"President Barack Obama"
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Russian President Vladimir Putin presented his case for caution in Syria directly to the American people. Putin wrote an op-ed for Thursday’s New York Times that went live online Wednesday night. In the article he titled “A Plea for Caution From Russia” Putin warned that a potential strike by the United States in Syria could unleash a new wave of terrorism, increase violence and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. He goes on to list a number of other possible negative outcomes resulting from a US missile attack, but everything he wrote in this piece has already been said. There was absolutely no new information in this article at all. After I finished reading his list of helpful warnings, to me the whole thing made him look like a slick opportunist trying to snub the president while taking advantage of America’s current foreign relations dilemma knowing that our president is in a tough situation domestically. Although Putin makes a few good points in his op-ed and on the surface he may seem sincerely concerned, we still must remember who this man is, and what he is capable of. Putin is a former KGB thug who behaves more like a dictator than an elected president. He talks about respecting international law and norms but rarely does this himself.
Remember the name Paul Klebnikov? He was an American journalist writing for Forbes Magazine. Because of his knowledge about Russian business Forbes reassigned him to Moscow to head a Russian version of Forbes. While he held that position he published a number of scathing articles about Putin and other Russian billionaires and soon after started to receive death threats. After a year in his new position he was found murdered and authorities said it looked like a professional hit. President Bush appealed directly to Vladimir Putin for help in finding those responsible and Putin refused. That murder was never solved and after that there were no more scathing articles written in Russia about Putin. So even if President Obama wanted to write a response op-ed to be published in Russia, he would have a very hard time finding a publication to publish it. Things like this occur in Russia every day but Putin sits on his high horse to lecture us Americans about what’s right and just.
Putin’s op-ed also makes a case for nonintervention when it comes to foreign governments. This is almost laughable coming from him because he refused to extradite NSA hacker Edward Snowden (who stole US government secrets) so he could face trial by the American Justice System. This does not sound like a man who wants to help Americans out of the kindness of his heart. I’m not even going to get into the atrocities Putin has bestowed upon his neighboring country of Chechnya and their ongoing contentious sometimes violent relationships with Latvia, Lithuania. And I don’t remember Mr. Putin and his government calling on the UN security council in 2008, when they decided to intervene in Georgia. The intentions and motivations of this stubby 3ft little man is to embarrass our president and make us look like war hungry aggressors. You don’t write a piece like this if diplomacy is what you’re seeking. Granted President Obama’s perceived indecisiveness opened the door rather wide for foreign critique but when it comes from someone like Putin the hypocrisy is inescapable.
There was one point in Putin’s op-ed that I did agree with, it was the part about “American Exceptionalism”. Every time former President Bush would bring this up in a speech or press conference I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. When President Obama said it in his address to the nation last night it made me cringe. Coming from an African American president who’s witnessed the dangers of elevating one race over another to justify inequality, he should know better. No matter who you are or where you were born, we were all created equal in the eyes of God.
My position on Syria has not changed or wavered one bit. I think it’s a mistake for us to bomb them for using chemical weapons. Diplomacy diplomacy diplomacy, we have to give it a chance. Launching missiles to bomb a country who does not pose an immediate threat to our country is absolutely positively the wrong thing to do. I can sympathize with the president’s position and I understand why he feels so strongly about punishing Syria for gassing all of those children and innocent bystanders. I’ve seen the video footage and I agree that no human should be able to do that without consequences, but we must exhaust every possible avenue before we try to solve it with our military. I want to see the senator Barack Obama from ten years ago when he was anti-war and voting no on the war in Iraq. Where did that guy go? When you or I watch the news and see horrible things going on around the world there’s not much we as average citizens can do about it. But when you’re the president of the most powerful nation on earth and you see senseless suffering, I’m sure that need to do something is even stronger because you have the power to do something. That moral obligation weighs heavy on every US president. But there are limits to American power. The rest of the world understands this… we as proud American citizens are slowly realizing this as well.
