Monday, February 11, 2013

The Age of Obushma

Ronald Reagan was known as the Teflon President,and John Gotti's moniker was the Teflon Don. No matter how toxic these guys were, they were untouchable for most of their lives -- until the imprisonment of mind or body finally got them.

 Until this past week, President Obama seemed to wearing the Teflon mantle himself.  Nobody was paying much attention to the fact he's been on a detached rampage of drone assassinations, and prosecuting whistleblowers, and spying, and claiming he could imprison people without charge or trial. Because nobody was paying much attention, he's been virtually untouchable in this regard, even by his Republican frenemies. They agree wholeheartedly with his evisceration of the Bill of Rights. He is only finishing what they started, after all.

But now that the mainstream media are finally taking a long-overdue look at his unprecedented powers, they're actually starting to compare Obama to The Worst President of All Time -- George W. Bush. An Obushma is born, and he walks among us.

The New York Times ran a front page story on the topic in its Sunday edition. Even such Obama-friendly media stars as Melissa Harris-Perry and Rachel Maddow have suddenly awoken from their self-inflicted partisan comas and joined the bandwagon of noticing that the president has morphed into an emperor. And what a difference a week makes in the polls:
A majority of voters believe President Obama has been no better than his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to balancing national security with the protection of civil liberties, according to a new poll for The Hill.
Thirty-seven percent of voters argue that Obama has been worse than Bush while 15 percent say he has been “about the same.”
The results cannot be fully explained as party line responses. More than one in five self-identified Democrats, 21 percent, assert that the Obama administration has not improved upon Bush’s record. So do 23 percent of liberals.
The results are especially striking given the liberal hopes that attended Obama’s election, the opprobrium he heaped upon Bush’s national security policies during the 2008 campaign and his early promise to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
The majority, however, still approve of the drone program itself. But give them time. They'll no doubt change their tunes when they see, or more likely hear, their very first drones in the friendly skies above their own little chunks of real estate. 

