Tag Archives: barack obama

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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Does Obama “plan to use the military against citizens”?

Summary: Today’s hot story on the Right concerns Obama’s new policy allowing use of military force on US soil. Great outrage and wetting of pants follows! Like the “Antarctica ice collapsing” stories this month that bedazeled the Left, these demonstrate (again) that we’re ill-informed and easily manipulated because we get information from our tribal leaders, and they lie to us. Leaders don’t speak truths, let alone harsh and difficult ones, to dogs. When we decide to again stand like men and women, we’ll find reliable sources of information. And better leaders

WW2 propaganda

True then and true now

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Memo outlines Obama’s plan to use the military against citizens“, Washington Times, 28 May 2014 — Opening:

A 2010 Pentagon directive on military support to civilian authorities details what critics say is a troubling policy that envisions the Obama administration’s potential use of military force against Americans.

The directive contains noncontroversial provisions on support to civilian fire and emergency services, special events and the domestic use of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The troubling aspect of the directive outlines presidential authority for the use of military arms and forces, including unarmed drones, in operations against domestic unrest. “This appears to be the latest step in the administration’s decision to use force within the United States against its citizens,” said a defense official opposed to the directive.

This is agitprop fed to the gullible — like much of what the Washington Times prints. They’re pros.

  1. This article refers to DoD Directive 3025.18, which consolidates, replaces, and updates various policy documents going back to 1997 (they’re listed in the references).
  2. These policies were expressed for the field in “Civil Support“, Joint Publication 3-28, dated 14 September 2007 — before Obama was elected.
  3. JP 3-28 was reissued in “Defense Support of Civil Authorities” dated 31 July 2013.

So the policy is not Obama’s. It’s not new. The article identifies no changes. For that we turn to JP 3-28, which lists the changes from the 2007 version. Read them and tremble in fear!

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Obamacare forces even true believers to assess Obama. Will we learn, & do better in 2016?

Summary:  We laughed at President Carter, and suffered under his serial mistakes. Now we elected yet another President with remarkably little experience (less than Carter), and watch with astonishment the results. Since we’re Americans, we point a finger at anyone but the man in the mirror.

Perception: Obama-Kennedy

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“… I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above above the world, he’s sort of God.”
— Evan Thomas (Editor-at-large of Newsweek), interview by Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” (source here)

As we close Obama’s 5th year, let’s review his accomplishments.

  • A surge in Afghanistan followed by humiliating withdrawal.
  • An ever-widening war, waged without Congressional authorization, probably against the laws of war, killing an ever-lengthening toll of innocents.
  • Destruction of civil liberties on an unprecedented scale.
  • Institutionalized the Bush tax cuts, wrecking the government’s solvency and increasing income inequality.
  • He wasted the opportunity offered by the crash to institute desperately needed reforms and rebuild America’s decaying infrastructure.
  • And now his signature accomplishment has been proven — as so many people said — a complex and poorly executed mess.

Now of this should surprise us. I wrote this in February 2008 at the beginning of the Obama-as-savior craze. What matters more than Obama’s deeds and misdeeds, but the degree to which we learn from this experience. Will we choose more competent Presidents in the future, or continue to choose based on expensively crafted media facades?

As these problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern.  Barack Obama has amazing rhetorical gifts and the potential for greatness, but becomes President with his skills immature, his vision on major questions of public policy unformed, and no executive experience.

His brief career and campaign of empty rhetoric — appealing to the best of America’s history and aspirations — tell us little about the course he will chart for America, or how he will respond to the terrible choices that lie in our future.  He provides a frame into which his followers project their dreams — a virtual reality candidate.  (Candidates’ white papers, like party platforms, have historically proved poor guides to their actions)

This is our failing, not his.  High office in America goes to those with both drive and hunger for fame and power.  That Obama goes along with our childlike dreams says much about us, but nothing bad about him.

This election might result in weak leadership for our national government during tough times, unless he grows in office (which would be wonderful, but not something we can rely upon). As these problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern. Barack Obama has amazing rhetorical gifts and the potential for greatness, but becomes President with his skills immature, his vision on major questions of public policy unformed, and no executive experience.

When I wrote this America was dazed by the wonderfulness of Obama, excitedly watching Obama Girl. We are now five years older. As you watch Obama Girl below, ask if we are wiser after this experience?

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Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress

Summary: The media are alight with denunciations of the Republican Party’s stance in Congress. They say that negotiating using the threat of shutting down the government, or even forcing a default, is irrational or even mad. It is unprecedented in American history! None of these things are correct. This is the first in a four part series.

“Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.”
— Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address, 27 February 1860. Not an exact parallel, but worth reading today.

