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Obama’s Astonishing Chutzpah

If you aren’t cynical enough about politics, this will make it worse. President Obama, who has maintained and even expanded the federal government’s illegal surveillance program and steadfastly refused to hold anyone accountable for torture, actually issued an executive order allowing the U.S. to sanction “foreign nationals” who do the same thing he is guilty of doing:

President Obama issued an executive order Monday that will allow U.S. officials for the first time to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, from cellphone tracking to Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses.

Social media and cellphone technology have been widely credited with helping democracy advocates organize against autocratic governments and better expose rights violations, most notably over the past year and a half in the Middle East and North Africa.

But authoritarian governments, particularly in Syria and Iran, have shown that their security services can also harness technology to help crack down on dissent — by conducting surveillance, blocking access to the Internet or tracking the movements of opposition figures.

Obama’s executive order, which he announced during a Monday speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, is an acknowledgment of those dangers and of the need to adapt American national security policy to a world being remade rapidly by technology, according to senior administration officials familiar with the plans. Although the order is designed to target companies and individuals assisting the governments of Iran and Syria, they said, future executive orders could name others aiding other countries through technology in crackdowns on dissent.

Seriously? When an innocent man who was tortured because of America’s extraordinary rendition program tried to sue a Boeing subsidiary for providing the airplane to take him to be tortured, Obama, like his predecessor, invoked the State Secrets Privilege to prevent any chance of holding either the company or the government accountable for that torture (and we’re talking serious torture — this man had his genitals sliced with razor blades).

Obama is really going to sanction another country for monitoring social media and using it to crack down on dissent? With his treatment of Julian Assange? And his expansion of the NSA’s wholesale data mining program? And his prosecution of every whistleblower since he took office? When other countries do it, that’s terrible and we have a moral obligation to stop them. When our government does it, how dare you think you could actually challenge them in court and enforce the constitution, you insolent plebe.

This is why I don’t know if I can vote for the man. Yes, I know that the Republicans would be even worse. I do know that. You’re right. But I’m not sure I care. It’s not like my vote is the one that’s going to swing the election anyway. Am I really supposed to vote for someone who so flagrantly violates the most basic principles, then lies about it and tells me I should just trust him? When the best argument you can muster for someone is “yeah I know, but it could be worse,” that doesn’t exactly inspire my support.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    And, of course, the lame stream media will not call him out on it. This may best be described as do as I say, not as I do.

  2. NoVaRunner says

    Yes, I know that the Republicans would be even worse. I do know that.

    Ed, I’m not even sure that’s true anymore. Obama has been so bad in this area that I think he’s indistinguishable from the Republicans. He’s certainly worse than Bush was, and that’s pretty damn bad.

    I think there might actually be an advantage to having a Republican President: Democrats will at least hold his feet to the fire on this kind of thing. I think sometimes that one reason Obama has been able to expand the surveillance state as he has is because nobody on his side of the aisle is raising a fuss, and we know the Republicans will just go along.

  3. Gregory in Seattle says

    The word is blackwhite:

    … this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.

  4. Brony says

    I’m certainly not voting for Obama. I will vote for someone for president but at this rate it might be someone like Colbert. As far as I am concerned the system is so sick my social emphasis is better spent on constructively fixing it than worrying about how much faster the Republicans will screw us than the democrats.

    To me the whole “vote for Democrats to keep Republicans out of office” is starting to look more like the global warming problem. No one wants to do what we REALLY need to be doing and would rather waste breath on lesser evils. As far as I am concerned any politician that does not actively and publicly oppose the torture, liberty offenses, drug war BS, etc… will not be getting my vote regardless of party.

  5. Brony says

    As far as the media and the candidates are concerned, I wonder what correlations we might find if we line up issues that are covered in specifics and issues that are covered in generalities?

    *Are both candidates and media being general? Someone is paranoid about access and viewers/readers. Fuck that.

    *Are both candidates and media being specific? It’s either a meaningless distraction (dogs on cars/dog meat), or a party approved attack message.

    I HATE all this bullshit!

  6. brucecoppola says

    As I see it, if enough of my fellow citizens are stupid enough to vote for the Rethugs that a handful of third party votes would tip the election to them, the country’s already fucked.

    If they’re on the Michigan ballot, I’m voting Green.

    I’m tired of choosing between Corporate Authoritarian and Corporate Authoritarian Lite.

