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Germans Loved Obama. Now We Don’t Trust Him (nytimes.com)
229 points by mxfh 1543 days ago | hide | past | web | 76 comments | favorite



Well written. Being myself an Austrian (not only by economic affiliation) with ties to the USA I just today contemplated that in a way Obama will do much more damage to the American reputation than Bush (2) ever could.

Bush could be seen as an anomaly. He was not elected by a majority of the American people for his first turn, and even if everybody shook their head about the obvious oilgrab in the Iraq based on blatant lies, people could somehow understand that you don't change an administration amidst a war.

Obama was seen as a return of the USA that was always admired by many if not most people in Europe.

Like someone coming to their senses after a violent fit, Europe was ready to embrace an America that put effort in preserving and spreading civil rights, peace and democracy with means that did not involve letting countries descend in mayhem that bloody dictators would envy.

Then - he did not shut down Guantanamo (and he could have done it if he had acted fast and spent time to convince his party)

- he did not Veto a continuation of the Patriot Act

- he let his administration spy on the press to an unprecedented extent

- he defends spying on everybody outside or with ties to outside the country

If this is the rational, the civilized America, then we are in deep trouble.


I'd love to hear some statements from the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee, who in a fit of Obama euphoria gave him the prize during his first presidency.


In my estimation, the award was not given in a fit of Obama euphoria as much as it was awarded in celebration of the removal of George Bush.

I have heard it claimed that the committee's choice of Carter and Gore as recipients were more criticism of Bush than they were in response to those efforts, but I do not believe that argument holds. Many of the recipients from the first eight years of this century were very much deserving.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/


While I agree in essence with your characterization of the job done by Obama, I do want to point out (again) that it will take quite some advances in physics before we're able to locate the parallel universe where Obama may have been able to shut down the prison at Gitmo.

I think it's hard to imagine the sheer and total resistance to shutting down that prison if you haven't been in the country to see it yourself. I still don't understand the reasoning to this day. But there was never a chance, with the Congresses Obama was handed with, that the prison would be completely shut down.

I don't know whether it's a bunch of representatives attempting to look 'Tough on Terror' or what... but you have to pin Guantanamo on the people as a whole.


But there was never a chance, with the Congresses Obama was handed with, that the prison would be completely shut down.

You've added a critical word there with "completely".

Congress blocked Obama from bringing Guantanamo inmates to the US for imprisonment or trial. But 86 of the 166 inmates are never going to be tried. They're already cleared for immediate release. Everyone (CIA, DoD) has agreed to this. Obama has the power to release them with the stroke of a pen, and the State Dept. apparently has a plan to do it and is just waiting for the go-ahead. So while Obama may not have the power to close Guantanamo completely, he does have the power to free more than half of the prisoners there, the ones who are not accused of anything. Yet there they stay, for no discernable (other than political) reasons.

Pinning the blame on Congress has worked for Obama politically, but if it's true that he's the one keeping more than half of the prisoners there, and with weaker justification since they are the ones unanimously agreed to be innocent, then it seems fair to say that Obama is more at fault than Congress is.

Source: http://ianmasters.com/sites/default/files/mp3/bbriefing_2013..., which is an interview (starting at 1:36) with one of the public defenders involved.


Release them to where? Their home countries don't even want to take them back now I believe.


In that case, given that the United States government forcibly removed them from where they were beforehand, it would make sense that the United States hosts them if they can't go home. After all, many of them have been there long enough to potentially qualify for US citizenship.


The problem is that not only have a lot of them been there long enough to qualify for US citizenship, but they've experienced enough torture and fundamental violation of their human rights that they also qualify as avid haters of America and its citizens.

So the US has created a monster, and is not willing to let that monster live in its neighborhood, and nobody else wants it either, so .. there they stay.

Don't worry though, a lot of the Gitmo detainees know the situation is dire, and thus: the hunger strike. For some of them, death will be the only escape.


A sincere apology, along with providing counselling, free housing and a stable pension to take care of their living expenses - would go a long way.

Also, hatred grows exponentially, with each day they spend in prison and is multiplied by the international audience that's watching the story unfold. If you fear their hatred, the most rational thing to do is to release them and package their misfortune in tale with a happy ending.

