Tag Archives: barack obama

The TPP shows the workings of our New America, if we care enough to look

Summary:  In this post an insider tells us the sad details about the Trans Pacific Partnership that provide insights into the workings of the New America being raised on the ruins of the Republic-that-once-was. Not just the treaty but the process that creates it. In this afternoon’s post, part 2, Alexis de Tocquiville helps us more clearly see what’s happening to America, with the perspective provided by experience and distance in time.  {Part 1 of 2 today.}

Bush & Obama: First Buddies:

Bush & Obama: First Buddies

 

Contents

  1. Partners at the creation
  2. The Trans-Pacific Partnership
  3. For More Information
  4. The fall of the old regime
  5. Conclusions
  6. For More Information

 

(1)  Partners at the creation of New America

“The problem is choice.”
— Neo in The Matrix Reloaded (2003).

One of the great themes of these posts has been the historic transformations of America under Bush Jr. and Obama. They brilliantly used both the groundwork laid during the previous generation and the unique opportunities created by 9/11 and the 2008 crash to alter the direction of our national evolution in ways profound although not yet clear. Their four terms, so consistent in most aspects of domestic and foreign policy (excluding social policies of little interest to our rulers) have raised the skeleton of a New America on the ruins of the old.

Revolutions and reformations done with popular support occur in the daylight. Those done without it occur in the shadows, cloaked in euphemisms amidst assurances that nothing important has changed. One way to show the real nature of these events is contrasting today’s news with a yardstick from the past. This post does so by looking at Obama’s work to gain approval for the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) with passages from the greatest work by Alexis de Tocqueville: The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution. He gives us a mirror in which we can more clearly see ourselves.

Stop the TPP fast track

(2)  The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Slowly news leaks out about the Orwellian-named Trans-pacific Partnership, othorganized by the Bush Administration and negotiated by Team Obama. The American people are not partners in this deal. It’s kept unusually secret to prevent opposition from mobilizing before the final rush after the deal is finalized — and the beneficiaries have greased the way for approval. Here we see, again, Obama’s contempt for Congress and the American people.

The latest evidence comes from Michael Wessel, a cleared liaison to two statutory advisory committees for the TPP. He was a commissioner on the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission. He published “I’ve Read Obama’s Secret Trade Deal. Elizabeth Warren Is Right to Be Concerned” at Politico.

The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design — anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.

I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what’s hidden in this trade deal — and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.

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The Right urges us to blame Obama & directly fight ISIS. Will we repeat our mistakes?

Summary:  As ISIS (grandly calling itself the “Islamic State”) expands, the Right blames Obama and calls for more direct military involvement by America. Their arguments rely on our amnesia about the past and delusions about the nature of modern war. Learning from experience is a vital skill for a nation hoping to navigate the rapids of 21st C geopolitics; so far we refuse to even try.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

“They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.”
— French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne in a 1796 letter to Mallet du Pan.

Let's make a choice!

Our grandchildren will marvel at the obtuseness of our foreign policy. Future generations of historians will discuss the causes of our inability to learn from experience in our post-9/11 wars. Not only do we appear determined to repeat painful mistakes, we continue to take advice from the people who guided us into these failed wars — ignoring the clear lessons of post-WWII history — rather the people whose warnings proved prophetic.

Can any nation, no matter how rich and power, survive such a combination of amnesia, blindness, and arrogance?

The fall of Ramadi was avoidable” by Kimberly Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, op-ed in the Washington Post, 18 May 2015. She is president of the Institute for the Study of War. He is a Director at the American Enterprise Institute. Despite being consistently wrong, our wars have been good for them — although not so good for America, for our troops that fight them, and for the nations we seek to help.

Learning From Mistakes” by David Brooks, column in the New York Times, may 2015. Our wars promoted Brooks from neocon hack at the Weekly Standard to mainstream respectability at the NYT. Simon Maloy at Salon eviscerated Brooks’ “learning” in “David Brooks’ sickening Iraq apologia“. “How the New York Times hack just rewrote history. The conservative New York Times columnist explains what he’s learned from his Iraq war boosting: largely nothing.”

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Obama screwed the Left in 2008. They’re eager for Hillary to do it in 2016.

Summary: Today we have an excerpt from a brilliant essay by Paul Street He explains how the Left has dug itself into a hole (the GOP clown car primaries show the similar problem on the Right), betting on hope rather than organization and work. And will repeat this mistake in 2016. {1st of 2 posts.}

The Political Machine

 

Today’s recommended reading: “Dancing to His Masters’ Tunes: The Liberal Apologies for Obama’s Ugly Reign” by Paul Street (his bio) at CounterPunch. This excerpt gives the bones of his reasoning, but omits his powerful horrific evidence. It deserves to be read in full.