  7. says

    @NoVaRunner:

    Yea, but handing the country over to the Republicans at this point in time would be sacrificing women, gays and lesbians, and transgenders to this psychotically hyper Christian theocracy that the Republicans are trying to implant in our society.

    That’s why people need to vote for Obama. He may be bad with civil liberties, but he’s not going to appoint someone to the Supreme Court who’ll wipe out womens’ rights.

  8. D. C. Sessions says

    Not like this is surprising — it’s basically like nuclear nonproliferation: monopoly maintenance. Just a lot more stupid, because it’s vastly easier to acquire and deploy software than chemistry.

  9. says

    “President Obama issued an executive order Monday that will allow U.S. officials for the first time to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, from cellphone tracking to Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses.”

    I’m guessing if asked he’d hide behind the last part “to help carry out grave human rights abuses”. Well its ok when we do it cause its not a human rights violation kind of crap.

  10. Trebuchet says

    I’m certainly not voting for Obama. I will vote for someone for president but at this rate it might be someone like Colbert. As far as I am concerned the system is so sick my social emphasis is better spent on constructively fixing it than worrying about how much faster the Republicans will screw us than the democrats.

    Read Ed’s next post, about who Romney will have selecting his SCOTUS appointments. A vote for Colbert is a vote for Romney.

    If they’re on the Michigan ballot, I’m voting Green.

    Because that worked SO well in Florida in 2000.

  11. says

    NoVaRunner writes:

    I think there might actually be an advantage to having a Republican President: Democrats will at least hold his feet to the fire on this kind of thing. I think sometimes that one reason Obama has been able to expand the surveillance state as he has is because nobody on his side of the aisle is raising a fuss, and we know the Republicans will just go along.

    There is no evidence for this and much evidence against it. What did the Democrats in Congress, with control of both branches, do to hold Bush’s feet to the fire on these issues? Absolutely nothing. This is a matter of bipartisan consensus. The Democrats are as complicit in it as Republicans are.

  12. johnfromberkeley says

    Ed blogged:

    This is why I don’t know if I can vote for the man.”

    This is why I won’t be voting for Barack Obama this fall. Then again, I’m from Berkeley:

    There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part.

  13. martingrant says

    If Santorum had won the republican nomination and was polling close to Obama, I would have voted Obama. With Romney winning the nominamtion, I find myself caring less who actually wins, However I find statements like yours below very exasperating.

    This is why I don’t know if I can vote for the man. Yes, I know that the Republicans would be even worse. I do know that. You’re right. But I’m not sure I care. It’s not like my vote is the one that’s going to swing the election anyway

    I plan to vote for Gary Johnson if he appears on my ballot and write him if he doesn’t. And I don’t care that he has no chance of winning. Hopefully he’ll get 3% this year, and maybe 5% next time he runs, etc.

    To complain about two crappy candidates and then vote for one or the other or even abstain, is to propagate the problem.

  14. iknklast says

    I did not vote for Obama the first time around, because it was clear enough that he was not progressive; I did think he’d be better than Bush, but living in one of the safer of red states, I felt totally safe casting a protest vote against both candidates. Unfortunately, I turned out to be right that he wouldn’t be a good president, and wrong that he would be better than Bush. On few issues is he better than the Republicans, and may be worse on some.

    There is only one issue where I can see a substantial difference – women’s rights. As a woman, I see that as important, and I know some men do, as well. I’m not sure he or the other Dems will continue to hold the line on that issue against the onslaught of Republican lunacy, but I do think the groundswell of public opinion is helping them.

    I have three issues I usually consider crucial in voting: environment, religious liberty, and women’s issues. A candidate who is progoressive on all 3 of those will almost certainly have much sounder economic policies, as well, since economic policy runs like a thread through two of them (and somewhat through religion, as well). Obama gets it totally wrong on two of those issues, and also seriously wrong on human rights in general, which is also a crucial issue I look at in voting. Am I justified in voting for someone who is right on one issue, and wrong on all the rest? I don’t think so.

    I will once again vote for “none of the above” or whatever mildly plausible alternative is offered up (but only if they have good ideas; I don’t want my protest vote giving someone the idea that I wanted someone even crazier). My vote, however, will go to Mitt Romney, because of the electoral college system, just as my vote went to McCain in 2008, no matter who I voted for.

    The system is broken. It needs to be fixed. And we need a candidate we can vote for without, to use Santorum’s image, throwing up.