Not doing that will lead to even more hatred and even bigger monsters.


> The problem is that not only have a lot of them been there long enough to qualify for US citizenship, but they've experienced enough torture and fundamental violation of their human rights that they also qualify as avid haters of America and its citizens.

I think that's quite an assumption to make. There's no doubt that the prisoners will have sustained serious injuries to their mental and physical health, but that's the job of the US government to address. The right thing to do is to move them to a mainland facility, give them treatment for the problems they have and release them as and when they're ready to enter society. If they then choose to sue the government that's their choice and the US government should suck it up.

This needs to be so painful for the US government to deal with that it never happens again.


And yet, to add insult to multiple injuries, they are not even allowed to die. They are force-fed. If nothing else can be done, they should be allowed to starve themselves to death if that's their wish. I wonder if Boehner, Limbaugh, etc. would be ok with that.


The interview I cited didn't say where, explicitly; what he said was that arrangements had been made by the State Department and it was the White House holding things back.

I'd like to know the answer to your question too, but I'm hesitant to accept the "there's nowhere to send them" meme, which one hears often, without something to distinguish it as fact rather than propaganda. For example, another often-repeated meme, "these are the worst of the worst", is apparently entirely untrue in these 86 cases. (Even the half dozen prisoners who have actually been tried were apparently mostly just cooks and drivers and such.)


Portugal has offered to take detainees (2), http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/08/07/portugal.syri... and I believe other countries have also offered. I am not sure whether this already has taken place or whether it relates to the individuals still in captivity.


Just release them. Since the US was the country which arrested them in the first place, interrupted their lives and kept them for 11 years without a trial, at least the US could grant them residence permit. Sure, there might be a terrorist or 10 among the 500 detainees left but no real court would ever be able to convict them after a decade of torture and other human rights abuses. Also, since the US already has state-of-the-art surveillance in place they would be able to keep an eye on these guys in the future ;-)


What?


I disagree. Obama had a lot of oppertunity here, but more importantly he never intended to actually stop indefinite detention. Rather than go through all the reasons here I'll just point out one of many articles that debunks this reasoning-

http://www.salon.com/2012/07/23/the_obama_gitmo_myth/


He could've shut it down a dozen different ways, had he wanted to. He's expended zero political capital on this issue.


Health care was clearly more important. So at least Americans got that.


Yep. That means...

Instead of working 39 hours per week for one job, I'll work 29 hours a week, and have to get multiple jobs.

Yay.


I rather see him publicly try and fail, than not try. To stand up there and point out how he did as much as is constitutionally possible, and point out the representatives who prevented it from happening. ie the fault of gitmo not closing should be clear and not rest with him.


He shouldn't have promised that he would, then.


So a person can just make empty promises on a campaign, get elected and do a bunch of crap people disagree with via executive order, and then blame all the stuff he didn't do on Congress?

edit: And yes, informed voters should know what the President can and can not reasonably promise, but I would hope that presidential candidates would actually have the integrity to not intentionally mislead people, and that a person who promises to close Gitmo would at least be more outspoken about his desire to do so.


How much oil did the US get out of the obvious oil grab?


The way people discuss oil prices in popular media makes it abundantly clear that they have no damn idea what they're talking about.

Oil is a global commodity. It goes to the highest bidder. It will always go to the highest bidder, because if it went to anyone else that person who values it at less than the highest bidder values it would have the incentive to sell it to the highest bidder. The way that oil plays out in wars and politics is not a matter of who gets the oil, it's a matter of how much oil is released onto the market. This is why anyone who complains about things like the U.S. exporting oil to other countries amidst high gas prices is an idiot.

So now let's talk about Iraq. How much oil did the U.S. get from Iraq? It turns out not very much because Iraq is now selling a huge amount of its oil to China. But guess what that means: Now China can satisfy its demand for X barrels of oil from Iraq and doesn't have to get it from Venezuela or Russia or Saudi Arabia or the U.S., which means the U.S. can get that oil which China didn't need to buy. Because it's a global commodity.

The real question you have to ask is whether the amount of oil Iraq is currently releasing onto the global market is more or less than it would have been under Saddam. But determining that requires quite a lot of speculation, and it isn't even clear that lower short term global oil prices are even in the interest of the United States.


