greensword: (hello)
[personal profile] greensword
I used to be more coherent with this sort of post, but damn. Just - damn. I am so fucking sick of Obama.

Edited to say:

Okay, let me try for some coherence.

We are a nation of human beings - people with the capacity for good things and bad things both - a nation of doctors, teachers, loving parents, artists and truth-seekers - a nation of thieves, demagogues, hypocrites, rapists and murderers.

All of politics - all of life - is a battle against those bad things. I don't believe there's a way to set up government to take over that battle for us. I don't believe there's a set of easy rules to live by - although some rules (thou shalt not kill, do unto others as...) are better than others.

Life is a struggle, a long upward climb against badness in ourselves and in others. I do my best in my own small little sphere because to do more would drain the joy out of my life and my own happiness is something that I at least have control over, something I can protect and nourish. I have a hard time believing that the sacrifices I could make would take us very many steps in the climb.

When the most powerful person on the face of the earth - when a man who I do believe has some compassion, some understanding of the depths of suffering in the world, some willingness to think outside the box - when he says, "No, that's too much to ask", "No, that's too big a change", "no, that's too high, too steep, too far" - when he chooses practicality over principle, money over fairness, rape and torture over justice and mercy, then I want to stop doing even the small things I do, I want to give up, lay down, enjoy my life as best I can and try to stop my ears against the cries of others.

What did he mean, yes we can?

Yes, we can give up?

Date: 2009-06-01 02:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Eh, it was kind of obvious that he'd be like this. He was worth voting for just for the historical precedent, and for what his victory would mean and represent for a lot of people (no small thing, personally), but not so much for himself. And he isn't actively terrible... just, meh.

Date: 2009-06-01 05:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Actually, when it comes to civil liberties he is actively terrible. He has not only continued many Bush Era state secrets policies but has actively pursued even greater powers for the executive branch.

I mean, hell, preventive detention? Or the recent bill that passed the senate that allows the Sec of Defense to block any torture photos from the Freedom of Information Act?

Transparency my ass. Change my ass.

Date: 2009-06-01 06:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Katrine - I understand the urge to say "I told you so", and to be fair, you totally did tell me so (although if I remember correctly I was always pretty cynical about Obama). But Josh is right that a blanket "what did you expect?" sort of attitude ignores the ways in which the Obama administration is differently and perhaps more destructively bad than a Bush administration - both in terms of specific policies and in the ways in which he has co-opted and muted a broader push for real change.

Date: 2009-06-01 12:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Obama isn't a dictator, and that's a good thing. And given that he isn't a dictator, he can't do everything he'd like to do, or everything his supporters would like him to do.

There are people in the world who sincerely hold different conceptions of compassion, sacrifice, and goodness than you do. Unless you want to use violence to suppress them, you've got to be willing to compromise. Obama is compromising.

Date: 2009-06-01 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I do not need to compromise with people who rape prisoners of war, or torture them, or hold them without trial.

Obama does not need to compromise with them either. He does not need to continue the Bush administration policy of condoning and covering up war crimes, but he is.

The funny thing about your comment is that Obama is the one in the position to figure this out without violence.

Date: 2009-06-01 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Honestly, yes you do have to compromise with such people. Or at least you have to compromise with the policy-makers and the voters who set them on their path. A non-negligible (and at that time - in the year after 9/11 - probably majority) proportion of Americans support(ed) the use of torture on suspected terrorists. They don't do this because they enjoy inflicting pain or whatever. They do so because they think keeping innocent people safe justified extreme forms of prevention, even torture.

You don't agree with them, and I don't agree with them. But most of them act with good but misguided intentions. They are not evil people. So we cannot respond to them with intransigence, unless we've given up on living in a peaceful society with them henceforth.

Torture has been stopped. The memos were released. Our policy for the foreseeable future entirely rejects torture. I'd say that our side has already gotten most of what it wants: the substantive issue - will America engage in any more torture - is settled and we won. We don't get everything we want: not all the information will be released, and some bad people won't be punished. But we can't have everything we want and still live peacefully in a society with fundamentally decent people bearing differing conceptions of the good.

Obama, whatever he might want to do, cannot give you everything you want, on this issue or any other. If he supports prosecuting CIA agents and Bush administration lawyers, or releases photos that the military says will endanger American soldiers, that will rile the moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats. Then they won't work with him on health care, or judicial nominees, or much of anything else. It's a choice: you can prosecute CIA agents, or you can extend health care to millions of poor people. You don't get both. Unless you want him to declare martial law.

Date: 2009-06-01 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Torture has been stopped.


