‘U.S. politics’ Archives
Even though Obama is rather late on this; and even though he maybe hasn’t done as much as possible to advance the same-sex civil rights and equality agenda (ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and ordering federal lawyers to no longer defend the Defence of Marriage Act were important, but a little late); I still think this is worthy of recognition.
The President of the United States endorses same-sex marriage. That is symbolically, historically, politically and culturally, a pretty big thing. Congratulations.
In terms of analysis: support for same-sex marriage has been steadily growing among the US population, and has for some years seen majority support. The Republican Party is putting up a rearguard fight, with their most recent success just yesterday in North Carolina where people voted for an amendment to declare same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In the longer term, they can’t possibly win this (among younger voters support is overwhelming), so this move by Obama is a good one. It will serve as a rallying-point in the coming elections.
The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to “cure” gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?
My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.
[Now], for the first time, the office of the American President is officially supporting a policy that a mere decade ago was deemed truly radical: same-sex marriage. Those are real achievements. And, as virtually all polls reflect – underscored by last night’s landslide defeat for marriage equality in North Carolina — they carry genuine political risk. He deserves credit for his actions in this civil rights realm.
It should go without saying that none of this mitigates the many horrendous things Obama has done in other areas, nor does it mean he deserves re-election. But just as it’s intellectually corrupted to refuse to criticize him when he deserves it, the same is true of refusing to credit him when he deserves it. Today, he deserves credit. LGBT equality is one area — and it’s an important area for millions of Americans — where he has conducted himself commendably and deserves praise. That was true before today, but even more so now.
David Frum (a former Bush speechwriter):
The statement changes everything because it powerfully symbolizes an awakening that so many people have had, myself included: here is a social change whose time has come, and more than come. Denying marriage rights to same-sex couples inflicts real harm on real people, while doing nothing to prevent the deterioration of marriage among non-affluent Americans.
The statement changes everything because it puts marriage rights on the 2012 ballot as a voting issue. Mitt Romney has declared—not only his opposition to same-sex marriage—but his intention to use the power of the presidency to stop and reverse it. One may doubt how intensely Romney feels about that commitment, really. My own guess: about 1/1000 as intensely as he feels about Sarbanes-Oxley. But the issue is joined even so.
If any video can show the corruption of President Obama, it is this one. This has nothing to do with the message and the spirit of Obama’s campaign four years ago -- which, in hindsight, was one of the most cynical and deceitful political operations in history.
Yes, I know Obama during a debate with McCain once said that he would deploy missiles in Pakistan, and that’s what he has done. But this video below doesn’t have anything to do with what was a central plank of the Obama ’08 campaign and his main argument against Bush: a restoration of civil liberties and respect for international law.
Instead, this is primitive, tribal boasting at its worst, ugly American kind. “Hey, look at me! I ordered a man sitting in a house to be pumped full with bullets, and his body dumped in the ocean! I’m president!” And then implying that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have the “courage” to do so. Well, good for you. I hope you’re very proud of your “achievement” -- because killing an already desolate man in a bunker in a desert somewhere is really the only thing that you have accomplished in the past four years.
Seriously everything about this Obama video is disgusting. But yeah, let’s hear it for those liberals mesmerizing about how “cool” Obama is.
Nice spoof from the Chris Matthews Show. Could have been an attack ad, but I doubt many Republicans would get it. And with health care reform under serious pressure this even becomes kind of painful:
Last Thursday the Obama campaign showed its first feat of arms. The tone is harsh, gloomy and realistic, which is a pretty bold move, because I’m pretty sure that one of the primers of advertising is that it should always convey a positive message. It shows all the hardships the country went through in the last 4 years: the economic crisis, an imploding housing market, two nasty wars, etc. And it ends on a sort of positive note, with the capture of Osama Bin Laden, the retreat from Iraq and a slowly recovering economy. It’s narrated by Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks and features usual suspects like Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton. Would there be a particular reason not to include Hillary Clinton by the way?
Also, “Obamacare” is not mentioned (EDIT: Healthcare reform is actually mentioned quite a bit, from 7:15 to ,9:50. My bad).
