The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

The Triumph of Conservatism | Tariq Ali

Obama’s victory was no surprise. Agitated liberals, fearful that their man might lose or trying to save what was left of their depleted consciences, chose to paint Mitt Romney in garish colors, a satanic monster had to be kept out of the White House.

How lucky for liberals that Obama gave the Presidency the power to execute any US citizen without recourse to law. Had it been Bush, the Democrats would have been baying for blood in the NYRB and the NYT.

As the debates showed there were hardly any differences between the two men. Both products and defenders of the Reagan consensus, they had to fight a testy campaign in order to spend the billion dollars they had raised: the electoral stimulus that is much more generous proportionately than the other kind.

Nothing could disguise the fact that it was a painfully dull election, a tribal conflict at which little was really at stake.  Obama, with his Wall Street chums giggling hysterically, pretended to defend the poor by denouncing Mitt as a rich ‘un. Romney , desperate to win, denouncing Barry as a radical, when, as Wall Street honchos acknowledge, he has done nothing that might make them apprehensive.

… From beginning to end it was a numbers game and, unlike in Europe, the incumbent won. And then came the dreaded clichés: ‘We are not red and blue states, we are the United States.’  This was bad even by Obama’s low standards.

In the real world business will go on as usual. [++]

Enough Already! | Andrew Levine

[The] task for “progressives” is not, as Obama boosters say, to “guard his back” so that he can finally take up the cause of “hope” and “change.” It’s to do instead just what it would be if Romney were somehow to win – to make it impossible for Obama to pursue the retrograde policies he favors.

This would involve, first of all, giving the Peace Laureate no peace until he actually moves to restrain, not enhance, the juggernaut; and to end, not repackage, the Bush-Obama wars. It would involve struggling to restore the rule of law and the protections afforded by the Constitution of the United States. In those regards, as even lesser evilists know, Obama has been worse even than Bush.

But this is just the beginning. On every “issue” that would have been discussed by our presidential candidates were our democracy not a sham — from climate change and other environmental catastrophes in the making to bankster racketeering and corporate predations – Obama is on the wrong side. Maybe Romney would be even worse; maybe not. Maybe that’s a reason to vote for Obama; maybe not. What is certain is that, in a week’s time, worries like that will become moot. And real politics will become timely again.

That is a point on which pro-Obama lesser evilists and their critics should agree, just as we should all be able to agree on how to think about Obama, and what to do to block or reverse the pro-one percent policies he, like Romney, will promote.

Of course, some of them will remain recalcitrant, taken in by their own sophistries and apologetics. I wouldn’t count on MSNBC pundits getting better any time soon, and the same goes for most of The New York Review grandees. But everyone else, everyone not too invested in the Democratic Party … should be able to take full measure of the enemy, and to react accordingly.

And so should almost everyone else who will vote for the putative lesser evil next week. The sooner they are all back on board, the better. Romney voters are right about one thing, after all: the last thing we need is four more years of the same. [++]

All the talk about ‘strategic voting’ and ‘safe states’ is, for black people, subterfuge to justify the irrationality, the foolishness of casting your own vote against your own survival. If our votes are our voices, it’s time to use those for our own good. For my own part, I will be voting for Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate, and Cheri Honkala. These are people unafraid to declare the drug war must be ended, and a WPA-style Green Jobs-Green New Deal program initiated, that we have to bring the troops home and cease supporting apartheid Israel. Stein and Honkala are white, of course. But their politics, by the measure of Martin Luther King at least, are blacker than Barack Obama’s have ever been. Bruce A. Dixon, Is This Really The Most Important Election Ever? If So, Then Where Are Our Issues?