Date: 2009-06-01 05:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The republicans arent working with him on health care, (a majority of voters want UHC) nor did they on the stimulus, nor will they on any large piece of legislation. What are they going to do? Get more angry?

Man, we'd better give in and give up on this whole "rule of law" thing we've based our country on because otherwise what nasty things will they say?

Date: 2009-06-05 01:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They, and a few conservative Democrats, will begin selectively filibustering. They could easily block health care reform that way.

What keeps them from successfully doing so now is the knowledge that it would backfire - Obama is popular enough that he could villify "obstructionist" elements of the GOP, and perhaps use that to win even more congressional seats for the Democrats next year.

But Obama's popularity depends on his maintaining what appears to be a moderate stance, one respectful of the other side. If he swings too hard left, he'll turn a sizable number of moderate voters against him. Perhaps more importantly, if he appears to be simply ignoring the concerns of Republicans, he'll look like a bully, and lose the support even of voters who don't follow the substance of issues especially carefully. Worst of all, if he does something against the generals (e.g. release photos that the military says will get American soldiers killed), he'll quickly be portrayed as a new Jimmy Carter, and probably doom Democratic candidates for years to come.

And all of that is just pedestrian electoral politics. It leaves aside the more fundamental questions I raised above: adopting a strident, uncompromising stance merely because one might get away with it necessarily alienates some fundamentally decent people with whom we happen to disagree. Long term, we cannot live in a society where such alienating policies are aggressively pursued.

Date: 2009-06-05 01:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Then we should let them filibuster! Right now they have no plan that any sizable portion of the american public supports and yet the senate is soooo scared of a filibuster. Fuck that. In the Bush years shit got passed 55-42, 58-39, 52-48 all the fucking time, this magical 60 vote thing is a lame excuse by democrats to their liberal base.

As for your earlier point, that fundamentally good people have differences. Yes, they do, and when it comes to healthcare or education we can have debates as to what is most effective and set the boundaries of the debate based on what fundamentally good people can agree on (people are dying from lack of healthcare and that is bad, how do we stop this?). But I wholeheartedly disagree that there are fundamentally good people who believe in the use of torture.

I repeat: You absolutely cannot be considered a good person if you support torture.

Torture is against all faiths. It is against all laws. It is against humanity. That might sound like hyperbole but its not. Torture is the most dehumanizing act one can undertake. Torture is not a right v left issue, even fucking Reagan gave speeches about how anyone who tortures must be brought to justice. These are real people who have this done to them. And real people who do it and the act diminishes them both and all involved.

Date: 2009-06-05 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't understand your argument in the first paragraph. A filibuster halts the passage of a bill. If health care gets filibustered, it doesn't get passed. So no health care reform. And, anyway, Senate filibusters are merely the most blunt tools available to national Republicans. Even in the minority, they can still act to slow passage of legislation, by proposing endless amendments, slipping distracting riders onto drafts, and disrupting procedural motions. These tactics look mean-spirited when the president is super-popular. But they start to look like trivial tit-for-tat if the president appears uncooperative and uncompromising. Obama's legislative agenda depends upon his popular support, which in turn depends upon his reputation for moderation and fairness.

Regarding torture. The issue is not whether torture itself is a good thing. The issue is whether some fundamentally decent people can make a well-intentioned mistake and support torture in certain circumstances.

Take an extreme case first, the ridiculous ticking-bomb scenario. Suppose we capture bin Laden himself. He gleefully confesses to his role in having killed many people, and indeed tells us that he's now rigged a nuclear device in an American city, set to go off in a few hours. We have independent intelligence suggesting that this is true. But he refuses to say where the bomb is. Now, in this situation, it's clear to me that torture is justified. He is an evil person, attempting to perpetrate further evil against many innocent people. If we can stop those horrible consequences by torturing him, then we should.

Perhaps you disagree about this case. If so, then I don't know what else I can say; that position strikes me as unreasonable and untenable. But if you do agree about this case, you might still point out that it is a fantastic case, bearing only slight similarity to any of the real instances of torture perpetrated by the American government in recent years. You might even point out that describing such an extreme, fantastic case obscures the issue. And I'd agree with you if you said that.

But notice that if we've accepted that fantastic case as one in which torture would be justified, then we've implicitly conceded that there is some set of circumstances which permit torture. Trying to specify exactly where to draw that line is difficult. How evil must the tortured person be? How good must our evidence regarding the evil be? How confident must we be of an efficacious result from the torture? Surely the answer to all these questions is "very" - but that's not an especially precise answer.