The underlying message is: it takes eight years of Obama to repair eight years of Bush, so give me another term. I think this ad, or rather mini-documentary, is meant to assure his base that Obama is still the Obama of 2008, but that he is now wisened and hardened. And most of all, he has rescued America from imminent doom by averting financial breakdown, creating new jobs, bringing home soldiers and investing in the car industry. I am wondering if the tone is not a bit too gloomy, because at certain moments the film is almost like an obituary. But all in all it’s a pretty impressive mini-documentary IMHO, which gives a fair portrayal of his accomplishments (obviously, there are also enough negative points would have been mentioned in a real documentary), without any nasty smears to Republicans. It sets the tone for his reelection campaign, which I guess has changed from “Yes we can” to “We will overcome” or “Through struggle we are humbled”, or something like that. If voters are going to buy this (which in the end I think enough of them will) then Andrew Sullivan will be right with his “Obama’s long game” analysis.
- Edit: best analysis at TPM.
De afgelopen dagen is er in diverse media aandacht geweest voor het idiote plan van de huidige regering om het gedoogbeleid voor “softdrugs” aan banden te leggen. Tofik Dibi schreef er een goed stuk over, zo ook De Groene, De Jaap, Boris van der Ham en uiteraard mijn collega-blogger. Ik ga hier niet uitvoerig alle argumenten herhalen, maar de bottom-line is: als je rationeel naar deze kwestie kijkt is het zaak om het huidige beleid gewoon voort te zetten (zonder pasjes, lidmaatschappen, etc.), of beter nog: de boel te legaliseren! Resultaat daarvan: controle over kwaliteit van de cannabis, minder invloed van zware criminelen, wiet uit de taboesfeer, een besparing van miljarden euro’s, etc. En voor de zwaardere drugs geldt: stop op z’n minst met het vervolgen van individuele gebruikers. Voor de positieve resultaten daarvan zie Portugal. Enfin, de argumenten zijn bekend.
De Katholieke Radio Omroep doet nu ook een duit in het zakje. Het programma Reporter heeft een bezoek gebracht aan Californië, waar cannabis “medicinaal” wordt verstrekt. Conclusie: op dit moment zijn ze in sommige delen van de V.S. een stuk progressiever dan in Nederland als het om drugs gaat. Ons land had lang een voorbeeldfunctie voor een verstandig en rationeel softdrugsbeleid. Nu kijkt men aan de andere kant van de oceaan met verbazing naar de ideeën van de huidige regering om alles terug te draaien. In het land waar de destructieve “war on drugs” is begonnen is men nu dus progressiever bezig dan in Nederland.
Terwijl mensen als Frits Bolkestein, Els Borst en hoogleraar strafrecht Theo de Roos zelfs pleitten voor een totale legalisatie van alle drugs die op dit moment op de Opiumlijst staan, en er wereldwijd een roep is om te stoppen met de contraproductieve “war on drugs”, probeert het huidige kabinet op alle mogelijke manieren het gedoogbeleid voor softdrugs te beperken. In de reportage wordt ook weer eens duidelijk dat de cijfers over export van cannabis naar het buitenland en de hoeveelheid wietplantages in Nederland keer op keer door de politie uit de lucht worden gegrepen. Er is sprake van een stelselmatige manipulatie van de statistieken door justitie. Hier de docu:
Now this is a thorough piece of journalism by William Saletan on Slate. It is a very detailed account of Romney’s standpoint on abortion throughout his political career. Abortion is the ultimate issue in the so-called “culture wars”, which, although some claim we live in a post-”culture war” era, still play a big role in American politics (for example shown in Andrew Sullivan’s coverpiece in last week’s Newsweek). Rick Santorum’s clear position on this issue has already won him a couple of Southern primaries and Romney’s ambivalent position can possibly do him (or is already doing) a lot of harm among social conservatives.
The main point of the article is summarized here:
When you see the story in its full context, three things become clear. First, this was no flip-flop. Romney is a man with many facets, groping his way through a series of fluid positions on an array of difficult issues. His journey isn’t complete. It never will be. Second, for Romney, abortion was never really a policy question. He didn’t want to change the law. What he wanted to change was his identity. And third, the malleability at Romney’s core is as much about his past as about his future. Again and again, he has struggled to make sense not just of what he should do, but of who he has been. The problem with Romney isn’t that he keeps changing his mind. The problem is that he keeps changing his story.