Over the past couple weeks we’ve learned about top secret government programs designed to seek out terrorist who wish to do harm to the United States of America. What started out as a small leak has turned into a gushing waterfall of classified top secret information. First we had a story about the Department of Justice secretly seizing two months worth of phone records from the Associated Press without a warrant. These records were seized in an effort to identify the Associated Press’s informant who leaked very sensitive classified material to an AP reporter that jeopardized an ongoing CIA mission and could have cost the lives of those carrying out the clandestine mission if the target became aware of it. Keep in mind that the DOJ only obtained the numbers called both inbound and outbound, but never listened in on any phone conversations or asked to see transcripts from any phone conversations. A few days after that story broke another revelation came to light. The DOJ obtained a warrant for Fox “reporter” James Rosen’s email account to find his source for a 2009 report about North Korea responding to a United Nations sanction with a nuclear missile test. Yesterday another classified leak of US intelligence occurred. Cellular service provider Verizon complied with a top secret court order (issued in April 2013) to give the National Security Agency information on all phone calls from all of their customers in an indefinite ongoing daily basis. Then before we had time to digest this troubling occurrence, another government surveillance story broke. A reporter from “The Guardian” uncovered a top secret government program called PRISIM that allowed them to access or monitor any US citizen’s internet use and read anyone’s email.
If proven true, all of these secret surveillance operations are a stain on Obama’s presidency, a stain on law abiding American’s civil liberties, and a stain on the credibility of the DOJ and the NSA. I have to say this is the most disappointing and troubling part of an otherwise amazing presidency. We all know president Obama is a pragmatist but his unbelievably fast evolution on the issue of civil liberties makes me determined to find out why. Before he was elected president his position on Bush’s far reaching Patriot Act was very clear. He was very vocal about his opposition to most of the bill. Especially the statutes about government surveillance on law abiding citizens. After he won the election all of this changed. If I were a cynic I’d chalk it up to politics and probably believe that he knowingly misstated his position to get elected. But that’s not the Obama I know. Everything about his life shows a man with immense integrity, so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think his change was prompted by some pretty scary intelligence that only him and a few top advisers are privy to. Being president has a huge burden that comes along with the job. You are responsible for 300 million people every day of your life for 4 to 8 years. The fate of the entire county rests in your hands and every decision you make could have dire consequences. I’m not making excuses for him infringing on American civil liberties, but I can understand why he may feel it necessary to do these types of things. It’s easy for me to feel outraged by it all when my outrage carries no consequence. So as you watch these issues unfold in the news, please keep that in mind and respect the enormity of that type of responsibility. These are complex issues and the president has to weigh the safety of nation against what is allowable by law. If his actions are indeed legal, then we have to ask ourselves if we’re just going to criticize pontificate and debate endlessly whether or not we feel comfortable with the government having this tool available to them, or are we going to push our elected officials to remove the legal ambiguity that was purposely written into bills such as the Patriot Act? Government as an institution will never voluntarily make itself less powerful, nor will any president. For that to happen the people have to be united, organized, and dedicated to restoring the principles that made this country great. I’m not willing to give up my civil liberties in order to maybe possibly probably catch one or two suspected terrorist every now and then. We are the smartest most technically advanced country in the world so there’s no way anyone can convince me that spying on law abiding Americans is the only way to fight or prevent an act of terrorism.
