Tag Archives: barack obama

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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Law professors justify Obama’s illegal wars; more fuel for the Constitution’s pyre

Summary: Today’s essay by David Cole looks at Obama’s justifications for the next phase of the long war. In a wider sense it shows how the role of professions changes as the Republic-that-once-was dies and the imperial New New America rises on its ashes. Today we look at attorneys, many finding careers serving the government — dissembling the Constitution word by word in service of the President. Justifying the President’s actions, no matter what they are. Dismantling the structure of international law America built after WW2, which we hoped would in part justify the blood shed. Once proud professionals, now they’re the equivalent of the crew at the end of a parade, cleaning up after the elephants.

It’s a widening rot. Our geopolitical experts justify our wars. Anthropologists betray their canons, studying foreign societies for our Army. Doctors aid torturers. Economists become cheerleaders for our central bank. it’s the smooth track to success in New America.

“Get busy and fix it up so that it’s legal, will you?” Kamens said.
“You know, Delos, it would be a lot more honest if you did it at the point of a gun.”

— Client to attorney conversation in Robert Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold the Moon” (1939)

America's Constitution

Only formally still in effect

Contents

  1. “Obama’s Unauthorized War”
  2. Legal justifications for Obama’s illegal war
  3. About the author
  4. For More Information

Obama’s Unauthorized War

by David Cole, New York Review of Books
11 September 2014
Posted with their generous permission.

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In his address to the nation Wednesday night, President Barack Obama set forth a four-part strategy for dealing with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS or, in President Obama’s usage, ISIL. He spoke of continuing airstrikes in Iraq and extending them into Syria, training Iraqi forces and supporting Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, general counterterrorism operations, and humanitarian aid. But he did not put forth his strategy for dealing with the US Congress. And the Constitution demands that he obtain support from Congress if he wants to engage in what could potentially be a long war with a new terrorist group.

President Obama announced that he intends to carry out a sustained military campaign to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, a campaign that his own military has said could last many years; it is nearly thirteen years since we set out to degrade and destroy al-Qaeda, and there’s no end in sight yet. In his speech, President Obama avoided the word “war,” but that is the more common word for the kind of sustained military campaign he described. And under our constitution, the president cannot go to war without congressional approval except in narrow circumstances not present here.

Last year, when Obama was contemplating military strikes against the Assad regime in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people, he put the question to Congress, as the Constitution requires. Americans had no appetite for fighting another war over what they viewed as someone else’s problems, and Congress declined to authorize military force. Properly, the president backed down, and instead entered a negotiation brokered by Russia that ultimately led to the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, without the use of force.

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A new Man of Steel for 21st century America: a warrior superman

Summary:  Today we have another guest post by film critic Locke Peterseim, reviewing Man of Steel. He shows how our myths change to meet the new needs of a 21st C America. We meet a Wartime Superman — the Bourne Kryptonian — fighting a morally ambiguous bad guy in a complicated, paranoid world. Cynical or deep? Post your comments about the film — and this review!

Amy Adams & Henry Cavill

Amy Adams & Henry Cavill

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Whose Man of Steel is This, Anyway?

By Locke Peterseim

Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly
21 June 2013
Reposted here with his generous permission

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It took until mid-June, but this movie season finally has what every summer needs. After a May filled with passable-but-uninspiring fare like Iron Man and Star Trek, dumb-fun stuff like Fast and Furious 6, and universally-agreed-upon whipping boy After Earth, in The Man of Steel we finally have a blockbuster everyone — fans, critics, geeks, and mainstream popcorn munchers — can angrily argue over.

Man of Steel producer Christopher Nolan and director Zack Snyder’s reboot of Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s Superman film franchise smashed up the box office last weekend and earned a very respectable “A-“ CinemaScore from moviegoers, even as critics weighed in with much-caveated approval numbers in the luke-warm 50s.

And while audiences ate up the new film’s action-heavy symphony of brute destruction (offset by ephemeral, existential flashbacks — Smallville, it seems, is just down the road from Malick-town), online the fanboys and –girls cried out in despair over this more somber and morally dicey take on a character oft-considered to be the modern-day ur-superhero.

It’s not unusual for paying viewers, critics, and hard-core fans to disagree over a cinematic interpretation of a beloved (or reviled) creative property — see the spleen-venting comment-board swamps spawned by the Transformers and Twilight series. But the sturm und drang over Man of Steel’s, well, sturm und drang feels different; more impassioned than the outrage over urinating robots and sparkling vampires. All the wailing and gnashing and rending of red replica capes this week seems fueled by a more primal sense of ownership over “What Superman Means.”

