Obama Continues Bush-Era Extremism on Liberties, Secrecy

Dan Gillmor is a BoingBoing guest-blogger.

secret dg15.jpgThe Obama administration has undone a few of the Bush administration's worst policies, true. Yet when it comes to Obama's increasingly clear disdain for some core civil liberties and his administration's penchant for secrecy despite cheerful rhetoric to the contrary, Salon's Glenn Greenwald arrives at a dismal -- but sadly, logical -- conclusion:   

After many years of anger and complaint and outrage directed at the Bush administration for its civil liberties assaults and executive power abuses, the last thing most people want to do is conclude that the Obama administration is continuing the core of that extremism. That was why the flurry of executive orders in the first week produced such praise: those who are devoted to civil liberties were, from the start, eager to believe that things would be different, and most want to do everything but conclude that the only improvements that will be made by Obama will be cosmetic ones.

But it's becoming increasingly difficult for honest commentators to do anything else but conclude that. After all, these are the exact policies which, when embraced by Bush, produced such intense protest over the last eight years.  Nobody is complaining because the Obama administration is acting too slowly in renouncing these policies. The opposite is true:   they are rushing to actively embrace them.  And while there are still opportunities to meaningfully depart from the extremism of the last eight years, the evidence appears more and more compelling that, at least in these areas, there is little or no real intent on the part of the Obama administration to do so.

Democrats in Congress and much of the political left have been silent or nearly so despite the evidence. You expect cowardice from Congress, which spent the Bush presidency in a perpetual bent-over posture. The Netroots folks who did so much to elect Obama should be screaming bloody murder by now. Too few are even slightly audible. A shame.

Maybe the Republicans will re-discover civil liberties at some point. Nah.

(photo via Flickr by Marcin Wichary)


  1. What was your first clue, Cory? Rahm Emanuel and his “Hey, let’s not only keep Dubya’s no-fly list, let’s use it to deny peoples’ Second Amendment rights with no due process!” speech?

    Because that was pretty much mine.

  2. Those of you who were naive enough to believe that ‘change’ meant a change in Presidential powers, raise their hand. Given the far-reaching abilities of the office of the President to violate the Constitution that the Bush administration has managed to achieved, why would you think that anything would change with a new administration?

  3. Time to put those much vaunted Second Amendment rights to good use yet? The “free State” seems to be disappearing fast…

  4. Is there any chance that the “Bush-Era Extremism” has ended up being not too extreme after all?

    President Obama is finally sitting in the same position that Bush was in all that time… is there any chance that this has caused an honest change in perspective?

    Any chance that now that he has all of the information that Bush had, he thinks this is the best course for all of us?

    It’s confusing because I keep thinking to my self, “I want to believe” that Obama has the best intentions for doing this, but then I remember that “I Want To Believe” was also on the poster in Mulders’ office in X-Files.

    Can any of you help to remove/reduce the creeping doubt I’m experiencing?

  5. Thanks, BoingBoing, for not being a mindless cheerleader. Just because Obama doesn’t talk like a hick, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be held to account for the reality of his actions. In fact, giving the vast promises he made and the tremendous mandate for fundamental change he has, he should be held to a higher standard than Bush.

    That being said, I kind of liked Bush. He was quite plainly a brutal, cold-blooded murderer. He was an good spokeperson for our foreign policy with those same characteristics.

  6. I have to agree with Takuan.

    It is still really early. This administration has to examine, dismantle, and the rebuild in a different form so many aspects of the previous administration’s policy. And while all of these old policies are still bugging the liberal intelegensia, one of the worst economic downtown’s of our time is, rightfully, demanding most of President Obama’s attention.

    Obama has been president of the United States for less than two months. So what the hell did you expect? That as soon as he sat down in the oval office he would simply hit the “Undo” button, and everything would magically go back to the Clinton era? Did you expect that as soon as he finished his vow, all the U.S. tanks in Iraq would turn into rainbows and unicorns?

    Well guess what: the administrative process takes time. Commentary like this is akin to the boss that comes by every two minutes to find out if you have “finished that damn expense report yet”. When we are one, perhaps even two years into Obama’s presidency, then you can judge whether or not he’s a man of principle who’s been keeping his campaign promises. Until then, give the man a break and some time to do his job.

  7. I raise my hand.

    Why? Not because I really expected Obama to change that setup wrought, but because that’s the only way we’re going to *get* change.