When President Barack Obama won reelection in 2012, he made a number of promises that captivated progressives and made us all hopeful once again. We all knew these were very big ideas and would not come easy at all, but when the President has the will of the people on his side and a crumbling economic structure where only a few benefit, then of course these factors would make things much easier. Ideas like gun control, marriage equality, income equality, immigration reform, health care reform etc. Under any other circumstances I’d be crazy or embarrassingly naive to think we’d get anywhere with such a lofty progressive agenda. But the more I think about it, all of those things should be easy. They should be a given really. Think about it… mandatory enhanced background checks for all gun purchases is supported by 90% of the American people. Marriage equality is supported by 60% (and rising more every day). An increase in minimum wage has 80% support. Immigration reform has the support of 55% favoring a legal pathway to citizenship. Sixty percent of the American people either fully support Obamacare (aka The Affordable Care Act) or think the bill isn’t liberal enough (those who still favor the public option which was dropped from the bill to get it through the house). Every one of those lofty progressive ideas that the President spoke about in his speech has support from a majority of the American people. Something is wrong here. Something is definitely wrong here. We’re supposed to live in a democracy where the president and elected officials are chosen by the people to carry out the wishes of the people. So if you have a situation where a majority of the people overwhelmingly support something, but that something still does not come to pass, we need to ask ourselves why the hell not. This is a question I’ve been struggling to make sense of for quite some time. How can you have the will of the people support something, and a majority of the senate support something and still it does not come to pass?
I’m a lover of politics but ultimately I’m a lover of information. I love history and science and finding out how things work. I love reading obscure historic biographies and watching every history channel special about past wars and presidents. As I began to write this blog I remembered something about World War II that helped me understand how elected officials can completely ignore the will of the people over and over again and still remain in office. I know it sounds crazy right now but let me explain. During WWII Japanese Emperor Hirohito and his military generals devised a propaganda campaign of massive proportion. They relentlessly drilled into the minds of their civilian and non civilian population that the Americans were complete savages. Every single day they were told stories of the Americans coming into villages raping women, decapitating babies, dismembering kids, drinking the blood of the people they kill after torturing them, and whatever else the regime’s sick sadistic minds could make up that would put the fear of god in them. They did this because it made their army fight till the death and it made the Emperor look like a protector. But one very unintended consequence of this type of propaganda says a lot about human nature and how what was intended to strengthen through manipulation can end up weakening and leading to a huge downfall. Ok, so the Japanese people heard and believed all these horrible stories about Americans and American soldiers. When our army finally reached the shores of Japan and started to make their way through the villages, they were not there to harm civilians. We knew about the Japanese propaganda so we printed up thousands of pamphlets in Japanese telling them that our soldiers were not there to kill or hurt them and if they surrendered peacefully no harm would come to them. But of course they did not believe us. They were bombarded with horror stories about us for two straight years so to them an American soldier was the devil incarnate. When it became clear that they were losing the war and they saw US soldiers coming to their village, the parents would slit the throats of their children and then slit their own. To them this was the only way of saving their children from the devil. They’d rather die by their own hand so they could make it quick and relatively painless than be tortured, dismembered, decapitated, raped, etc. Village after village the same thing happened over an over no matter what the soldiers tried to do to let them know we meant them no harm.
This small piece of WWII history helped me understand why the will of the people can be ignored time and time again without an all out revolt. We’re Japanese villagers. We’ve been conditioned. We’re fearful and therefore powerless. The president wants to raise the minimum wage and has the complete support of the people. Every working person in this country can agree that a person working a full time job should not be in poverty. But that’s the way it is right now. Full time job working everyday of the week and still does not make enough to feed their family. Wall Street seeing a huge upswing, major corporations making record profits, CEO’s getting millions in bonuses and instead of using all those profits and bonuses to pay the people who work for them a fair wage, they use it to buy politicians, to lobby the people we put in office so they can keep their huge profits and keep paying their workers shit. These lobbyist get political pundits and “so called” journalist to tell the electorate that a raise in minimum wage would kill jobs. And people are so afraid of losing their low paying crappy job that they start to believe the propaganda. Never mind that what these so called experts and pundits are saying does not make sense. A company making record profits can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage? If that’s true they should go out of business. If they are that close to the edge then that’s not a healthy company. We need to stop separating ourselves into republicans or democrats, or white or black, or native or immigrant… those are really just labels that help the fear machine push out more and more lies and more and more propaganda. We have the numbers, we are the majority, we have the power so it’s about time we start acting like it. We’ve all seen the gap in income disparity grow larger and larger and yet we’ve done absolutely nothing NOTHING to fix it. Our president wants to raise the minimum wage. The American people want to raise the minimum wage. Why isn’t it happening? Are we going to take responsibility and support this until it’s law or are we going to be like Japanese villagers in WWII waiting to slit our throats to avoid an even worse fate?
