Compromise…I do not think it means what you think it means

So, once again, we see the great Change agent deal with a recalcitrant GOP by a complete and utter capitulation. What does the President point to as a vital program which he has protected during this Great Compromise? Even Medicare and Social Security, which were considered sacrosanct by both parties not that long ago, are going to be looked at by the new and improved bipartisan debt reduction commission later in the year. Apparently the first debt reduction commission didn’t provide the correct answers that anyone wanted last year.

Meanwhile, the GOP gets to claim success in all their areas. No tax increases, even on the wealthiest people (they aren’t Job Creators just because the GOP says so; they need to actually create jobs to be worthy of that title) or greediest tax-dodging corporations (which have already taken their profits off-shore, so what threat do they have left?). And, the debt debate will continue through the election, providing a nice millstone for Obama to drag around.

Yay for change.

We’re not as bad as the other guys

I found it disturbing when people would defend some of our mistakes in Iraq by claiming we were better than Saddam, as if our goal was merely to be somewhat less evil than an authoritarian dictator who gassed his own people and ran rape rooms in his torture prison.  It appears the Democrats are using a similar strategy going into November: at least we’re not as bad as the GOP, right?

When DNC chair Tim Kaine was on the Daily Show a week or two back, Jon Stewart rightly lambasted him for the absurdity of their “Don’t give them the keys” approach.  Kaine had no real retort other than the tired statements of GOP perfidy.  Sure, the GOP did a lot of stupid venal petty shit during their years in power.  So, Dems, what are you doing different? They don’t seem to have a very compelling argument in their favor.

I could list all the ways in which I’m disappointed in the current administration and the Democrats in Congress, but Glenn Greenwald has a great piece today which has many nice links and great points to make.  Unlike some of his articles, this one is not biased against the GOP.  Greenwald is very clearly documenting the failures of the Democratic party, and even if you’re happy to see the Dems fail, it’s interesting to see in one place all the many ways in which they are using fearmongering and low expectations to try to hold onto power (power they haven’t really taken advantage of while they had it).

Change you can…definitely not see.

Still more change

It’s a few weeks old, but I just noticed this story from the Associated Press (permalink via Wired), which sounds like something you’d have expected from the Bush administration:

Political Appointees Vetted FOIA Requests

Seriously, President Obama? This is what you consider change we can believe in? Yes we can?  We can filter FOIA requests through political advisers so they can keep track of the political party asking for the information? We can filter requests to keep track of whether the requester is a journalist?

When this president was just taking office, he said, “For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city.” He cited abuse of the Freedom of Information Act, in particular. And, to be fair, the administration has reduced the backlog of FOIA requests and there is no indication they’ve denied requests inappropriately. But, it’s actually rather obviously unethical to pass requests that are required to be handled expediently through a layer of bureaucracy which is unnecessary to the process.

Yay for Change™.

Change You Can’t Perceive

Senator Barack Obama, 2006:

Most of us have been willing to make some sacrifices because we know that, in the end, it helps to make us safer.  But restricting somebody’s right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer. In fact, recent evidence shows it is probably making us less safe.

Of course, as President in 2010, Obama has now won the right (based on a DC Circuit Court of Appeals) to do just that. His administration has decided that detaining arbitrary people at Guantanamo was beyond the pale and not to be perpetuated, but detaining arbitrary people at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan is perfectly reasonable. And, the Circuit Court has said that, unlike the decision in Boumediene v. Bush (2008), no habeas appeals are needed for detainees in what any administration defines as a war zone. This ignores that Congress is the only organization allowed to declare war and they haven’t done so since 1941. So, war zones are arbitrarily defined by the executive branch, and any prison or detention facility they put there is out of the reach of all US justice, including the incredibly simple right to just have the judicial branch confirm that the executive branch has indeed detained someone with reason rather than without reason.

Change you can believe in.

Script Problems

How is it possible for good liberals and progressives to (at least tacitly) approve of the recently leaked plans to assassinate an American citizen by the U.S. government? (This sort of situational ethics is not new. When the current President was campaigning for office, and while he was in the Senate, he was vehemently opposed to indefinite detention for any people without charges, much less U.S. citizens. Almost a year ago, he proposed formalizing the system of indefinite detention that he claimed (most would say rightly) was unconstitutional when done by his predecessor.) I find it hard to imagine how one could think that arresting someone and locking them up without habeas corpus is an absolute travesty, but then think it’s acceptable to target someone for a bullet to the head without even a trial.

I realize that Awlaki is seemingly not a nice person and almost certainly is fomenting violent actions against us. I would like him to be stopped. But, is it not more in keeping with the Constitution that President Obama once was expert in to target Awlaki for arrest rather than just shooting him whenever it’s convenient?

Closing Gitmo

In order to complete the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Obama administration has proposed moving any “too dangerous to release but somehow we have no evidence of a crime” prisoners to Thomson Prison in Illinois. Because Congress forbade the Executive branch from using any funds to release prisoners in the United States, they’ll just keep them locked up forever.

Many people found it extremely distasteful that the Bush administration went through such lengths to find a location which was outside any jurisdiction in Guantanamo. Gitmo is not in the USA, so domestic laws don’t apply, but it’s not under Cuban jurisdiction either, so nobody rules there except by force of arms. Now, the great hope for change has proposed moving that extra-legal jurisdiction to the United States mainland. How can there be any justification for keeping dozens of prisoners under indefinite detention within our country? Gitmo was a stretch. Illinois is just venal political bullshit.

Change you can believe in.