Rounding the corner on his 75th year, Superman holds an iconic position in modern American (and international) pop culture rivaled only by Mickey Mouse. No small amount of ink has been spilled over the years about the many Christ-figure parallels in the Superman mythos, and Nolan, Snyder, and screenwriter David S. Goyer don’t spare the cross when hauling them out once again for Man of Steel. But it’s worth noting that, like the Biblical Jesus, Superman’s popularity hinges on a simple, positive ethos embodied by a not-quite-human figure who’s attendant life and personality details are vaguely admirable enough to be adapted and embraced by all.

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New political leaders offer hope & change. They show us what we need for victory.

Summary: New leaders emerge amidst the economic and social stress since the crash, charismatic leaders offering hope and promising change — winning elections. They have everything but the key element necessary for political change. Their experience shows what we’re missing, what we need to make reform possible.

“Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.”
— John Maynard Keynes, chapter 24 of the General Theory, pg. 383 (1936)

“Mark this well, you proud men of action: You are nothing but the unwitting agents of the men of thought who often, in quiet self-effacement, mark out most exactly all your doings in advance.”
— Heinrich Heine, History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, Vol. III (1834)

Change: fish reform

We can change our world

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A new breed of politicians has come to the western nations. Charismatic, media-savvy, creating expectations of hope and change. Leaders such as Obama in America, Beppe Grillo of Italy’s Five Star Movement, and Jón Gnarr of Iceland’s Best Party. They achieve fame and fortune by bringing new excitement to Republics whose political systems have grown stale. Bold leaders with excited followers, marshaling vast resources (e.g., money, technology, publicity) in great causes.

Here we discuss why they have produced such small results. This article describes one story, typical of the rest: “The World According to Gnarr“, Aaron Bastani, London Review of Books, 1 September 2014 — Excerpt:

Lady Gaga once said that ‘more mayors in the world should be like Jón Gnarr.’ In June, Gnarr left office after serving a full four-year term as mayor of Reykjavík. His memoir, Gnarr! How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World, will be published in Britain this week.

Gnarr and his Best Party had promised to do politics ‘differently’. Such a pledge is the bread and butter of modern electioneering, but no one else, from Barack Obama to Matteo Renzi, has made it while gleefully describing their campaign as ‘anarcho-surrealist’.

… Four years later, and that initial success remains unique in Europe. The fallout from the 2008 financial crisis has led to the flourishing of populist, xenophobic parties on the right as well as reinvigorating a popular politics to the left of ‘third way’ social democracy; but Gnarr, even now, seems to be a genuinely new kind of political actor. While the likes of Nigel Farage or Beppe Grillo lay the blame for various problems on specific institutions and interests, Gnarr blames institutional politics itself.

In spite of that originality, however, Gnarr’s tenure as mayor didn’t deliver much more than an orderly, if at times colourful, managerialism. His disdain for ideas meant that most policies came from his partners in the Social Democratic Alliance, whose leader, Dagur Eggertsson, has now replaced him as mayor of Reykjavík.

We’ve seen the same from Obama in American and Grillo in Italy. Hope burns bright, then exhausts itself from lack of results (see Obama’s popularity polls). We have reformers with people and resources, but no ideas. We misunderstood the insight of the late John R. Boyd (Colonel, USAF):

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Why did we elect Obama, “the World’s Most Important Spectator”?

Summary: Today we have an article by Prof Bromwich painting a portrait of Obama. As his term slides to its end and the 2016 election begins we must learn from our experience. Yet again we elected as President someone with inadequate experience but a powerful image, as if we vote for the best float in the Memorial Day parade. So long as we remain uninvolved in the political machinery, as consumers, our elites will serve us only choices that meet their needs — not ours.

Obama: Hope

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The World’s Most Important Spectator

David Bromwich (Professor of English, Yale)

London Review of Books, 2 July 2014

Reprinted with the permission of the author and LRB

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The first year and a half of Barack Obama’s second term has been preternaturally unlucky. The stymied enrollments for his healthcare plan, the multiple errors of computer co-ordination that forced people to wait days or weeks in front of blank screens, marred the new faith in government the plan had been intended to affirm. Just when, around the end of April, the trouble seemed to be halfway resolved, with millions finally insured and several deadlines put off, there emerged stories of faked records of treatment and months-long waiting lists at Veterans Hospitals. It was another failure of managerial competence, in another branch of government to which Obama had professed the warmest commitment. And there has been nothing resembling a success in foreign policy to offset the embarrassments at home. The United States, which always needs to be doing something, was in no position to do much about the Russian annexation of Crimea or the conflict in Ukraine.