But I strongly recommend to read it in its entirety. It is not only gives a clear history of Romney’s position on abortion, but also shines light on his character. As the author puts it:
Romney believes in telling the truth and keeping his promises. But sometimes he wishes the truth or his promise had happened in a different way. He wishes he could change it. And in his mind, he does change it. He reinterprets his statements, positions, and pledges. He edits his motives and reasons. He compresses intervals. He inflates moments. He tightens the narrative. He rewrites his lines. Yet he always finds a thread of truth on which to hang his revised history. He’s a master of the technicality.
He’s also a gifted salesman. He learns your language and puts you at ease. He gives you the version of his record, position, or motive that will please you most. When he comes down on your side, it’s intentional. When he doesn’t, it’s inadvertent. He focuses not on communicating his beliefs but on formulating, framing, or withholding them for political effect. He tells moving stories of personal experience to show you his sincerity. Then, if necessary, he erases those stories from his playbook and his memory.
Here’s the accompanying video:
According to Rick Santorum:
“There is a ‘do not euthanize’ bracelet In the Netherlands, because half the people that are euthanized are euthanized invontarily… 10% of all deaths in the Netherlands are from euthanasia… Elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go the hospital, they go to another country, because they’re afraid, because of budget purposes, that they will not come out of that hospital.”
A Dutch guy has already debunked all these ridiculous claims on Reddit.
Andrew Sullivan, the King of Bloggers, has written a Newsweek cover story which is featuring heavily in American political discussion on tv, in newspapers and on blogs right now. From over here, it’s sometimes difficult to realize that Sullivan is not just a blogger, albeit a big one, but also a pretty prominent “public intellectual” (as they say) in the US, who from time to time -- as a very early advocate of gay marriage, as proponent of the Iraq War, as supporter of Obama -- generates a lot of public debate.
In the Newsweek article, Sullivan argues, as one of the first people to elaborately do so, passionately for Obama’s re-election. He basically says that Obama’s political strategy is a “long game”, of which we have not seen the results yet, which will only play out in eight years. In doing so, he obviously and correctly dismisses the president’s conservative ”critics” (we may just call them lunatics), but also takes on criticism of Obama from “the left”. Personally, while I certainly agree with Sullivan that Obama has by and large been a good president -- in that he has saved the US and the West from plunging into a systemic crisis largely caused by Bush, through the stimulus, the bail-outs of Wall Street and the auto industry, having healthcare reform passed, getting out of Iraq, reaching out to the Muslim world, responding carefully to the Green Revolution and the Arab Spring, and taking on Qadhafi -- he has also failed miserably to keep up to his promises to restore the rule of law. Under Obama, indefinite detention has been enshrined into law, Guantánamo Bay has seen its tenth birthday, military commissions have been kept open, a Drone War killing hundreds of innocents has been started, extrajudicial assassination has become normal, and a war on whistleblowers and transparency-seekers has been waged. Torture has merely been halted by executive order and can easily be reversed by a Republican president.
This, I think, is unforgivable; it is a core reason not to support Obama’s re-election; and Sullivan passes it too easily by. I also think he fails to engage seriously with Obama’s critics that he relents too easily in the face of opposition, as was the case with healthcare and the debt ceiling crisis. Sullivan doesn’t mention anywhere the deep interpenetration of the Obama administration and Wall Street lobbyists. And, finally, I think it’s kind of slavish and rather uncritical to say: “It’s all part of the masterplan, just wait, it will all play out in eight years, just vote now, it’s Obama!” But that is a tendency you see more often in Obama supporters.
Anyway. The only reason I wanted to write this was because I thought it was funny to see Sullivan, whom you almost only know by writing, defend his article on television. And he’s doing it pretty well actually. Enjoy this weird-in-a-sympathetic-way person’s discussion with a Republican supporter:
- Edit: In the best response to Sullivan’s article so far, here’s Conor Friedersdorf, who writes it down better than I can. First he asks if Sullivan would have supported a Republican in 2008 who would have proposed the following:
(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.
Yet President Obama has done all of the aforementioned things.
No, Obama isn’t a radical Kenyan anti-colonialist. But he is a lawbreaker and an advocate of radical executive power. What precedent could be more radical than insisting that the executive is empowered to draw up a kill list of American citizens in secret, without telling anyone what names are on it, or the legal justification for it, or even that it exists? What if Newt Gingrich inherits that power?