    Whoever’s at the top will realize, someday, that being a crypto-dictator isn’t as good a way to run the country as being a constitutional president. Probably that will happen when the costs for secrecy and security are outweighed by the benefits of coming clean. Hopefully the president will, at that point, decide to raise his or her popularity by giving up the those so-impressive powers that are now getting in the way of governance. Not sure how the calculation looks for Obama, right now.

    Anyway, soapbox time: It’s all great to be cynical and negative and call it realism, but occasionally, good things happen.

    Sound unrealistic? Well, if our parents had been cynical about their attractiveness and not gone out for their second date with their future spouses, none of us would be here right now. That may be an intensely cynical view, but I can’t think of a better way of pointing out how starry-eyed optimism brings thing to pass. Sometimes, good things do happen. Sometimes.

  8. @ Zyodei:

    If making nearly the entire planet think that your country is a bunch of bullying, selfish, jackasses is good foreign policy, then yes, Bush was the greatest ambassador in the history of diplomacy.

  9. I’m not an American so I didn’t vote either way, but anyway… Obama hasn’t been in office for two months yet, so isn’t it a bit too soon to come to any conclusions on what his administration will be up to the coming 46 months? There’s a lot of inertia in politics, and I imagine that what many expect to be a quick u-turn is more like turning an oil tanker around.

  10. The Netroots folks who did so much to elect Obama should be screaming bloody murder by now. Too few are even slightly audible. A shame.

    Certainly hubris torwards the “Netroots” and those flaky independents that usually decides elections. As if the Internet had nothing to do with the election success of Obama too. I think that it really is a codependent relationship. Meaning people are so use to being beaten down with the continual erosion of rights that they’re used to it by now.

  11. I gave money to two political organizations this year: Obama’s presidential campaign and the ACLU.

    If I was naive enough to think Obama was going to fix everything on his own then I wouldn’t have bothered with the latter.

  12. Some of the policies that “Obama” is continuing are actually being continued by career executive branch personnel–ACTA, for instance. It’s up to activists to make a stink to get them reversed.

    I can’t blame the Obama administration for trying to prevail in some of the lawsuits that continue from the past administration. There are certain precedents that no administration can allow to be set, regardless of how bad the underlying facts are.

  13. Come on! – your man is in the white house – can’t you trust him when he decides that some things should be kept secret?

  14. It’s never too early to demand some results. Realistically, yes, it won’t happen, but at least the pressure from the giddy multitude will remind the administration to get cracking.

  15. “The Netroots folks who did so much to elect Obama should be screaming bloody murder by now. “

    We are, we’re just not getting heard.

  16. I’m guessing he saw things in those super-secret White House security briefings that made him change his tune.

  17. Saying that it is still too early is B.S.

    It is trivial, and could be done on the first day to announce intention of, and begin work on undoing the rollbacks of civil liberties and Democratic procedures which were done under Bush. Obama is THE MAN who could be expediting such actions immediately given his popular mandate.

    But he won’t.

    Nobody is complaining because the Obama administration is acting too slowly in renouncing these policies. The opposite is true: they are rushing to actively embrace them.

    – this does not sound like a trend worth waiting for a reversal.

    It is not only 2 months late, it is 8 years late, maybe later than that.

  18. Didn’t vote for him; don’t expect much good from him. By the time they get to the point where any political party would think of running them, they’re pretty much certified lost souls. I voted for Dennis K in the primary, and still think he’s possibly the only single rational and honest politician in Washington, which guarantees he’ll never be president, of course.

    But I did my part to pick the right person. And where were the rest of you, I might ask?????

  19. And at least THIS SHIT isn’t still going on.

    Lk prd Rpblcn flth, lk prd.

    After the beating I was then placed in the small box. They placed a cloth or cover over the box to cut out all light and restrict my air supply. As it was not high enough even to sit upright, I had to crouch down. It was very difficult because of my wounds…. I don’t know how long I remained in the small box, I think I may have slept or maybe fainted….

    A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position. The pressure of the straps on my wounds was very painful. I vomited. The bed was then again lowered to horizontal position and the same torture carried out again with the black cloth over my face and water poured on from a bottle. On this occasion my head was in a more backward, downwards position and the water was poured on for a longer time. I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless. I thought I was going to die. I lost control of my urine. Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress.

    I was then placed again in the tall box. While I was inside the box loud music was played again and somebody kept banging repeatedly on the box from the outside. I tried to sit down on the floor, but because of the small space the bucket with urine tipped over and spilt over me…. I was then taken out and again a towel was wrapped around my neck and I was smashed into the wall with the plywood covering and repeatedly slapped in the face by the same two interrogators as before….

    This went on for approximately one week. During this time the whole procedure was repeated five times….