Are US contractors getting a piece of the pie from the sales of Iraq's oil?


"...Oil fields contracted include the "super-giant" Majnoon Field, Halfaya Field, West Qurna Field and Rumaila Field." [1]

If you look up each of those fields, you'll see they are licensed to Shell, BP, and Exxon [2] [3] [4] [5]

Given all of those companies have a strong presence in the US and definitely have lobbying power. I'd say the US got effective control over one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves_in_Iraq

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halfaya_Field

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Qurna_Field

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumaila_Field

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majnoon_oil_field


Directly from the links you posted:

- Halfaya: CNPC, Total SA, Petronas

- West Qurna: ExxonMobil, Shell, Lukoil, Statoil, Eni SpA, CNPC, Petronas

- Rumalia: BP, CNPC

- Majnoon: Shell, Petronas

Of all these, only ExxonMobil is an American company. Shell and BP are not American, regardless of the presence, unless you want to call Exxon a British or a Dutch company as well.

But more importantly, all these contracts were awarded on a competitive basis, with a bidding process. Especially telling is an entry for Rumalia field: "ExxonMobil which also bid on servicing this field at a price $4.80 walked away due to price cutting terms by the Iraqi Government leaving BP and CNPC as winners of the contract.".


You don't have to be an American company to benefit from American policy. And I'm sure congressmen benefit from the "non-american" oil companies.

The question I would like to know the answer to, is who was drilling the oil before the war... it seems unclear, but if it was Iraq (national companies) then the war was defiantly an oil grab.


I doubt CNPC, Lukoil, Petronas, Statoil, and others were in collusion with the Bush administration to invade Iraq and gain control over its oil by competitively outbidding each other in the end.


The US government nothing. US oil companies and Halliburton made a pretty good buck though.


I'm half Dutch/German and i fully agree with the view of the author and the article.

However, i believe one important piece of information is missing from most articles i read about this topic; Obviously it is much harder to create/restore something than it is to break something. In my opinion Bush made a big mess and Obama is doing a great job turning the whole thing around and leading the Americans in the right direction. There is only so much one person can do, and besides that, change should always happen slowly to prevent instability.

We forget that the reason all of this was possible in the first place are obviously the American people itself; For example why on earth did they vote for George Bush the second time... From my point of view, the Americans have some kind of unrational fear of terrorists and choose to give up all privacy because they believed it would give them more security. Instead, it gave them another terrorist: the NSA.

Hopefully they will learn from their mistakes and continue in the right direction. I believe Obama started of good and hope he will continue to do so.


Do you somehow not realize that most of these policies (e.g. NSA) were expanded by Obama? Are you really so enraptured by a deep film voice? Name 5 positive things Obama did that "continue in the right direction".


Let's not get overboard.

Europe (alongside EVERY nation that has a respectably digital-ready telecommunications network) spies on it's peoples.

It's almost a mark of a nation's jetting into the trillion dollar club.

America gets the lion share of the criticism because it has been bestowed on - for better or worse owing to its capacity for taking human toll (of its own citizenry) - the uneasy office of the global police order.

European critics should ask themselves which country constitutes the majority of NATO's standing forces.

Is it Spain? Germany? Scotland? France? Italy?

You can have your say when your countrymen submit themselves in (proportionally) larger numbers.

Until then, take a seat.

Source:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjrBO10n8V8


I have no idea what the NATO has to do with it. As an Austrian, NATO was never there to protect us.

Your argument is at best ignorant, and at worst willfully distracting from the cause.

America was admired for setting an example as a great nation where people can live freely. The policing activities after WW2 (for which Europe has to be thankful) were mostly ill conceived (with the low points being Vitnam and Iraq).


  As an Austrian, NATO was never there to protect us.
  America was admired for setting an example as a 
  great nation where people can live freely.
What, in the civilized lands of Stiegl, has ever threatened the free movement and assembly of people, at least since the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian empire? And what has prevented Austrians from immigrating to the shores of America, like the Germans, Swedes and the Dutch?

I'd really like to know.

(Very trace amounts of sarcasm deposited in this response.)


What has NATO got to do with it? We (Austria) don't want to be part of the global police, nor do we need one.