He may yet.
[Sullivan's] Newsweek essay fits the pattern I’ve lamented of Obama apologists who tell a narrative of his administration that ignores some of these issues and minimizes the importance of others, as if they’re a relatively unimportant matter to be set aside in a sentence or three before proceeding to the more important business of whether the president is being critiqued fairly by obtuse partisans.
Like President Bush, [Obama] is breaking the law, transgressing against civil liberties, and championing a radical view of executive power -- and he is invoking the War on Terror to get away with it. As much as it was in 2003 or 2007, it is vital in 2012 that there be a backlash against these post-9/11 excesses, that liberty-loving citizens push back so that these are anomalies that are reined in, rather than permanent features of a bipartisan consensus that can only end in a catastrophically abusive executive operating in an office stripped by successive presidents and their minions of both constitutional and prudential checks.
That is the best case against Obama I can think of. It is, indeed, vital that there is a backlash against his policies.
This is fantastic. Check the video below. It looks and sounds like a Michael Moore, i.e. a left-wing documentary, in its critique of unrestrained capitalism. The focal point of critique is Republican forerunner Mitt Romney, who during the campaign has always touted his ‘private sector experience’ as an aid in creating jobs as president. Yet Romney was CEO of Bain Capital, an asset management company specializing in private equity and venture capital; in other words, a company that buys other companies to ‘restructure’ them, fire lots of people, and re-sell it to make huge profits out of it. It made Romney a millionnaire.
While some people might see such a company as a necessary feature of free market capitalism, others might see it as Gordon Gekko-style profiteering over the backs of other people. That’s at least what Newt Gingrich, whose campaign has created this 28-minute video, seems to imply. Yes, Gingrich, one-time leader of the Republican Revolution, Speaker of the House and prominent conservative, who got trashed by Romney in Iowa. You gotta love this.
It’s funny to me how die-hard Republicans are now adopting Occupy Wall Street language in order to defeat one another. Obama can sit back and enjoy while Romney’s image is trashed among blue-collar workers. And seriously: while the physical manifestation of Occupy may have disappeared in cities, they have struck a note in their critique of financial capitalism that is still resounding. Even in the Republican Party.
Ron Paul -- the candidate who, apparently, is being ignored by the MSM in America -- came in a strong second in New Hampshire yesterday. Whereas Mitt Romney had 39,4 percent, Paul got 22,8 percent. Leaving Jon Huntsman aside, the remaining voters are divided up between the pathetic conservative challengers of Romney (Gingrich, Santorum and Perry) who all performed terribly. Nevertheless, the entire media spin is still about the inevitable winner Romney and who of them the more conservative anti-Romney is gonna be.
Paul, however, also came in third in Iowa, getting more than 22 percent there (Romney had 40). After Romney, he has the biggest ground operation in the country. So while the only thing you’ll probably read about in the big media is Romney’s victory, Paul is doing really good in this election cycle (the best ever). He’s also vastly outperforming Romney among independents and under-30 voters.
Now check out Paul’s speech from yesterday night. This is not an Obama-style speech, filled with brilliant rhetorical heights; but it is so authentic and great to watch, this old guy surrounded by his supporters talking about foreign wars, the military-industrial complex and liberty. Of course, the stuff about the Fed is unbearable, but nevertheless, it’s great watching this:
Now compare that to this dickhead who’s talking here. Surrounded by his dickhead douchebag sons. A robot designed to win elections, full of arrogance, contempt and boastfulness. It’s the Ugly American right there, I’m sorry to say:
There is no primary. There is no general. There is only this: I am Mitt Romney’s haircut. This is my year, and I will not be denied. Everything about me is presidential. You may not even know why, but you’ve all thought it, and that’s no accident. I’ve been designed precisely for this moment. I’m a hybrid of every classic American presidential hairstyle since the 1930s. Roosevelt’s fatherly gray temples. Kennedy’s insouciant bouffant. Reagan’s lethal, revolutionary amalgam of feathering and pomade.