    I collapsed and lost consciousness on several occasions. Eventually the torture was stopped by the intervention of the doctor….

    I was told during this period that I was one of the first to receive these interrogation techniques, so no rules applied. It felt like they were experimenting and trying out techniques to be used later on other people.

    Now that’s a proud record every patriotic Republican PS can stand behind, isn’t it?

  20. I don’t mind the politics from the main editors, they know how to keep the balance right. but throw a guest blogger in here every few days who decided it’s his/her turn to step up on the soap box and spout their brand of politics like no one’s ever heard it before… and it just gets tiring.

  21. This is so typically American. You’re never satisfied with what you have and figure some knee-jerk reaction is the answer.

    Truthiness is alive and well.

  22. re: My last comment I shouldn’t have said that – and I apologize for making an inflammatory comment. But, my comment was in response to Noen’s WAY off-topic comment.

  23. In other news: Is it Dan who’s abusing the <span> tag and style attributes? Because it’s really hosing parts of the site, either structurally by not closing them, or just aesthetically by using them to subvert the style sheets.

    Hey, I can put up a better fight for HTML semantics than for civil liberties. I at least have some qualifications to debate on use of <span>.

  24. what did you honestly expect? You don’t get to be president by throwing power away. I thought it was obvious throughout the campaigns that whoever found themselves with Bush’s new found “expanded” executive powers was going to USE them, not hand them to some oversight committee. That’s why it was important we voted for the right guy.

  25. Honestly,

    Whoever is surprised – by the fact that there is very little difference between the the power elite in both parties – is retarded.

    The Bushes, the Clintons, and now Obama, have all been funded by the same type of super wealthy wall street elite who have openly declared their tyrannical desires. Just look at Obama’s financial backers, friends, appointees, and consultants. He’s run by George Soros, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, the Rockefellers, and others.

    These guys have a lot in common, but because American’s don’t read, or do any research they don’t realize that these same elite have been backing, funding, and directing the politicians in America for 50 years. They’ve all written books about their plans. It’s no secret.

    Get off your fat, lazy, buts and read!!!

  26. trivial to say too early? Not at all. I am able to imagine the actual circumstances of the job, the resources, the constraints. It may seem infuriatingly slow from the sidelines, but keep in mind the office doesn’t convey any power beyond what people agree to give it. The Cheney gang had years to entrench, to poison wells, to gather blackmail and extortion material, to intimidate by murder and to just plain steal (no power without cash). The bulk whom might oppose policies from Obama that are based on law and decency have no ideological problems with them. Rather, they merely protect their rice-bowls. It will take time to wean them from a diet of human blood, but it can be done.

  27. @17 TOM HALE
    “Come on! – your man is in the white house – can’t you trust him when he decides that some things should be kept secret?”

    no. hes only a man.

  28. tom, i don’t give a rat’s ass who is in the white house, i keep my eyes firmly on the SOB! im not happy with this. im not happy with the telcom thing, and i am really upset by the agri bill that is being batted about in the house right now. but still, it’s nice to have a president who can pronounce “nuclear”.

  29. This was a big issue for me. Judging by Obama’s voting record it was clear that civil liberties wasn’t a big issue for him. (Although the ‘transparency’ thing sounded nice.)

    I voted Independent because of my disagreement with both parties on this very thing. I think FREEDOM is a very important thing for this country, and both Democrats and Republicans are destroying freedom with every regime change. I think its sad that everybody thinks that third parties are wastes of votes. As Americans we shouldn’t settle, we should vote for whom we really believe in.

  30. I have to trust someone – I couldn’t trust Bush – So, now I can’t trust Obama? I believe President Obama has our best interests at heart.

  31. Takuan – remember, I’m optimistic – and that doesn’t mean stupid, it means I try to look and hope for good in things before I look for bad. As you said, it’s too early to judge the man.

  32. I have to agree with Takuan and Geekman on this. It’s just too early to be making these kinds of statements. As a citizen, I’m pleased with the direction the current administration is going

    Furthermore, I have to throw my full support behind ACROCKER. Specifically, the rhetoric-rich rantings that are becoming so prevalent from Boingboing. I’m sure Obama wake up on Monday morning and says to himself, “Gee! How can I present the image of a new direction in line with my campaign promises but in reality secretly push the damaging and disgusting agendas of the previous administration?”

    I love this site because it’s “A directory of wonderful things” where I can see some people playing the ukulele or get wind of something bizarre and amazing that only gets passed around via word of mouth. I have always been fond of the community for the steampunk enthusiasm and the intolerance for DRM.