Chess Board

Deftly moving the pawns is a key to victory

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Contents

  1. Logic
  2. History
  3. No matter how bad is today,
    tomorrow might be worse
  4. Other posts in this series
  5. For More Information

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(1)  Logic

Seeing the actions of mainstream political actors as irrational usually results from an Orientation failure, the combination a lack of empathy plus an unwillingness to see the world as they do. The GOP is acting logically according to their values and worldview. Short version: the GOP has worked for decades to set up this situation. They have sown; now they expect to reap the harvest. Let’s examine how the world looks to Republicans.

(a)  About the value of government services

The Federal government is wasteful and inefficient, often doing things of little or no value — sometimes even harmful to the nation. The real America needs little of it, and most of that will be funded during the shutdown (e.g., pay the troops)

This has always been a strain in American thought, as explained in “The Myth of Rugged American Individualism“, Charles A. Beard, Harper’s, December 1931. But this belief coexisted with support for the government’s large infrastructure projects — from the transcontinental railroad to the Internet — and since the progressive era for government regulatory and civil rights programs.

During the past few decades our plutocrats have spent vast sums to change American’s views about government. They have succeeded on a scale seldom seen in American history. Even people who greatly benefit from government programs (my favorite: farmers) will deny the government does much good. For more about this see Undercutting people’s trust in the Republic: another step to destroying the Republic and Gallup sounds an alarm, again, about our lack of confidence in ourselves.

(b)  Legitimacy

Obama is the foreigner, secret Muslim, elected by the fraudulent actions of ACORN and other traitorous groups.

Quite delusional, but widely believed. Well-funded propaganda works; almost 1 in 5 Americans believe Obama is Muslim (see the PEW poll and AP poll).

In Congress, few Democrats explicitly ran on a pro-ObamaCare platform. Whereas many (most?) Republicans did. So the GOP representatives do their constituents bidding by opposing ObamaCare to the max.

Correct.

For more about this subject see Is the US government illegitimate? If so, does that justify violent revolution?

(c)  Public Service

ObamaCare is the first step away from our wonderful healthcare system to the horrific European systems.

Yes, propaganda works — no matter how false. Here’s one example (about wrong-site surgery) of the barrage which has so warped American’s perceptions; here’s data comparing our system to those of our peers (spoiler: many nations provide similar outcomes with 1/2 to 2/3 of the cost).

(d)  About the finances of the Federal government

  American’s deficit and tax burden are high and growing, so the spending must be stopped

Not correct.

  • The Federal deficit is shrinking fast.
  • Federal taxes for most Americans are near mutigenerational lows (although higher than during the special tax breaks following the crash).

(e)  The stars have aligned for the GOP: now is the time to act

Perhaps correct. Several factors favor the GOP now.

  • Their white boomer base is at the peak of its political power (older, organized, peak income, not yet senile). It’s use it or lose it for the GOP, as demographic change might be the their foe.
  • Obama has a history of folding in negotiations. He and many of the Democrats in Congress share the GOP’s deficit obsession (e.g., see Obama’s and the Democrat’s support for Simpson-Bowles proposal.
  • The economy is weak enough to arouse fear (as the GOP daftly blames this on the debt and deficits), but not so weak as to empower Obama to take bold actions.
John C. Calhoun, by Mathew Brady (March 1849)

John C. Calhoun, by Mathew Brady (March 1849)

(2)  History

Is this an unusual event in US history? “Unprecedented” is the word most often used.  That is not correct, looking at our history. This is what our system looks like when it works very well: filibusters, extreme rhetoric, policy gridlock — but eventual resolution.

The most obvious precedents are conflicts that the political system was unable to resolve for a long time, often with some degree of violence:

  • the antebellum era, when the southern “fire-eaters” worked for expansion of slavery in the frontier and its support in the North (e.g., return of fugitive slaves);
  • the often-violent conflicts over unionization begun in the late 19th C, raging until the New Deal legislation (for example, see Today in Labor History).
  • the often-violent conflicts from the oppression of Blacks in the South from the Civil War until the 1960s civil rights legislation.

The first of these great crises was different. It was the least violent, led by brilliant statesmen like John C. Calhoun (1782-1850; see Wikipedia). They patched and stitched solutions that held the union together. The next generation failed to continue their work, leading to war. Even that river of blood failed to achieve a real solution. That came only a century later with the great civil rights legislation of the 1960s, whose political reverberations still echo. Perhaps it would have been better if the Nullification Crisis of 1832 had run to a final conclusion, with President Jackson hanging Calhoun as a rebel.

Now we have another conflict, this time about the very nature of government in America. The Republic-that-once-was has been dying for decades, with the New America being erected on its corpse.  This might be the start of a slow but definitive battle between the past and one possible new future, fought in Congress and at the ballot box for years or decades.

(3) No matter how bad is today, tomorrow might be worse

Obama and flag

One of the milder posters about Obama

Let’s hope this conflict does not become violent.