In addition, read this great article about the current quandary for liberals and progressives, whether to support Paul or Obama. In case you’ve been following the discussion in the comments, it almost perfectly encapsulates what was being said there. Here’s the dilemma:
To review the basic Paul profile: When it comes to government social spending and regulation, Paul is more antithetical to progressive goals than any candidate running for the White House. This is indisputable. At the same time, though, when it comes to war, surveillance, police power, bank bailouts, cutting the defense budget, eliminating corporate welfare and civil liberties, Paul is more in line with progressive goals than any candidate running in 2012 (or almost any Democrat who has held a federal office in the last 30 years). This, too, is indisputable.
In seeing Paul’s economic views, positions on a woman’s right to choose, regulatory ideas and ties to racist newsletters as disqualifying factors for their electoral support, many self-identified liberal Obama supporters are essentially deciding that, for purposes of voting, those set of issues are simply more important to them than the issues of war, foreign policy, militarism, Wall Street bailouts, surveillance, police power and civil liberties that is, issues in which Paul is far more progressive than the sitting
There’s certainly a logic to that position, and that logic fits within the conventionally accepted rubric of progressivism. But let’s not pretend here: Holding this position about what is and is not a disqualifying factor is a clear statement of priorities — more specifically, a statement that Paul’s odious economics, regulatory ideas, position on reproductive rights and ties to bigotry should be more electorally disqualifying than President Obama’s odious escalation of wars, drone killing of innocents, due-process-free assassinations, expansion of surveillance, increases in the defense budget, massive ongoing bank bailouts and continuation of the racist drug war.
By contrast, Paul’s progressive-minded supporters are simply taking the other position — they are basically saying that, for purposes of voting, President Obama’s record on militarism, civil liberties, foreign policy, defense budgets and bailouts are more disqualifying than Paul’s newsletter, economics, abortion and regulatory positions. Again, there’s an obvious logic to this position — one that also fits well within the conventional definition of progressivism. And just as Obama supporters shouldn’t pretend they aren’t expressing their preferences, Paul’s supporters shouldn’t do that either. Their support of the Republican congressman is a statement of personal priorities within the larger progressive agenda.
This Wednesday will be the tenth anniversary of the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay. Opened by Bush and, despite all his campaign promises, kept open by Barack Obama, this camp represents the warped state the rule of law has been put into in the US by both these presidents.
The New York Times has an impressive op-ed by Lakhdar Boumediene, one of the most well-known former Guántanamo prisoners, who was held innocent and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques for seven years before he was released by court order.
Boumediene was head of the Red Crescent’s humanitarian aid for children department in Bosnia-Herzegovina before he was captured off the streets on October 19, 2001 by the US Army, deported to Gitmo, and held incommunicado without recourse to a lawyer, the court system, or Geneva protections. While he was subjected to stress techniques, his two daughters had to grow up for seven years without him. Only when the Supreme Court intervened to stop the Bush administration’s lawless practices, Boumediene was granted access to court, found innocent, and released.
His case represents the entire argument against Guantánamo. No government on Earth should be allowed to indefinitely detain people and treat them like they want without any check by an independent judiciary. That is what we have human rights for. Barack Obama, moreover, is the president who has turned this once controversial policy into bipartisan consensus. Under this president, indefinite detention has even been signed into law.
ON Wednesday, America’s detention camp at Guantánamo Bay will have been open for 10 years. For seven of them, I was held there without explanation or charge. During that time my daughters grew up without me. They were toddlers when I was imprisoned, and were never allowed to visit or speak to me by phone. Most of their letters were returned as “undeliverable,” and the few that I received were so thoroughly and thoughtlessly censored that their messages of love and support were lost.
Some American politicians say that people at Guantánamo are terrorists, but I have never been a terrorist. Had I been brought before a court when I was seized, my children’s lives would not have been torn apart, and my family would not have been thrown into poverty. It was only after the United States Supreme Court ordered the government to defend its actions before a federal judge that I was finally able to clear my name and be with them again.
I left Algeria in 1990 to work abroad. In 1997 my family and I moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the request of my employer, the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. I served in the Sarajevo office as director of humanitarian aid for children who had lost relatives to violence during the Balkan conflicts. In 1998, I became a Bosnian citizen. We had a good life, but all of that changed after 9/11.