And we can have our say without beeing part of NATO.

This is about spying on your partners, including high ranking officials, torture, secret laws and courts, extralegal executions, and a general degeneration of U.S. policies towards authoritarianism, which we have been witnessing for almost a decade now.


Do you really have a say? Austria was not allowed to join any global police (NATO or Warsaw Pact). I.e. it got in independence in 1955 only after promises of neutrality.


Sure not.

The US standing military is for defending the US empire and has nothing to do with NATO. NATO's task was never to be a global police. That's a task some US politicians selected for the US. We've seen how that works.


The infographic linked in the article is amazing: http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-data-retention

For those who don't want to read it, it's six months of the author's metadata gathered by T-Mobile being displayed on a map.


Have an up-vote! I came to the comments to place this link. The level of detail is incredible and scary. Combine this with the actual content of the mails, social media, search queries and you have basically injected yourself into the mind of people.


I only watched the first couple of days, but this is seriously powerful stuff. And scary if you think about it too much.


That's amazing. So powerful. They have this information on all of us.


As Germans feign outrage for the actions of the Five Eyes, specifically the UK and America, they rubber stamp the same style laws that amusingly, went into effect very recently:

http://translate.google.de/translate?sl=de&tl=en&js=n&prev=_...

Forcing telecoms to keep data available for on demand searches of intensely personal citizens information.


Well the German supreme court declared these laws partly unconstitutional. In Austria the supreme court has still to decide.

Of course these laws should be abolished.

But these cases show an important difference: These laws while outrageous, were created transparently and published. This enabled citizens to take actions against them, and hopefully at some point they will be abolished.

In the case of the NSA everything was covered by gag orders under the penalty of committing a felony. That is way more insidious.


And those laws were debated by Germans, about how much they should know about each other. If they had all truly decided that everyone should be open, and that they could vote it away later, then everything's good.

Having Americans spy on everyday Germans, that's completely different.

It's one thing for an American on the street to see a German and size him up to see if he's a threat. Does he have a weapon, is he of sound mind, etc. It's completely another to follow him home, peek through the windows, poke through his phone, computer, trash, and then say you're only defending yourself and that everyone does it. The level of intrusion is unreasonable.


The laws underlying those gag orders are also public, transparent, debated beforehand, etc.

The principle of the gag order comes from the implementation of the law. Obviously the public law itself allows gag orders, otherwise Google's lawyers would tell Google to go ahead and publish them. Gag orders have been around in America, at all levels of law enforcement and security, since waaaaay before all this.


This is a big defect in the American justice system imho.


Nothing more than OPSEC, really.

The big defect is allowing long-duration (or even permanent) gag orders, and not just for the NSA-style stuff. There's been quite a few court cases where parties settle on something which is public-interest but the judge seals the whole damn case forever.


Yup. All this outrage is fabricated. This isn't country versus country. This is people versus the State, and the people have already lost. The german government is doing what it must to fool the people, yet again, into thinking their governments are representative.

Bread and circuses are far cheaper today than in ancient Rome. It doesn't take much.


This law didn't get rubber stamped. The first time the government passed the law, it was declared unconstitutional by the german Supreme Court, after Patrick Beyer, a member of the Pirate Party challenged it in court.

Now the government tries to change certain parts to pass it again. Patrick Beyer said he will challenge it again and chances are pretty good, that it will be declared unconstitutional again.


ha ha :) nice example for ad hominem.

The author is part of the Green party directly fighting the law you mentioned. Also if you cannot see the difference between the law Germany passed and what the US is doing with PRISM, you seem to be on the wrong website ;)


What makes you think German intelligence agencies don't have a similar program?


'but everyone does it' is no excuse for amoral behaviour.

Besides, if a country positions itself as the beacon of -foo- for the world, then it should lead by example, not hide behind "but everyone does it".


You think the German intelligence bugs embassies of other countries (and the UNO ??) and has secret deals wiht Google, Apple etc.?? I highly doubt it, the ramifications would be too high in case it became public. Anyhow, we are discussing US right now ... not Germany. (Check what ad hominem means :)


>You think the German intelligence bugs embassies of other countries (and the UNO ??) and has secret deals wiht Google, Apple etc.??

Yes, I do. Further, I think friendly intelligence agencies have data sharing agreements to get around laws against domestic spying.


This is why, in this age of mass media and constant opinion, perception is the only thing that matters. The NSA has been doing this for years and other countries have too. Everyone suspected it, backhandedly inferred it. Now the outrage happens when the media takes him as a dark horse. It's unfortunate, but unless you're a scientist, that's the system we live in.


It blows my mind that people fall for political windbaggery. Europe seems especially starry-eyed for Obama. It's kind of strange.


Given the eight years of the Bush administration Europe was as desperate for change as the American left and I think this accounts for most of the initial excitement about him. In hindsight this may seem foolish, but looking back I can remember exactly how great the divide was (not that it seems to be getting any better).


The standout quote for me is on the second page: "When courts and judges negotiate secretly, when direct data transfers occur without limits, when huge data storage rather than targeted pursuit of individuals becomes the norm, all sense of proportionality and accountability is lost." This sums up the current situation quite nicely. Absolute power always corrupts absolutely. Always.


Not just the Germans.


Highlight from the article: The guy published [1] the meta-data T-Mobile collected from his phone as a practical example of the information that can be extracted from it.

[1] http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-data-retention


I have to admit I was never a fan of Obama and didn't understand those who trusted his promises as a candidate. Every candidate makes promises they rarely keep, but Obama was well known for the level of change he claimed he would bring. None of this administration's scandals have surprised me.


Once my (bright, Valedictorian, PBK, 'Summa Cum Laude', Woodrow Wilson, NSF, Ph.D.) wife gave me a question:

We were running a little consulting company, and one of our clients was from a wealthy family. My wife asked me about that client, "What has he actually done himself?" that is, that he didn't mostly get just handed to him from his position in the wealth and power of his family?

That was a good question. Prescient. Indeed, when he started making decisions really on his own, he made just awful decisions and lost again and again, in total a bundle, a big fraction of his share of the family's wealth. Not unexpected: The great American novel is rags to rags in three generations!

Okay, look at Ohama: What has he actually done besides have several smart and/or wealthy people help him ride a wave to get elected?

From what I can see, generally his approach is when there is an issue in the news, have his writers formulate some cliches on the issue, mouth the cliches, and then do nothing or nothing significant and wait until the MSM, etc. forget about the issue.

In one step more detail, he has in mind a coalition -- that's one role of a politician, to form a winning coalition. So, e.g., one of the groups he wants in his coalition are the greenies. So, back early in 2008 he gave an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle where he said that his idea was to have carbon "cap and trade" and slowly "ratchet up" the standards until the coal fired electric generating plants were "bankrupt". When I read that, I went into orbit somewhere in the outer planets before returning to earth. Why? Easy enough to find in Department of Energy reports was that then 49% of all of our electric power and, as I recall, 23% of all our energy was coming from coal. So, in simple, stark terms, his "bankrupt", taken literally, would do more damage to the US economy than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao ever hoped. And Obama admitted the effect, that electric rates would "skyrocket".

But eventually I understood that I had gotten all excited over next to nothing: Yes, apparently some old coal fired plants have been shut down -- a good report would be of interest but I don't have a reference to one. But electric rates have not gone up like a "skyrocket". I doubt that the coal plant shutdowns have amounted to much. Indeed, Buffett recently bought Burlington Northern Railroad which is big in hauling coal to coal plants. So, no doubt Buffett took Obama's SF Chronicle interview as, to quote the movie All the President's Men, "total BS".

So, what the heck did he do? Well, he got some greenies all happy for a while and likely got some political donations. With the happy greenies, he got freedom to aim some of the TARP II and stimulus money (supposedly $92 billion and later another $45 billion) to green projects that likely resulted in some political power and campaign donations.

Big, huge waste, right? Well, yes, but maybe not totally useless: Heck in WWII we got out of The Great Depression in about 90 days by pouring money into guns and bullets that were junk by 1945 (suddenly had 1-3 jobs for everyone who could work, women included, especially if they could learn to use a rivet gun). So, maybe pouring $92 billion plus $45 billion into projects that might, unfortunately, be just junk soon enough might help get the economy going, e.g., as that money soon gets spent for the usual things -- food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care, education, .... Or, it was like the helicopter solution -- fly over the US and drop money until the economy is going again.

Maybe the greenies are less than 20% of the population. So, what about the 80+% of the population not greenies who don't want to see 49% of our electric utility industry destroyed? Well, apparently that 80+% just didn't pay attention to the Obama greenie remarks and otherwise didn't take him seriously. And one step more, as soon as shutting down our electric power started to pinch, people would scream bloody murder and the situation would be turned around.

So, net, curiously, the 20-% get all excited and contribute to a coalition long enough to win an election; the 80+% mostly pay no attention; and soon enough everyone forgets about the issue.

So, can build a coalition, say, long enough to get elected: (1) Pick a list of controversial issues and, for each, pick a small group of highly concerned citizens. (2) In some speeches, feed each group some radical raw meat cliches that they will really like. (3) In reality, do next to nothing or nothing on the cliches. (4) Let time pass, new issues dominate the news, and the old issues fade into the background.

Then what about the real work? (1) Wait until others propose solutions. (2) Wait until some such solutions get some traction. (3a) If the solution is really popular in the country, then support it. (3b) If the solution is just to be implemented in the Executive Branch, then let it but don't publicly support it; if the solution flops, blame the lower level people who implemented it; if the solution is successful, take credit.

But, mostly don't actually have a vision and push it and bet own political capital on it.

If Obama has a vision, then my guess is that he just wants as much more money and power in DC as he can bring there so that DC can take the US by the horns and lead it somewhere, say, to social justice. Otherwise he gets time to work on his golf game and jump shot.

What's wrong? He's not really leading. He's not really out in front with solutions. He mostly is just letting things happen from others and avoiding being close enough to get blamed. So, there's not much coordination. Mostly he's avoiding blame.

Why don't people notice what he's doing? Because things, especially the economy and wars, are not bad enough for people to be interrupting the rest of their lives to raise hell insisting on something better. And, people do pay a lot of attention to the MSM, and the MSM has a very short attention span.

E.g., for the Benghazi controversy? The NSA controversy pushed that out of the headlines. For the NSA controversy? Issue cliches and otherwise let Clapper, General Alexander, and Biden meet the public. For Snowden, mostly just f'get about him.

Back to the golf game and jump shot.

Or, "How to be President without Really Trying". Works as long as the voters put up with it and there's no crisis that demands more.

Crisis? What about hurricane Sandy? As at

  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Sandy
"Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history."

So, with hurricane Katrina, W got excoriated, eviscerated, drawn, quartered, etc. With hurricane Sandy Governor Christie got some publicity, Mayor Bloomberg was busy, but Obama got no blame. Cute.


Yeah, for instance the biggest overhaul of the healthcare system (Obamacare) happened without really trying. Imagine what he would have done if he was in office not playing golf. Also, looks like you are a time traveller from October 2012. So a flashback for you

http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/


> Yeah, for instance the biggest overhaul of the healthcare system (Obamacare) happened without really trying.

I was watching during the selling before the voting for Obamacare, and I concluded that Obama did next to nothing.

What did happen? The Dems had both houses of Congress. Senator Kennedy had long had a team working on healthcare overhaul and had a plan on the shelf. That plan got pulled off the shelf, modified, and then rammed through, e.g., by Pelosi, Reid, and Emanuel.

For Obama, when he went to a town hall to support the bill, he made some remarks about the costs of an amputation, got his facts badly wrong, got slapped down by the American College of Surgeons for saying things that were "uninformed, misinformed, just plain wrong, dangerous"

  http://www.facs.org/news/obama081209.html
Then Obama essentially quit efforts at public support of Obamacare.

When a team of Republicans went to the White House to try to draft a better bill, Obama was not really engaged.

Obama signed Obamacare, but he had next to nothing to do with getting it passed.

Obama didn't have to work to get Obamacare passed: Kennedy's old plan, Pelosi, Reid, Emanuel, and the Dem majority were enough. That's just the way it was.


The Democrats that controlled both houses of Congress made Obamacare happen.


How is this different from every President since and including Reagan?


It is different, very different. Obama avoids blame. He's terrific at avoiding blame. E.g., at Harvard Law, he was editor of the Law Review but didn't write anything so never got criticized for writing anything. In the Illinois Senate, he voted "present" some huge number of times and, again, avoided any blame.

