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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meet the New Boss... How Different from the Old Boss?

Meet the New Boss... How Different from the Old Boss?
Image © Austin Cline
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Barack Obama promised change when he was campaigning for president, and many people expected the most changes in the unjust policies pursued by the Bush administration in their "War on Terror." Obama supporters have been pleased that his administration has pulled back from serious matters like the approval of torture, but at the same time he has refused to pull back from other crucial matters like rendition, indefinite detention, and keeping it all so secret that courts are not allowed to review the administration's actions.

The importance of these measures must not be underestimated. A formal rejection of torture is little consolation if the government can kidnap you and take you to another country where you can be tortured, or if the government can effectively kidnap you and keep you imprisoned indefinitely without charges, without evidence, without counsel, and without judicial review. Even if such experiences seem unlikely, we don't know how much spying on us the Bush administration did in the past or how much the Obama administration will do in the future. No government should have such power, no matter who is running it.

Bush supporters are not underestimating these developments — on the contrary, some are treating them as a sort of vindication of what Bush did. After all, Bush's policies couldn’t possibly be so bad if the liberal Obama is willing to keep them in place and even defend them retroactively. Obama's liberal supporters simply can't know the burdens of leadership and don't understand what needs to be done in order to protect America from international terrorism, right?

I'm actually a bit surprised that there isn't more outrage from conservatives about this. In almost every other case you might be able to name, you'll find conservatives concerned about Democrats and Obama having powers which they either ignored or even supported when Republicans and Bush had them. Perhaps more important is the fact that so many conservatives have such fear of Obama — they fear that he's a Muslim, a communist, or even the Antichrist. How could they possibly be content with such a leader having the powers Bush left behind?

The only explanation seems to be that the most paranoid and reality-defying fears come from the evangelical Christian base of voters, while the feelings of vindication rest primarily with the self-absorbed neoconservative power brokers. The neoconservatives are willing to work with anyone who will promote their ideological agenda of uniting the nation around convenient myths and against the fear of existential threats. If they think Obama will do this, they'll be willing to support him.

Liberal Democrats like Obama a lot; indeed, one of the most common criticisms from the Right has been the idea that a cult of personality has developed around him. There is little justification for this complaint, but what justification exists is only enhanced when Democrats allow Obama to pursue policies which they not so long ago attacked Bush for pursuing. Followers of a cult of personality will allow their leader to get away with almost anything; believers in justice and basic legal principles will remain loyal to those principles first, not to any individual politicians.

Our lives, property, and liberty are best secured through the existence of strong laws which apply to everyone, most especially the government, and not by trusting in the "good will" or "good character" of any particular leaders. That's what it means to be a nation of laws rather than a nation of men: a nation ruled by rational systems rather than one ruled by charismatic authority figures.

America under the Bush administration was moved away from being a nation of laws to a nation ruled by the whim of a single leader. If we are going to move back to being a nation of laws, we must pressure the Obama administration to do so. We cannot and should not simply assume that he and others will just "do the right thing." We must not be afraid to criticize Barack Obama and his appointed officials with all the same fierceness with which we once criticized George W. Bush - it's the principles of liberty and democracy which matter, not any one person.


  1. Amen Hinnyral, I've been preaching that same thing to any congregation with an empty pulpit I can find, both parties are corrupt just the Repooplicans just gave up all pretensions. The same process for election is out there for both parties and it is an extremely corrupt one. You can't get in a position to become President without taking the money and we all know where that leads. I hope B.O. takes a good look at Colin Powell. I don't think there is any question he agonized, he didn't want to, but in the end he caved and let his reputation, and sold his soul. He was unable to challenge the authority and just say NO, that is a place I just won't go. That is very much a part of the indoctrination of organizations, loyalty to the organization not ethical or moral values is what is rewarded. Look at the status of whisleblowers in this country, they are treated like pariahs and punished to the full extent of the law, they should be treated like the heroes they are because they are often the only thing standing between the complete failure of the principles that are what this country stands for and the abyss. It takes enormous courage to buck the system and very few individuals have that ability to risk it all, it is not a trait that is rewarded or valued in our society. B.O. Will need enormous pressure to help him come anywhere near meeting the expectations he created.

    I, like you, have the greatest respect for the law, but our judicial branch has become a cesspool of corruption with no working meaningful checks or accountability to anyone but themselves. People like John Woo are rewarded for contributing more to the destruction of this country than all the Al Qaida combined. John Woo is ensconced in his ivory tower at Berkley churning out more little fascists as fast as he can and the others are relaxing with the rewards of raping the country orchestrating the continuing assault with their accumulated wealth from their mansions in Dallas and elsewhere. Hopes for any accountability is fading as fast as time passes, without which this country can't possibly survive. Submitted just plainly without the usual protestations of respect and whatever in the hopes we will be spared anymore blessed days of moronic Christian leadership.

  2. I am in deep prayer about this moment of laxity that the devil was waiting to take advantage of. It should be a lesson to all the congregation that we must be constantly on our guard. Deepest apologies to both you and the general. I throw myself at the feet of the congregation for rehabilitation and forgiveness. Contritely submitted for absolution or ablution of my sacred vessel

  3. While you are absolutely correct, what you are asking for is a little too much. For starters, Obama may be in charge on paper, but he still answers to many masters. Those that gained power from the Bush administrations tactics will not be too happy to relinguish it without a fight. Those organizing the 911 attacks, assuming you believe it was an inside job, have more than enough clout to push Obama to the right or to the left.

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  4. ",..assuming you believe it was an inside job,..." I'm not really against assumptions, but would this be like a bag job?

  5. Comrade Clinebergskimanfelddorf:

    Look, you got what you wanted--anybody but McStain. We got what we wanted, a veneer of "change". Quitcherbitchin!

  6. By God commie, Our place is all veneer, I know it looks rough on the outside, but inside it's all veneer and I mean real veneer. That change you're referring to gives veneer a bad name - it's so thin as to almost be transparent.

    Yes, I'm going to contribute towards your having a tee vee, then yule have something to bitch about 2, like all the crap on there. In the interim does any of the congregation have a problem with the preview button that doesn't allow editing? If I haven't saved what I preview when I try to go back it is gone, but then I've become accustomed to saving or trying to save everything and everyone I come in contact with.


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.