When I arrived at work on the morning of Oct. 19, 2001, an intelligence officer was waiting for me. He asked me to accompany him to answer questions. I did so, voluntarily — but afterward I was told that I could not go home. The United States had demanded that local authorities arrest me and five other men. News reports at the time said the United States believed that I was plotting to blow up its embassy in Sarajevo. I had never — for a second — considered this.
The fact that the United States had made a mistake was clear from the beginning. Bosnia’s highest court investigated the American claim, found that there was no evidence against me and ordered my release. But instead, the moment I was released American agents seized me and the five others. We were tied up like animals and flown to Guantánamo, the American naval base in Cuba. I arrived on Jan. 20, 2002.
I still had faith in American justice. I believed my captors would quickly realize their mistake and let me go. But when I would not give the interrogators the answers they wanted — how could I, when I had done nothing wrong? — they became more and more brutal. I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget.
A statement like the one done by Rick Santorum below, in 2005, honestly makes me physically nautious:
This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.
The worst danger in politics, in my view, is groups (mostly, but not always, religious and conservatives) that try to restrict the freedoms of individuals from one particular mindset. In the Netherlands, we have the religious left and right attempting to do that. In the US, there’s the Christianists and evangelicals. Of these, the curently rising Santorum probably represents the most extremist incarnation.
The New Republic has compiled a list of the most awful shit Santorum has said. If you can bear it, read it.
On the Catholic Church’s abuse scandals: “Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”
On same sex marriage and bestiality: “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality…”
On the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s decision to approve same sex marriage: “This is an issue just like 9/11. We didn’t decide we wanted to fight the war on terrorism because we wanted to. It was brought to us. And if not now, when? When the supreme courts in all the other states have succumbed to the Massachusetts version of the law?”
On the link between same sex marriage and national security: “I would argue that the future of America hangs in the balance, because the future of the family hangs in the balance. Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?”
On the war in Iraq: “As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else. It’s being drawn to Iraq. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don’t want the eye to come back to the United States.”
On contraception: “Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
On the Affordable Care Act: “I would tell you that my first priority as a president of the United States is to repeal Barack Obama’s healthcare plan. I think it’s the most dangerous piece of legislation, well, in many generations. It is the reason that I’m running for office. Because I believe Obamacare is a game changer. I believe Obamacare will rob America, the best way I can put it is, rob America of its soul.”
On President Obama’s pro-choice stance: “I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.’”
On global warming: “I believe the earth gets warmer, and I also believe the earth gets cooler, and I think history points out that it does that and that the idea that man through the production of CO2, which is a trace gas in the atmosphere and the man-made part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas, is somehow responsible for climate change is, I think, just patently absurd when you consider all of the other factors, El Niño, La Niña, sunspots, you know, moisture in the air.”
And they say Christianity is a religion of love.
Unbeknownst to many people, Barack Obama’s ascendency to the presidency has, despite his 2008 campaign promises, done almost nothing to reverse one of the most heinous policies of the Bush-Cheney era: the practice of indefinitely detaining people whom the US state deems “enemy combatants”, or terrorism suspects. Without charges and without recourse to a judge. The mere charge of being a terror suspect can still lead to uncontrollable, unaccountable detention by the American government; this is viewed by both Bush-Cheney and Obama as an inherent, presidential prerogative. No one who is not out of his right mind would not view this as in straightforward contradiction to the rule of law.
But President Obama’s record has just gotten even worse. After months of threatening to veto a bill put forward by the partly Republican-controlled Congress allowing the U.S. military to indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, anywhere in the world, including in the U.S., without charges, he has now said that he will sign it into law.
Thereby Obama, the 2008 darling of liberals and progressives, has become the president who has made extrajudicial indefinite detention at the charge of being an “enemy combatant” official law and policy, rather than an exception. Obama is even worse than Bush-Cheney! This should be clear to anyone who is still an Obama fanboy.
When in the 1950s, the McCarthy era, Congress presented Harry Truman with a similar bill allowing the indefinite detention of Communists and other ‘subversive elements’ without charges, Truman vetoed it. But Obama is not such a person. The right not to be detained forever by the state without a fair trial is a fundamental human right, part of the Western juridical tradition, that has just been violated possibly forever by this president.
This becoming law will also mean two things. First, that the U.S. military can now be involved in domestic policing activities (!). Second, that the battleground of the so-called ‘War on Terror’ has now been extended to American soil too. Can you believe that?