Now I think that virtually any real-world scenario - and certainly the actual instances of recent torture we now know about - fail to meet that "very" standard, so as a matter of policy I oppose torture. But I also recognize that some people may draw the line in a different place, or may have different empirical presuppositions about our evidence regarding the guilt of terrorist suspects or the efficacy of torture. Those people are - according to me - mistaken. But they are making an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake. They can still be fundamentally decent people, despite our firm disagreement on this issue.

Date: 2009-06-05 02:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My point is that filibustering does not necessarily kill a bill, it just makes everything take longer. And with something like universal health care I dont care if we have to wait for 40 people to read the telephone book to get it. But this is a side issue really.

If we capture Osama Bin Laden and he says that he has a ticking time bomb then we dont torture him. It is torture. He is, despite all his wickedness, despite all his deplorable acts, a human being. The person that would have to torture him would also be a human being. I dont care if he says he has a nuke in every major city. It is torture and it is wrong. I recognize that many people have different views on morality and that many lines are blurry and situational. But to torture, or rape or kill someone who is in custody is not something I can support in any scenario.

Date: 2009-06-06 02:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Generally, successfully filibustering does kill a bill. As long as the filibustering individuals indicate a willingness to go on forever, it becomes clear to the majority that the Senate will get absolutely nothing done. So they are forced to withdraw the bill.

Well, your position is consistent if you'd be unwilling to support torturing bin Laden in such circumstances. I can't say I understand it: I don't see a problem with torturing an individual who admits to evil actions when such torture has the possibility of preventing truly horrible consequences. But I think we've hit bedrock on this case; we just have different reactions, which probably can't be argued.

But notice, now, that your early statements commit you to saying that I - because of my disagreement on this case - cannot be a fundamentally good person. And since surely something like 95% of Americans would agree with me on this case, you're left asserting that only you and a very small minority of the population are fundamentally good persons. That seems utterly implausible.

Date: 2009-06-09 03:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sorry not to reply before this - I didn't see that you had responded.

Generally, successfully filibustering does kill a bill.

Definitional question for your philosophical heart: what makes a successful filibuster? I can think of two ways to define it: a filibuster that continues forever, or a filibuster that achieves its purpose of stopping a bill. Since the first definition is not possible, the definition of a successful filibuster should be a filibuster which kills a bill - rendering your statement redundant.

Anyway, this: They, and a few conservative Democrats, will begin selectively filibustering is bizarre to me. Republicans already filibuster with gleeful abandon.

Back when republicans had control, democrats never used their sizable minority to filibuster. There was even debate about whether or not the right to filibuster could be taken away via the "nuclear option". Once democrats assumed control, everything changed. The republicans have filibustered more than any minority party in senate history. They routinely refuse to invoke cloture on anything they can't get their way on, raising the default number of senators needed to pass a bill from 50 to 60. The only reason we don't hear it talked about as filibustering is because Harry Reid is a spineless motherfucker who refuses to make them actually pull a Jefferson Smith and literally stand up and speak out for their positions. He threatens to make democrats who aren't towing the party line filibuster. But republicans get away with just telling him they're going to do it.

For instance, the Employee Free Choice Act would pass the senate if it came up for a vote. A majority of senators support it. However, democrats need 60 people to invoke cloture and actually put EFCA up for a vote. So it's languishing in the senate, tabled for another day, like so many other democratic initiatives, many of which have widespread popular support. Why aren't we making the republicans filibuster? Why aren't we making them follow through on their threats? Because we're afraid of them doing something they're already doing?
Edited Date: 2009-06-09 03:57 am (UTC)

Date: 2009-06-12 02:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm not sure I understand why you are picking on my use of 'successful' filibuster. I was trying to find a polite way to indicate that I don't accept [ profile] 365ofnew's assessment that filibusters "just make everything take longer". 'Successful' here served less to connote its literal meaning and more as a disputationally-softening qualifier, suggesting that the only category of attempted filibuster to which [ profile] 365ofnew's comment might apply is not the one relevant to the current discussion. But it would have been unnecessarily confrontational to say that directly.

On the matter of filibusters. Your representation of the "nuclear option" affair is a bit misleading. The question there was whether or not the minority could filibuster judicial nominees, rather than legislation. Such a filibuster, then being contemplated by the Democrats, was relatively unprecedented. The "nuclear option" would not have ended the right to filibuster, but would have specifically excluded judicial nominees, thus formalizing an informal tradition.

You assert that "Back when republicans had control, democrats never used their sizable minority to filibuster." But this is false. In 2005-2006, the last time the Democrats were in the minority, there were 52 filibusters. Indeed, the average number of yearly filibusters remained quite low throughout the Republicans' decades in the minority before 1995, then began its enormous upward climb when the Democrats became the minority party. Certainly the current Republican minority is especially prone to filibustering, but it's just false to imply that this is a one-party thing. Both parties are responsible for what has happened.