One key to the large number of successful predictions (see the Predictions Page) on the FM website is a willingness to state the unspeakable but obvious possibilities. It is an effective way to make bitter enemies. Why stop now? Here is another harsh observation:

  • Gun sales are increasing (see here for a rough indicator of recent growth).
  • The people with guns are largely conservatives.
  • Many of them are right-wing extremists.
  • Many see a nation of “real Americans” and others.
  • For decades right-wing media increasingly have been saturated with claims that our freedoms are in danger from the coming wave of Sharia-immigrants-communism-anarchy (see these posts).
  • Many believe that citizens using guns are the ultimate defense of liberty from threats domestic as well as foreign.

The time might come when they use their guns. On us.  As a right-wing adaptation of the socialist maxim “Production For Use” (see Wikipedia). For a warning see the Homeland Security Assessment “Rightwing Extremism“, April 2009.

If so it wouldn’t be the first time such a thing happened. If it does, future generations will see our surprise as the only odd aspect of this chapter in history.

“If there is a gun hung on the wall in Act One, it should be used in Act Two.”
— The dramatic principle of Chekov’s Gun, by Anton Chekhov

(4)  Other posts in this series

  1. Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress
  2. Let’s learn from this inevitable crisis, which results from flaws in our system
  3. About the crisis: The GOP is right. So is Obama. That’s why it’s a crisis.
  4. A new political party for a New America: the Tea Party GOP

(5)  For More Information

(a)  About American politics:

  1. Posts about politics in America
  2. Posts about the Democratic Party
  3. Posts about Obama, his administration and policies
  4. The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness

(b)  Posts about the Republican Party:

  1. Whose values do Dick and Liz Cheney share? Those of America? Or those of our enemies, in the past and today?, 14 March 2010
  2. The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
  3. Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan, 24 July 2010
  4. A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
  5. The key to modern American politics:  the Right-Wing Id Unzipped, 15 February 2012
  6. Why Republicans Need Remedial Math: Their Budget Plans Explode the Deficit, 16 March 2012
  7. Let’s list the GOP’s problems. They’re all easily solvable, 12 November 2012
  8. The Republican Party is like America, and can quickly recover it strength, 14 November 2012
  9. The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness, 19 February 2013
  10. A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party, 22 September 2013
  11. Recommended: The Atheist Conservative shows why secular conservatism continues to be an irrelevant and impotent force in American politics, 26 September 2013
  12. Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality, 30 September 2013

What do many conservatives see when they look at Obama?
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HitlerOBAMA

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Our deeds in Egypt show the darkness & folly of our foreign policy

Summary: Yet again America finds it necessary to overthrow another elected government, earning the hatred of its people and the scorn of others disgusted by our hypocrisy. As usual, the neocons in the chorus urge us to war. Our strategy is the anti-Boyd: add to and empower our enemies, discourage our friends and thin their ranks.

“We are what we repeatedly do.”
— Summary of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics by Will Durant in his Story of Philosophy (1926)

Islamic Sky

Contents

  1. Obama explains what America has become
  2. al Qaeda says “I told you so”
  3. Crusaders ‘R Us
  4. Hidden history, important and ignored
  5. For More Information
  6. Obama BFs our allies, Egypt’s generals
  7. Another Perspective on these events

(1) President Obama explains what America has become

Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt, 15 August 2013 — Meaningless drivil mixed with falsehoods, concluding with a trivial slap on the wrist to the military junta after their coup (“coup” being a truth the President cannot utter).

We appreciate the complexity of the situation. While Mohamed Morsi was elected President in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians. We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians were calling for a change in course. And while we do not believe that force is the way to resolve political differences, after the military’s intervention several weeks ago, there remained a chance for reconciliation and an opportunity to pursue a democratic path.

Instead, we’ve seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr. Morsi’s associations and supporters, and now tragically the violence that’s taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more.

The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom, or that might makes right.

And today the United States extends its condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who were wounded.

And given the depths of our partnership with Egypt, our national security interests in this pivotal part of the world and our belief that engagement can support a transition back to a democratically elected civilian government, we’ve sustained our commitment to Egypt and its people. But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back. As a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month.

(2) A look at the larger picture: al Qaeda says “I told you so”

Al Qaeda leader’s ‘I told you so’ on Egypt“, Peter Bergen (CNN National Security Analyst), op-ed at CNN, 15 August 2013 — Opening:

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian-born leader of al Qaeda, has seen this movie before: An Islamist party does well at the polling booth only to be overthrown by a military coup that then plunges the country into chaos. This is what happened in Algeria in 1991. Tens of thousands died in the subsequent Algerian civil war that ripped the nation apart during the 1990s.

The lesson that Zawahiri drew from the Algerian war was that participating in democratic elections was strictly for suckers; far better to seize power through violence and then impose Taliban-style sharia law because “the crusaders” and their allies in the Arab world would never allow the emergence of a true Islamist state.

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