——————— Excerpt  ———————

“Fact and Scrutiny”

So this is how Barack Obama is moving into the final 20 months of his dismal neoliberal presidency, which he once (proudly) described as ideologically akin to the Eisenhower White House. He is nauseating much of his own Wall Street-captive party’s electoral base by trying to push through the absurdly regressive, secretive, eco-cidal, and global-corporatist Trans Pacific Partnership treaty – a massive investor rights measure that promises to reduce wages, deepen inequality, undermine popular sovereignty, and assault already endangered livable ecology in the name of (what else?) “free trade” and “growth.” …

“Every Four Years”

There are a number of understandable and respectable responses (horror and disgust come to mind) to these latest corporatist White House policies, but surprise is not one of them. This is precisely the capitalist Obama that a good cadre of Left activists and writers tried (none more voluminously than this writer) to warn liberals and progressives about from the beginning of the Obama phenomenon and then presidency.

Like the Bill Clinton presidency but with considerable less success to a far less favorable economic and global context and to Obama’s comparative political ineptitude, the Obama administration has been (as predicted) a monument to faux-progressive corporate and Wall Street rule and to the wisdom of left historian Lawrence Shoup’s judgement in early 2008:

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Obama’s great deal with Iran: getting Iran’s “yes” was the easy part.

Summary: Obama takes a second step to greatness with his proposed deal with Iran. It’s a sensible step towards peace and hence arouses passionate opposition in America, largely on delusional grounds. How this plays out will reveal much about our future. If we cannot push back our extremists for something so obviously beneficial, then short-selling America looks like a good bet.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Celebration in Tehran after nuke deal announced (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP).

Celebration in Tehran after nuke deal announced (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP).

Contents

  1. The big picture.
  2. First, the key thing to know.
  3. About the deal.
  4. Voices raised against the deal.
  5. Updating my prediction.
  6. For More Information.

 

(1)  The big picture

A deal with Iran might be a second major accomplishment by President Obama, ending four decades of struggle with Iran — a conflict that Obama has pushed to undeclared war, as the US and Israel have assassinated Iran’s scientists and staged the first “electronic Pearl Harbor” with Stuxnet. It’s an accomplishment only if Obama can overcome the hawks that dominate US foreign policy. That includes the war-now-war-forever militarists plus the Israel-first-America-second lobby.

America tends not to esteem its peacemakers, but perhaps Obama’s surge into Afghanistan, attempted surge into Syria, widespread bombing (7 nations so far!), assassination of US citizens, and expansion of Africom will provide sufficient cover so we can cherish this great deed. If he can pull it off…

(2)  First, the key thing to remember

Since 1984 we’ve been told that Iran is about to have nukes really soon. Sobered by their craven bow to VP Cheney’s desires for fake certainty about Saddam’s nukes — and the resulting public humiliation — the US intel agencies have been clear about the lack of evidence that Iran has an illegal bomb program. Since this is America, our leaders just make stuff up — since we inflict no punishment (and even cheer if they’re in our tribe).

Defense One: “When a politician, analyst or pundit mentions an Iranian ‘nuclear weapons program’ they are referring to a program that the intelligence community is not aware of.”

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Is Obama purging the US military leadership?

Summary:  Today we review the good news about signs of reform from within the US military, reforms starting at the core — enforcing high ethical and performance standards on its senior officers. It’s a big story, something reformers have long demanded. More broadly, it’s a strike against the system of high, middle, and low justice that’s emerging in America. How people react to this also says much about America.

Military Virtue Medal: Romania

Usually we post about national security in the afternoon. This is both good news and important, and so the subject of both of today’s posts. {1st of 2 posts.}

{A} private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”
— Paul Yingling (Lt. Colonel, Army ) wrote this in 2007. It might be changing.

Flag officers rediscover ethics

As one of America’s most powerful institutions, the military has the ability to resist all but the most powerful external pressures for change. Reformers have often focused, correctly in my opinion, on the behavior of its senior officers — well protected by custom from punishment excerpt for the most public screw-ups. That’s changing.

Reformers have almost totally ignored this good news. The Left clamors for more heads to roll on a few narrow grounds, such as too-slow changing the definition of sexual assault. The Right typically declares this a conspiracy-mongering, covering instituted personally by Obama.  Articles like this from Breitbart flood the internet: “Is Obama Purging the Military of Dissent?“, 18 November 2013. These often give stratosphere numbers for those purged; “200” is common.

Here’s one of the most common lists: “Obama Purging Military Commanders“, The Blaze, 23 October 2013  — “The Nine Military Commanders Fired This Year by the Obama Administration.” Let’s examine the facts to see if these claims are true. Read for yourself and decide (

Spoiler: not only are these claims false, they don’t even bother to cite actual evidence for it. Read these as accounts of military recovering its mojo, taking the first steps to reform.

(1) Carter Ham (General, Army, retired)

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Let’s honor our generation’s greatest leader, one of the chief builders of a New America

Summary: Enough time has passed so that we can see in the 8 years of George W. Bush America changed to a degree seldom seen in our history, making him one of our few transformative Presidents. That many (perhaps most) of us do not like the specific changes he made does not matter. The 1% — his peers, in whose interest he ruled — gain much from the big steps under Bush away from the America-that-once-was towards a New America.  (This is the 2nd of 2 posts today.)

“The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised.

— Laozi, in the Tao Te Ching

Mt Rushmore as it will be, with President Bush

Mount Rushmore as it will be. One of these Presidents is not like the others.

George W. Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln

On the USS Abraham Lincoln, 1 May 2003 (AP/Damian Dovarganes)

 

Contents

  1. Our 7th transformative President
  2. National Security: triumph of the Deep State
  3. Undercutting the solvency of the government
  4. Etc, etc
  5. His buddy, Obama
  6. For More Information

(1)  Our 7th transformative President

Since his inauguration, following his award of the Nobel Peace Prize, many have called for Obama to be added to Mount Rushmore (or, realistically, said that he deserved to be there). That is obviously absurd. ObamaCare is almost his only substantial legislative accomplishment. He executed the end of the Iraq War, negotiated by President Bush Jr. Obama made some executive orders, which might prove significant (or not, or might be cancelled by a successor). He followed trends well-advanced at the State level expanding civil rights to gays. But his major accomplishments were overwhelmingly to continue, deepen, and expand the policies of his truly transformative predecessor. A man who deserves to be on Mount Rushmore: George W. Bush.

More accurately, a statue of Bush should begin a similar yet competing line of sculpture, since he undercut or outright reversed the accomplishments of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln. The changes Bush made had precedents — as Hoover’s policies foreshadowed FDR’s, and Carter’s did Reagan’s. But like the bold measures of Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR, and LBJ, Bush’s effects on America are of breadth and scale that defy easy description. We’re too close to see the full range of theses changes, to assess their relative importance, or do more than guess at their effects. But they’ve clearly set America on a new path.

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Our leaders justify torture in ways that justify its future use on their foes (including Americans)

Summary:  On Friday I said that we would torture again., despite the evidence in the Senate’s report.  This weekend former and current high officials of the US government confirmed that guess. Defenders of torture dispute the evidence, deny that torture was torture, and offer bold affirmations that they would torture again.

For I doubt not but, if it had been a thing contrary to any man’s right of dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion, ‘that the three angles of a triangle should be equal to two angles of a square,’ that doctrine should have been, if not disputed, yet by the burning of all books of geometry suppressed, as far as he whom it concerned was able.

— Thomas Hobbs in The Leviathan

Shining City Upon a Hill

By Hawk862

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The Bush and Obama administrations have put torture into our national DNA.  In the past Americans supporting (or enjoying) torture spoke quietly, least they (rightly) get compared to torturers of the NAZI Gestapo, Soviet KGB, and the many lesser known secret police of 3rd world nations (many of whom learned their craft at the US Special Forces’ School of the Americas).

Now come the propos to convince the American people that this is business as usual, that we’re still an exceptional City on a Hill (Matthew 5:14).

So closes the next chapter in America’s fall. We’ll use torture again. Read Republican’s justification of torture. Hear the echos from the past. As so many have said before, Hitler was just early (hence Godwin’s Law). Listen closely — their words justify torture of Americans (when designated as bad guys by the government). That shouldn’t surprise us after so many tools of the war on terror appear on America’s streets. (plus, of course, Obama’s assassination of American citizens).

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

His word salad clearly communicates that our rights mean nothing to him. CNN about Scalia’s interview on December 12 on Swiss National Radio:

The justice who’s been a mainstay of the high court’s conservative wing for 28 years condemned the “self-righteousness of European liberals” who oppose torture “so easily” Friday in an interview with Swiss National Radio.  “I don’t think it’s so clear at all,” Scalia said. “I think it is very facile for people to say ‘Oh, torture is terrible,'” he said. “You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. “You think it’s an easy question? You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?”

… “What are human rights is not written up in the sky, and if it were written up in the sky, it would not be up to judges, lawyers, just because they’ve gone to law school, to know what human rights ought to be and therefore are,” Scalia said.

“And therefore each society’s perception of what it believes human rights should be ought to be up to that society, and I think it’s very foolish to yield that determinations not only to a foreign body but to a foreign body of judges,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to do that.”

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