  15. laurentweppe says

    If one agree with the hypothesis that democrat elected officials in general and Obama in particular endorsed the surveillance state out of political calculus (that is: they believe that not endorsing the surveillance state will increase the size of the republican voting block), then the most logical thing to do would be to vote for Obama while at the same time trying to help start and/or bolster the careers of pro-rule of law politicians: you’d lower the pressure felt from the right by lowering the GOP score while increasing the pressure felt from the pro-rule of law faction by increasing their numbers among the rising elites.

  16. Brony says

    @Trebuchet

    Than the solution is to organize a rapid campaign for a write in candidate. Too hard? I don’t care since I literally believe that Obama is as bad in a different way.

    People wanting to prevent the election of Romney have an obligation to offer an acceptable candidate. To insist that we should vote for someone we don’t like in order to prevent someone else from getting into office is to treat me like a tool and that is damn rude.

    If Romney wins the problem is not that I did not try to keep him out of office, the problem is the shitty politicians, distracted voters, and political environment that are complicit in allowing Obama and Romney to be what they are.

    I choose not to play that game. Enjoy your fecal roller coaster. I’ll be trying to warn the pedestrians about the falling mess.

  17. says

    I will only vote for Obama for his potential SCOTUS nominations. They will not be great, but I fear who Romney would choose.

  18. Trebuchet says

    @Brony: Sorry, the ONLY actual alternative to Romney is Obama. Not a 3rd party, not the Greens, not a write-in, not anyone. If you live in a solidly blue state, or a solidly red one for that matter, go ahead and register your protest vote. Otherwise you’re just part of the problem. People voting for Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000 made G. W. Bush president for eight years.

  19. Jordan Genso says

    I would like to hope that the commenters here, while rightly upset with President Obama, will at least vote for Democratic candidates down-ticket.

    Because one of the most important things going on right now in my opinion is how the Republicans are trying to undermine the very idea of democracy. With the numerous voter suppression tactics being used throughout the country, the emergency manager law here in Michigan (along with the disregard of the Michigan Constitution when it comes to laws taking “immediate effect” and the Republicans ignoring the Democrats’ request for roll-call votes), they’re also pushing to change the rules of democracy in the governing bodies.

    There’s a group in Michigan that wants to make it so that bills that would increase taxes require 2/3rds majority to pass. Bills that decrease taxes or cut spending will still just need a simple majority. The lunacy of such an idea should be evident, since it would mean they’d only need a majority to pass things they want, whereas the other side would need a supermajority to pass something that the Regressives don’t want.

    It’s clear even the Tea Party Republicans realize they don’t have policies that can win on a level playing field. So while they have power, they’re going to make sure that playing field tilts.

  20. Jordan Genso says

    The point of my post is that the longer the Republicans have power, the more difficult it may be for the “correct” candidate to get elected. You may not like President Obama right now, but if the ideal candidate comes along in 2016, it will be much more difficult for that person to get elected if the Republicans win this November.

  21. slc1 says

    Re Jordan Genso @ #23

    As we sit here today, the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2016 appear to be Cuomo, O’Malley, Warner, and possibly Clinton. I don’t know if they would be any better then Obama.

  22. D. C. Sessions says

    slc1@24: Who would you have named as the likely Democratic candidates in April of 2004?

  23. Brony says

    @Trebuchet

    Sorry, the ONLY actual alternative to Romney is Obama. Not a 3rd party, not the Greens, not a write-in, not anyone.

    If true, we deserve the chaos that is coming. The proper response to,

    *Making the “national secrets” box the “embarrassing secrets” box(and associated whistle blower abuse, judicial BS)
    *Extra judicial killing of Americans
    *Meaningless torture and preventing victim justice
    *Lack of concern for Drone attack precision
    *Coverups for contractor corruption
    *Many, many more things

    …is a voter revolt and complete replacement of the current crowd in the federal and probably state governments. This did not happen overnight. The fact that we accept things as a nation now that would have horrified us in other election cycles is a trend I want to see stopped now. As far as I’m concerned when someone votes for a politician that engages in any of my “do not cross” lines, you are morally responsible for the future acts in those categories. You are voting for more of the things in that list and enabling it. Without standards the quality just keeps going down.

    Otherwise you’re just part of the problem.

    I love how you think that refusing to vote for a war criminal and police state enabler is a “problem”. Social change is hard, it has to start somewhere. If Romney wins I get rhetoric for rubbing the faces of torture enablers in their mess after the election. Actually I get that rhetoric anyway.