A common feature in all these events was that Obama himself seemed far from the scene. He was looking on, we were made to think, with concern and understanding. But in matters like these, one could easily feel that a conspicuous sign of a ‘hands-on’ president was needed. Apparently Obama was startled by the bad rollout of healthcare – shocked and dismayed like all Americans. But shouldn’t he have known more about it than most Americans? Again, the Veterans Affairs scandal was something he learned about when he read the papers, but why only then? His show of injured trust and surprise had been received more charitably on the still obscure earlier occasion when four Americans were killed in Benghazi on 11 September 2012. He was notified at the time, but he was in the middle of campaigning and left the crisis to the State Department. Absent and accounted for. Yet there has been, all along, an airy and unnerving quality about these absences. Obama launched the bombing of Libya in March 2011, having previously signaled that he intended no such action, in an emergency speech during a state visit to Brazil.

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Proof pointing to the people guilty of weakening America

Summary: We, Americans, delight in creative explanations blaming others for our problems. “It’s not my fault” is our mantra. Here are two examples suggesting that we can find the guilty parties can be found in the mirror. We can do better.

Einstein about problems

He didn’t say it, but should have

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In these pages I’ve attempted to convey some of the astonishing aspects of 21st century America. None are more astonishing than our disinterest in learning from our experiences (both Left and Right), and the parallel behavior of Left and Right (about which they’re oblivious). I’ve written scores of posts documenting these phenomena.

The conclusion drawn about these posts by many readers: they accurately describe foolish behavior of the other side (the bad guys), but say I show bias and politicization by pointing out similar behavior by the good guys (which is so obviously different). How sad to see such willful blindness. It’s one of the reasons I wonder about our capacity for self-government. The blind need guides. Perhaps that’s how the 1% see their relationship with us.

Here is an example for each.

Bush = Hitler

The Day of Action protest, 18 March 2006

(1) Bush is Hitler. So is Obama

Many at the Left said that President Bush Jr was like Hitler. Zomblog and Ringo’s Pictures have collected examples. Lied us into wars, illegal government surveillance, indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay without charges or trials. The Right laughed.

Now the Left applauds Obama, with his illegal surveillance programs, most aggressive-ever use of the Espionage Act of 1917. continued use of Guantanamo Bay, expanded assassination programs (including US citizens). Most of the same things they condemned Bush Jr for doing, plus more that Bush Jr did not dare do.

And now the Right condemns Obama as — Hitler. David Neiwert at Orcinus has a few examples. Google Images points to hundreds more.

This suggests that both Left and Right love authoritarians, so long as they are on the correct side of the political aisle. Both are oblivious to the similarity of their behaviors to the behavior of those they despise. No wonder our politics have become so dysfunctional.

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Swarms of hate against Obama and George Will, peasants’ protests in New America

Summary:  This week we had simultaneous two-minute-hate sessions run by both Right and Left against Obama and George Will. These are fine demos of peasants’ protests in New America, proving that we remain capable of collective action: fun, righteous, purposeless swarming. Orwell predicted it. The 1% laugh.

hate

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Contents

  1. We enjoy our two minutes hate
  2. About Obama’s prisoner exchange
  3. About George Will & the epidemic of sexual assault
  4. For More Information

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(1)  We enjoy our two minutes hate

How do a people act who see themselves as powerless heirs to a Republic?  Passive and apathetic, yet feeling a legacy of responsibility to act — resulting in severe cognitive dissonance. Pressure building each day as they see the Second Republic decay around them. Stress, emotion, demanding an outlet. This week we saw the reaction, simultaneous in both Left and Right.

  1. Obama denounced for exchanging a disgraced Army deserter for 5 Taliban terrorist leaders, soon returning to the battlefield.
  2. George Will defended rapists. “One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college” — and Will criticized Obama’s efforts to take back the night.

The rage was palatable. No denunciation was too lurid. No exaggerations of the evil one’s beliefs is condemned. No guess about his motives is questioned. It’s all nonsense, on several levels. The accusations are largely false. There’s not even the pretense of rational criticism (debating darkness!). Nor is this political activity (no personal activity results); it’s the substitute for it.

In a nation of isolated individuals, participation in political swarms gives us the feeling of belonging to something good and larger. Fun faux righteous togetherness.

And it relieves the pressure on us. Until the next time. Worse, as America slides away the pressure builds more quickly — and so these become more frequent. At some level we know these accomplish nothing. They convince nobody, change no policy, leave no trace. They’re peasants’ protests, not politics.

The 1% smiles, since hatred instead of rational debate prevents communication — keeping us divided and weak.

In this, as in so many things, George Orwell foresaw us.

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