At this point, I would officially hope that Obama gets defeated at the polls next year. If Ron Paul’s ideas on economic policy weren’t so nutty, I would support him – a Republican - if he was the nominee.
In one of the least surprising developments imaginable, President Obama – after spending months threatening to veto the Levin/McCain detention bill – yesterday announced that he would instead sign it into law (this is the same individual, of course, who unequivocally vowed when seeking the Democratic nomination to support a filibuster of “any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecom[s],” only to turn around – once he had the nomination secure — and not only vote against such a filibuster, but to vote in favor of the underlying bill itself, so this is perfectly consistent with his past conduct). As a result, the final version of the Levin/McCain bill will be enshrined as law this week as part of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I wrote about the primary provisions and implications of this bill last week, and won’t repeat those points here.
The ACLU said last night that the bill contains “harmful provisions that some legislators have said could authorize the U.S. military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians, including American citizens, anywhere in the world” and added: “if President Obama signs this bill, it will damage his legacy.” Human Rights Watch said that Obama’s decision “does enormous damage to the rule of law both in the US and abroad” and that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.”
Both groups pointed out that this is the first time indefinite detention has been enshrined in law since the McCarthy era of the 1950s, when — as the ACLU put it — “President Truman had the courage to veto” the Internal Security Act of 1950 on the ground that it “would make a mockery of our Bill of Rights” and then watched Congress override the veto. That Act authorized the imprisonment of Communists and other “subversives” without the necessity of full trials or due process (many of the most egregious provisions of that bill were repealed by the 1971 Non-Detention Act, and are now being rejuvenated by these War on Terror policies of indefinite detention). President Obama, needless to say, is not Harry Truman. He’s not even the Candidate Obama of 2008 who repeatedly insisted that due process and security were not mutually exclusive and who condemned indefinite detention as “black hole” injustice.
Barack Obama has abandoned a commitment to veto a new security law that allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay.
Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military is not used in domestic policing. The legislation has also been strongly criticised by libertarians on the right angered at the stripping of individual rights for the duration of “a war that appears to have no end”.
The law, contained in the defence authorisation bill that funds the US military, effectively extends the battlefield in the “war on terror” to the US and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention.
The legislation’s supporters in Congress say it simply codifies existing practice, such as the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists at Guantánamo Bay. But the law’s critics describe it as a draconian piece of legislation that extends the reach of detention without trial to include US citizens arrested in their own country.
Senator Lindsey Graham said the extraordinary measures were necessary because terrorism suspects were wholly different to regular criminals.
“We’re facing an enemy, not a common criminal organisation, who will do anything and everything possible to destroy our way of life,” he said. “When you join al-Qaida you haven’t joined the mafia, you haven’t joined a gang. You’ve joined people who are bent on our destruction and who are a military threat.”
Graham added that it was right that Americans should be subject to the detention law as well as foreigners. “It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next,” he said. “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”
Other senators supported the new powers on the grounds that al-Qaida was fighting a war inside the US and that its followers should be treated as combatants, not civilians with constitutional protections.
But another conservative senator, Rand Paul, a strong libertarian, has said “detaining citizens without a court trial is not American” and that if the law passes “the terrorists have won”.
“We’re talking about American citizens who can be taken from the United States and sent to a camp at Guantánamo Bay and held indefinitely. It puts every single citizen American at risk,” he said. “Really, what security does this indefinite detention of Americans give us? The first and flawed premise, both here and in the badly named Patriot Act, is that our pre-9/11 police powers were insufficient to stop terrorism. This is simply not borne out by the facts.”
Paul was backed by Senator Dianne Feinstein.
“Congress is essentially authorising the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge,” she said. “We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge.”
So let it be noted that Obama here has followed the line of the most conservative Republicans.
Yesterday I read somewhere that Newt Gingrich -- the latest insurgent in the Republican presidential race, and current challenger of Mitt Romney -, who is a historian, wrote his Ph.D. thesis in 1971 about ‘Belgian education policy in the Congo: 1945-1960‘.
I thought that was pretty amusing for a former Speaker of the House, author of the 1994 ‘Republican Revolution’, and possible Republican presidential nominee, so I wanted to look it up and blog something about it.
