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The Silver-Tongued Devil: President Barack Obama

…don’t you know he’s the devil 

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)

Hidin’ intentions of evil ….
All he’s good for is gettin’ in trouble
and shifting his share of the blame…
              —Kris Kristofferson, The Silver Tongued Devil and I

I’m starting to tune out President Obama’s voice the way I tuned out previous presidents—the two Bushies, to name the most recent. It’s a defense mechanism. Having gone through a period of rage at Obama for his actions as President, I can’t afford to expend anymore emotion on him. And yet, my outrage towards this president is greater than what I felt for the others, being aggravated by disappointment and near-disbelief. I’ve never been able to comprehend people who say one thing and do the opposite. The word for that kind of person is hypocrite, which is precisely what Barack Obama has turned out to be.

My friend Tommy never votes, about which he and I have fought bitterly. He espouses the anarchist’s point-of-view: “Don’t vote, it only encourages them.”  Larry, another friend of mine, said when Obama came on the scene, “I won’t vote for that guy—who the fuck is he?” Leftists have long cautioned us against being seduced by an apparently caring candidate who throws around jargon like transparency and extols the virtues of the working and middle classes. The theory behind this caution is that we’ll become enamored of the wrong person and believe all is well, no need to keep fighting the good (but exhausting) fight any longer. We can all go home and rest now, imagining we’re free to leave the running of the country to the paragon we just elected.

Well, guess what? Those theorists and anarchists were correct.

Artist: Barbara Jorgen Nance

Artist: Barbara Jorgen Nance

I wasn’t as gung-ho for Obama the candidate as some people were, but I admit that my heart leapt with hope listening to his rousing yet mellifluous speeches. He still talks a good line—which is why I call him The Silver-Tongued Devil—only now instead of leaping, my heart hardens and my head spins, and I wonder “How can he say that when he’s doing ——(fill in the blank)?” As I said, I have a hard time comprehending hypocrisy.

A few white people have accused voters of all races of backing Obama “just” for the color of his skin—and indeed, some voters did. But a vote for a black man as president isn’t a “just”—it’s a significant vote, and it was a significant reason to vote for Obama. I draw the line, however, with those who don’t care what he actually does in office, who think that breaking the White House ceiling is enough. Not only isn’t it enough, it’s downright dangerous: when I said the anarchists and leftists were correct, I meant that we were seduced by Obama’s silver tongue. Fortunately, many people see the disconnect between Obama’s words and his actions, and they’re making plenty of noise about it, from the Occupy movement to the Trayvon Martin travesty. (By the way, in saying he looked like Trayvon as a teenager Obama wasn’t saying, or doing, anything to alter the circumstances that led to Trayvon’s murder.)

By now you’re probably wondering, So what’s so bad about the guy? What exactly did he do? Ironically, I may have chosen the wrong time to let loose with this tirade, since the administration just announced a change in policy regarding the war on drugs that’s filled the country’s prisons to overflowing and created a whole new class of cons and ex-cons. Despite the possibility that he might do the right thing about this, I herewith present a list of five deeds—not words, but actions—initiated and carried out by the Obama administration. (And there are plenty more where these came from.)

1. DronesDrone

New American magazine  recently dubbed President Obama “The Kaiser of the Kill List.”  Obama has overseen 80,000 missions and the death of thousands by drone strike—and he has no idea how many assassinations he has approved. During his first three years in office Obama ordered five times the number of drone attacks that George W. Bush ordered during his entire two terms. (Shocking, isn’t it?)

2. Surveillance

Several months ago the world learned, via Edward Snowden of the NSA, that the Obama administration’s idea of fun is browsing through Americans’ phone bills. No need to worry, however: nobody’s listening to what we actually say on the phone, they’re only following who’s calling who so as to connect the terrorist dots. Not only is the NSA spying on U.S. citizens, they’re also snooping into the emails and calls of other governments, including those of our allies.

Edward Snowden3. Whistle Blowers.

#2 segues conveniently into #3, Obama’s attitude towards and treatment of those citizens, journalists, and others who inform the public what their government is up to, people known as whistleblowers. Julian Assange of WikiLeaks has been Ecuador’s houseguest for over a year, knowing that if he returns to the U.S. he’ll face punishment, possibly even torture. Edward Snowden was, ironically, granted asylum in Russia! for the same reason. These are the high-profile cases, but if you click on some of the links here you’ll find story after story about people who fear for their lives because they did their jobs, i.e., reported what this government is up to. The effect of these heavy investigations is to put a serious damper on journalists’ ability and willingness to keep reporting the truth.

The Obama administration has charged six government officials accused of providing classified information to the media with violations of the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law meant to prohibit “aiding the enemy.” These are more uses of the Espionage Act for that purpose than under all previous presidential administrations combined.

4. Transparencyobamastern

I never liked the word to begin with. The first time someone used it to describe intimate talk between friends I cringed: it confirmed my suspicion that transparency is just trendy rhetoric lacking any real substance. The idea of transparency in government was heavily promoted by Obama’s campaign. He and his minions swore in endless stump speeches that an Obama administration would be completely open and honest with the citizenry, that we would truly have a government of, by and for the people, something we’ve yet to behold in modern-day America. Obama began by posting all sorts of truths on his campaign website. The citizenry was elated.

Ah, but have you recently visited that website, Change.gov, first put up in 2008 (it seems a lifetime ago!)? Well, don’t bother trying—it was taken down some time around June. However, it can still be viewed at The Wayback archive for an interesting exercise in disappointment – you can see how much has not changed, or perhaps what has, only for the worse.

5.  Talk v. Action, or Hypocrisy

In 2005 then-Senator Obama gave a speech in which he expressed righteous outrage about spying by the NSA, especially warning letters sent to citizens to let them know they and their property were going to be searched, and they had no right to decline or even to call a lawyer. Apparently once upon a time Obama was against spying, but that was before he found himself in the seat of power. You know what they say: Power Corrupts.

More recently, in a speech about the NSA/Snowden affair, Obama claimed he would have been perfectly glad to see the country engaged in rational debate on these issues. If that’s true, then why didn’t he start such a debate before his back was up against the wall?

When I first chose to name these five elements of Obama’s mode of governance, I didn’t realize how much alike they are and how they overlap. Having done research on each, I conclude that all of it can be summarized by that one word: Hypocrisy. Not for the first time, we’ve got a big fat hypocrite sitting in the Oval Office, pushing buttons and having a field day playing with power. We’ve been through worse I suppose. Next time let us remember:  “The new boss is the same as the old boss” no matter how he’s packaged, and that includes the color of his wrapping.

Recommendations:

The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama by Tom Junod in Esquire

Website of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

 

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When Did You Lose Your Ethics, Mr. President?

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snowden-screen-615x345

Edward Snowden

When did you lose your ethics, John Kerry of Viet Vet protester fame? When did you lose yours, Senator (D) Schumer, Selma and Abe’s Brooklyn boychik?

Senator Charles Schumer

Senator Charles Schumer

You’re supposed to know better than your creepy predecessor, Al D’Amato. As for you, Mr. President, when did you switch from Total Transparency to Spy Versus Spy? Was it after your first triumphant election, or the second time, when we chose you as the lesser-of-two-evils?

 

These guys are all berating Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who told the UK Guardian about the Obama Administration’s chief form of entertainment–browsing through our phone bills to  unearth terrorist plots. They call Snowden a traitor to his country and want to get him back to the U.S. so they can put him on trial. So far he, like Julian Assange of Wikileak, has managed to evade extradition. At the moment he seems to be in transit, but just where he’s headed is still a mystery. Ecuador? Cuba? Venezuela? My money’s on Iceland, just because nobody’s mentioned it lately–but a few days ago they did.

Interesting Piece of Trivia: Edward Snowden is the 7th whistleblower to be chased and chastised by President Obama; the number for all previous presidents combined is 3. You Silver-Tongued Devil You! Transparency my ass!

I wonder what some of our liberal politicians from the past might say on the subject, were they around–guys like Ted Kennedy: would he jump into the fray swearing at the traitor, or would he remind us that Daniel Ellsberg, the famous whistleblower of the 70’s, has evolved into hero status? What about those politicians still on the planet, like Howard Dean or Bernie Sanders? Are there no “respectable” politicians out there willing to defend a man of principle?

Julian Assange appears to be offering considerable assistance to his fellow whistleblower-in-exile: one of his lawyers accompanied Snowden out of Hong Kong, and “Assange told reporters from inside the Ecuador embassy in London where he has been himself hiding from arrest for more than a year” that Snowden’s received refugee papers from Ecuador. I like this. I like it that  Assange is helping Snowden. I wonder who reached out first. That’s a story I can’t wait to read. It’s about outcasts sticking together–the way it ought to be.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

Demonizing Edward Snowden: Which Side Are You On? (New Yorker)

Susan Rice Bows Out

Susan_Rice

Happy surprise: I have something good to say about President Obama!

I like it that he stood loyally behind Susan Rice, his choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. After a vicious smear campaign by Republicans, Ms. Rice today bowed out gracefully. There’s always the possibility that President Obama asked her to do so, but I doubt it. As soon as the attacks against her began, he told her attackers, openly and publicly, that if they wanted to go after someone “They should go after me.” Those of us who recall the way Bill Clinton handled similar campaigns against women in his administration, most notably Jocelyn Elders and Lani Guinier, can’t help but note the difference.

What did Ms. Rice do to merit the attacks on her? Apparently she reported the violent events that occurred at Benghazi, Libya, which included the murder of an American ambassador and others, the way they’d been told to her. Days and weeks later, as the story unfolded, the truth turned out to be somewhat different than these reports, and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte seized on the discrepancies: they went wild and crazy, and portrayed Ms. Rice as a liar involved in a massive cover-up. As if nobody in government ever relied on CIA reports before! Hah!

 Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein defended Rice’s remarks. “They were unclassified talking points at a very early stage…to say that she is unqualified to be secretary of state, I think, is a mistake. And the way it keeps going, it’s almost as if the intent is to assassinate her character.”DiFi

The real truth is, I suspect, both simpler and sneakier. The Republican Senators are pushing John Kerry as their choice for Secretary of State–and since when did the GOP have such great love for John Kerry?  They don’t. What they love is his seat in the Senate. They look at him sitting in it and picture one of their own–specifically Scott Brown, who just lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren–taking his place. In politics there’s always a story behind the story behind the story, and rarely has it anything to do with what’s best for the country, the people, Susan Rice, President Obama, or, most significantly, the rest of the planet.

I think Susan Rice would do better in the position than John Kerry. I think this because she is a woman. I know, I know: I’ll be blasted for saying John_Kerrythis–but when it comes to the Secretary of State, a person whose success depends on cultivating positive relationships with people from all kinds of backgrounds, I do believe that a woman, particularly a brown woman, has an advantage over a white man—especially one, like Kerry, of the buttoned-down, straight-on-every-level variety. To further explain: my friend Jennifer, a pale-skinned blonde beauty, used to say she wished she were darker and “more ethnic looking” so she could move easily through the world, most of which is populated, in general, by darker shades of people. She used to point to olive-skinned brunettes and say they would be accepted on sight all over the world.

As things turned out, Jennifer went all over Central America developing and working in women’s health clinics. Still, she had a point. I’m not saying Susan Rice would outdo John Kerry simply by virtue of being female; how either one of them would do in the job is completely unknown. However, Rice does have that initial advantage. In my opinion. Okay, go ahead, blast me. I stand by my story.

Unfortunately, the Republicans have something else in mind, and they’ll do almost anything to get it. By taking herself out of the running, Ms. Rice has shown grace and grit. By defending her from start to finish, President Obama has shown great integrity. There’s just no substitute for that kind of loyalty. Bravo Mr. President!

(For a stronger indictment of the GOP in this matter, read Madeleine Albright’s article, listed below.)

Post Election Post

 

 

My blog post of yesterday was probably one of the most precise expressions of my state of mind that I’ve ever written down. Like a lot of people I spent election night monitoring results on my computer, streaming PBS and watching tweets roll by, the latter endlessly amusing. A lot of journalists were tweeting; one of them noted “Florida’s giving me a heart attack.” Before he or anyone could melt down over that gun of a state, however, it was all over but the shouting: Obama was called pretty early, before 9:00 here in California. Of course, the Mitt didn’t concede right away, so I didn’t hear Obama’s speech ‘til my middle-of-the-night bathroom summons.

They’d been telling us all along it was going to be sooooo close, which got me and a lot of other people nervous. For what seemed like hours that infernal map blushed as if deeply embarrassed. Since I tend to forget that only about six people live in each of those red states, I was gnawing on my fingernails, wishing I’d done some phone calling for the Dems, worrying about yet more material deprivation in my future…and then suddenly Pennsylvania goes for Obama, and then another populous state, and Hey will you look at that! He’s Still the One!

My whole body collapsed right here in my chair. I hadn’t realized how tense I was, but when my muscles let go in relief I knew I’d been terrified about this election. Sure, we’ve had presidents as bad as Mitt Romney—Reagan, GWBush (The Nitwit)—but none of them were emboldened the way the Republicans seem to be nowadays. I might be wrong, but I suspect that a right-leaning president would do a lot more damage today than in the past. More than The Nitwit? I ask myself. Yeah. He was incompetent, but as I said, he wasn’t operating within the same toxic atmosphere; it was only just developing when he was in power.

But it’s a moot point. Not only did Obama win, he won big. The Reps are gathering in groups, scratching their heads and yelling at one another. They lost big among young people, Hispanics, and women. Doh! No young woman in 2012 is going to vote for a man or a party that calls pregnancy by rape a God-given blessing. No Latino worker is going to vote for the party that expects him to “self-deport.” These guys better get their act together or else, as their own Michael Steele and conservative think tanker Norm Ornestein are saying, they’re going to become fully irrelevant and unelectable.

 

You Must Remember This

John Nichols, a writer for The Nation, said on Democracy Now this morning that people, particularly progressives, need to understand this was a big win, and pressure President Obama to use the mandate for real change. It matters a lot, says Nichols, that he didn’t just crawl into the Oval Office or squeak through by a few lousy points. Florida’s results aren’t in yet, and neither are those of Washington State and a few other places, but Obama’s ahead mostly everywhere, and by the time the counting’s done he’ll have at least 100 more electoral votes than Romney.

How this works: The bigger a President wins, the more support he has from the voting public, and the more permission he’s been tacitly granted to implement the agenda we endorsed. As Nichols pointed out, Obama’s not a big progressive; he’s not even a liberal. He’s a centrist, on top of which he has a strong tendency to compromise. The only way he’s going to be emboldened—like a Republican in similar circumstances would be—is if the people who voted for him put on the pressure. One president, I think it may have been Lyndon Johnson, told those who voted him in that now they had to make him do their bidding. We need our leaders to lead us—and they need us to push them to lead. When they enact the policies we want, they’re not being radical or despotic: they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.  That is how it’s supposed to work. Our representatives represent us. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Meanwhile…

Happy Days Are Here Again / The skies above are clear again / Let’s sing a song of cheer again!

A bit of music trivia: Happy Days Are Here Again was written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen in 1929 and used in the film Chasing Rainbows, as well as in dozens of other movies. It was the theme song for FDR’s 1932 presidential campaign and as a jumpy jingle became the unofficial song of the Democratic Party. In 1962 Barbra Streisand came along and rearranged it as a torch song for her first commercial success. Brilliant and beautiful. Check it out.

 

Report on the California Props :

Proposition 30: YES. Endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown, this prop temporarily increases state sales tax and income tax on individuals making over $250,000 to avoid “trigger cuts” to the state’s public education system.

Proposition 31: NO.  Would have created a two-year budget cycle for state government, allowed the governor to cut the budget in fiscal emergencies, and required performance reviews in state programs. This was a blatant anti-union proposition, and big money came from out of state to support it (currently under investigation).

Proposition 33: NO. Would have required insurance companies to set rates based on previous insurance history of drivers with better rates for drivers who had insurance in the past.

Proposition 34: NO.  Would have repealed California’s death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without parole. Death penalty will still be used in CA.

Proposition 35 : YES. Increases prison terms for human traffickers. Does a lot more than simply punish traffickers. This prop is a perfect example of the problems inherent in the initiative process. This looked good—after all, who’s not against human trafficking? But these are complex issues and the prop was written in such a way that most people did not see its flaws. While legal experts pointed them out, none  organized or gave money towards stopping its passage—because again, who’s going to come out looking like they’re pro-trafficking? So a bad law was passed by a wide margin (80%).

Proposition 36 : YES. Changed the “Three Strikes” law so that life-in-prison sentences only apply if the third conviction [strike] is “serious or violent.”

Proposition 37: NO. Would have required labeling of genetically-modified food and prohibited it from being labeled “natural.” The food industry, especially the Monsanto corporation, spent over $20 million to fight this measure. They won, we lost. Watch what you eat–if you can tell what it is!

Proposition 38: NO.  Would have hiked up state income tax for 12 years, allegedly for education.

Proposition 39: YES.  Requires multi-state businesses to pay income taxes based on percentage of sales in California.

Proposition 40: YES.  Keeps the California State Senate lines as they were drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission in 2010.  Rep. Barbara Lee supported it.

Still The Prez

 

WHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!