FACTS FOR NONBELIEVERS:
The next time someone tells you that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs and slow the economic recovery, here are some hard facts that proves those statements to be false.
Among the 50 largest low‐wage employers:
- 92 percent were profitable last year
- 78 percent were profitable for the past 3 years
- 75 percent are earning higher revenue now than before the recession
- 63 percent are earning higher profits now than before the recession
- 63 percent have a higher operating margin (a measure of profitability) now than before the recession
- 73 percent have higher cash holdings now than before the recession
These facts and figures were researched by the National Employment Law Project (PDF). They killed a very old Republican talking point that low wage jobs were the heart of small businesses. This study found that the majority of America’s lowest‐paid workers are employed by large corporations, not small businesses, and most of the largest low‐wage employers have recovered from the recession and are in a strong financial position.
Last week in my “Bad Week For Obama” blog I discussed three current “so called” scandals that the white house is trying to deal with. The IRS debacle, the Department of Justice wiretapping issue, and the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Honestly I thought all three of those scandals would fizzle and fade away from mainstream media. I knew Fox wouldn’t let these issues die so that part I expected. But mainstream media and even liberal media are still leading their broadcasts with all three of these stories every day. I’m not saying that these issues aren’t important, but they aren’t half as big as everyone is making them out to be. Especially Benghazi. That’s the one that drives me crazy because I don’t understand why an argument over talking points has garnered all this attention. I thought President Obama took all the steam out of that story during the second presidential debate. Romney thought he had a sure-fire trump card that would definitely score him major points but President Obama threw it right back at him and ended up making Romney look like an uninformed opportunist. For some reason Republicans never learn from their mistakes and seem incapable of moving away from issues and political maneuvers that have failed and in some cases failed miserably. Two very good examples of this is Benghazi and the repeal of The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The House and the Senate can’t seem to get anything done or even bring bills to the floor for a simple up or down vote, but that hasn’t stopped them from voting on the repeal of Obamacare 45 times. They know each time this will fail but they still do it over and over again. Common sense would tell anyone that there’s zero chance of Obama signing a bill that would undo his biggest piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act is the most important part of his legacy. Hell, it even has his name in the title (lol). It seems as though everyone has caught scandal fever when it should have been just a 24 hour bug.
I can’t blame everything on Republicans because the White House continually makes bad decisions which makes small missteps into huge epidemics. Their number one problem is rolling-disclosure. Leaking small pieces of information here and there day by day keeps these scandals in the news. They’ve done this with Benghazi, the IRS thing, and the DOJ’s wiretaps. I just blasted the Republicans for not learning from their mistakes, but the White House has the exact same problem. I wish President Obama would have taken charge of the IRS issue as soon as they became aware of it. They should have been the one to bring this to the public’s attention. That would have taken 90% of the steam out of the GOP’s argument. But instead his staff and advisers decided that “plausible deniability” would somehow protect him and limit his exposure without risking his political capital… so they didn’t tell him. That works well in business but it never works in politics. Especially when you’re the president. Maybe this time they’ve finally learned that lessen and they’ll stop giving Republicans ammunition.
This has not been a good week for our president… stating the obvious I know, but he’s taking heat from all sides, both left and right. Some of it is warranted but most of it only exist in the minds of republicans or manufactured within the 24 hour news cycle to raise a ratings slump that’s been stagnant and/or lagging ever since the presidential election ended in November. I hate to see the President on the ropes like that so I’m going to break it down and help him out a bit (like he’s going to read my blog or solicit my advice lol).
