period against yours any time.

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