Now, given that the Republicans have taken to routinely threatening filibusters, what is it I say we should fear their doing? What they haven't done (routinely) already: filibustering executive appointments, attempting to aggressively poach Democrats to block a 60-vote cloture, introducing endless distracting amendments, playing procedural games with voting, etc. There are many ways to be obstructionist beyond simple filibusters. Such continuous trouble-making is ineffective and probably self-damaging so long as the president and his majority are perceived as moderate and reasonable. But the moment the Democrats begin to look extreme and unwilling to compromise, the Republicans gain public license to become as intransigent as they please.

Date: 2009-06-12 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wasn't reading your argument with Josh (365ofnew) too closely, so I missed that - my defining successful filibuster was meant to be rather tongue in cheek. My apologies if it felt like I was picking on you.

Also, you're right, I was down-playing the number of filibusters by democrats, although there is still a sharp increase since the sides switched power, with the number of filibusters roughly doubling.

Such continuous trouble-making is ineffective and probably self-damaging so long as the president and his majority are perceived as moderate and reasonable. But the moment the Democrats begin to look extreme and unwilling to compromise, the Republicans gain public license to become as intransigent as they please.

So your argument is that we can't say that the republicans are bad, because this will make us look bad, which will in turn give republicans license to be worse?

Date: 2009-06-01 05:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree that compromise is necessary. I understand that I can't have everything I want. I'm not two years old. You're setting up straw men just so you can knock them down, with much enthusiasm.

The question is how much compromise is necessary, and how much is too much. I do not see enough change in Obama administration policy to satisfy me that the war crimes committed under Bush will not be continued. If enemy combatants continue to be held in secrecy with no civil rights and no protection from abuse, I see no reason to believe that "bad apples" will not continue to commit horrific crimes in our names.

Civil liberties, to me, are not something to be compromised on. If it's a choice between liberty and health care, I choose liberty.

Date: 2009-06-01 06:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Image (

Image (

A few bad apples indeed. When policy is that the rule of law is not required, why should we expect anyone to follow the law?

Date: 2009-06-05 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Okay, your position is reasonable, if you acknowledge that pressing hard on prisoner abuse probably means giving up things like health care. But evidently Obama has made the opposite calculation: he thinks that passing health care reform (and a myriad of other legislative goals) is of greater importance than an absolutist stance on prisoner abuse.

It seems like the right way to characterize the difference between you and Obama now is that you prioritize different things. It's not accurate, however, to say that Obama has "given up", or lacks compassion, or some of the other things in your original post. He has conceded ground on issues related to prisoner abuse because this is necessary in order to not give up on other priorities.

I'm not one of those people who thinks Obama can do no wrong - indeed I said as much almost exactly a year ago ( But I've been surprised and pleased with the administration so far. Obama has shown himself remarkably astute in balancing the demands on his attention, amidst what is surely the most trying environment since 1939-1942. I don't agree with everything he's done, but I don't think any real-world president could do much better.

Date: 2009-06-09 03:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Okay, your position is reasonable, if you acknowledge that pressing hard on prisoner abuse probably means giving up things like health care.

It possibly does, and I am willing to take that risk. However, I don't see that it necessarily or even probably does. Your arguments always seem to stem from assessments of political capital without acknowledging that said capital is fluid and that what is doesn't equal what was or will be or can be.

I don't agree with everything he's done, but I don't think any real-world president could do much better.

Then you're much more pessimistic than I am. I believe that compromise is necessary, and I know that the world will never be a perfect place, but I believe that we can do better than this. Hell, we must be able to do better than this.

Date: 2009-06-12 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My arguments stem from a realistic projection of the course of political capital. In general, presidents are constantly, slowly losing it; it greases the machinery of daily negotiations with Congress. It is only restored by two types of events: elections and national rally-round-the-flag traumas. Apart from elections, I can only think of two times in modern history in which the president gained political capital outside an election year -- 1941 and 2001.

Obama ought not rest his agenda on the presumption of such a trauma. And it's unlikely the Democrats will gain enough seats in the midterms (if any at all) to generate new political capital. Right now, Obama has more political capital than he'll have at any time except maybe after his own re-election. He may never have this much again. So he has to be responsible about how he spends it.

Date: 2009-06-12 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My arguments stem from a realistic projection of the course of political capital.

Realistic, perhaps, but by no means given. It's conventional wisdom, draped in the language of the inevitable (as conventional wisdom so frequently is). There's no accounting for risk or - ironically, in the case of Obama - real change.