Obama is the ideal personification of mature capitalism. He is not a front man, cipher, or puppet; instead, he identifies fully with the social order, its hierarchical structure, and its social purposes. He needed no urgings from others to betray practically every campaign promise he made in 2008. Today, he is hardly the alternative to Romney, his record reducing him to the same plane as his opponent. For ruling groups, his advantage lies in his facility for dressing retrograde policies in liberal rhetoric, and more, keeping intact an electoral base in the depths of false consciousness who cannot, in denial, see how their interests, including that of the black community itself, have been violated. Broadly, he and Romney are committed to the Washington Consensus, its faith in market efficiency, rationality, and justness, which provides the ideological cornerstone for deregulation of the economy and, relatedly, the subordination of government to, while servicing the needs of, business. The Moral Case for Silence

President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List | Spencer Ackerman

It’s a good thing that Mitt Romney endorsed President Obama’s counterterrorism agenda. Should he win the election in two weeks, Romney will inherit an institutionalized, bureaucratic machine for using lethal robots to target and kill suspected terrorists and their allies. Killing Osama bin Laden was a one-time event; this “Disposition Matrix” is Barack Obama’s real national-security legacy.

The Matrix, as detailed in a blockbuster Washington Post expose, is a master list maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center of suspected terrorists around the world, matched with methods for dealing with them. Most often, that means killing them; and most often, that means using an expanding fleet of armed drones to do so, taking off from hubs in the Arabian Peninsula, eastern Afghanistan and Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier. Despite bin Laden’s death and the supposed disruption of al-Qaida’s old leadership, the Matrix keeps adding names, as fast or faster than the drones drop bodies.

Maybe the White House still believes, as Obama aide Ben Rhodes recently contended, that the Arab Spring will “undercut the al-Qaida narrative.” But the constellation of U.S. counterterrorism agencies is settling in for the long haul: a war that expands worldwide and shows no sign of ending. “We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America,’” one tells the Post’s Greg Miller.

There’s a rhetorical consensus in Washington that, as Romney said at Monday’s debate, the U.S. “can’t kill our way out of this mess.” It’s spoken so often it’s a cliche. But in practice, killing appears to be the mainstay of U.S. efforts: nearly 3,000 people have been slain by drone strikes, according to a Post online database, including an undisclosed number of civilians. And the security agencies are preparing for even more.

As the Post’s Greg Miller recounts, the security bureaucracy has dug in. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the elite military organization that killed bin Laden, now runs a targeting center outside Washington. The CIA, Miller writes, seeks to expand its drone fleet and remain “a paramilitary force,” rather than “return to its pre-Sept. 11 focus on gathering intelligence.” The U.S. military might be drawing down from Afghanistan, but JSOC and the CIA are what backstop that retrenchment.

[…] Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that’s his legacy. Administration officials embraced drone strikes because they viewed them as an acceptable alternative to conventional ground warfare, which it considered too costly and too public, but the tactic has now become practically the entire strategy. Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama’s predecessors in the Bush administration “were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings,” because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whomever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don’t meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix.

Comparing Presidential Elections: 2008 versus 2012 | Richard Falk

[…] As already indicated, I half expected disappointments in 2008. I worried about Obama’s typical liberal effort to demonstrate his tough approach to national security including support for a bloated defense budget in the face of a fiscal and employment crisis, about his lame effort to distinguish between Iraq as a bad war and Afghanistan as a war necessary for American security, and hence a good war. Also, I was disturbed by the way Obama dumped Rev. Jeremiah Wright when he became a liability to his electoral campaign, seemed embarrassed by his friendship with the distinguished Palestinian political historian, Rashid Khalidi, and made Rahm Emanuel chief of staff, as his first major appointment. Obama surrounded himself with economic advisors who were the same folks that had collaborated with the banks, hedge funds, and big brokerage houses in the 1990s to facilitate the huge regressive redistribution of wealth in the spirit of ‘casino capitalism.’ Unfortunately, these telltale signs of weakness of principle and ideology were an accurate foretaste of what was in store for the country during the next four years, although it apparently never dawned on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to withhold its coveted award until Obama demonstrated that he was a deserving recipient, which sadly he never did.

What happened during the first term of the Obama presidency is definitely disappointing, although it is only fair to acknowledge that extenuating circumstances existed. Obama was dealt ‘a bad hand’ in the form of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. American society was sliding to the right as exhibited by the rise of the Tea Party, and the election of increasingly reactionary politicians as senators and congressmen, creating the most rightwing Congress in memory. It was difficult to govern in such a setting, and Obama compounded the difficulties by moving more than half way to meet the unreasonable demands of the opposition, and continued to do so even in the face of their clear unwillingness to reciprocate in a corresponding manner. Also, the pressures mounted by Israel and its formidable AIPAC lobby led the White House to back pedal awkwardly with respect to its efforts to create an atmosphere conducive to a balanced peace process for Israel and Palestine. On other issues, as well, Obama followed the pollsters and the party insiders more than principle, and failed to do what was best for the country and the world. After promising to take climate change seriously, Obama led an international effort to avoid imposing legal constraints on carbon emissions, and throughout his reelection campaign in 2012 has done his best to avoid the looming challenge of global warming aside from blandly promoting energy independence and green technology. As a result, the near unanimous scientific consensus on the urgent need for mandatory strict limits on carbon emissions has been disastrously pushed further and further into the background of public consciousness. [++]

Richard, like many left intellectuals, by the end succumbs to lesser-evilism, unfortunately. This is still an interesting read, but this is getting nauseating. Every piece follows the same pattern - laundry list that includes items that would disqualify any candidate from left/progressive support followed by a cave based on the politics of fear. And, interestingly, Falk, always a thorough and engaging intellectual, avoids targeted assassination and indefinite detention, something he’s written powerfully and eloquently about in the past [see A Meditation on Reciprocity and Self-Defense in Relation to Targeted Killing by Richard Falk].

As for me, I’m still with Arthur Silber on this one:

There is no evil beyond the claimed ‘right’ to murder by arbitrary edict, to murder anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you support this particular evil — and if you vote for Obama [or Romney], you support it — then you will support anything. … If you vote for Obama or Romney, do so proudly. I want you to say: “I vote for Obama/Romney proudly. I am proud to be a knowing accomplice to their murders, including the murders of innocent human beings.” Say that, and those of us who refuse to surrender our souls will know where you stand. This is not a complicated issue. It is stunningly straightforward.

The Lethal Debate: Questions About Killing | Tom Junod

We have been told, many times, that each killing carried out by the administration is accompanied by vigorous and even agonized debate about its legality, advisability, efficacy, and morality. That debate, however has remained staunchly internal — has remained secret — and it has become clear that the only way to find out what our two presidential candidates think about the implications of the Lethal Presidency is to ask them, tonight, at the debate in Florida. President Obama has limited his comments to all but the most self-serving circumstance, and Governor Romney has spoken only through inference and through the often confounding comments of his foreign-policy surrogates. Bob Schieffer should know that if he does not ask a question about targeted killing tonight, he is — we are — unlikely to get another chance.

With that mind, here are some questions that Schieffer might ask, and that seem, in the light of the Brennan speech, eminently askable, even in the august environs of a presidential debate.

To President Obama: Mr. President, you have over the last four years greatly expanded the use of targeted killing in America’s war against Al Qaeda. If you are given a second term, will you keep expanding the use of this tool? If so, is there any natural limit on its use, and if not, what will you do to rein it back in? Governor Romney, are you comfortable with the framework that the Obama administration has established in regard to targeted killing, or are there new limits that you plan to introduce if you are elected president?

To Governor Romney: You have called for a return to limited government if you are elected president. But you have not said a single thing about targeted killing, even when the those killed have been American citizens never indicted for a crime. How can you square the expansion of what seems to many like the ultimate power with your vision of a limited constitutional government? And President Obama, how do you respond to those who view the expansion of targeted killing under your administration as symptomatic of your belief in government in general?

To President Obama: Your administration has not just employed targeted killing; it has made the case for targeted killing to the rest of the world. What would you tell the leader of another country who wants to make use not only of technology pioneered by America but also of legal arguments pioneered by America? Do those arguments only count for America, or do they count also for Russia, China, and well, North Korea and Hezbollah? Governor Romney, have you prepared for the possibility of another country acquiring and using drone technology during a Romney Administration, and have you considered the possibility that you might have to argue against a prerogative so forcefully championed by your predecessor?

And, finally, to both men: President Obama, you got your start as a community organizer and as a law professor. Governor Romney, your experience, before you entered politics, was as a missionary and then, for a long time, as a businessman. Neither of you have been trained by the military. And yet the confluence of asymmetrical threat, data-driven intelligence, and drone technology has called for the president of the United States to exercise power in a new and startlingly personalized way — to say, quite literally, who is going to live and who is going to die. President Obama, has lethal responsibility changed the nature of the job for you and do you think it changes the nature of the presidency itself? Governor Romney, you will inherit the power to target and kill individuals, if you are elected president. Does this, in any way, give you pause? Do you have any qualms about it, and can you tell us if and how you’ve made peace with lethal responsibility — with killing?

And this, of course, are what the questions are all about, and why they demand to be answered. The underlying presumption of the Lethal Presidency is that targeted killing is not war because it’s better than war — because it’s precise, restrained, limited, measured. But every argument for targeted killing’s limited and restrained use has served the cause of its expansion, to the point where the United States is engaging in something very close to war in Pakistan and Yemen — wars made no less harrowing to those populations by their antiseptic execution. People die, a lot of them, and not only those identified as “militants” in the agate type of the next day’s aftermath. And yet when the Obama administration justifies targeted killing, it rarely speaks of killing anyone — it speaks instead of “targeting” them, and its freedom to do so. But the Lethal Presidency is not about targeting; it’s about killing, and Bob Schieffer would do well to remind us of that tonight, by reminding the two men who purport to represent us.

Kill lists? Dems don’t want to know | David Sirota

[…] With Democratic politicians unanimously cheering on Obama’s policies, with the party platform being radically revised to embrace Bush-era positions on these terrorism-related issues, and with no major Democratic criticism of their legality or efficacy, polls show the same rank-and-file Democratic voters who previously expressed vehement outrage at more mild Bush administration anti-terrorism policies (torture, indefinite detention, etc.) today largely applaud Obama policies that are even more extreme (undeclared drone wars and extra-judicial executions). Likewise, with Republican politicians silent on these issues, the same polls show strong support for those extra-constitutional policies among the very GOP activists who regularly trumpet their supposed fealty to the constitution.

For authoritarian and neoconservative propagandists in the establishments of both parties, these numbers represent a “Mission Accomplished” moment – one loyally reflected in the media coverage, or lack thereof. Case in point, again, is [the interview with Debbie] Wasserman Schultz: what should have been a controversial headline-grabbing exchange has been all but ignored by a political media that focuses exclusively on the differences – rather than the disturbing similarities – between the parties.

Obviously, with this week’s final presidential debate focusing on foreign policy and national security, there’s still time for these issues to come up. But with both parties averse to such a discussion, and with a media that defines “news” as only those issues of guaranteed partisan conflict, don’t bet on it. More likely, we’ll see party spokespeople like Wasserman Schultz in the spin room refusing to address the issues because they weren’t “a subject at the debate,” pleading ignorance, declaring what is and is not “serious” – and, of course, laughing off the most critical questions of all.

Sleepy Time Thoughts with Arthur Silber

(re-up of a post from last night, just call it “wakie time” instead)

Choose wisely:

If you vote for Obama or Romney, that is certainly your right — although you will forever forfeit the right to speak of “rights” at all. If a human being can be murdered for any reason, or for no reason at all, merely on the arbitrary order of someone who claims the power to issue such orders, she has no rights at all. You thus sanction the destruction of all rights, of all human beings — including yours. The victim may be Mrs. Hamilton, or [her granddaughter] Joanna — or you.

… events exactly like [that] have happened countless times over the last several years. They haven’t happened here in the United States — at least, not that we know of. But such murders take place regularly in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Somalia, and in additional countries. The victims include American citizens. But they were murdered abroad, not in America. The specific locale is irrelevant. If you sanction murders that happen abroad — murders of Americans or people who are not Americans — you sanction murders here at home as well. …

If you vote for Obama or Romney, do so proudly. I want you to say: “I vote for Obama/Romney proudly. I am proud to be a knowing accomplice to their murders, including the murders of innocent human beings.” Say that, and those of us who refuse to surrender our souls will know where you stand.

This is not a complicated issue. It is stunningly straightforward. Those who seek to complicate and confuse it do so because they will not identify the meaning of their support, either to themselves or to anyone else. When they wish still to be regarded as “civilized,” murderers and their accomplices will engage in endless irrelevant arguments and invent complexities where none exist. Don’t let them get away with it. They are knowing accomplices to murder. Make them say it.

Before you unleash, be honest, and go read Arthur’s latest amazing essay.

(Source: theamericanbear)

Sleepy Time Thoughts with Arthur Silber

Choose wisely:

If you vote for Obama or Romney, that is certainly your right — although you will forever forfeit the right to speak of “rights” at all. If a human being can be murdered for any reason, or for no reason at all, merely on the arbitrary order of someone who claims the power to issue such orders, she has no rights at all. You thus sanction the destruction of all rights, of all human beings — including yours. The victim may be Mrs. Hamilton, or [her granddaughter] Joanna — or you.

… events exactly like [that] have happened countless times over the last several years. They haven’t happened here in the United States — at least, not that we know of. But such murders take place regularly in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Somalia, and in additional countries. The victims include American citizens. But they were murdered abroad, not in America. The specific locale is irrelevant. If you sanction murders that happen abroad — murders of Americans or people who are not Americans — you sanction murders here at home as well. …

If you vote for Obama or Romney, do so proudly. I want you to say: “I vote for Obama/Romney proudly. I am proud to be a knowing accomplice to their murders, including the murders of innocent human beings.” Say that, and those of us who refuse to surrender our souls will know where you stand.

This is not a complicated issue. It is stunningly straightforward. Those who seek to complicate and confuse it do so because they will not identify the meaning of their support, either to themselves or to anyone else. When they wish still to be regarded as “civilized,” murderers and their accomplices will engage in endless irrelevant arguments and invent complexities where none exist. Don’t let them get away with it. They are knowing accomplices to murder. Make them say it.

Before you unleash, be honest, and go read Arthur’s latest amazing essay.

Weak: Romney surrogate tries to spin Iran nuke talks news into an Obama failure

quickhits:

Raw Story:

Top Romney surrogate Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) tried to spin the news that Iran had finally agreed to hold nuclear negotiations with the U.S. as a failure on the part of the Obama administration and as an indication that Obama was willing to, “abandon our allies” in favor of Iran.

Portman at first dismissed wholesale Obama’s handling of Iran, saying that the president had brought the nation, “four years closer to [war].” And despite the report of potential nuke talks, Portman insisted that Obama’s policies have been a complete failure.

“What the president has tried hasn’t worked,” he said.

Yet pivoting from that, Portman said that if the latest report—which the White House has marginally denied—turns out to be true, it would represent an effort by Obama to unilaterally address the situation at the expense of our partners in the region.

“If it’s accurate, it sounds like the US is taking a position where we’re likely to jettison our allies,” he said. ”The last thing we would want to do is abandon our allies in this, and to make it a one-on-one negotiation.”

»READ MORE»

This right-wing attack was all too predictable. Marcy Wheeler did a good job guessing the lines of attack earlier today:

“Obama is going to get suckered by Iran, making our allies the Israelis less safe.”

“Why would we hold negotiations now after Iran’s allies in Lebanon just assassinated a key figure?”

“Obama is negotiating with terrorists. In the same way he let terrorist-linked militias take over Libya, he’s now letting Iranian terrorists take over the Middle East.”

And all that’s before PapaDick and/or Liz BabyDick Cheney take to the airwaves to call Obama weak for capitulating to Iran.

That is, as excellent as the news might be that Iran will negotiate, an attack on such negotiations fits perfectly with all the other attacks Mitt has been making.

Perhaps this is why the administration denied the talks almost immediately?

Cabrera for President! | Arthur Silber

[…] I found one aspect of [Wednesday] night’s debate utterly fascinating. It concerns Obama, and the nature of his public image and performance. A number of people have commented on a peculiar oddness in Obama’s manner, the sense he gives of a bizarre automaton. It reveals itself in his sense of discomfort, his frequent pauses in mid-phrase and mid-sentence, as if he has to struggle to remember his lines. That was an especially strong feeling I picked up from him last evening: it was as if he had to work very hard to remember which responses went with which questions, as if he were mechanically trying to fit the memorized bits into the right slots. Romney was much more natural in this respect. I hate using this word (especially because it’s usually employed with unbearable pretentiousness), but Romney’s performance was much more “organic.” You may loathe the content of what Romney was saying, but there was the sense that a person exists who believes these things.

With Obama, it’s as if there’s no “person” there at all. While he very often paused momentarily as if trying to retrieve the particular phrases and points that were relevant, his relief when he realized that a particular canned paragraph could be used was palpable. You could almost hear his sigh of relief: “Oh, I can use that argument right here! Whew!” He struck me as not unlike a not very skilled college debater.

As I say, these points (and related ones) have been made by others. But as I was watching last evening, I tried to puzzle it out further. I thought about the countless ways in which Obama has acted as president in ways diametrically opposed to what he said he favored four years ago — for example, with regard to all the national security issues for which he heatedly criticized Bush. Yet, as a number of writers have also pointed out, he’s outdone Bush in every respect, and he also regularly perpetrates civil liberties horrors that Bush would never have dared attempt. And the same is true across almost all domestic issues, including his pet issue, health “care.” The despicable health “reform” act is primarily an express train delivering helpless people by the tens of millions directly into the bloody maw of the insurance companies. I have no doubt that with regard to every issue of health care about which Obama claims to care so passionately, the “reform” of which he is so proud will make life intolerably worse.

I could express the point more informally. Romney will do terrible things; if you know how to listen and understand what he says, you realize that Romney tells you he will do terrible things. Those terrible things are what Romney genuinely believes.

But Obama told us and continues to tell us that he will do wonderful things. Now, if you know how to listen and understand what he says, you realized that all those wonderful promises were vicious lies four years ago. And Obama’s record over his first term is of consistently pursuing policies that lead to results that are the opposite of what he claims to want. The same would certainly be true in a second Obama term. So Obama will also do terrible things — in fact, they’re largely the same terrible things Romney will do — but Obama continues to insist that he’ll do wonderful things. So where is the “person”? Is the person the one who promises wonderful things — or the one who does terrible things?

As I watched Obama last night, I finally understood the answer. The “person” is nowhere to be found: there simply is no person. After his disengaged performance in the first debate, some commentators wondered if Obama even wanted a second term, if he still wanted to be president at all. Democratic partisans and Obama supporters have taken heart from his more aggressive manner last night. They are reacting only to what is on the most superficial level. They cannot see (or they will not permit themselves to see) the enormous effort that was required for Obama to appear engaged and assertive, as I’ve described it above. They take solace in canned slogans and phrases, and they react to emotional signifiers devoid of content. Not only are those signifiers devoid of content: they are directly contradicted by Obama’s record in office. Those who choose to be deluded will continue to believe the lies Obama tells, and the lies they tell themselves. [++]