But lo and behold, someone was there first. Robert Paul Wolff at the blog The Philosopher’s Stone read Newt Gingrich’s Ph.D. thesis, so enjoy his review:
Wikipedia informed me that Gingrich did his graduate work in the Tulane history department; the Tulane website took me to the university’s library catalogue; the Duke University Reference Librarian talked me through the download process over the phone [never easy for old guys like me], and there it was: “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945-1960 A Dissertation Submitted on the Sixth Day of May, 1971 to the Department of History of the Graduate School of Tulane University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Newton Leroy Gingrich.” Two hundred eighty-three pages of text, typed and double-spaced in standard dissertation format, five pages of tables, five pages of “selected bibliography” and a one-page biographical sketch of the author indicating that he was awarded a B.A. by Emory University.
Why on earth Belgian educational policy in the Congo? Newt was studying Modern European History, to be sure, but the topic seems rather obscure. The dissertation lacks the typical page of acknowledgements that might offer a clue, but a bit more surfing of the web reveals that the dissertation director, Professor Pierre Henri Laurent, whose name appears on the signature page, was the son of “an eminent Belgian historian, who died during the Resistance; his mother was a distinguished teacher and linguist. Pierre and his older sister were brought as children to the United States by their mother when the Second World War broke out.” Mystery solved.
The dissertation is written in a pedantic, serviceable prose, giving no evidence of the Newt that was to emerge as a fully formed Toad. Although the dissertation is written entirely in English, the footnotes give evidence that Gingrich had a quite adequate command of written French. [The only word in the entire dissertation not in English or French is misspelled -- Weltanschauung with only one "u" -- page 205, line 2] Gingrich relies heavily on secondary sources, with especial attention to the work of Ruth Slade and Roger Anstey. However, he has clearly made extensive use of Belgian public documents, including reports of Parliamentary debates. There is no evidence in the text that he traveled either to Belgium or to the Congo, and he seems not to have interviewed any of the principal actors, Belgian or Congolese, even though the dissertation was written only a handful of years after the departure of the Belgians from the Congo.
The structure of the dissertation is straightforward: an Introduction, three chapters on the political and historical background of Belgium’s colonization of the Congo, nine chapters on various aspects of the educational institutions introduced by the Belgians into the Congo — religious education, secular education for the Congolese, secular education for Belgians living in the Congo, education for women, agricultural education, technical education, higher education for the Congolese, etc. — and a Conclusion.
The political or ideological orientation of the dissertation, if I may put it this way, is roughly that of a Cold War member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Colonization is seen almost entirely from the perspective of the colonial power, not from that of the indigenous population. The rule of King Leopold II, who literally owned the colony as his private property until, at his death, he willed it to Belgium, is widely understood to have been the most horrifyingly brutal colonial regime in Africa. Gingrich acknowledges this fact once in the dissertation. Speaking of the financial pressures placed by the Congo on King Leopold’s coffers, Gingrich reports that a “state official told a missionary in 1899 that each time a corporal ‘goes out to get rubber he is given cartridges. He must return all those that are not used; and for every one used he must bring back a right hand.’” [p. 15]
But with this sole exception, Gingrich’s picture of the Belgian colonial administration is reasonably favorable. As I read his account of the struggles by dedicated Belgian colonial administrators to provide some measure of formal education to the Congolese, in the face of a generally uninterested and neglectful government in Brussels, I was reminded of nothing so much as the writings of John Stuart Mill on India, and the responsibility of cultivated, enlightened Englishmen to bear the heavy burden of stewardship until the non-European peoples are ready for self-rule.
Although he makes no effort at all to consult the colonized and give voice to their view of the Belgian rule, Gingrich does at one point, rather surprisingly, quote Father Placide Tempels quite favorably and at some length. [pages 100-101.] Tempels was a missionary priest who wrote an important book called Bantu Philosophy. It is the first acknowledgement by a European author that the indigenous peoples of Africa have complex, philosophically sophisticated conceptions of the world and their place in it. I confess that I was surprised and impressed to see Tempels put in an appearance in Gingrich’s dissertation. I was a good deal less pleased by Gingrich’s reliance on the always questionable Colin Turnbull.
- Edit: Also enjoy this interview of Newt Gingrich by Ali G: