defrog: (Default)
I’ve had a project in mind for awhile now to rank the presidents – specifically, the US Presidents that have served during my lifetime (which in my case would be from Lyndon Johnson up to Barack Obama). But of course I had to wait until Obama’s terms were up before I could add him to the list, which has given me a great excuse to procrastinate. So yr not going to see that list anytime soon, is what I’m saying.

But now that Barack Obama has left the building, I can at least get his entry out of the way and address the burning and traditional question every POTUS faces after leaving office:

So, how’d he do?

That’s not an easy question to answer – partly because most people rate POTUS performance along party lines and pet issues. And in these days of hyperpartisan polarization, too many people have emotionally invested themselves a particular extreme political narrative. For most liberals I know, Obama was the best President ever. For most conservatives I know, he was absolutely unequivocally the worst, most inept, dishonest and tyrannical POTUS ever, and probably not even an American, and pretty much wrecked the entire country so badly that they actually trust Trump to try and fix it.

As you might imagine, neither opinion holds much water with me. The liberal rating tends to be primarily based on select accomplishments (Obamacare and legal same-sex marriage, and Obama arguably should only get credit for the former) and the fact that Obama was charismatic and likeable (as was his whole family). Conservative assessments of Obama are generally based on vitriolic party-line batshit conspiracy nonsense.

Of course, my own assessment isn't necessarily objective either, so if you happen to fall into the above two camps, there’s no reason to take this post seriously.

For my money, rating Obama’s overall performance should take into account a few important caveats:

1. He inherited a terrible mess – the worst recession in decades and two foreign policy quagmires that made the Middle East in particular even harder to deal with than it already was. In terms of difficulty levels, Obama entered office with the bar raised considerably high.

2. He also faced one of the most obstructionist Congresses in history. Republicans simply hated him and refused to cooperate with him on just about every major issue. They blame that on him, because of course they do. But no, it’s pretty clear to me that the GOP demonstrated a public and unabashed determination to ensure that Obama got as little cooperation from them as possible.

3. The metrics of success shifted considerably before or during his presidency. On paper America’s economy is far stronger than it was when he took office, and yet almost half of voters seem convinced that it’s far worse. I suspect it's at least in part because the metrics don’t reflect the reality on the ground for many people. It’s great the unemployment rate is down, but if yr working three part-time jobs to make ends meet and you still can’t save money, you may not feel as though things are getting better. At a guess, this might be one of the consequences of the growing wealth inequality gap – those metrics tend to be better news for the rich than for everyone else who has to work for a living. Or it just might be the consequence of everyone being more poorly informed by hyperpartisan media bubbles. Point being, this has an influence on how Obama’s legacy will be assessed by many people.

4. Given that many liberals I know complained quite a bit about some of Obama’s decisions over his two terms (note: contrary to GOP propaganda, he was NEVER the socialist liberal that actual socialist liberals desperately wanted him to be, and they made that clear by channeling that disappointment into supporting Bernie Sanders), I’m reasonably sure that the people glowing over Obama’s legacy are being partly influenced by the horrific contrast of his successor. Next to the Trump Batshit Reality Show, even George W Bush looks reasonably good, so of course Obama is going to come off looking awesome.

So … given all that, I would rate the Obama admin thusly:

Overall I think Obama did okay with what he had to work with. But it is something of a mixed bag.

I don't have the time or space to go into the details, so you can read some good assessments at these links:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/03/barack-obama-president-legacy-policy-issues-wins-fights

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/09/opinions/obama-legacy-opinion-roundup/

http://time.com/4632190/historians-obamas-legacy/

http://reason.com/blog/2017/01/12/obamas-foreign-policy-legacy-an-embrace

http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21712062-barack-obamas-presidency-lurched-between-idealism-and-acrimony-some-his

To summarize all this into some convenient oversimplified bullet points:

1. Obama’s economic policies generally worked, at least by traditional metrics. Even his unorthodox remedies (i.e. the temp auto industry takeover that Republicans offered as proof of his radical socialist agenda to destroy capitalism) ended up working. But that didn’t seem to translate into economic and employment security at street level, though I’m not sure how much of that is directly Obama’s fault. Either way, the growing wealth-inequality gap widened considerably under his watch, and that’s arguably at the root of some of the discontent.

2. Obamacare was a nice try, but it was also a long-term play, so if the GOP finally gets its wish to repeal and (maybe kinda who knows) replace, we'll never know if it was ultimately workable or not. I don't know enough about the healthcare sector to rate it fairly, though I can say I’ve heard healthcare professionals on both sides of the aisle say good and bad things about it.

3. Obama’s big weak spot has been foreign policy. He did have some successes – his dealings with Iran and Cuba, getting us out of Iraq, etc, and generally making the world not hate America as much as it did under GW Bush. He was less successful with Syria, Libya, ISIS, et al. And while he did end combat ops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he replaced them with drone warfare that isn't necessarily more ethical than boots on the ground (though I guess it is cheaper and ensures that only non-Americans die, so … great?). Again, though, I think his realistic options for action were limited to an extent by the policies of his predecessor.

4. Where Obama really went wrong for me was his failure (or unwillingness) to fix the civil liberties violations institutionalized under the Bush admin. Okay, he got rid of torture, and he only failed to close down Gitmo because Congress wouldn't let him. But in terms of mass surveillance, indefinite detentions, assassinations, etc, Obama turned out to be not so progressive. And I don’t think he should get a free pass on that, partly because I think they're important issues that speak to the core values that America is supposed to stand for, but also because look who has the same powers at his disposal now.

5. In terms of character, he was a pretty inspiring as a leader (at least for the choir – conservatives kept bringing up Lenin, and we all know about him) – he was smart, charismatic, gave great speech, and was a dedicated family man. Republicans will claim he was divisive, but given their outspoken unwillingness to cooperate with Demos under an Obama admin, I don’t take that claim seriously. He also got through eight years without a single major personal or political scandal, which is impressive. (If yr going to bring up Hillary’s emails and Benghazi, save yr breath – those are only Obama scandals in the alternate universe that Trump conservatives seem to live in.)

So yeah, overall I would rank Obama as one of the better presidents in my lifetime – again, within the context of the caveats stated above (and relative to the competition – when you look at the POTUS roster of the last 50 years, you’ve basically got three strong contenders, after which there’s a pretty big dropoff in quality). He didn’t get everything right, but then no POTUS ever has. But what he got wrong is also serious enough to overshadow a lot of what he did get right.

If nothing else, I’d say he was probably one of the most “presidential” presidents of my lifetime – someone who looked confident in the leadership role, put serious thought into his policies, and did his best to inspire.

Usually the key question in assessing any POTUS is: is America better off now than eight years ago? In some ways we are – in some ways we aren’t. But most of the latter has to do with the hyperpartisan Batshit Reality Schism and the general breakdown of civility in political discourse. And honestly that’s not on Obama. That’s on the American People™.

Done and dusted,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)


1. No it’s not a Kenyan word. Kenyan is not a language. Yr thinking of Swahili. And it’s a not a Swahili word either.

2. The mountain was named after William McKinley in 1896 by a gold prospector who supported McKinley’s presidential campaign. It didn’t become official until 1917 – 16 years after McKinley was assassinated.

3. The locals still called it Denali, and in 1975, the Alaska Board of Geographic Names changed the name of the mountain back to Denali. The same year, the Alaska state legislature asked the United States Board on Geographic Names to do the same at the federal level, but the request was blocked by Ohio congressman Ralph Regula, whose district included McKinley's hometown of Canton.

4. No one cares about this except McKinley’s relatives, politicians from Ohio and Republicans who will take anything Obama does and turn it into additional proof that he’s an evil Socialist Kenyan imam dictator who hates America. (See also: latte salute, teleprompters, terrorist fist jabs, spicy mustard, etc ad nauseum)

5. President McKinley was on the $500 bill until the Treasury stopped printing them in 1945 and discontinued the bill entirely in 1969. Which is also Obama’s fault.



Queen of Denali,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
As you know, the Supremes have been busy making part of America very happy and part of America very very sad and angry.

If you want commentary focusing strictly on the legal reasonings behind the Obamacare and gay marriage decisions, go to SCOTUSblog, though you will find commentary backing both the majority and the dissents – and they’re about as polarized as Facebook on both issues. (Lawyers, eh?)

I don’t have much to say about either decision because I’ve already stated my opinions on Obamacare and gay marriage. You can assume those still apply.

But here’s a few general comments to fulfill my 1A requirements:

1. For those liberal friends of mine who have spent the last ten years complaining about how the GOP has packed SCOTUS with activist conservatives who will kill Obamacare at the first opportunity and rubber stamp every idea that benefits Republicans and Corporate America, I suggest you take some time to reflect on the accuracy of yr predictions, as well as on how SCOTUS actually works.

2. No one ever said it wasn’t funny watching conservatives deploying the “activist judges” routine against judges they’d supported on the grounds that they would be strict constitutional fundamentalists.

3. By “activist judges”, they mean “judges who don’t vote the way I want them to”.

4. Fox news ha ha ha.

5. Ted Cruz is the new Pat Buchanan. Because what's the point of having an independent judiciary if they can’t be pressured by politicians and popular opinion to vote in your favor on your particular pet issue?

6. The SCOTUS rulings won’t end the debate. Of course they matter in terms of Obamacare carrying on and LGBTQ couples being able to be hitched, although it’s likely the states that still have hetero-only laws on the books will take their sweet time in changing their laws to comply with the ruling.

But as Point 5 indicates, conservatives don’t plan to just sit back and take this. So you’re going to see more legal challenges to Obamacare, and there will be efforts to amend the Fed Constitution to either define marriage as hetero-only or “fix” the Supreme Court. They’ll probably fail – conservatives have been proposing such things for a couple of decades now, and have never succeeded. But that's the great thing about political parties – yr always convinced yr the “real” majority no matter what the polls say. (Which proves that when you lose it’s part of some evil conspiracy against you by activist judges or whatever the hell.)

We’ll also see silly things like bills forcing SCOTUS judges to enroll in Obamacare (now called SCOTUScare) so “they will see firsthand what the American people are forced to live with.” Yes, ha ha. Given how much SCOTUS judges make, I doubt they’ll notice the difference.

On a more serious note, I do think you’ll be seeing a lot of other battles around the gay marriage ruling, like whether churches can opt out of performing gay marriages, or whether religious universities can refuse to provide housing for same-sex married couples, etc and so on.

7. Also, it’s an election year, so the bluster is going to have some momentum – at least at the Congressional level. It’s interesting to note that while GOP POTUS candidates like Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal are talking about judicial tyranny, others have opted for the “I don’t agree with the gay marriage ruling, but it’s the law of the land so we must respect it” response – which is political savviness on their part, since the majority of Americans support gay marriage, so the ruling basically lets them off the hook. (No word yet on if they feel the same way about the Obamacare ruling.)

But you can bet a whole lot of GOP candidate at other levels of govt are going to milk these decisions as evidence of liberal “lawlessness” and that you need to vote GOP before it’s too late and America becomes a nation of gay Spanish-speaking Satan-worshipping multicultural Socialist Mexicans.

Which they’ve doing for years, of course. But now that they’ve got fresh “evidence” to rile up the base, they’re almost certainly going to run off the end of the earth with it.

8. I realize I’m mostly picking on conservatives here, but given the tone of the “debate” I’ve seen on both these issues, I feel pretty confident in saying had SCOTUS ruled the other way in both cases, you’d be seeing the same amount of dithering, vitriol and teeth-gnashing from the liberal side of the aisle. Because this is 2015 – we do not lose gracefully because we’ve convinced ourselves the Other Side is a cabal of supervillains out to destroy humanity and MUST BE STOPPED.

Also, it’s pretty much how the Left reacted to Citizens United and Hobby Lobby. So it’s not like they can point fingers at how conservatives are such sore losers in court cases.

Carry on screaming,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)
So Obama said the N-word during a podcast and America is freaking out about that.

Which is bloggable for a few reasons:

1. People who are upset about it have missed the larger point he was trying to make because they can’t get over the fact that OMG OMG Obama said “n****r”.

2. The fact that they're freaking out over it actually proves the point he was trying to make, except they don't realize that either.

3. Fox News ha ha ha.

4. A few friends of mine (who just happen to be white Republicans) who really hate Obama (in a non-racist way, they say) have said he shouldn’t have used the word precisely because it distracted from his overall message. Technically they have a point – it’s become such a nuclear word that it upsets people’s sensibilities to the point of distraction.

On the other hand, it’s hard to take that point seriously when it comes from people who (1) have no interest in Obama's overall message, they just want another excuse to bash Obama some more with the Evil Incompetence stick, (2) have spent every day since 2008 claiming the only race problem in America is black people crying racism all the time (and they have the anecdotes to prove it) and (3) tend to complain about how unfair it is that black people can say it but white people can’t.

Anyway. I think I’m supposed to express my opinion here, so:

For myself, it’s just the latest example in a sadly long list of examples (that’s getting longer every week) that demonstrate that not only does America still has a race problem, but that a large portion of Americans (most of them white) are completely unaware that it does.

I’m exaggerating, of course. But as a white person who grew up in the South, I know a lot of other white persons who really think racism is not a problem anymore precisely because we’re not allowed to call black people the n-word, as if that was the problem all along – that, and lynchings and church bombings and KKK rallies and crap. We fixed all that in the 60s somewhere when we desegregated buses or something, and white people don’t do that anymore, and BTW, if America had a race problem we wouldn’t have elected Obama twice, so problem solved, right?

Well no. And this is exactly the point Obama was trying to make: American racism is the product of 300+ years of history which African Americans have had to endure, from the overt to the covert. You don’t erase that overnight with a court decision and a civil rights bill, and you don’t fix it by banning racist epithets and using coded language. It’s a much bigger problem than that, and it takes time to heal. And it doesn’t help when certain political parties and media figures keep the wounds alive by exploiting latent racism for their own ends.

The point isn’t that all whites are racist and all blacks are victims of white racism – of course it’s not that simple. The point is that it’s hard to have a productive conversation about racism when a significant number of people are unaware the problem exists, then get all defensive when you try to point out that it does.

If you want an idea of how bad the disconnect is, look no further than all those African Americans on the streets and on TV telling you they’re victims of racism, and all the white people on TV saying: “No you’re not, because we’re not racist anymore, so you can’t possibly be victims of racism.” (Which is of course kinda racist.) 

Or you can just watch this Daily Show skit with Jessica Williams.

Anyway, yeah. I don’t have a problem with what Obama said. It needed to be said, even though most people who heard it inevitably heard only what they wanted to hear regardless of what word he did or didn’t use. But that’s not his problem – it’s ours.

Word up,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
There is a lot of dithering about the TPP, which Presidente Obama just failed to get fast-track authority for.

And it has to be said, you know something may not be a good idea when Elizabeth Warren and Carly Fiorina both agree it’s a bad idea (albeit for different reasons).

But then, what’s to like?

The TPP isn’t new. It’s been kicked around since the previous presidential admin (bipartisan!), and no one really liked it then – at least, no one not involved with the actual negotiations. Which, BTW, is the main thing that most reasonable people object to – it’s a secret treaty with secret provisions negotiated in secret, and every time a piece of it gets leaked, you start to suspect that it’s secret for a reason: if it wasn’t secret, no one outside of a corporate boardroom would support it.

And that in itself should be a red flag. It’s unreasonable and ridiculous to expect anyone to support a trade deal without knowing what it contains or how it will affect them, much less expect them to take yr word for it that it’s a great deal. The fact that the details will be supposedly made public once it’s up for a vote is small comfort. There might be a great case to support the TPP – but none of its proponents seem capable of making a convincing one, apart from “Trust me, this will be awesome for America, and everyone who says otherwise is just wrong, so let's hurry up and get this done and let me worry about the details!”

Anyway, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has much to say about the TPP, much of it related to copyright issues, which is what first got me interested in TPP back when Presidente Bush was championing this thing. But it’s worth passing on. Most of the focus in the media has been on the specific accusations raised by Warren, but there are plenty of other reasons to suspect the TPP is a bad idea full of unwelcome surprises.

Don’t sign that dotted line,

This is dF


defrog: (license to il)
ITEM: Iranian state television has aired the first episode of a satirical animated series called "OK" that makes fun of Presidente Obama and State Sec John Kerry.

It is available on the YouTubes. At least until someone files a takedown notice.



The BBC reports: 

It parodies the Czech stop-motion animated movie "Pat and Mat", which is hugely popular in Iran, and features two hapless handymen who continually find themselves in stapstick-style situations. […]

The series is produced by the Centre for Digital Arts of Basij (voluntary force) which aims to produce a range of "new cultural products" such as video games, animation and multimedia software with an anti-West message.

It’s actually kind of funny … provided you are (1) not an American or (2) an American capable of laughing at yrself. It’s also somewhat instructive to see what Iranians think of when they think of the USA (or at least the US Govt).

It will be interesting to see what conservatives make of it, since they’ve made it fairly clear if there’s one thing they hate more than Iran, it’s Obama. (Which means they have something in common with Iran, which is nice, I guess.)

That’s assuming they ever see this. But it would be hilarious if someone posted this on all the conservative blogs and news sites without identifying the source just to see how long it circulates before they find out the Iranians are behind it.

On the table,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
There is dithering about Iran.

Specifically, there is dithering over the deal Presidente Obama has struck with Iran regarding its nuclear program.

I’ll save myself a lot of typing by linking to this Economist article, with is the most level-headed assessment I’ve read about the Iran deal. The upshot: it’s not great, but if the objective is to (1) keep Iran from making a nuke and (2) avoid a war with Iran, it’s the best option under the circumstances.

I’ll add that I’m not that impressed with the criticism from Republicans over the deal. For one thing, they’re programmed to criticize any decision Obama makes about anything as the worst decision ever, particularly regarding foreign policy, and especially with a POTUS election kicking off. (I mean, these are largely the same people who actually wrote Iran a letter during the negotiation process saying they wouldn’t honor any deal they made with Obama even before they even knew what the terms of the deal would be. So it’s not like I can take them seriously.) 

There are some legit reasons for opposing the deal, and some Repubs may be motivated by those as well. Certainly some Congressional Democrats are. I understand that. The thing is, no one is offering up any better ideas – at least not realistic ones. Yes, I know they’re saying the terms aren’t hardcore enough and they’d only back a deal that goes something like “You destroy all yr centrifuges and we don’t bomb you back to the Stone Age.” Written in ALL CAPS for effect. (I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.) 

The problem is that they want something they can't have. Iran wouldn’t take a deal like the ones Republican hawks are suggesting in a million years. And why should they? A “deal” involves both parties getting something they want. The alternatives being described by GOP hawks (and Binyamin Netanyahu, for that matter) are more like ultimatums rather than deals. Okay, but they don’t really need Iran at a negotiating table for that. You could just send them an email. 

In any case, with all the political posturing and rhetoric flying around, it’s easy to forget what the overall objective is here: how to stop Iran from developing a nuke.

I’m not saying the Obama deal will succeed in achieving that. Neither is The Economist. A lot more work has to be done to make sure the details are workable and the terms enforced effectively. That won’t be easy, not least because if the GOP and Israel are right about one thing, it’s that the Iranian regime can’t be trusted. No one’s really disputing that, as far as I know. 

But I don’t see how playing Big Dick Hardball will get better results. Since Iran already has nuclear facilities, we can’t really stop them from making a bomb by refusing to negotiate and doubling down on sanctions until they give up. We’ve been doing that for over a decade, and Iran’s nuclear capabilities have gotten exponentially better every year.

The remaining option is to do an Iraq on them – which might stop Iran from having a bomb (for awhile), but it would come at the cost of a trillion dollars, a decade or two of occupation, hundreds of thousands of dead people, and destabilizing the entire region.

So no, the Obama deal is probably the best option going if you want a shot at actually keeping Iran from having a bomb. However, if yr only real objective is to talk trash about Obama and Iran for maximum political advantage – which I think is all Repubs are really interested in at the moment – then okay, carry on, and good luck with that.

Deal or no deal,

This is dF


defrog: (sars)
MARCH 9, 2015

Dear Iran,

Fuck you.

Fuck Obama.

And fuck whatever “treaty” you two come up with because we sure as fuck didn’t sign it. If it were up to us you would be a smoking crater in the desert by now. Fuck you so much. 

Yrs in Christ,

The GOP

================================================================================

MARCH 10, 2015

Dear GOP,

Thank you for yr letter. Please keep up the good work opposing yr president, dividing the country and fighting amongst yrselves. Yr cheap publicity stunts are making our work to destroy America all that much easier.

Also, we look forward to yr next war in our part of the world. Hope it goes as smoothly as the last two.

Obama says hey.

Allahu akbar,

Iran

PS: Fuck you too.


defrog: (sars)
Rudy Giuliani is on TV again for some reason – though when it’s Fox News, “randomly bashing Obama” is as good a reason as any to put anyone on TV, I suppose.

Anyway, Rudy has been going around talking about how Obama hates America and can’t possibly love it as much as Rudy does, because 9/11.

It’s kind of a bizarre spectacle – it’s like someone entering into the middle of a conversation and offering an opinion on a completely different topic as though that’s what you were talking about all along. Except that a given number of people in the room (or in this case, everyone in the room where he was speaking at the time) fully agree with his opinion, however irrelevant it might be to the immediate topic, and let him have his say because hey, fuck Obama.

Anyway, the subsequent reaction has gone pretty much the way you’d expect: 

Liberals: That’s racist.

Conservatives: No it’s not. And anyway, Obama
can't possibly love America because he’s a black guy and a liberal, and look how badly we’ve treated them.

The only useful comment I’ve read about it is this piece from The Economist, which points out – correctly – that patriotism doesn’t have to be unqualified and unquestioning to be genuine.

More importantly, it makes the point that of course minorities are more likely to have a more complicated view of America precisely because they’ve been victims of discrimination and bigotry, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of patriotism:

The ardent and unclouded quality of love that Mr Giuliani and Mr Williamson find missing in Mr Obama is largely the privilege of those oblivious of and immune to America's history of injustice and abuse. Those least aware of historical oppression, those furthest from its living reality, will find it easiest to express their love of country in a hearty and uncomplicated way. The demand that American presidents emanate this sort of blithe nationalism therefore does have a racist and probably sexist upshot, even if there is no bigotry behind it.

[…] where Mr Giuliani sees a half-hearted allegiance to the fatherland, some of us see instead evidence of education, intelligence, emotional complexity and a basic moral decency—evidence of a man not actually in the grip of myths about his country. A politician capable of projecting an earnest, simple, unstinting love of a spotless and superior America is either a treacherous rabble-rouser or so out of touch that he is not qualified to govern.

This is why conservatives always come across as disingenuous to me when they play the Love It Or Leave It Patriotism card like this. I don’t mean they’re fake patriots (though some may be) – I just think they’ve put no real thought into it. They don’t love America so much as have a teenage crush on it. The feeling may be real, and it’s hard to tell the difference from True Love, but it’s superficial and completely out of touch with reality.

Which is downright dangerous when someone like Joe McCarthy acquires the stature to wield patriotism like a drunk waving a gun around. Or when you start applying that test to things like, say, history textbooks. You won’t make America a better country by pretending it’s never done anything wrong.

But then I don’t have a lot of use for patriotism anyway. I understand the necessity of it for a job like POTUS. But it doesn’t impress me. And I’ve always resented people using it as some kind of litmus test to determine your worth as a person. It’s both stupid and lazy.

George Bernard Shaw was right.

No one understands you like I do,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
There’s been a rash of Big News Stories in the last few days that are probably worth commenting on, but I’m a little pressed for time, so please enjoy these unsolicited and ill-informed capsule opinions.

1. That Sony hack

A lot of people have blasted Sony for pulling The Interview after being threatened by hackers (allegedly from North Korea). I would generally agree with that. It sets a bad precedent when you give in to the demands of hackers who don’t approve of yr content. But I also think that’s a minor story compared to the fact that Sony’s online security measures are as bad as they are.

The censorship angle is the least troubling aspect of all this. Sony isn’t the first company – and won’t be the last – to be subjected to hacking and cyberblackmail, and that’s a problem in this day and age when everything is online. Bruce Schneier has a good breakdown of the real issues at stake here and what companies need to do to get ready. He also explains the futility (and inevitability) of overreacting to this.

As far as the censorship angle goes, well, you can always count on Larry Flynt to lead by example.

2. Cop killers

Two cops dead in Brooklyn, another shot and run over in FLA. When I heard the news, I didn’t even have to go on Facebook to know that all the people who supported Darren Wilson were going to offer this as “proof” that black people were wrong to cry racism and protest on the streets because now look what you’ve gone and done.

Which really just illustrates the extent of the very problem that protesters have been complaining about. The message is basically, “If cops are shooting unarmed black people, don’t complain or someone might shoot a cop and then it will be all yr fault for criticizing cops for shooting unarmed black people.”

Besides, there's nothing lazier or more expedient in the world than using the actions of one crackpot to blame an entire group of people he/she claimed to represent by his/her crackpot actions. Any idiot can do that.

3. Havana affair 

I’m kind of ambivalent towards this, but I see no good reason not to start lifting restrictions. The naysayers are rolling out the usual arguments, and they might be right in the sense that Cuba won’t become a free(er) nation as a result of Obama’s policy.

But let’s not pretend the previous policy was working, or making any real difference. It might have made sense during the Cold War. That ended 25 years ago. Critics have been recycling the same 50-year-old old arguments out of habit, and also because Obama is for it. (And because Cuban exiles vote.) These arguments do not impress me.

I think the worst that will happen is nothing will change in Cuba, so why not try something different? And anyway, it’s hard to argue that we shouldn't normalize relations with dictatorships when we’ve been doing that with China since the 1970s.

Our man in Havana,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
I hadn’t planned to write anything else about Ferguson. But I was kind of waiting for someone to find a way to blame all of this on Presidente Obama somehow.

Fox News did not let me down.

And now of course Ferguson isn’t the only place where grand juries are letting white cops who kill unarmed black people go free.

theflama: The Eric Garner decision proves that grand juries are useless.

Which probably means the Cleveland cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice has nothing to worry about. Or that Phoenix cop who shot a black guy while he was reaching for a bottle of pills.

Because it’s not their fault, you see. It is Obama’s fault those people are dead now. Race relations were great until Obama started saying they weren’t. And if he had created jobs, everyone wouldn’t be so angry about cops killing unarmed black people.

Or something.

It’s depressing how many people I know on Facebook who point to these grand jury decisions – and that Fox News bit – as some kind of proof that (1) it’s okay for cops to shoot unarmed people and (2) cops aren’t racist, and the only racists in America are black people calling white cops racist. As far as they’re concerned, the system works, and police have to deal with dangerous people all the time, and by the way Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Rumain Brisbon were criminals, and that’s why they had to die for crimes involving tobacco products and (allegedly) drugs. And hey, they’d still be alive if they’d gone along quietly like white people do when they get rumbled by the fuzz. And as for Tamir Rice, hey, kids shouldn’t play with guns around cops.

Which is easy to say when the victim isn’t a member of your family.

No one’s actually saying that, of course. Not verbatim. But that’s the overall message I’m getting here – the victims aren’t nearly as important as the fact that white cops killing unarmed black people isn't racist and the grand jury decisions prove that, so yr wrong to keep saying it’s racist.

Okay, the rule of law is important, and sure, innocent until proven guilty, and yes, the police have a very difficult job, etc. I get all that. I also get that no one likes being called a racist, individually or as a group – to include the police. But I don’t believe those points cancel out the bigger picture here, which everyone is either missing or refusing to acknowledge. 

The fact remains that you ultimately have one group of people (mostly low-income black people) saying, “Look, this is the reality we have to live with every day and we’re pretty upset about that,” and another group of people (mostly middle/upper class white people) telling them, “No it isn’t, and even if it is, it’s yr own fault, so stop blaming us. And by the way, we’re not racist, therefore racism is not a problem, therefore you must be making it up.”

And I just don’t think that’s the proper response. I’m also not really convinced that it’s up to the majority ethnic group in a given country (in the case of America, white people) to tell the minority ethnic groups what counts as racism and what doesn’t.

And frankly, trying to blame all of this on Obama is just lazy buck-passing and a cheap shot. It’s also insulting.

Obviously I’m oversimplifying this. There are blacks who side with the police and whites who side with Brown, Garner, et al. That’s clearly confusing to a lot of people.

But you what else is confusing? How a cop can choke a guy to death on camera and be cleared of any wrongdoing. Or how Darren Wilson can walk free despite telling a story that only makes sense if you believe that Michael Brown’s response to being told to get on the sidewalk was to attack the cop, something no one really does unless they’re on PCP or insane (and Brown was neither).

No wonder African-Americans are on the streets protesting. They’ve endured a couple of centuries of racism in America to the point that they were only guaranteed civil rights at the national level for the last 50 years (and they still had to fight for them in the Southern states for at least another ten). Many of them still have to deal with discrimination in some form or other in a way that makes upward mobility more difficult for them than white people. Their relationship with the police is also profoundly different than white people. And they’re being asked to accept very improbable stories that vindicate the killing of unarmed people who weren’t committing any crimes that justified lethal force. And they don’t even get the benefit of a public trial that might actually answer some unanswered questions that really need answering.

So the least we could do is stop blaming the victims and trying to score political points and just listen to these people for a minute.

I can’t breathe,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
I have this problem, and I don’t know what to do about it.

This is it: Every time someone on Facebook posts something about net neutrality – and it doesn’t matter which side on the issue they’re on – I want to take my laptop and fling it like a Frisbee through the nearest window.

Which would be dangerous for any innocent passersby below. Plus, it’s a company laptop.

The NN issue has always been around, but has surged to the top of the news cycle again now that the FCC has announced an idea and Presidente Obama has expressed an opinion about it. And so my Facebook page is filled with new variations of the same hysterical memes that floated around the first few times NN has come up.

They read more or less like this:

Pro-NN: CORPORATE AMERICA/COMCAST WANTS TO TAKE OVER THE INTERNET!

Anti-NN: THE GOVERNMENT/OBAMA WANTS TO TAKE OVER THE INTERNET!

In other words, it’s pretty much the same recycled conspiracy theories, although the “Net neutrality is the Obamacare of the Internet” is a new variation that certain Republican politicians are now kicking around.

Ha ha. No, Ted and Marsha – net neutrality is nothing like Obamacare. The comparison is as inaccurate and stupid as it is lazy. Not that it matters – it’s a cut-rate talking point that’s more of an excuse to slap Obama and Obamacare around.

That said, this doesn’t mean the pro-NN’s conspiracy theories about Comcast are validated. It just means their conspiracy theories are less crazy.

I’ve written about this before, and I don’t really have anything new to add, except maybe this:

What really bothers me about the NN debate, I think, is that most people I know are resorting to conspiracy-theory bullshit to make their point when they actually don't have to.

There is a genuine and rational argument in favor of net neutrality, and I fully agree it’s the best model for internet innovation.

But there’s also a genuine need for traffic prioritization to make real-time streaming and other services work properly. And it’s not unreasonable for ISPs to charge companies differently based on that. The balance has to be struck to ensure that process is done fairly and transparently, so that Comcast or AT&T or anyone else can’t throttle competitors or railroad customers (and as I’ve said before, I don’t believe they plan to do either, but there’s no harm in regulations making sure they can’t if they ever decide to do so for some weird reason, like if Lex Luthor becomes CEO of Comcast or something).

But no one is talking about that. They’re just screaming conspiracy theories at each other. Which means that the US is going to be the only country on Earth whose policy on net neutrality is going to be based on which batshit conspiracy theory the FCC chooses to back.

That may still result in a workable net neutrality policy. But it’s depressing to think this is what passes for debate in America now, and that we’re basing important policy decisions on which paranoid conspiracy theory gets the most support.

*drops mic*

Neutralized,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
And so we are at war with ISIS now. Or ISIL. Or IS. Or, if yr Fox News, IIG (Islam In General).

Anyway. Good morning, 

I was sitting in the business class lounge in Mactan International Airport just after Presidente Obama unveiled his anti-ISISISILISIIG strategy, which meant I overheard the talking heads on CNN “analyzing” it. On the internet, the commentary has pretty much conformed to the usual party lines.

As it happened, I was working on a post about Obama’s overall foreign policy and the criticisms thereof, which was inspired by his own former Secretary Of State, who was going around saying, “Yr doing it wrong.”

That says a lot, though what it mainly says is “Hillary 2016” – not least because Obama’s foreign policy accomplishments were, for the most part, a lot more popular back when Hillary was head of State than they are now. Still, the fact does remain that Obama’s foreign policy approval ratings in 2014 are bleak enough that you can’t pin it all on Republican naysaying.

There’s more to that than ISIL, of course. It’s been a rough year for foreign policy issues – Ukraine, Gaza, the Middle East in general, etc. Still, when ISIS is decapitating American journalists on YouTube, that’s an attention getter. And suddenly Obama’s general foreign policy approach (i.e. “don’t do stupid stuff”) doesn’t cut the mustard.

And so now it’s air strikes for IS and anyone who happens to be standing near them when the smart drones kill them. For starters. There may be boots on the ground later. Or perhaps golf shoes.

There are two obvious follow-up questions to this development:

1. Is it the right decision? Depends who you ask. Conservatives are grudgingly approving it, though you can bet they’ll criticize the way Obama handles it. The anti-war section of Obama’s liberal base is against it because they see it as an addendum to Bush’s ill-advised endless-by-design Iraq War 2. Also, there’s a possibility the threat of ISIS has been somewhat exaggerated. Which isn’t exactly unprecedented when it comes to the US GWOT.

2. Will it do any good? Beats me. My gut feeling is it might contain ISIL but create new problems. It won’t stop terrorism or quell the radicalism that fuels it.

Meanwhile, I’m more interested in the overall paradigm that ISIS actually represents and what it means for foreign policy in the future.

The majority of grown-ups in America – as well as in Congress – have had their opinions of foreign policy shaped by the Cold War and Vietnam. Someone said somewhere that Obama would be the first post-Boomer POTUS to come from outside that Cold War mindset, and that this would be a point in his favor, because the 21st Century sociopolitical arena isn’t being driven by major opposing political ideologies. The problem seems to be that while Obama doesn’t think in either/or Cold War terms, he hasn’t really worked out what the 21st Century framework should be beyond “don't do stupid stuff”.

This is one of the better critiques I’ve read (written before the ISIS speech), which makes a good point: Obama’s foreign policy doctrine is really more of an anti-doctrine, which is fine to a point but has its limitations, and the statelessness of ISIL is currently demonstrating that:

Whether you're talking about al-Qaida or ISIL or whatever nihilistic gang comes along next, what you're talking about is a global assault on the very idea of statecraft. And increasingly the operative question will probably be, Do you have a functional government at all? And if you do, can't we find interests that align?

I don’t know if Obama’s ISIS strategy counts as a framework or not. It looks more like another ad hoc solution to a specific situation. I suppose it could serve as a template for similar future situations. Provided it works.

As I said above, I don’t have any wisdom here. But I feel reasonably confident in saying most of Obama’s critics don’t either, especially conservatives who think Instant Disproportionate Violence both counts as a policy and actually solves problems. (Of course, “problems” in this case usually means the problem of Halliburton and other defense companies not making enough money.) And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, conservative critics have generally demonstrated they’re less interested in offering solutions and more in bashing Obama – hopefully hard enough to damage Hillary’s 2016 chances. So there’s no reason for me to take them seriously.

If nothing else, I suppose the best thing you can say about Obama’s foreign policy is that he doesn’t use Instant Disproportionate Violence and actually takes time to think about it first. I don’t know how effective it will prove to be, but I figure it can’t possibly be worse than Bush’s “shoot now, shoot first and shoot often” approach to everything post-9/11.

Stupid is as stupid does,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
I don’t have any real opinion on the immigration reform debate in the US. Or rather, I do, but it’s basically the same opinion I’ve had for awhile – there’s no question reform is needed, but I think the horror stories conservatives throw around about illegal immigrants in America are at best overblown and at worst xenophobic and racist.

In fact, the biggest problem with immigration reform could well be the inability of conservatives to frame it in any other way as an us-against-them invasion of American sovereignty that is, of course, all Obama’s fault (him being from Kenya and all).

This is not only counterproductive to any sane discussion on what to do about it, it’s also providing the batshit wing with incentives to stage really dumb photo opportunities.

Some are relatively harmless – like Sean Hannity and Rick Perry pretending to patrol the Rio Grande with machine guns looking all butch. (I’m assuming they weren’t actually allowed to man the guns. I’d hate to think Hannity was in a position to actually decide whether or not to fire the thing if they’d just happened to come across a bunch of people trying to make it across.)

Others are more stupid and potentially dangerous – like sending angry mobs out to stop buses full of child refugees gawdamn foreigners.

For one thing, you never know when you might scream and yell at the wrong busload of kids. Which just makes you look even more stupid.

Also, it doesn’t actually solve anything. I really don’t know what the protesters think they’re accomplishing – maybe they think the buses should be driving the kids back to Honduras? Or they should just dump the kids in Mexico somewhere? What do they think we do with illegal immigrants who get caught anyway? Give them an Obamaphone and a job in Walmart or McDonald’s?

Whatever it is they think they’re doing – and whatever you think about immigration reform, etc – it still comes down to this:

Dudes, you are yelling and screaming at a bunch of kids. More to the point, you are yelling and screaming at kids on the run from countries steeped in gang violence and poverty and have probably seen things no kid should ever have to deal with. They probably don't need a crowd of angry white grown-ups screaming “Go back to Mexico!” in their face (especially when they’re not even from there).

It’s a dick thing to do. I’m sure many of the protesters are only doing it because they’re angry about the situation and they can’t yell and scream at Obama and they gotta yell at someone, and the kids are just convenient targets. It’s still a dick thing to do.

What’s really striking about all this is how, if this were happening almost anywhere else, this situation would be described by most people regardless of political affiliation as a humanitarian crisis – child refugees fleeing their decimated home countries by the tens of thousands in the hopes of staying alive and finding a better life somewhere else, etc.

But in America, it’s treated mostly as another tool in the political toolbox for conservatives to beat up on Obama and whip up Big Fear of Alien Invasions.

My Republican friends like to tell me this is all Obama’s fault because of his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which they say is basically the same as posting a big sign on the border saying “Hey Central America, send us yr kids!” There’s quite a bit of evidence that this isn't the case, but it’s an election year, so it looks to me like Republicans are more interested in talking points that blame Obama and the Democrats for everything than actually analyzing the situation, much less doing anything about it apart from mass deportations.

Anyway, Jon Stewart has a good breakdown of that, and the ludicrousness there of.

Kicking and screaming,

This is dF

defrog: (devo mouse)
I’m sure by now you’ve heard that John Boehner plans to sue Presidente Obama for issuing executive orders to get around the fact that Congress (by which I mean the House) would rather do nothing than do anything Obama wants to do.

Or something.

It’s hard to critique Boehner’s actual plan when he hasn’t given any specifics over which executive orders he’s going to sue over, or what reparations he plans to ask for, or really what he hopes to accomplish besides annoying the President and (maybe kinda probably not but shit no harm in trying weirder things have happened) finding something impeachable. (Which Boehner says he is probably not doing. So okay.)

I’m not even sure what legal grounds he has for a lawsuit in the first place, since there’s no law against issuing executive orders. According to George Will (of all people, who supports the idea of a lawsuit), the legal strategy should work as long as it satisfies four requirements:

1.) One branch of Congress to authorize the suit
2.) Proof that Congress has been injured by Obama’s executive actions
3.) No private entity has standing to bring suit
4.) Congress has no chance of reversing the president’s action by repealing the law.

As I understand it, that’s just so Boehner can get his foot in the courtroom door and get a judge to actually hear the case. What happens after that is anyone’s guess – again, it depends on what Boehner hopes to accomplish. Executive orders aren’t sacrosanct – they can be overturned by a court (although it’s happened only twice in US history), but the grounds for doing so has usually been rooted in the fact that the EOs created a law that didn’t exist before. I have no idea if that’s the case with the EOs Boehner is targeting, since he hasn’t said which ones he has a beef with (and I’m pretty sure “all of them” isn’t going to cut it unless the judge is Antonin Scalia).

On the other hand, Boehner’s objective could be more along the lines of a publicity stunt for the mid-term elections, if only because it seems designed mostly to impress the conservative base.

For Democrats and anyone with a modicum of common sense, it’s fairly obvious that the only problem Republicans have with Obama’s executive orders is that Obama is the one writing them.

Here’s a chart showing the history of executive orders.



Notice how you’d have to go back to Grover Cleveland’s second term to find a POTUS who issued less of them than Obama (though admittedly he hasn’t finished his second term yet).

And surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed that no one in the GOP was complaining about presidential abuse of authority back when George W Bush was dishing out all 291 of his EOs. Hell, even Neil Cavuto has figured that one out.

So, yeah, I’m going to go with “hypocritical publicity stunt with added mid-term impeachment fodder”.

To be fair, it’s always possible that some of Obama’s orders are legally problematic. But given the GOP’s track record on accusing Obama of this or that malfeasance or evil plan or whatever, I’d be surprised if any of them are. I’ll be even more surprised if the lawsuit gets that far.

Anyway, the backfire and subsequent meltdown should be entertaining.

See you in court,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Little ducks, there is trouble in Iraq. Again. Or as usual.

And I’d have posted this earlier but I was under deep cover in Singapore all last week.

So. ISIS is moving towards Baghdad, and everyone’s arguing over two very important aspects of the situation: (1) “What should Obama do about it?” and (2) “Which POTUS can we blame this on?”

I have no idea what the answer to the first one is. The Economist has a pretty good write-up of how it’s likely to play out. The only thing I’m pretty sure about is that of all the options Obama has in front of him, none are going to fix the overall problem, not when at least part of the problem is the current Iraqi leadership.

One thing we do know is that if Obama is hedging on military responses, it’s because the American People™ generally don’t want to hop back in the quagmire, because we’ve been there, and most of us didn’t like it the first time.

The exceptions are the neocons that created and advocated the quagmire in the first place. They’re clearly convinced that (1) we should get back in there and kick some ISIS ass and (2) everything was going perfectly according to their plan until Barry Hussein Obama screwed it up for everyone by not leaving US troops in Iraq forever.

That ground has been well-covered by Jon Stewart and others, but I think it’s worth reiterating. Because whatever you think the US should be doing about Iraq, the last people we should be asking are the dingbats who decided to invade the damn country in the first place. They’ve been consistently and catastrophically wrong about almost every aspect of the war in terms of the rationales and the outcome. Better yet, they refuse to even admit they were wrong despite all evidence to the contrary. Who in their right mind would take these yahoos’ opinions seriously?

I will say I don't think it’s fair to blame the current situation fully on the Bush Admin. But I do think Obama’s performance should be evaluated in the context of a president inheriting an impossible situation his own predecessors couldn’t have fixed even if John McCain had won in 2008.

Of course, that’s not how this works. Republicans are mainly evaluating the situation in terms of how they can inflict maximum political damage on Obama, not how to actually solve the situation. Sure, they’re offering their opinions on solutions, but most of them seem focused on salvaging the situation they created in order to prove they were right to create it.

I don't know if Obama has any better ideas, or if he’ll make the right decisions, but honestly, at this stage I don’t see how he could do any worse. In fact, one good thing I can say about Obama’s approach is his unwillingness to make the kind of snap judgments that Republicans claim to want. Obama is smart enough (or politically savvy enough) to know that a good chunk of America is now hip to the idea that knee-jerk military responses for every little foreign policy crisis comes with consequences, and they do matter.

It’s not so much that America has no right to intervene in trouble spots around the world. It’s more about doing so responsibly. The GOP has trouble admitting this (American Exceptionalism™ and all), but one of the criteria of being the World’s Policeman – especially when it’s a self-appointed post that everyone else accepts by default – is convincing the rest of the world that you have the good judgment to know when to use excessive force and when not to. In that sense, the Bush Posse was less World Policeman and more Maniac Cop.

Result: geopolitically speaking, America isn’t really in a position to take instant, decisive action and bomb whomever it wants. And the GOP has no one but itself to blame for that.

The GOP response to this, of course, is that public opinion doesn’t matter when it comes to making those hard decisions in the name of national security. George W Bush famously said that he doesn’t do focus groups.

Fair point. On the other hand, it helps when yr decisions prove that you were right and the focus groups were wrong.

So no, the neocons and the GOP don’t have a lot of credibility with me when it comes to Iraq.

Wrong about everything,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
At least I hope it is.

So ... everyone’s flipping out over this.

And admittedly, there’s a lot to flip over about – at least at first glance. But the more I look at it, the more all the hooha seems based on speculation and “what if”s.

Maybe it was illegal because Obama didn’t consult Congress on the swap. Unless maybe he did. And unless maybe it’s not actually illegal.

Maybe Obama abused his executive privilege – although some of the people now complaining about Obama’s use of executive orders weren’t all that worried about them when it was another executive giving the orders.

Maybe the deal will encourage terrorists to take more U.S. hostages (because it’s possible it never occurred to them to do that, or maybe they’ve been waiting for more US soldiers to wander off from their camps for mysterious reasons).

Maybe it doesn’t count as negotiating with terrorists since Qatar did all the heavy lifting. Maybe the Taliban don’t actually count as terrorists since they’re more like guerillas, with whom we negotiate all the time, unlike terrorists (unless we need to raise money to fund other guerillas in, oh, Nicaragua, say).

Maybe it’s a bad idea to let these five senior Taliban guys go free (though “free” in this case means staying in Qatar for a year under constant monitoring before they ever make it back to Afghanistan).

Maybe.

It’s hard to know. The media and the talking heads are still in wild uninformed speculation mode, and every day since the news broke, lesser-circulated reports have filtered in suggesting there’s a lot more nuance to this. As there usually is, though most people ignore it because COMPLICATED.

Still, there’s one thing I think we can be absolutely sure of – Republicans will milk the hell out of this to prove what they’ve been saying all along about Obama (OMGOBAMAINCOMPETENTMUSLIMBENGHAZI!!! … something like that).

For myself, all I’m wondering about for now is just what Obama had in mind when he okayed the swap. He had to know that releasing five Gitmo detainees – all of them pretty bad news, by most accounts – was (1) potentially risky to national security and (2) not going to go over well with both Republicans and the majority of Americans who have been told that all the inmates at Gitmo are too evil and dangerous to be put in a supermax prison on American soil, let alone released into the wild.

Granted, the latter doesn’t really matter – Republicans generally criticize Obama for everything he does, even things they otherwise support. And there is a political upside to bringing a US soldier back home – although critics like to point out that we’re talking about a guy who may have deserted his post.

Either way, is the GOP position really going to be that they’d rather let captured US soldiers rot and die than indirectly cut deals with the enemy as long as they’re soldiers who aren’t that supportive of the war effort? Because that’s kind of hard to square with the fact that many Republicans have pressured Obama to do whatever it takes to get Bergdahl home.

Anyway, this is why I just can’t help thinking there’s more to this story than what’s been revealed so far. There usually is. I’m pretty sure there’s something here that made Obama think it was worth the trade. Some are speculating that it’s his way of dealing with the fact that Gitmo can’t stay open forever, and if we can’t prosecute the detainees, we can at least get some use out of them as bargaining chips.

One day, we may find out what his reasons were, and whether it was the right call.

But we won’t find any of that out from the inevitable Senate hearing. In principle I’m not opposed to a hearing – something like this pretty much requires an explanation to the public, and it had better be good – but if recent history is anything to go by, I don’t think we’re really going to learn anything worth learning, except just how badly Republicans want to find something they can embarrass or impeach Obama with, and wreck Hillary’s 2016 bid in the bargain. And we already know that.

That’s my prediction anyway. I could be wrong. But at this stage I think most of the politicians and pundits demanding answers are not all that interested in finding out the truth (not if it doesn’t serve their particular agenda).

Let’s put it this way: when you have a Fox News commentator and former Bush admin official arranging media interviews with those soldiers who have been bad-mouthing Bergdahl the last few days, that tells me how interested they are in digging deeper into this story.

Something for nothing,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
For some reason, this scene has been playing in my head recently.



Which seems to sum up the mindset of people of a certain political persuasion who seem to think that Obama is a spineless wimp on foreign policy, and that the only proper response to Vlad Putin’s aggression in Crimea is to fire a few drone missiles up his ass.

Or … you know, something mighty.

Which seems to be their solution to every foreign policy crisis – just drop some bombs on them. It might not solve the problem, but it will show everyone that America is the greatest country in the world and what we say goes and you do NOT want to fuck with us because we will fuck yr shit up.

Because people respect you when you do that.

Anyway.

There’s a lot of talk about this, obviously. And a lot of it does seem to be happening in a vacuum created by a fundamental lack of understanding of the situation, the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, and how complicated the whole thing is.

So all I really have to say about it for right now is this:

1. The BBC has some good backgrounders summing up the situation. I highly suggest reading them.

2. For all the hawk blathering over the Obama admin’s pussy approach, a military response seems like a very, very bad idea, if only because I’m a child of the Cold War who equates War With Russia with World War III. That’s probably a grand overstatement of the current situation (see point 1, above). However, the pro-military approach seems predicated on the theory that Putin will back off once we show up with navy and air power to stop him. Maybe. But Putin doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who blinks when you point a gun at him.

3. Ironically, this is one of Putin's more endearing qualities to the same people who criticize Obama’s lack of spine.

Sample:

On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity, contributor Sarah Palin questioned the "potency" of President Obama saying, "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates."

Which is amusing when you remember that the GOP’s two biggest contenders to challenge Obama in 2012 were “Rugged” Mitt Romney and Rick “The Rock” Santorum.

Anyway, I don’t particularly have any problems with how Obama is handling the situation – at least so far. It’s too early to say if he’s doing the right thing or not. But I think it’s fair to say that he’s at least doing the most realistic thing, and he’s doing pretty much exactly what Mitt Romney would be doing if he was POTUS.

Even John McCain agrees with me that a military option is a no-go, although he does go on to say that Putin is only doing this because Obama’s foreign policy sucks so much:

"This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America's strength anymore," McCain said.

Which I think means, “People would believe in America’s strength if we bombed countries that are NOT Russia, like everyone in the Middle East who is not Israel.”

Sure. Because Putin totally respected America after we invaded Iraq. Which is why he did not send troops into Georgia in 2008 when George "Shock And Awesome" Bush was running things.

Granted, the situation in Georgia was somewhat different than the one in Ukraine. Still, I’m not sure I’d want to go around saying things like “no one respects America’s authority anymore” if my political party is the one that thinks America can go around invading another country on completely trumped up pre-texts and still be respected.

Which just isn’t done in the 21st century. Just ask John Kerry. Although he was talking about Russia …

… Oh, f*** it.

Yr move,

This is dF


defrog: (onoes)
I don’t do many posts about Obamacare, for a couple of reasons: 

1. I know very little about how the healthcare system works.

2. The attempts by most politicians, pundits and Facebook memes to explain to me how Obamacare is a good or a bad thing tend to be overblown and/or apocryphal. While this is generally a bipartisan issue, it’s a much bigger problem on the Republican side of the equation. (See: Sean Hannity, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, etc.) Basically there’s so much misinformation being slung around on what Obamacare does or doesn’t do – often by people who don’t actually understand very much of the actual legislation – that I tend to just tune it right out.

But sometimes that backfires.

For example, when I saw some headlines about how the Heathcare.gov website was experiencing some problems, I wrote them off as more hyperbole propagated by Republicans eager to point to anything that could show Obamacare is the hopeless and utter failure they’ve always wanted said it would be. 

Turns out it’s not quite hyperbole after all. And it’s not just Republicans declaring it a disaster.

In fact, according to HuffPo, if the HHS don't get it fixed soon, it could completely wreck Obamacare:

Without a functioning health insurance exchange, many people too sick or too poor to get health insurance under the old rules will remain shut out of the system. The millions of Americans who already buy their own insurance will face major disruptions. Health insurance companies could experience a nightmare scenario where the bulk of the individuals who brave the frustrating sign-up process are those who are sick, desperate for coverage and expensive to treat.

And anyone who isn't able to get coverage because of the exchanges' problems could confront the prospect of tax penalties through no fault of their own.

Ouch.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this spells doom for Obamacare – at least not yet. But if it does, it would be a shame that the whole thing falls apart because of a crappy website.

According to some assessments, the problem isn't just the website itself but the way the govt goes about contracting big IT projects like this.

Maybe. But that’s also kind of beside the point when you realize that what we’re basically saying here is that the success of the Affordable Care Act – the signature bill of the Obama admin and the biggest landmark reform measure in a long time – hinges on a single point of failure that was in theory the easiest part to execute. I mean, it’s not like the technology to create a website that can process customer requests to buy services is beyond our capacity.

That’s assuming, of course, that the HuffPo piece isn't more hyperbole. Let’s hope it is. Because you just know the Republicans are going to crow about this all the way to the mid-terms and beyond. 

And there’s no small irony in the notion that Republicans have worked so hard to do everything they could to dismantle Obamacare – to the point of shutting the govt down over it – when all they had to do was sit back and wait.

Meanwhile, I look forward to eventual claims from sites like Addicting Info that the Koch Brothers hired hackers to plant buggy JavaScript code into the Healthcare.gov site.

503 service unavailable,

This is dF


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