    I love BoingBoing but the words coming from from inside those clunky red overalls these days sound just like any of the other vitriol from any other editorial source with the proper nouns and the adjectives replaces for others. “Obama continues Bush-era Extremism on liberties” reeks of phrases such as “9/11-like attack” or any of Bush’s “if you aren’t with us you’re against us” garbage.

    Dan Gillmor is a newspaperman and I respect that, value his contribution to media, as well as his ideas about politics, but the time (two months into Obama’s presidency) and the place (Boing Boing dot net–say that out loud) are, frankly, insulting.

  33. Keep up the optimism Tom Hale and rowing toward that brighter and calmer seas of tomorrow…row…row…row…

  34. I row row row – I put on the blinders if needed. It keeps everything happy and bright in the Hale family.

  35. Noen @22 – I, too, am glad that the black prisons are all shut down. However, that doesn’t mean that torture isn’t going on any more. Obama has kept extraordinary rendition for purposes of interrogation and Rahm has said that the executive branch will be allowed to make exceptions to the banning of harsher interrogation techniques. These two facts alone render practically useless the other steps against torture Obama has taken. It’s one of the few things I thought would change for the better in an Obama administration, and what I’ve been most disappointed with.


  36. NOEN, I think the point of the criticism is that the kind of thing you describe could still be happening without our knowledge because of Obama’s embrace of Bush’s State Secrets privilege.

  37. I suppose some see Obama as sitting on a throne atop a pyramid and giving orders. Try instead seeing him as inside a series of underground bunkers,connected by a maze of tunnels, all constantly shifting, and battling strange threats that emerge from the shadows without warning and liable to betrayal from behind at any moment.

  38. I’m disappointed that the Obama administration has yet to undo the Bush infringements on civil liberties and abuse of secrecy and privacy laws.

    I hope it’s because they’ve been busy fixing the economy.

    Here’s a scary thought: what if the new administration has concluded that the extraordinary (and possibly unconstitutional) powers are justifiably necessary?

    Think about it. How bad must it be if a left leaning administration has come to the conclusion that the continuance of Bush’s abuses is not only necessary, but justifiable?

    The economy is broken, the piggy bank is empty, manufacturing is almost non-existent, we’re more dependent on foreign energy than ever before while our military is in terrible shape and overextended…we’re more vulnerable than at any time in three generations.

    I’d love to comment more, but I got laid off last month.

  39. Americans should be putting pressure on Obama starting yesterday.

    The problem with americans isent that they complain too much, its that they dont complain about important things and they dont shout loud enough!

    Look at free speech zones, that would never happen in europe because they would flood the streets with protest and set fire to government buildings, only americans are docile, apathetic and simple enough to look the other way.

    So Obama wasent a white knight sweeping into government to flush out the selfish and greedy, hes not going to bring in universal health care, hes not going to bring in modern gun laws, hes not going to fix the economy and hes not going to make the middle class strong again.

    We LOST! we lost when we allowed business to operate without rules, when we put money over people, when we sold out our ethics and morals for the quick buck of the free market and when americans gave the corrupt republican party power for so long.

    We all deserve the collapse thats coming, your kids will be scrubbing toilets for the wealthy, enjoy ur selfishness americans, you ruined the whole world but at least ull suffer doubly for it.

  40. ARGHMONKEY, I hope you realize that if it ever gets that bad, the U. S. will simply invade your country and take what we need. If there is a breakdown of the worlds economy and counties fall, the U.S. will be at the top of the pile.

  41. So Obama didn’t undo in 2 months what Bush created in 8 years, much of it needing 60 votes in the Senate? Screw this Obama guy, traitor to the internet generation and its ideals!

    People are whining that Obama does too much to quickly already, and you want to add another thing to it? He undid quite a few Civil Liberties restriction already, more will surely follow.

  42. @Takuan – Why do you think the government and the rich have so much technology for? Why do you think privacy right groups have been screaming bloody murder for the past decade+ ? By the time it comes to fight back we wont have a stick to swing and dissidents will be rooted out like a black person in a crowd of caucasians.

    @Tom Hale – You dont get it, if it gets that bad your not going to have the life you have now, your going to envy China and Russia on their worse day. I love how you think adding that the u.s. will “simply invade”, if people like you that have created the problem and you still dont have enough sense to realize that, oh well, like I said, start teaching your kids to beg and scrub toilets, your going to put them there, be proud ;)

  43. There are plenty of complaints from the netroots, after all, who is Glenn Greenwald? He doesn’t write for the conventional press, or radio or TV. He’s a blogger. And Firedoglake as well as Open Left are raising plenty of hell.

    Certainly other sites could be doing more complaining, but it’s pretty much no one but bloggers and Rachel Maddow who are raising any objections to Obama’s anti-civil-liberties bent.

  44. @52 Tom Hale.

    Invading & taking over? Like that’s ever worked out for y’all the way you planned it… ;-)

  45. @Tom Hale (#40) – WoW, this is the saddest response ive seen so far.

    I row row row – I put on the blinders if needed. It keeps everything happy and bright in the Hale family.

    If I told you all you had to do was shut down your city and government and businesses would be forced to make sure the middle class survives, wouldnt you do it? Would you even try?

    Better to close your eyes and pretend its not happening?

    Thats just pathetic, I feel bad for what will happen to you but at the same time you will have deserved it. That wont make it right but if your not even willing to stand up for yourself.

  46. no I don’t think that’s what Tom literally meant at all. You do understand, Mr.Monkey, you are coming off as a little unduly combative here. Please be civil in your disagreements.

  47. I do note Bush will be in Calgary on Tuesday. Perhaps Canadian law permits citizens arrest for war crime charges though the Hague.

  48. Never give up, never surrender… most people are only politically engaged for a few months every 4 years. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront, and welcome to the perpetual election cycle.

  49. Change does not happen over night, or in months, for that matter. I’m certain it would be foolish to abolish all these draconian rules and tools when they can now be used to effectively further dismantle those who first established them to begin with. Yes, perhaps these methods are being kept because now the gun will be trained on the oppressors, finally.

    Whatever people may think, I applaud the administration’s conservative approach to unraveling the literal cluster fuck the former administration created.

  50. Change does not happen over night, or in months, for that matter. I’m certain it would be foolish to abolish all these draconian rules and tools when they can now be used to effectively further dismantle those who first established them to begin with. Yes, perhaps these methods are being kept because now the gun will be trained on the oppressors, finally.

    Whatever people may think, I applaud the administration’s conservative approach to unraveling the literal cluster fuck the former administration created.

  51. I’ve been down, I’ve been beat
    I’ve been tossed into the street
    Making nickels, begging dimes
    Just to get my bottle of wine
    Some say Life, she’s a lady
    Kind of soft, kind of shady
    I can’t tell you Life is rich
    She’s no lady, she’s a bitch
    They suck my body out
    But then there is no doubt
    Gonna pay the devil his dues
    Cause I’m so sick of being abused
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Don’t you know life is a bitch
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Out of the palace and into the ditch
    Steal my money, steal my car
    Took my woman and an old guitar
    Running crazy, running wild
    ?? in my eye
    Just can’t fight the temptation
    It’s become my inspiration
    Gonna get myself an axe
    Break some heads and break some backs
    They suck my body out
    But then there is no doubt
    Gonna pay the devil his dues
    Cause I’m so sick of being abused
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Don’t you know life is a bitch
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Out of the palace and into the ditch
    Don’t stop me
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Don’t you know life is a bitch
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Out of the palace and into the ditch
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Don’t you know life is a bitch
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Out of the palace and into the ditch
    Out of the palace and into the ditch
    They suck my body out…

  52. The Aerosmith version is good too: Eat The Rich
    There’s only one thing that they are good for
    Eat The Rich
    Take one bite now – come back for more
    Eat The Rich
    Don’t stop me now, I’m goin’ crazy
    Eat The Rich
    That’s my idea of a good time baby

  53. I always liked Bill Hicks’ bit :
    ” I think the puppet on the right speaks the truth-

    Well, I think the puppet on the left speaks the truth.

    Hey, who’s that guy in the middle controlling both puppets?—-
    — ‘Go back to sleep America — Here’s American Gladiators- here’s 1000 hours of infomercials- shut up! Go to sleep – Oh, and by the way,keep drinking that beer!’ ”

    I’m not even being cynical. I think it’s funny!
    American govt. is a good old boy network running a giant red herring . It always has been. We all know it. It’s been engineered to keep its citizens distracted and on edge and afraid so we lose focus on the here and now so that we don’t become sovereign onto ourselves.
    Don’t worry about it. Let them have their games and dramas and we can just laugh at it and live our lives the best we can while this runs its course.
    I do agree that people need to educate themselves though. Blindly eating away on a red herring doesn’t really help. But,hey, if you ordered it– Bon Appetit !

  54. clearly it’s too early, and those who think he can just click his fingers and convince a staff that’s made up of both republicans and democrats to do what he thinks are deluded or don’t understand that there are lots of very opinionated convincing people he has to go up against every day.

    or maybe he yet doesn’t understand the gravity of these policies – can he know everything? maybe we should just keep trying to make as much noise about it as possible and hope at one point he listens.

    To be understanding but not complacent seems to be the way forward with this – staying positive about the new administration is very important. The republicans are desperate for us to start losing faith in it as soon as possible. let’s not play their very base game.

  55. The people who are saying its too early to worry is the same ones that made it so easy for the last adm. to get away with al the torture and murder : “Lets wait to see if they change instead of opening our mouths to say something bad about the poor president that we all invested so much belief in”

    Its never too early to point out that we are going in the wrong direction.

    Its our duty to point out that the new adm. is not doing what we expect of them.

    What are we supposed to do: sit around and wait ?!?!?!

    its never to early too point out that its not harder to make the desecion to reverse a policy than it is to make a desicion that is enforcing the old one.
    It has already been done in several fields, why should it be more difficult to do it when it comes to civil libs and human rights. Im sorry, but if you get fooled again you are suckers.

    Im swedish, that explains the bad language. Now I ask you, please, demand something from the president for once !!


  56. The quality of a politial dicission can NOT be detemined by HOW LONG a politician has been in office (this SHOULD be evident). It can only be determined by the CONTENCE of that decission. Obviously.

    It seems to me that some people in this thread think that we are discussing the LEGACY of the Obama admin. And obviously its a bit to early for that. But thats not what this is about. This is about DOING SOMETHIN ABOUT OBAMAS POLITICS WHILE WE CAN, ie by not shuting up when we are dissapointed by our politicians.

    (Even though, if you want to talk legacy, Obamas legacy will be hurt by his refusal to rectify damage made to your very old and good constitution)


  57. Apparently there is an infiltration threat so dire that even Obama agrees that we need to continue the Bush policies.

    Cylons are among us. I knew it!

  58. Hmmm… I think the spam filter, or gremlins in teh intertubes, ate a post I made last night apologizing for the off topic comment.

    Basically, yeah I’m disappointed in Obama not living up to my lefty ideals but I know he isn’t a lefty, Obama has always been right of center Dem.

    I do also believe there is a chasm between the actions of the Bush admin and the Obama admin. I believe that is no small thing.

  59. I’ve said from the beginning we need to give Obama his 100 days. I helped elect him, and he gets that much trust from me. (And he has done some good stuff already, so maybe I give him a bit more as well.)

    Assuming he’s got the best intentions, Obama is still under tons of pressure from lots of different sources.

    We can help by keeping up the pressure for civil liberties from our end.

  60. “Nobody is complaining because the Obama administration is acting too slowly in renouncing these policies. The opposite is true: they are rushing to actively embrace them. ”

    Its not “TOO EARLY” to make judgments to be outraged when Obama quickly embraces some of the worst Bush policies. When is the best time to criticize him for the actions he has taken? When it is too late? Isn’t that how we got into this mess?

    If you read Greenwald’s several posts about the current situation, you would know that he just as much as anyone else doesn’t want to make judgments on Obama based on assumption.

  61. I don’t want to dismiss this reasonably-written post out of hand but it is remarkably lacking in details…in fact it is lacking any details at all.

    Would the guest blogger care to write an article citing where specifically Obama is failing to meet his obligation to the American people by upholding our fundamental liberties?

  62. @ #53 Ranessin:

    So Obama didn’t undo in 2 months what Bush created in 8 years, much of it needing 60 votes in the Senate?

    Hear hear!

    Can we be a little rational here?

    Take the Patriot Act. Obama can’t just “undo” the Patriot Act tomorrow — it’s a law signed by Congress.

    There are a huge number of eliminations of civil liberties that the Bush administration created. They take time to get to, and their replacements have to make sense. Already a large number of the vilest ones have been eliminated.

    I’m sorry you all got your hopes up so high that if he didn’t deliver everything on the first day then you deem him a failure. I didn’t think he’d be able to reverse everything on Day One, but I voted for him anyway, knowing that if anyone could turn America around within 4 years, it would be Obama.

  63. O’s a new New Dealer, a defender of capitalism, a classic bourgeois liberal. His job is to fix as much as he has to, and no more. It’s really too early to tell how far he will go, how much he will have to try to do. He’s our FDR. (Wouldn’t Eleanor be happy!)

    I admire Greenwald’s militancy as regards civil liberties and constitutional law, but sometimes he gets a bit hysterical. The guy deserves greater media visibility; he’s fighting the good fight, carrying the right banner.

  64. Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars (http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/ ) has been doing an excellent job chronicling the occasions where Obama has stayed the course on civil liberties issues. Unfortunately, Ed seems to get a new example almost daily.

  65. 8 years vs. 8 weeks. I think it’s insanity to believe that Obama has done all he’s going to do for humanities in these two months.

    Politics isn’t quite as quick as Twitter, folks. Pull back on your instant gratification for a broader view.

  66. As mr Greenwald is pointing out in his thing on Salon:

    “Nobody is complaining because the Obama administration is acting too slowly in renouncing these policies. The opposite is true: they are rushing to actively embrace them.”

    I agree with him on this. All you who think that so much good will be done in the next eight years: do you not find it discouraging that the Obama administration is “actively embracing” Bush policies in alot of instances where they didnt have to?

    Why did they do it ? There is no viscocity in politicts by law of nature. There just isnt.

    What do you have to say about that?

  67. @75 “Take the Patriot Act. Obama can’t just “undo” the Patriot Act tomorrow ”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Obama vote for the Patriot Act?

  68. Partisan politic is a power struggle by definition. How can you expect Obama to relinquish any of it? It won’t happen unless we force him to do it. Give him free reins and he’ll hang himself with them.

    Tak, when exactly is it too soon to treat such a cancer?

  69. There is actually a fundamental shift here. Bush claimed the inherent authority to name people enemy combatants, and the inherent authority to lock them up forever, without review. This was the “unitary executive” theory backed up by John Yoo.

    Obama is claiming Congress grants him the authority to do the same, to fewer people (Bush just had to say ‘enemy combatant’, Obama has to show participating in hostility – which presumably also opens the door to judicial review). Because Obama’s claimed right is based on acts of Congress, it can be removed by act of Congress. This is something that Bush would never have admitted to.

    Here is the actual memo.

    This position is limited to the authority upon which the Government is relying to detain the persons now being held at Guantanamo Bay. It is not, at this point, meant to define the contours of authority for military operations generally, or detention in other contexts. A forward-looking multi-agency effort is underway to develop a comprehensive detention policy with respect to individuals captured in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations, and the views of the Executive Branch may evolve as a result.

    This memo is not an expression of the unitary power of the Executive branch. This is a description of the grant of power to the Executive by Congress in the AUMF issued after 9/11, which expressly provides for the president to pursue and detain those who were behind 9/11.

    In the past, Bush claimed he could detain these people exclusively under his powers as the Commander-in-Chief.

    It is my understanding that Obama has admitted he can only detain them pursuant to the act of Congress, the aforementioned AUMF.

    This is a change, and a pretty damn big one, IMHO.

  70. Liberals made apologies for Stalin and Mao. They will make apologies for Obama too; whereas Bush is ‘evil, evil, evil’.

    Much of the criticism of the Bush years was juvenile, stupid, and simple-minded. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty worth criticizing, but the rabid Left made a mockery of legitimate criticism.

  71. @ #53 Arghmonkey: “…when we put money over people..”

    Do you even know what money is? It’s a tool used to express value.

    As for the ‘free market’, do you actually believe this country has ever had a free market?

  72. @UKNOWBETTER – If you prefer I can say “when we put the value of people over profit” or “when the quest for money is tempered by its human impact” …

    However you want to shuffle the words my point is clear, putting shareholder desires over the human cost is turning north america into a country of uber wealthy and total poverty …

    Your an ideologue if you think, like many libertarians, that the poor CAN pull themselves out they just chose not to or that the uber wealthy deserve our respect and every penny they made …

    In an ideal world everyone would strive for the best, people would be fair because they realize inequality hurts all of us, that old folks are cared for, that puppy dogs go to loving families etc etc etc …

    The fact is people are easy to manipulate, the fact is businesses are designed to make money, period, end of story, if that means kicking ur mother out of her subsidized housing so be it, if that means fishing till theres no fish left, so be it …

    What we need is a return to ethics and morals, not dictated by the church but by good thinking and based in the idea that a strong middle class and equality and fairness are important …

    Libertarians are like anarchists with the except that anarchists want no government or small government to eliminate corruption, for justice and libertarians want no government or small government because they want to be able to exploit people without being bogged down by things like human rights or basic safety or worker rights or any regulations *L*

    Anyway im rambling on, dont waste my time by shuffling words, you know exactly what I was saying, just deal with reality, the problem we are looking at today comes from corruption and greed, libertarians want LESS rules and LESS regulations, which in reality will only cause more problems …

  73. @Unkowbetter #90
    Actually, many liberals were critical of Mao and Stalin. This may be outside of your experience, but most liberals don’t identify as communists, or identify with communist dictators.

    Heck, even the actual avowed communists in the U.S. were split over Stalin, with some becoming avowed Trotskyites. In fact, Trotskyism enjoyed more popularity with the communist intellectuals.

    There are a wealth of books out there covering this schism, but even Wikipedia has the information.

  74. @#92 Arghmonkey

    So your ‘ethics and morals’ should be enforced at the point of a gun, eh?

    I don’t have a problem with voluntary arrangements (which pretty much describes most capitalism), but I do have a problem with folks pointing a gun at my head and telling me how to live.

  75. @93 spittlebug

    I should have said ‘many liberals’; I was not implying all.

    If you go look at the literature at the time, many, many liberals and members of the left defended Stalin and Mao.

    The New York Times is famous for their white-washing articles on Stalin.

  76. #66 “Change does not happen over night..”

    Patriot Act (13,000 pages voted and passed in less than a week)

    Recent bailouts/stimulus plans (1000+ pages) voted on in less than a day.

    Numerous bills and other legislation get passed without any serious review and often times contain dozens of other things entirely unrelated to the main theme of the bill (called “log rolling”).

    Actually change does happen overnight but it’s rarely positive change when coming from DC.

    Don’t blame me I voted for Ron Paul. Certified kook and Paultard 110% baby.

  77. @ arnold78 #86:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Obama vote for the Patriot Act?

    That’s somewhat debatable. He wasn’t even in the Senate when the bill was first authorized in 2001, then later was one of a small number of Senators that opposed its reauthorization without key checks being added in first. He did eventually vote for the reauthorized bill (as did every other Senator except Russ Feingold) but at least he reigned it in a little first.

  78. @95 Uknowbetter
    Ah, I see. Not ALL liberals. And the ones you mean were in the 1950’s. Well that makes it all better.
    There ought to be a corollary to Godwin’s law about invoking the names of Stalin or Mao. Unless you have evidence that Obama has been starving Appalachian coal miners to death by the thousands or ordering the execution of Mitch McConnell, making these comparisons is merely inflammatory.

    Just sayin’.

  79. “Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, has warned that civil unrest on American soil is a possibility that should not be dismissed. Brzezinski explains that “[the United States is] going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits. And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America…” Brzezinski concludes with this noteworthy remark “…hell, there could be even riots”. “

  80. About 5% of the comments come to this issue with calm non emotional debate. The remaining 95% is just reaction. It’s too bad Dan’s post was delivered with intemperance; it doesn’t get at the deeper issues that challenge the broad extension of civil liberties and it’s contradictions in a full blown western democracy like the US.

    Should there ever be a group of individuals conspiring to poison a reservoir or blow up the Lincoln tunnel, then there’d be a lot of second guessing about the governments right for warrant-less wire tapping suspected domestic terrorists.

    The ACLU might respond by pointing to the process of obtaining a warrant and that is indeed a position to help overturn domestic wiretapping statutes. Then there is the question of tip offs and timing and expediting a security check for any possible domestic threat.

    If it was just that easy to roll back these rank assaults to civil liberties; it would already be done.


  81. Obama has already shown he is happy to break his promises and loathe to abandon the new powers created under Bush. New window-dressing but its still the same old shop, and all its clients are part of the military-industrial-banking crime syndicate.

    Change? Not really, but it will keep the sheeple happy for a a year or two.

  82. @98 spittlebug

    My point was that the left often overlooks abuses when committed by ‘their team’. This isn’t anything new either.

    I’m sure the right does so as well, but I heard many conservatives and libertarians criticizing Bush during his presidency and I hear many liberals defending Obama no matter what he does. Blind allegiance is rarely a pretty thing.

  83. Thank you, THEBES.

    Man, I guess the days of boingboing readers being aware and observant of our society went out with the magazine version.
    Almost every post here are from people who think voting actually counts and that the govt. actually cares about us and the country.
    I really don’t think any of these people read or have paid attention to anything at all in the last 100 plus years.
    Again, this is not being cynical-it’s just being aware and observant.
    I’m not trying to be Paco Xander Nathan , but c’mon, a rose is a rose.

  84. I am a sorely disappointed Obama supporter who loathed Bush-era politics. I suppose that I fall in the independent bucket. But, more so, I think that I vote pragmatically and am becoming pessimistic that we can find a pragmatic politician that operates openly, honestly and with a goal to accomplish sensible initiatives, judged by honest disclosed metrics, even if those are ones which I personally wouldn’t support.

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