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Archive for the ‘Obama Administration’ Category

Boooooring. Old news. He’s probably a liberal.

Posted by Charles II on October 30, 2011

Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian:

The former chief prosecutor for the US government at Guantánamo Bay has accused the administration he served of operating a “law-free zone” there, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the order to establish the detention camp on Cuba.

Retired air force colonel Morris Davis resigned in October 2007 in protest against interrogation methods at Guantánamo….

Davis said that the methods of interrogation used on Guantánamo detainees – which he described as “torture” – were in breach of the US’s own statutes on torture, and added: “If torture is a crime, it should be prosecuted.”

Davis, an expert on the law of war, and former judge advocate for the US Air Force, said that prisoners at Guantánamo have “fallen between” the conventions and rules governing prisoners of war. He questioned the notion of a “war on terror”, saying: “Prisoners of war are supposed to have been captured on the battlefield. Abducting people off the streets of Indonesia and other places far from Afghanistan is pushing the envelope on what is a battlefield. The whole world is in essence the battlefield.”

Professor Thomas Keenan, the head of the Bard College human rights programme, which staged the conference, said: “The president campaigned on a pledge to close down the jail at Guantánamo Bay, and to end the use of military commissions to try its inmates. How is it possible that, two years after he was elected, there are still more than 150 prisoners there, and this November, one of them will go on trial before one of those very commissions?”

I don’t think this is boring, old news, or that Col. Davis is a left-wing ideologue. I think it’s an indictment of both the Bush and the Obama Administrations that should be forwarded to the International Criminal Court.

Posted in civil rights, Guantanamo, Obama Administration, terrorism | 2 Comments »

I didn’t want to say anything, but… (the Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador)

Posted by Charles II on October 13, 2011

Juan Cole is apparently not completely convinced that the alleged plot by Iranian Manssor Arbabsiar to hire a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador was for real:

I am frankly shocked that Eric Holder should have brought us this steaming crock, which is now being used to make policy at the highest levels. That a Mexican former drug runner being paid by the US taxpayers might have thought he could advance his career by playing mind games with a somewhat crazy Iranian expatriate is no surprise. That you could put fantastic schemes in Arbabsiar’s mind if you worked at it seems obvious. That anyone in the DOJ or the US foreign policy establishment would take all this seriously is not plausible. I conclude that they are being dishonest, and that this is Obama’s turn to wag the dog as he faces defeat at Romney’s well-manicured hands next year this time.

I was skeptical about this, as I am of any news that portrays Iran as a threat. Iran, because of its geographical position in between the Russian, Ottoman, and Babylonian empires (not to mention miscellaneous Romans, Macedonians, British etc.), tend to be cautious. To a fault. Yes, they did seize the American embassy 30 years ago. Yes, some of their politicians are nutty (though they’d blend in well at a GOP debate). But it’s very uncharacteristic of the Iranians to do anything likely to provoke a serious response, especially over relatively small stakes like an ambassador, especially when there’s such a high probability of being caught.

Now that Juan Cole has said it, I think the question ought to be on everyone’s lips: is this yet another example of our Justice Department entrapping marginal people into crimes they would never have contemplated without substantial coaxing?

Posted in Department of Injustice, Iran, Obama Administration, terrorism | 4 Comments »

Everything’s hunkydory in Oligarch Land

Posted by Charles II on October 6, 2011

He actually said this:

President Obama hosted Honduran President Porfirio Lobo at the White House on Wednesday, the first time a Honduran head of state has visited Washington since the June 2009 coup ousting then-President Manuel Zelaya. Obama said the visit marks a new phase for Honduran-U.S. ties.

President Obama: “Today also begins a new chapter in the relationship between our two countries. Two years ago we saw a coup in Honduras that threatened to move the country away from democracy and, in part because of pressure from the international community, but also because of the strong commitment to democracy and leadership by President Lobo, what we have been seeing is a restoration of democratic practices and a commitment to reconciliation that gives us great hope.”

Well, yes, I guess if by “strong commitment to democracy,” you mean “putting thugs and narcotraffickers in charge of a country,” sure.

Meanwhile, I understand that Hillary Clinton put a lobbyist for the carbon lobby in charge of fielding public comment on the Keystone XL pipeline. He just happened to be her deputy campaign manager. Hillary Clinton’s former deputy campaign manager is now a lobbyist for Transcanada, so approvals have in considerable measure involved personal relationships rather than concern for the public good. There is a Naomi Klein interview which is pretty good.

Maybe we should have elected Mike Gravel.