Date: 2009-06-01 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Could you please explain to me the rape thing? I can kind of understand what you're referencing on torture, but where is rape condoned either specifically/explicitly or tacitly/through overlooking it? (Keep in mind that I'm not saying it hasn't been or that I disagree with your position; I'm admitting ignorance and asking to be educated.)

Date: 2009-06-02 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

"In one sworn statement, Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, detainee number 151108, said he witnessed a translator referred to only as Abu Hamid raping a teenage boy. "I saw Abu Hamid, who was wearing the military uniform, putting his dick in the little kid's ass," Hilas testified. "The kid was hurting very bad." A female soldier took pictures of the rape, Hilas said."

Date: 2009-06-02 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I get that rape happens to prisoners of war. What I'm not getting is why/how Obama personally has condoned it. That article was from 2004; I'm just--wondering what current context has occasioned [ profile] greensword's statement. I should've been more specific in asking about Obama, and I'm sorry.

Date: 2009-06-02 04:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Did Bush personally condone it? No - he facilitated a culture in which rape and torture was allowed and encouraged. A culture of silencing (see here ( and dehumanizing (see here ( which Obama is perpetuating.

Date: 2009-06-02 02:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The links you provided were helpful and informative. Thank you. (Please, though--I felt like I was catching the fire of your anger, and while I respect that anger and think it can and should be put to good use, I felt scorned, attacked, and discouraged from asking further questions.)

Date: 2009-06-02 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm very sorry I made you feel that way. My anger is definitely directed at them and not at you, but reading over I can see where you might feel attacked. (Would you mind giving me some suggestions for how I might have worded things to be less offensive to you? i.e. was there specific language I used that made you feel this way?)

I hope that you accept my apology and feel comfortable asking questions and participating in discussions in the future.

Date: 2009-06-02 03:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think the catechistic structure was really what hit me--you asked a question, then responded to it, then explicated it. Its felt effect was that you were building a discourse that excluded my voice or even assumed what that voice would say if it had anything to say. For example, I would have no problem agreeing that Obama is building and reinforcing an institutional culture conducive to torture and rape; that's not even a question for me. (My choice of 'personally' was, in retrospect, poor; I'd meant it only in contrast to the entire long institutional history of creating that culture, but it winds up looking more like I was asking, 'So, when did Obama say that rape was okay?') However, while I had examples to bear out that perspective on the torture front (and what on earth is this preventative detention thing? WHAT?), I didn't yet have examples that would be useful to me for applying that perspective to rape. So--in short, I felt like my voice was being appropriated and transformed into a voice that wasn't mine, saying things that I wouldn't say. And I know that's not what you meant to do or how you meant to do it, but that's what it felt like. I apologize, too; I'm sorry I'm making you deal with my emotional issues as well as your legitimate beefs with the government.

Date: 2009-06-02 05:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can see what you're saying. Rhetorical questions are a really effective, seductive tool for discussions because they have such a punch - but that punch relies on taking someone's words and re-framing them, frequently in a way which misstates them and sometimes in a way which is purposefully contemptuous of them. That wasn't my goal here, but I have been playing rhetorical games elsewhere in this thread, and I think that spilled over into my discussion with you.

Please don't apologize - I'm glad you raised this issue. I find the ways in which arguments are framed and conducted to be a fascinating issue. It's something that frequently and quite subtly colors debate and which should be talked about, I think. For instance, I've become sensitive to the ways in which arguments can be framed to marginalize people's emotions and experiences. This isn't the same thing, but it's related.

Date: 2009-06-02 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*smile* Thank you for having the grace and maturity to conduct this discussion in a meaningful, informative, sensitive direction. I'm grateful.

Date: 2009-06-02 05:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And thank you for taking the time to point out to me what I was doing. That was very graceful (and helpful!) as well.

Date: 2009-06-01 10:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
i'm a little bit out of the loop with the news...
so what has obama done? or what did he say?

and yes, i know exactly what you mean. but that's why people like us have to go on trying to make a difference.

Date: 2009-06-01 10:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
ps. upon reading other comments -- just remember, obama is a politician. first and formost. once and always. always always a politician.
and politicians make compromises and will do anything to appease anyone -- even if it seems they are condoning evil practices.

Date: 2009-06-02 04:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
He meant "yes we can get me elected." That was what he cared about. Unless the majority of the country's citizens show we care about more, he has no incentive to do anything truly bold. Unfortunately, I'm not sure many people in this country do care about little things like upholding Constitutional principles and the rule of law.


greensword: (Default)

November 2009

8910 1112 1314

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 26th, 2017 09:56 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios