Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’
Posted on February 20, 2014 at 4.49 pm
Thanks to Rare for publishing this piece! Original version here.
Cats vs. dogs. Coke vs. Pepsi. Democrats vs. Republicans.
These are the great divisions of life. But what if one of those rivalries isn’t actually much of a division at all?
Don’t worry, I’m not trying to reignite the cola wars of the 90s. (Besides, we all know Coke is the clear winner: Do you order a Jack and Pepsi?)
No, I’m talking about Democrats and Republicans—or rather, the out-of-date and out-of-step establishments of both parties.
For libertarians, saying both parties are the same is a common theme. Democrat and Republican partisans dismiss such critiques as cynical or unserious, but there’s a real case to be made if we look at the cold, hard facts.
Here are 7 big reasons there’s no difference between establishment Democrats and Republicans:
1. Both support endless war. It’s been more than a decade since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and America’s entanglements are far from over. Though Bush is remembered as the consummate hawk, Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama has used his time in office to start or maintain additional wars in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Now, he wants to add Syria to the list. My generation can barely remember peace—and there’s no end in sight for a foreign policy with devastating human and financial costs.
2. Both engage in out-of-control spending. Yes, deficit spending has accelerated under Barack Obama. But you know what? There was also a massive acceleration under Bush. The fact is, debt is a bipartisan problem, and neither party is innocent. With $17 trillion of debt (and rapidly counting) as the consequence of decades of bipartisan irresponsibility, the time has passed for pointing fingers and dubbing a slightly slower rate of spending growth a “historic cut.”
3. Both ignore our most basic rights. CNN recently asked “When can a government kill its own people?” but for President Obama and some old guard GOP leaders like Sen. John McCain, that question has already been answered: Pretty much whenever it’s convenient. In fact, the U.S. government has already assassinated a 16-year-old American citizen by drone strike, killing a boy who was neither accused nor suspected of any crime.
Posted on February 10, 2014 at 11.16 am
The irony is so thick here you could cut it with a knife. Mr. “I don’t need to wait for Congress; I have a pen” wants to wait for Congress to reclassify marijuana to make penalties less severe.
CNN’s Jake Tapper: You said that smoking pot was a bad habit but you didn’t think it was any worse for a person than drinking. Now that contradicts the official Obama administration policy, both on the website of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and also the fact that marijuana is considered a Schedule I narcotic, along with heroin and Ecstasy. Now do you think you were maybe talking just a little too casually about it with Remnick inThe New Yorker, or are you considering not making marijuana a Schedule I narcotic?
President Obama: Well, first of all, what is and isn’t a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress.
Tapper: I think it’s the DEA that decides that.
Obama: It’s not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws undergirding those determinations.
“There are laws undergirding those determinations.”
There are laws.
You know what other determinations have laws undergirding them?
Whether or not we can be indefinitely detained without charge or trial — but you seem to have forgotten any civil libertarianism you once espoused.
Whether or not the government can spy on us on an incredibly intrusive mass scale — but you don’t really seem concerned about that.
Whether or not the executive branch can unilaterally invade or bomb another country without getting a declaration of war from Congress — but that hasn’t slowed you down in Libya or Yemen or Pakistan and Somalia.
So hey, if you’re going to operate an imperial presidency anyway, Mr. President, can we at least get something good out of it? It’s time to stop jailing people for marijuana use. We know it; you know it; and we know you know it. And unlike all that other stuff I mentioned, making pot a Schedule II or (better yet) III drug actually is within your purview as the head of the executive branch. So none of this sudden, false timidity. Call off the drug dogs already.
Posted on December 23, 2013 at 9.11 am
Much like the TSA, which has never caught a single terrorist, it turns out the NSA can’t claim a single concrete instance of foiling a terrorist attack. The Washington Post (not exactly an obscure outlet with a civil liberties agenda) reports:
National Security Agency defenders, including President Obama, continue to cite the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 when defending the program that scoops up domestic call records in bulk. But asked specifically, on Friday, if he could identify a time when that program stopped a similar attack, President Obama couldn’t. That’s because the program hasn’t prevented a second 9/11.
In fact, the President’s own task force responsible for reviewing NSA activities said “the group specifically looked for times when the program may have helped prevent a terrorist attack, but ‘found none.’”
At this point, it’s no exaggeration to say that voices from all three branches of government agree that the NSA is out of line and ineffective, a rare consensus on the side of individual liberty and the right to privacy. Joining the task force’s stance of disapproval, a judge just ruled that the NSA’s bulk data collection programs are likely unconstitutional (the dubious phrasing is because it’s not the final ruling). And while Rep. Justin Amash’s anti-NSA amendment failed this past summer, it lost by just 12 votes. Amash reports that the next vote will likely be a win for civil liberties advocates:
Actually, I’ve heard from many people about their votes next time, and one of the more prominent members of Congress who’s changed his mind on this is Chairman [of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell] Issa. As he’s learned more about it, he’s come to the conclusion that the NSA has to reform the way it operates.
Writing for Antiwar.com at the end of last week, John Glaser put it bluntly: “The big, scary terrorism argument for having an unwieldy and unconstitutional NSA surveillance apparatus has been slowly disintegrating since the start of Snowden’s leaks. This week was really the death knell.”
NSA whistle-blower Edwards Snowden recently announced “mission accomplished,” and after this latest round of reports, I cautiously believe he may be right. “All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” Snowden said — but I’d suggest it’s more than fair to say he had in mind a conclusion he hoped the public would reach: That the NSA is not making us safer; that it’s playing fast and loose with the rule of law; and that these spying programs are making us massively less free.
The public has reached that conclusion. And just maybe, for once, our media and government are coming to agree.