The majority also very likely have no idea what it is, exactly, that they approve of. David Carr of the New York Times today joined Public Editor Margaret Sullivan in criticizing the lack of media attention to the New Age of Orwell, but he also blamed the paranoid secrecy of the Obama Administration coupled with an apathetic Congress and an apathetic public for the perpetuation of the vicious cycle of ennui in the face of the destruction of our own civil liberties:
If the Congress — and perhaps the public — doesn’t know about the drone program, it isn’t for lack of coverage. Perhaps the reason so many people are in the dark is because they want it that way. After all, if the bad guys are on the run without risking legions of boots on the ground, what’s not to like?
For many people, of course, there is plenty not to like. Michael Isikoff of NBC News obtained a 16-page white paper outlining when the government contends that it is legal to kill Americans who join Al Qaeda. His reporting helped make the drone issue part of the confirmation hearings, leading to this statement on Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee from Mr. Brennan, which sounded like a parody of Washington doublespeak: “What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.”
Congress, in spite of the pointed questions aimed at Mr. Brennan last week, has been remarkably incurious since the program began.
“Some 3,500 people have died in 420 strikes, and Congress has yet to hold a single public hearing on this issue,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It has happened in the dark because we have allowed it to, and the press has far and away been the lead actor in surfacing this issue.”
But let's face it. The media approach to terrible truths resembles a cat walking across a wet floor. (h/t Raymond Chandler) As I pointed out in a comment in The Times yesterday, the paper of record, for example, still squeamishly softens torture into "harsh interrogation techniques."
 Euphemisms are the enemy. They are the words of propaganda that enable tyrants to literally get away with murder.
The victims of drones are invariably declared to be "militants" by both government and journalists. Or, if they're really lucky, "suspected militants." The White House definition of militant is any male in the prime of his life.
Homicides by presidential fiat become bland "signature strikes." Ordering a hit is rendered as innocuous as the president putting his signature on a piece of legislation renaming a post office.
A relentless campaign of state-sponsored American terror so severe as to border on potential genocide becomes the "disposition matrix". (John Brennan coined this Philip K.Dick-ish term.)
Maybe we'll get lucky and the United Nations will accuse this administration of war crimes. Maybe we'll get even luckier and the 70% of Americans who are still just fine with drone strikes will wake up, smell the burning of the Constitution on its funeral pyre and rescue it through the sheer strength of our numbers.
And speaking of Obushma, wasn't it a striking coincidence that a whole slew of Bush Famiglia emails was hacked by a guy named Guccifer, and made public the exact same week as the infamous White Paper was released? If you're going to compare Obama to Bush, then it's just about the right time to rehab The Worst President's image, don't you think? It would not surprise me if the so-called hacking -- complete with humanistic (albeit primitive and narcissistic) self-portraits of George in the bathroom was not a deliberate leak by the Bushes themselves. (prepping for a Jeb run in 2016). Here's what I wrote in response to Maureen Dowd's column yesterday:
 I wonder if Guccifer might really be Dubya. The hacked emails do show this rather unpopular plutocratic bunch in a surprisingly human light. The self-portraits are too suspiciously flattering. Bush has actual feet instead of the cloven hooves we suspected were hidden in his Gucci cowboy boots! (Lucifer>Guccifer) The image of his buff torso looks to be an homage to his bromance with fellow shirtless despot Vlad Putin.
Where are the emails where Babs disses the poor victims of the latest natural disaster? Where's the lowdown on the off-shore bank accounts, the military service and drug cover-ups, the efforts of Jeb to sell out Florida education to the highest bidder? What a downer. I smell a rat.
I also smell a rat around the white paper leaked right on the eve of John Brennan's senatorial love-fest on drone assassinations. I wouldn't be surprised if the so-called leak came from the White House itself, to take the shock and awe right out of the proceedings. By the time Brennan appeared, the American public was already bored with the novelty of having a hit squad in the Oval Office. Presidential assassinations are already the new normal. The parallel humanization of a protected war criminal painting self-portraits in bathrooms reeks of propaganda to make us forgive and forget. The PTBs desperately want us to be so numbed that we accept that the Constitution, except for the 2nd Amendment, is just a piece of paper. There will be no prosecutions of torture, murder or banks.
Let's not forget that more Americans believe in the devil than believe in Darwin. Two-thirds believe that Satan is an actual living being. The Devil made Barry and Bush and Reagan and Nero and Caligula do it. And the Devil Wears Prada. So does the soon-to-be ex-Pope, who at least has enough sense to quit as the mental and physical bars of fate finally begin to close around him.

Bathtub Justice... Or Not


Annie Oakley said...

Congratulations, Karen. You're really hitting double, triple, and quadruple bulls-eyes. All that target practice is paying off and people are finally paying attention.

Thanks for hanging in there, and Happy Anniversary to Sardonicky!

Zee said...


One thing that your excellent essay didn’t make completely clear to your readers is that the doublespeak trotted out by Brennan was in response to a fairly direct question from Sen. Ron Wyden as to whether or not the “white paper” on “targeted assassinations” authorizes the President to kill American citizens on American soil.

“WYDEN: ... Let me ask you several other questions with regard to the president's authority to kill Americans. I've asked you how much evidence the president needs to decide that a particular American can be lawfully killed and whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. 

In my judgment, both the Congress and the public need to understand the answers to these kind of fundamental questions.

What do you think needs to be done to make sure that members of the public understand more about when the government thinks it's allowed to kill them, particularly with respect to those two issues, the question of evidence and the authority to use this power within the United States?

BRENNAN: I have been a strong proponent of trying to be as open as possible with these programs as far as our explaining what we're doing.

What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security. "
-- Transcript of a segment of the Brennan confirmation hearings. (Bold emphasis added.)

(The transcript is quite long, so search on the word “transparency” to find the exact passages.)

Brennan’s evasive gobbledygook makes it pretty clear--to me, at least--that yes, the Prez does indeed believe that he has the authority to order the execution of any U.S. citizen, even on U.S. soil, if the “target” is believed to pose an imminent threat to national security.

Goodbye, Fifth Amendment, at home or abroad.

Karen Garcia said...


Thank you!


Thanks for the link to the Brennan transcript, which I hadn't known was available yet. It takes days, I gather.

Pearl said...