Late Friday evening a story leaked out accusing the IRS of unfairly targeting right-wing groups who filed for nonprofit status. After the story broke the IRS released a statement acknowledging the unfair targeting and extra scrutiny these applications were getting. President Obama held a press conference to address this issue and told the press that they were launching an investigation, and he was very emphatic about finding out who was responsible and promised to deal with them accordingly. I’m a very liberal democrat (surprise surprise) and I’m not a fan of the Tea Party (an even bigger surprise) but wrong is wrong. Anyone at the IRS who had anything at all to do with this should be fired and prosecuted in a criminal court. President Obama also said that he had no prior knowledge of this happening until the day before the story leaked, and it’s pretty obvious that he had nothing to do with the IRS placing extra scrutiny on the right-wing groups applications. Common sense would tell anyone that the White House and President Obama had absolutely nothing to gain by delaying nonprofit 501c applications. He’s extremely intelligent and pragmatic so he would never risk his presidency for something as stupid and insignificant (relatively speaking) as this . But the republicans haven’t figured this out yet. They’ve alluded to cover ups of mass proportions all week on any media outlet that will give them airtime. Normally this wouldn’t be such a huge deal. Admittedly the IRS was wrong and they should take responsibility for letting this happen and be punished. But the far right-wingers want to make this all about President Obama and they’ll continue to feed these delusional theories to their base buffet style as long as they keep eating it up. So the quicker the president resolves this situation the better. He needs to wrap the investigation up ASAP and be brutal quick and indiscriminate with the firings of some top IRS officials and do it in a very public way. When dealing with political scandals whether they are real or manufactured, perception is everything. Republicans rarely deal in reality so you have to beat them at their own game. PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING. Start demagoguing the hell out of every press conference when these guys start to come for you. So, that’s my advice on the IRS issue. On the scandal scale it gets a 2 out of 10 (10 being Watergate or the Iraq war, and 1 being Jimmy Carter lusting in his heart lol).
The second scandal is a lot more serious and actually merits even more attention than it’s already getting. Earlier in the week the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration did this without a warrant, without honoring the First Amendment, and contrary to normal procedure where they could have asked the Associated Press to cooperate and if they declined then they could take it court and let a judge decide. Prior to this incident that is the way the DOJ has handled similar situations in the past. This story troubles me the most, and it’s the most confusing issue I have with President Obama. I voted for him twice thinking he wanted to do things a lot different from his predecessor. Obama promised me and everyone who voted for him a more transparent government. Then he does a 180 and instead of walking back some of the civil liberty infringements of George Bush’s Patriot Act, he adds to it with things like warrantless phone taps on law abiding citizens, increasing the number of DRONE attacks, and assassinating secret targets without telling congress and without any due process. For most of his first term in office he wouldn’t even acknowledge that the drone attacks were coming from us. That doesn’t sound transparent to me at all. Don’t get me wrong, I think the President is doing a great job as commander in chief, and I don’t regret voting for him at all. But when it comes to foreign policy and protecting civil liberties I am extremely disappointed in that part of his administration’s agenda. So here’s my advice to the president about this. First of all he needs to do some restructuring at the Justice Department. He needs to take the DRONE attack program away from the CIA and give this responsibility to the military. The CIA is a covert organization so they really can’t be transparent about their operations, and they do not answer to Congress so that means no oversight. The Military handles these types of things best because they have to get orders, show results, and notify Congress of their actions. My second piece of advice pains me because I like Attorney General Eric Holder, but like I said before, perception is everything. President Obama needs to replace Holder with someone else, preferably someone outside of his circle of close friends and advisors. Someone who is passionate about progressive ideas and an advocate for civil liberties. Eric Holder was great at his job, but someone’s head has to roll and roll quickly.
It will be interesting to see how the President will handle all of these situations being thrown at him all at once. I have complete faith in him as a leader because he’s been overcoming major obstacles all his life. So far he’s risen to meet every set back head on and always comes out unscaved as the victor. I’m not even going to talk about Benghazi because he’s already won that argument. The republicans just don’t know yet. When will they learn that It’s going to take more than the GOP to tarnish this man.