Posted in Barack Obama, Honduras, Obama Administration | 5 Comments »

By invitation: a debate on Obama’s handling of the economy in light of political realities

Posted by Charles II on September 24, 2011

I made the following comment (slightly edited for clarity) in a previous thread that I think deserves to be raised for debate.

While I tend to agree that Obama and the Democrats could not have been expected to find the perfect response to the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and have therefore been “muddling through,” there’s a point at which the Democrats lose their “brand.”

“Brand” is particularly important for a party that represents the poor and middle class. The wealthy always have ways to use advertising to create niche products, something like one sees on the cereal aisle, with dozens and dozens of brands made out of two or three main ingredients. Hence there are Christian rightists, libertarians, Tea Party Republicans, country clubbers, etc.– a mix of conflicting ideologies that are glued together by money and a delusion that things were better in a mythical past.

A “people’s party” doesn’t have the luxury of spinning out different brands. It has to rely on extremely simple messaging. Democrats used to understand this. They were the party defending wage pricing power (unions and minimum wage), benefits (Social Security, Medicare), and the unemployed/unemployable (unemployment, Food Stamps, etc.) As long as people know that Democrats will defend the less-wealthy, they are less susceptible to the divisive tactics at which Republicans excel.

From Nixon through Dukakis, Republicans did manage to besmirch the Democratic brand. In response, Democrats created two niche brand– “Blue Dog” and “DLC” Democrats. These are not just marginal brands, useful in only about 20 districts. They are brands that confuse the electorate about what it means to be a Democrat. Republicans often argue that Democrats are the real party of wealth–and they have examples to point to. In 2010, among the top 10 were Kerry, Harman, Rockefeller, Warner, Polis, Lautenberg, and Feinstein. FDR, a wealthy man, was smart enough to understand that he had to make a special effort to demonstrate his bona fides.

I do not believe that the Democrats were somehow prevented from enacting a larger stimulus package in 2009, or even that they didn’t know that they should have. If GDP has fallen by 6% of GDP (roughly $840B), the stimulus package has to be at least that large (realistically, it should be double that). And it has to be real stimulus. Tax cuts, especially at the upper end tend to be saved. The stimulus bill was $787B. $70B was the AMT fix, which is routinely approved, and therefore doesn’t count at all. Some of the other $200B in tax cuts went to people who could be reliably predicted to save/invest it, and therefore doesn’t count as stimulus spending. There are some other provisions which are not particularly stimulative, like Homeland Security spending, but at the very least we know that the stimulus bill was $120B short of a minimal response. The GDP revisions raise that number to $400B.

What’s important to note is that $400B is not actually that much money. If it had been applied sensibly to the mortgage crisis, as I was advocating, there would have been no “Great Recession.” We would have rebounded as sharply as in past recessions.

The Senate can change its rules by majority vote any time it wants to. Given the magnitude of the crisis, given the well-known history of Republican obstructionism, the failure to do so in 2008 ranks as one of the greatest political blunders of modern times.

With 51 votes needed, we could have passed a new New Deal. Obama has to bear responsibility for failing to see this clearly.

Based on this, I assert that the fundamental problem is one of power, not policy per se, and that to address that fundamental issue, the following are asserted:

* There was a critical failure to stand up to the Republicans. Obama and the Democrats have to take responsibility for a serious failure of leadership. Only by accepting responsibility and defining the nature of the failure can they regain credibility.
* The Democrats must return to their roots as the party that supports wages, benefits, and the poor. They must fight for voter rights.
* Democrats have to actively undermine the media by refusing to advertise on any media that are hostile to Democrats.
* Democrats are more than even odds likely to lose the next election, putting Republicans in power in all branches of government. If they lose the election, it is critical that they lose it very loudly as the party that represents the poor and middle class.
* A right-wing regime must be denied even the faintest aura of legitimacy. Having wrecked our economy, denied millions of Americans the vote, and used the judiciary to seize political, they deserve none.
* If Democrats retain control, they must end the abuses of the wealthy by reforming campaign finance, health insurance, taxation, and the minimum wage. The right to unionize, the right to vote, Social Security, the minimum wage, disability insurance, and healthcare have to be made basic human rights.

Please argue your case using specific facts (such as the size of stimulus necessary) that can be accepted or refuted

Posted in economy, Obama Administration, President Obama, Republicans acting badly, rights | 10 Comments »

The blogosphere hyperventilates, Ron Suskind edition

Posted by Charles II on September 23, 2011

There has been a lot of discussion of Ron Suskind’s book, The Confidence Men. Suskind did an interview on DemocracyNow that everyone who thinks s/he knows what the book said should read/listen to.

1. The title does not imply that the Obama Administration are flimflam artists, though that is how the right will spin it. It refers to what all presidents do: project confidence so that countries will not get paralyzed with fear. FDR’s line “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is a perfect illustration of this.

2. Contrary to what Digby thinks, Obama was not hostile to women. Quoting Suskind:

“The President met with the women in November in the residence. They aired their grievances. The President was sympathetic and attentive. And many of the women, though not much action emerged from that meeting, felt that the President’s empathy was sufficient to ease the situation. The women’s group then met later amongst themselves for support.”

I would not be surprised if Obama quietly talked to some of the men who were out of line, and that’s why the situation eased. I also have to say that, in my experience, many professional women have unrealistic expectations about the workplace. Men get plenty bruised from their peers and their bosses, whether those are male or female. While I would like to see workplaces resemble the ideal, I know that if professional women understood what sorts of things men silently put up with, they might have a different take on what happens to them.

3. Nor did Obama set the needs of the banks ahead of the needs of the people. Suskind says that Obama ordered Geithner to prepare to close Citigroup. Geithner sabotaged that. Surprisingly, Summers supported Romer in urging serious action. But in any case, Obama clearly was in favor of making one or more of the investment banks pay the ultimate price for wrecking the economy. This is not the action of a man who is in their pocket.

Ultimately Obama is responsible for what did/did not happen. But I think one has to judge things in proportion. As a first term president, he was guaranteed to make mistakes. His error really was that he was talked out of doing a big stimulus package right away. As the saying goes, one should never let a perfectly good crisis go to waste–especially when one is doing what is needed to resolve the crisis.

Posted in Obama Administration | 3 Comments »

The Solyndra “scandal”

Posted by Charles II on September 14, 2011

Dave Johnson of CfAP has the skinny:

Solyndra was a startup solar-power equipment manufacturer based in Fremont, California that went bankrupt at the end of August. The company’s solar collectors used a special tubular internal design that let it collect light from all directions, and were made with a copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) thin film that avoided using then-expensive silicon. It was one of several companies that received assistance from the government, in an attempt to push back on China’s strategic targeting of green-energy manufacturing.

The company, partly backed by the conservative Walton family had received a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. The loan, which was originally pushed by the Bush administration, was 1.3% of the DOE portfolio.

The economy tanked and cut demand, and at the same time Solyndra could not compete with subsidized companies located in China as they rapidly scaled up. So Solyndra ran out of money. Conservatives and oil interests are using the bankruptcy as a platform to attack green energy and the idea of green jobs in general, solar power in particular, President Obama as always, stimulus funding and the idea of developing a national strategic industrial policy to push back on China and others who have their own national policies to win this key industry of the future.

Conservative Attacks

Conservative are accusing the Obama administration of corruption in choosing Solyndra to receive a government loan guarantee.

Notice: it’s not the Waltons, who stood to profit from Solyndra, who conservatives claim are corrupt. It’s not Bush, whose administration originally funded Solyndra. It’s not the Chinese, who are subsidizing their industry. No, of course, it’s the guy whose almost a bystander to what happened, because he’s a Democrat.

It’s getting really hard to say “my fellow Americans” about people who simply do not care what is true and what is a lie as long as they get more power.

Posted in government, Obama Administration, solar | 2 Comments »

Spend our retirement to pay for our unemployment?

Posted by Charles II on September 8, 2011

Needless to say, I was completely unimpressed with the Obama speech. It is $80B in real stimulus, hundreds of billions in tax cuts that will bypass the poor and barely help the lower middle class, and lots of tax subsidies for business (aka actual socialism, as opposed to what the Tea Party imagines socialism to be). All funded by draining the Social Security Trust Fund and, it is generally predicted, cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

If Bush had proposed this, it would have been called mean-spirited, short on vision, and many dollars short and days late.

That’s my take.

Via Digby, this is what happens if you complain about the theft of Social Security and Medicare too loudly:

Added: Kash and Mark Thoma like the plan more than I do.
Added: Strangely, Brad DeLong apparently refused to approve the comment that I left at his blog, which was substantively the same as the one I left with Kash.

DeLong is, in my experience, an odd person. In the past, he crudely edited and suppressed posts of mine, which is why I make the attempt only when I think the issue is very important. Although this tendency afflicts the right to a degree that it discredits the movement, people of all political persuasions nowadays seem to want to enforce ideological conformity. I’m sorry to see it afflict him. Teachers in particular have to demonstrate a tolerance for differences of opinion, lest they discredit the profession.