    “People voting for Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000 made G. W. Bush president for eight years.

    No those were people who voted for Ralph Nader. They were responsible for trying to get Nader into office. The people who voted for Bush made him president for another four years. Don’t blame your failure to convince people not to vote for Bush on others.

  24. slc1 says

    D. C. Sessions @ #25

    I would have and did name Kerry who was a big disappointment. He appeared on paper to be the strongest candidate against Bush, based on his experience and military background, having gone to Vietman unlike draft dodger Bush. Unfortunately, his response to the swift boaters was so inept that he blew a winnable election.

  25. D. C. Sessions says

    slc1: Let me rephrase: in April of 2004, who would you have named as the likely Democratic nominees for President in 2008?

  26. Jordan Genso says

    Can someone explain to me how we find a solution then to these problems? Is there a path through the voting box (such as trying to convince more and more people to vote third party), or would it require some other way to force reform? Or does refusing to vote for President Obama somehow fix the problems in some other way? I just don’t quite understand what the gameplan is.

    Because from my perspective, the solution is to get involved and become a part of the system, in order to change it for the better from the inside. I’ve already faced a couple decisions from my short time in politics in which I’ve done what others may not have. Some were simple (when involved in redistricting, I put all of my support behind a map that was drawn based on the objective guidelines, regardless of the political outcome of the map), and some were considered “poor strategy” even though I felt they were the “correct” thing to do (like doing voter registration in areas where I’d probably be registering more people who would vote against the candidates I support rather than for them, but doing it because I truly support the ideal of all people voting, even if I disagree with the majority).

    Someday, I will run for office (I wanted to this year, but can’t since I’m moving this summer and my residency will change). I’m in an area where it’s unlikely I’ll win, but that simply gives me the opportunity to run the type of campaign I would want to see others run. I won’t have to do the things that win me the most votes, instead doing the things that all candidates should be doing, and staying intellectually honest.

    And so that’s what I encourage everyone who is disgruntled with the system to do- to run for office. If you’re at the point where you’re not willing to vote for the “lesser of two evils”, then be one of the choices and vote for yourself. Or get involved in the campaign of one of your local candidates, and help persuade him/her to do the right thing when faced with difficult choices. Prevent the “lesser of two evils” from being on the ballot by personally convincing that candidate not to do any evil.

    I think that would have more impact than protest voting.

  27. Jordan Genso says

    @24 slc1

    What if Russ Feingold threw his hat into the ring? He may not currently be in consideration, but I would consider him a “possibility”, and a candidate that I don’t think the community here would describe as the “lesser of two evils”, but instead actually quite “good”.

    And if he were to run and get the Democratic nomination, wouldn’t that suck if all of the voter suppression policies being pushed by the Tea Party Republicans succeeded in keeping people from voting for him? Or if they changed the rules so drastically that even if he did when, he’d be as successfully obstructed as President Obama, regardless of how few Republicans were in Congress?

  28. Trebuchet says

    Brony:

    No those were people who voted for Ralph Nader. They were responsible for trying to get Nader into office. The people who voted for Bush made him president for another four years. Don’t blame your failure to convince people not to vote for Bush on others.

    Nobody on Planet Earth seriously believed they could get Nader into office. Voting for Nader (or Buchanan, for that matter) was a “None of the Above” protest vote. Strictly symbolic. The result was the mess we’re in now. Obama would not be sending drones after US citizens if less than 1000 Nader voters had voted for Gore. There’d be no need.

    You may not like it (and I don’t myself) but it’s a two party system. There’s no option at the top. Want to change it? Get involved at the grass roots of the party closest to your views. (Which is what the Teapartiers have done.) Work for progressive candidates. Make that VIABLE progressive candidates. Or you can have another eight years of Bush light. Your call.

  29. slc1 says

    Re DC Sessions @ #28

    A good question. I probably would have said that Clinton was a probable candidate. Obviously, Obama wasn’t even on the radar screen as he was still in the Illinois Legislature.

    Re Jordan Genso @ #39

    Certainly, Feingold might throw his hat into the ring. However, unlike the Rethuglicans, Democrats who lose a Senate or Governor’s race usually disappear into the woodwork. I would have to consider him very much a dark horse, based on name recognition and probable money raising issues. Of course, as Mr. Sessions points out, there might be someone like Obama suddenly arise from obscurity. However, I think that most pundits, for what that’s worth, would consider the three + 1 I named as the leading potential candidates as we sit here today. Of course, Cuomo and Warner have to get reelected in 2014; presumably, O’Malley will retire after 2 terms in 2014 and spend his time raising cash.

  30. Brony says

    @ Trebuchet
    Interesting how you completely pass up what I said about the fact that you are going to vote for a torture and police state enabler. What’s the matter? Can’t bear to see the words on the screen?

    I’m honestly curious from a general human standpoint, what is your line in the sand Trebuchet? What would a Democratic presidential candidate have to do to make you say “no more!”? Because at least by not voting for a presidential candidate, and being loud and open about it I make the party paranoia about the independents that much more intense. I make you unhappy and if I do it right you pass the word along. There are more ways to fix the system than working on the inside and right now I don’t feel like sticking my hand into the ass of some rotting roadkill.

    I’m serious about the trend I see building and tribalism is at the heart of it. The tribal leaders know you are going to hold your nose and do it anyway, they like you as a tool and you just tried to do the same to me. What prevents the next democratic candidate from using the tools that Obama left from being even worse? What makes the next guy the “right guy”? At least Jordan Genso has something I can work with (I don’t see the problem as being as bad at the local level, but would insist on getting an answer from local candidates about Obama’s Justice Department actions).

    Nobody on Planet Earth seriously believed they could get Nader into office. Voting for Nader (or Buchanan, for that matter) was a “None of the Above” protest vote. Strictly symbolic. The result was the mess we’re in now. Obama would not be sending drones after US citizens if less than 1000 Nader voters had voted for Gore. There’d be no need.

    Now you’re just getting boring. I’m not going to play alternative history with you because Obama is perfect evidence that Democrats can’t pick decent candidates either. Maybe President Gore would have drones with chemical weapons? I can do the ridiculous history thing too. It still changes nothing about the fact that there were people who wanted someone other than Bush or Gore and they also hated the whole “party strategy” BS. Whine all you want, my problem is that the party system, and especially the two party system seems incompatible with human psychology in modern government. Hell Reagan appointed one of the biggest liberals to the SC ever, maybe Romney would not be worse than Obama.

    You may not like it (and I don’t myself) but it’s a two party system. There’s no option at the top. Want to change it? Get involved at the grass roots of the party closest to your views. (Which is what the Teapartiers have done.) Work for progressive candidates. Make that VIABLE progressive candidates. Or you can have another eight years of Bush light. Your call.

    No. I want the party system to crumble and I will keep pointing out just how immoral and shitty both candidates are every chance I get during the entire process. Because those are valid points and I hate the taste of bullshit. We just might get some Bush light because your candidate is unacceptable. Period. He’s a de facto murderer by the laws of the land, and more. I won’t touch him.

  31. says

    I think until we have a viable third party option, we have to continue to vote for the least of two evils. While Obama is bad on this and other issues, he is still far better in so many other areas I think for now were better off with him in power as opposed to our other viable options (at this point Mitt Romney…) If your the only one so displeased with Obama that you vote for another candidate that has no chance of winning, or don’t vote, sure it makes no difference. But if enough other people fallow suit we’ll end up with Romney as president. Until we can get a better party to the point that its candidates have a chance of winning, I dont see much other option then going with the least bad of the options available.

  32. Trebuchet says

    @Travisdykes: Exactly.

    @Brony: Go ahead and register your protest vote. Just remember it’s far more likely to have an adverse effect than not.

  33. ddills says

    Obama, Bush, Gore, Clinton, Cheney,John Kerry, McCain, and others are all related to each other by Blood, (John Lackland Bloodline) and will continue to be, so it really doesn’t matter which candidate comes into office. Obama had the “Audacity” to sign the NDAA bill, along with most of our elected congress, as only 13 Senators (true patriots)- did not.

    George Carlin said it so well:
    We have owners, they own you, forget the politicians, they are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice-you don’t. The owners own everything-they own all the important land, they own and control the corporations, they have long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information we get to hear. They got us by the balls and spend billions of dollars every yr lobbying to get what they want. We know what they want. We know what they want. They don’t want well educated people capable of critical thinking. It’s a Big Club and you and I aren’t in it. The game is rigged, Good hones hard working people, continue to elect these rich cxxksxxkers who don’t care about you-at all. That’s what the owners count on-the fact that Americans will probably remain ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes every day. Because the owners of this country know the truth-It’s called the American Dream-because you have to be asleep-to believe it”.

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