I remember the shock waves that went through the liberal community in N.Y.
when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in 1953. It was the decision
by a judge and the refusal of President Eisenhower to stop the proceedings that resulted in their deaths despite considerable evidence that questionable accusations were involved. Indeed Ethel's brother admitted in recent years that he and his wife had accused her of involvement in order to save their own guilty necks. There was also objection by many scientists
that regardless of whatever Julius may or may not have passed to the Russian government, there were no secrets to the building or function of the atomic bomb. Many nations, including Germany and Russia were building them and information passed around involved details that were not of great consequence. Many American scientists that were working on the atomic bomb in those war years under the direction of Robert Oppenheimer were accused of unpatriotism for holding unacceptable 'leftist' political beliefs and were held
under surveillance and scrutiny.
This was during an intense cold war period where reason went out the window and many others were implicated in lesser 'offenses'. Some people involved have admitted in recent years to their participation in sending information to the Russians but we have to remember that the U.S. and Russia were allies
in the war against Fascism and supposedly working together.

So the more things change the more they remain the same. Now questionable
accusations can indeed allow a president to order an execution based on the information he is given by a biased official. Also the definition of what is considered treasonable enough for such a decision is of concern.

Meanwhile the really treasonable behavior of government officials including presidents and other lawmakers allow the financial and other shenanigans that ruin people's lives to continue without just punishment. And the rest of us
have to live in fear.

Outsida said...

Well at least the Rosenbergs got a trial first, such as it was. According to this administration, our Constitutional right to due process does not require a LEGAL process, if Obushma so decides. It can simply involve a discussion, such as occurs on Terror Tuesdays when they play Kill List poker.

I believe that Christopher Dornan could become the very first American citizen killed by drone assassination on American soil, if it hasn't already occurred. Of course that kind of thing is usually classified, so we might never hear about it unless it was politically advantageous, in which case it would get officially leaked.

Just yesterday the police publicly declared Dornan to be a Domestic Terrorist. That suggests to me that Homeland Security should now be involved. However, today they announced all the local and state agencies working with them, but only mentioned the FBI in the federal category. That made me sit up and take notice. Why wouldn't they be using DHS if they declared him a terrorist? They probably don't want HIM knowing, and maybe not us either.

The police have not used the word 'alleged' since they know full well that there will be no legal process involved. Those two Hispanic ladies who were shot by police while delivering newspapers in their truck were lucky to have survived the barrage of bullets aimed at their vehicle without any attempt by the police to properly id them.

If we never see evidence of Dornan's capture or death, it might be because he was located and smoked, or less likely that he simply got away without making any further attempts to carry out his so-called vendetta. Clearly, when/if the police pull back their efforts without providing evidence of having killed him, we'll know it's already over, whether they admit it or not. Someone did the dirty deed.

Regardless of how this ends, I'm sure it will be used to justify more intrusiveness into our lives, restrictions on our liberties, and more money for the para-militarization of our police. It's just how they roll after 9/11.

Karen Garcia said...

Speaking of domestic terrorists, David Brooks has delivered another doozy, with a lot of revisionist history and other typical claptrap. My comment:

No way did Europeans "volunteer to live in harsh conditions" to ensure the welfare of future generations! They invaded the continent. They enslaved the inhabitants, plundered natural resources and food supplies, spread their deadly puritan diseases. The pilgrims were actually parasites. Altruism was not among their virtues, although they relished imposing their authoritarian religion on the conquered ones right from the get-go. Plus ca change, etc. Vulture capitalism has a long sordid history.

This is the standard deficit scold diatribe, delivered with the nouveau-popular and very fake GOP concern for children. Imposing austerity on the poor and working class (aka "sharing the sacrifice") will send this economy right back into recession or worse. More suffering for already-struggling people will not make their children's future any brighter. To the contrary; our worsening wealth inequality spells doom for them.

Pension funds are disappearing, not because working people are selfish, but because the unregulated financial sector gambled with our money, lost it, and then proceeded to keep right on extracting it from us. CEOs now make more than 300 times the salary of the average worker. Why not reform that entitlement, David!

We're divided more by class than by party. Brooks's yearning for a nonexistent pioneer past simply betrays a yearning for the good old days of feudalism. More concentrated wealth for the few, more serfdom for the rest. Dystopia beckons.

Annie Oakley said...

Re: Dorner

I wonder if those 50 California families currently under police protection gave up their personal firearms to police gun buyback programs.

The police can't afford to stay stationed outside of 50 homes continually. I bet their families will soon have their own firearms, if they don't already.

How will they feel about being limited to the type of weapon they are allowed to own and capacity of the magazine? Will 10 shots be enough? Not if they are as poor a shot as the LA Police. I bet anything they saw off the barrel of their shotguns, no matter what the law says.

John in Lafayette said...

Excellent response to Brooks today. He constantly channels people like de Tocqueville and Ole Rolvaag, who died long ago, and pretends they described a country that still exists today. My response:

"Rolvaag died over 80 years ago, Mr. Brooks. The America he knew has long since vanished. For a more timely, realistic portrayal of life on the American prairie, may I suggest Douglas Unger's masterpiece, "Leaving the Land"? In it he tells the story of the destruction of the family farm brought about by the rise of giant agribusiness. He paints an all too realistic portrait of how today's farmers have been reduced to vassals. A better book than "Giants in the Earth" and far more relevant to life as it is today."

James F Traynor said...

I think we are collapsing - in a sort of slow motion. Many of us who are relatively more informed and educated know it, are powerless to effectively respond and are just beginning to really grasp the situation. One by one, it has begun to effect us individually. Still, many of us are in denial.

For many years, for instance, I've been able to skip between the raindrops financially as I saw the various regulations created during the New Deal being chipped away to benefit what we now call the 1% and what FDR called the malefactors of great wealth. But you can't win against these people and I'm really just becoming aware of it. I just can't steer my small world, and those in it, safely between the collosi around me, people who, in a day, spend more on entertainment than is our entire net worth.

And the noose is tightening. The way out is being closed by laws and actions obliterating our civil rights in the guise of national defense. We're becoming increasingly desperate, as for example Chris Hedges whose writings have become screams of anguish to his god - pitiful to behold as his faith fails him. And as our duopoly, as Karen puts it, closes in on him, tightening the coils of a juris prudence controlled by and serving the 1%.

Jay - Ottawa said...

The job of a terrorist is to wind up your springs real tight: Ugh! That’s it, and they leave. How you deal with the unwinding is up to you. Most people snap their springs in the process of taking revenge.

Two women, Hispanics, one 47 and the other 71, made the mistake of delivering propaganda leaflets (i.e., the local newspaper) along their paper route in a pick-up truck that was not of the same make or color as that of the outlaw Christopher Dorner. No questions asked, LAPD police opened fire on the women with a hail of bullets. At least the cops had the pick-up truck part right.

From the picture in the paper, these LAPD officers, clearly suffering from PRE-traumatic stress syndrome, drilled more than 20 rounds into the back of the women’s pick-up. Count for yourself here:

Seems like both women were injured but, as the Lone Ranger used to say, “Just a flesh wound, Tonto.” What’s a scratch in the War against Terrorism?

The women might have been taken out surgically with much less fuss if the LAPD had been properly armed, say, with bazookas or 50-caliber machineguns. If local citizenry along the paper route had been properly armed and attentive, they could have joined in by nailing the pick-up from another direction.

Dorner has been declared a terrorist, right? So the Rules of Antiterrorism apply. Both women were over the age of 18, drove in a suspicious manner, and might have been part of a wedding party or reconnoitering the area for future mayhem. Definitely imminents. They were most likely bilingual, too. Therefore, they met the definition for terrorists or accomplices to terrorists.

Drones may, or may not have been used in the assault. That part is secret and the FBI spokesman on the scene refused to confirm or deny. Nor would he explain the somewhat stiff humming bird perched on his shoulder.

In a craven letdown, the police chief apologized to the collaterally damaged ladies, both of whom have been released from the hospital, and promised them a new pick-up from some Slush Fund Ex Machina. Hopefully, a Hummer with armor plating.

There you go: the LAPD is another job maker! In one fell swoop they have created the need for much more ammunition (made in the USA), more and better weapons (made in the USA) that spit out more rounds per second (Worldwide), and more pick-up trucks (hopefully from the Big Three in Detroit or at least a Japanese firm with a plant in the USA). On balance –– and balance is what we need in these parlous days of the War on Terrorism –– just another day at the front in the War on Terrorism.

As a part of the New Balance, this tidbit from another spokesman from LA: “Extra security will be deployed at Sunday’s Grammy Awards in Los Angeles ‘just to be on the safe side.’” That’s nice, but what about the viewers of the Grammy Awards? I say be ready, stay safe, get a gun.

Denis Neville said...

One of my favorite authors is Marie Sandoz. Her books are about the early American plains. She did a lot to de-mythologize the western frontier and the Indian wars:

“This exploit of modern man is unrivaled in history: the destruction of a whole way of life and the expropriation of a race from a region of 35,000,000 acres in so short a time. It entailed first of all a tremendous job of public conditioning. In the 1830s and 1840s the buffalo Indians were considered the most romantic peoples, drawing visitors from everywhere…

“But that was before the white man wanted these Indian lands. The discovery of gold and the rise of economic and political unrest over much of the civilized world, with millions of men hungry for a new start, changed that, and suddenly the romantic Red Hunter was a dirty, treacherous, bloodthirsty savage standing in the way of progress, in the path of manifest destiny. By 1864…the public had been prepared to accept a policy of extermination for the red…there was no really serious objection to the massacre of the Cheyenne at Sand Creek, Colorado, in 1864. Not even from Lincoln, the Emancipator. Perhaps he remembered his few days burying the dead from the Black Hawk War. As President he paid off some election favors by turning Indian agencies over to petty politicians…

“All this time a few humanitarians were complaining against such treatment of the Indian, but no voice was loud enough to be heard above the drumbeaters for the railroads, the cattlemen, the miners, and the army contractors. There were some generals who protested these war tactics and regretted the entire Indian extermination policy…but their voices too were like the wind on the buffalo grass.

“With the buffalo gone, the starving Indians were easily shuffled off to land on which no white man could conceivably make a living. Congress now felt free to initiate more cuts in the appropriations for their helpless wards, dropping them far below the treaty stipulations, often to actual starvation levels.”
- Marie Sandoz, Cheyenne Autumn

David Brooks poses as a public intellectual - and more shockingly - has been accepted as one – with such nonsense as: “Europeans who settled America gave their lives a slingshot shape. They pulled back so they could shoot forward. They volunteered to live in harsh conditions today so their descendants could live well for centuries. The pioneers who traveled West did the same thing. So has each generation of immigrants — sacrificing the present for the sake of the future.”

Shooting and starving Indians for the sake of the future! So their descendants – Patio Men - could live well for centuries!!

Brooks once described “Patio Man,” who “walks into a Home Depot or Lowe's or one of the other mega hardware complexes and his eyes are glistening with a faraway missionary zeal, like one of those old prophets gazing into the promised land. His lips are parted and twitching slightly.”

The New York Times Magazine 2002 “Year in Ideas” issue cited Patio Man in its encapsulation of “Post-Soccer-Mom Nomenclature.

David Brooks our tin pot sociological icon!

Zee said...

@Annie Oakley--

You raise some interesting questions for which I would also like the answers. You also make some accurate observations.

Unless Dorner is captured soon—or is maybe immolated in a drone attack—those people on his “hit list” will soon face choices: (1) Business as usual, unarmed; (2) Start packing heat and hope for the best; or (3) Go into hiding for the duration. As you say, the police will soon be unable or unwilling to provide personal protection for each and every “target” for however long it takes to bring in Dorner.

While I have known some true pacifists in my time—people who claim that they would not raise a hand to defend themselves or even their families in the face of violent, perhaps lethal, attacks—these souls are few and far between. Like yours, my guess is that at least some of those threatened have acquired firearms and are probably carrying them quite illegally, as it is virtually impossible to obtain a concealed carry permit in California's urban centers.

Guns are like lawyers: “Everybody hates them until they need one.”

In the same vein, a couple of interesting, recent articles from law enforcement officials across the country:

'“Lock your doors and load your guns,” the [San Bernardino] city attorney, James F. Penman, said he routinely told worried residents asking how they can protect themselves.'

“When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.”

Zee said...


Well, I guess they got Dorner, with or without a drone or bazooka attack.

Did I miss anything by not watching the State of the Union Address?