Substantively, one danger in the Obama plan is that people will imagine that it will get the economy back on track. Realistically, it is too small to do that. It may prevent an outright recession, but at the cost of weakening Social Security. Roughly 2/3 of the payroll tax cut will not go toward consumption. It will go toward businesses or toward people who have a greater propensity to save than to spend. Preferences for veterans are nice for veterans, but have no net effect on the economy. The rest of the plan will be stimulative… but only if the Republicans do not extract concessions.

If they cut Medicare and Medicaid– as the President all but invited them to do– the net stimulus will be even smaller. At the very most, it amounts to 2% of GDP probably spread over two years vs. a predicted GDP somewhere in the 1-2% range. By contrast, in a real recovery, GDP growth would be something like 5%. The Obama plan is about $800B short.

This is what is too rude or stupid to appear on the pages of Professor DeLong’s website.

Posted in 'starving the beast', Obama Administration, wrong way to go about it | 1 Comment »

Maybe Russ Feingold would re-consider (Obama delays ozone standards)

Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2011

Go read Hunter.

This is one of those gratuitously obnoxious things that none of the public and all of the worst corporations are in favor of: failing to regulate ozone even as loosely as Bush wanted to.

Russ, please run for president [*].

* Or any non-corrupt Democrat with enough name recognition and favorables to be able to draw 30% of the delegates. At this point, that might be enough for the superdelegates to decide that Obama is not going to get a vanity run at the expense of the country.

Posted in Democrats as cancer, Obama Administration | Comments Off on Maybe Russ Feingold would re-consider (Obama delays ozone standards)

A great nomination…but will he serve?

Posted by Charles II on August 29, 2011

The choice of Alan Krueger as head of the Council of Economic Advisers is one of the Obama Administration’s best nominations. I’d put Dawn Johnsen and Elizabeth Warren a notch higher, but Krueger is definitely top tier. Along with the Canadian economist David Card, he helped debunk the myth that raising the minimum wage causes job loss. Certainly the departure of Austen Goolsbee is a a plus no matter who replaces him, and that includes Ron Paul. From correspondence with Goolsbee, I came to the conclusion that he’s a completely empty suit, someone with no principles whatsoever, and very willing to sacrifice the powerless on the altar of neoliberalism. Goolsbee is University of Chicago (though not their notorious economics department), which may explain this Atrios post.

Steve Benen, who Atrios is quoting, says that because Senate confirmation is required, Krueger might get to serve sometime around 2018. Unfortunately, that does seem to be the drift of things. The Senate Republicans give a–holes a bad name.

Posted in Obama Administration, ratf*cking, Republicans acting badly, Republicans as cancer | Comments Off on A great nomination…but will he serve?

Just when you think you can’t get any more cynical/updated, now with new cynicism

Posted by Charles II on July 14, 2011

There is a dime’s worth of difference between the parties. Just not much more than a dime. CTJ:

Both Sides of Debt Ceiling Talks Propose Increasing the Budget Deficit

President’s and GOP’s Positions Both Include Greater Tax Cuts than Spending Cuts

It’s hard to say what will happen with the necessary increase in the federal debt ceiling. Perhaps something like the proposal put forward by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to essentially raise the debt ceiling without any guarantee of cuts in spending or revenue increases will be adopted. Or perhaps the President will continue to try to get congressional Republicans to agree to a “grand bargain” that would supposedly reduce the budget deficit by $4 trillion over ten years.

But one thing is clear: Almost anything that the President and the Congress can possibly agree upon will not reduce projected budget deficits. Instead, it will increase them. The problem is that both sides want to extend all or most of the expiring Bush tax cuts. And neither side has proposed spending cuts or tax increases large enough to offset the tremendous cost of such an extension.

Here is what the two sides proposed in the negotiations over the possible “grand bargain”:
Congressional GOP position: Extend all of the Bush tax cuts, which are otherwise scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. Such an extension would cost $5.4 trillion over the upcoming decade. [1] To offset most, but not all of that cost, Republicans want to slash public services, to save about $4 trillion over 10 years. Net deficit increase: $1.4 trillion.

President Obama’s position: Extend 81 percent of the Bush tax cuts plus some other, smaller tax cuts he has promoted, at a cost of about $4.7 trillion over 10 years. He proposes to offset part of that cost by slashing public services, to save about $3.2 trillion over 10 years. Reports indicate that the President has discussed several measures to close tax loopholes. While it’s uncertain exactly what has been discussed, even if we assume that the President is pushing all of the tax loophole-closing proposals in his most recent budget blueprint, that would save only $0.7 trillion over a decade.[2] Net deficit increase: $0.8 trillion.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, Obama Administration, Republicans as cancer | 5 Comments »

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