Reagan? He got blamed for Iran-Contra. Obama's not getting blamed for NSA, Snowden, Benghazi, Morsi, Syria, etc.

Obama is uniquely good at avoiding blame.

Also Obama is uniquely good at pulling together a coalition with the technique I described.

Obama managed to avoid any significant role or blame for the response to hurricane Sandy. W seemed to be involved in responding to Katrina and then took everything that went wrong in the neck.

I like the remark in the movie Hunt for Red October: "I'm a politician which means that I'm a liar and a cheat and when I'm not kissing babies I'm stealing their lollypops. But it also means I keep my options open.". In other words, avoid taking a public position.

If a president has a vision or program he feels strongly about, then he will do all he can to push it, expend his political capital, and maybe get something done. But another approach is just to step back and keep fingerprints off things that might not work. In Obama's case, it also helps, maybe has been crucial, that long the MSM was on his side.


There is one point to his credit, and this seems to actually be his one and only priority: The Affordable Care Act. He realy stuck his neck out for this. And I think it is a laudable effort.


If Obamacare really is better for US health care and patients, both soon and long term, and not wildly more expensive, then fine with me.

I don't know how much Obama's for Obamacare: He has made lots of supportive comments, but he also claims to want to shut down the coal plants. He's going to do next to nothing on the second, so maybe on the first he's just spouting stuff. From his remarks that the American College of Surgeons shot down, I doubt that Obama really knows enough about US health care to like Obamacare very much.

For Obama "stuck his neck out", I don't see it. The bill passed due to the Dem majority in both houses of Congress and the pushing of Pelosi, Reid, and Emanuel, and from all I can tell Obama had little to do with it. Now that the bill is law, he can praise it.

As Obamacare, Obama's name got attached to the bill and the effort, but that was mostly just politics by people who don't like either Obama or the bill and similar to what was done with Hillary care because it was obvious that we shouldn't trust our health care system to Hillary. And nearly no one would really want to trust their health care to anything designed or implemented by Obama.

On the act itself, no doubt US health care could be improved. Just how to do that is a serious question. There is the academic health care systems analysis economic optimization planning community with Karen Davis, etc., but I've been too close to such academics and wouldn't trust them to hand me a band aid. Maybe what Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden have is better. It appears that lots of people complain about what England and Canada have.

I was for improving the US health care system, but when I saw the sausage making that resulted in Obamacare, I concluded that the hard work of designing a better system had not been done. E.g., I saw that what was proposed had been taken off the shelf from some work by Senator Kennedy's health care planning staff. Kennedy was dreaming; such dreams are a good way to kill patients and waste money.

My fear is that as Obamacare goes into implementation, it will seriously hurt US health care and millions of patients -- some soon, much more later. And as the IRS goes around plucking money from checking accounts, people might get torqued.

Pelosi's remark "got to pass it to see what's in it" may have a point: It may be that heavily what the implementation is will be from regulations written by rows, columns, and layers of paper pushers in some big building about 70 miles from the Washington Monument.

So, Obamacare will be implemented slowly. Maybe as problems become obvious and people scream, the paper pushers will modify the system. I hope so. Due to the slow implementation, there will be some time to modify the system as it is implemented.

Here is some of what I suspect will happen. In the short term, people won't like the changes if only because they are changes. Then people will really not like the role of the IRS. In the long term, I suspect that a lot of the best people and companies will leave health care and, then, quality will fall. Getting the quality back will be super tough. I suspect that the flow of new, advanced, powerful biomedical products -- drugs, devices -- will greatly slow. I believe that a lot of seniors will get much worst medical care. The Palin image of "death panels" is not really wrong.

US health care is a patchwork system pulled together piece by piece over nearly all the decades of modern medicine. In some ways, the system works great, likely the best in the world. In some other ways, it's not very good. So, improvements are possible. But improvements are not going to be easy, that is, without damaging a lot that is good or spending too much money.

My fear of Obamacare is that it was mostly just a political football and from nothing like a serious effort to design a better system. Instead, the political part was, really, just the Kennedy dream, a dream of 'good health care as a basic right for everyone' or some such essentially socialistic notion. Pelosi? She wants more socialism from a bigger government. With Obamacare she was as happy as the lead high school cheerleader just named Homecoming Queen. The political part is that Pelosi took the old Kennedy dream and pushed it through, that is, pushed through that the US is on the way to socialized medicine. So, in the US socialized medicine is now a fact that will be difficult to change.

That's what Pelosi wanted -- the principle of socialized medicine, that the Federal Government is directly responsible for the health care of everyone. Just what the details will be and how it will work, Pelosi didn't care. Instead she will let the Executive Branch iron out any winkles and have Congress modify the law in places if necessary. But what she wants is socialized medicine; she's confident it will be better. So, again, especially to Pelosi, Obamacare was politics, that is, socialized medicine, socialism, having the central government directly responsible for each person's health care, and not really about how to design a better health care system. Good, bad, or otherwise, Pelosi wants socialized medicine and just trusts that it will be good.

Socialism keeps being attractive; has been around the world for about 100 years. Some of the attractions are that everyone gets together, joins hands, sings Kumbayah, and sets up the central government as responsible for some aspect of their financial, material, etc. security. They assume that, with everyone joined together, the idea can't fail. So, no more rich people, no more poor people, everyone just the same and good. The sales pitch has worked off and on seriously for about 100 years. That's what Pelosi wants -- socialism. She's a true believer.

Mostly people who try socialism find that it's darned expensive -- have the central government spending ballpark 50% of GDP and doing the spending as politics and, thus, inefficiently. The Thatcher remark was "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money". In the USSR the workers concluded "They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.". Russia finally totally gave up and went back to a wild west show. East Germany got rid of socialism ASAP. France keeps struggling with high costs, slow economic growth, high unemployment.

Switzerland? It's wealthy with a lot of healthy people. So, they have a shot at pulling off socialized medicine. The Scandinavian countries? They are big into socialism and are accepting their central government spending ballpark 50% of GDP. Also the countries are small and culturally homogeneous, and where they are not so homogeneous recently they have been encountering big problems.

In the end I believe that you will discover that Obamacare is really not about health care, really is a threat to good US health care, and really was and is about politics, in particular, some of the dreams of socialism.

One of the dreams of socialism is a basic income for everyone with an opportunity for more for anyone who wants to work for more. Fine with me except for one little point -- arithmetic. So far in the US, it doesn't add up. That is, productivity is not high enough. Instead, it is still the case that for the productivity the US needs to keep the cars moving and the store shelves stocked, the hospitals and schools working, the software written and the Web sites up, etc., some people have to work darned hard and with the "basic income" provided wouldn't. So, we still need the motivation of free enterprise. Hopefully with more robots we will have enough productivity to make the arithmetic work.

I believe that, as health care, Obamacare gets a grade of D- for its design work, that it really is not about health care but is about politics, really a socialistic dream of Pelosi; I believe that socialism won't work yet in the US, and the Obamacare, due heavily to its bad design work, will both in the short term and especially in the longer term seriously hurt US health care. My prediction is that as people scream, Obamacare will just get repealed. For Obama, he will likely be out of office then!


Reagan? Now I remember some of what he pushed with his political capital: He called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and stood at the wall in Germany and said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.". Then he pushed 'Star Wars' hard, had Ed Teller in the Oval Office explaining nuclear powered, orbiting X-ray lasers, etc. During his campaigning and his many rubber chicken talks for GE, he kept saying how important it was to have a balanced budget, but in office he told Stockman to "spend". And he spent big time on the US military. So, we got a lot of Abrams M-1 tanks. Leaders in the aviation parts of the US military were expected to fly and got their personal plane to fly, e.g., an F-16. When Reagan negotiated with Gorbachev in Iceland, Reagan would not give up on 'Star Wars' -- he was pushing hard.

The difference is, Reagan had an agenda and used his political capital to push things. It's not clear what political agenda Obama has, beyond making the Federal Government bigger and richer to enable more on social justice, and he essentially never pushes anything.

During the Reagan Admin, my wife and I were doing some consulting, and there was an issue in healthcare: The previous administration figured that if reduce the number of hospital beds, then will reduce the cost to the Federal Government for healthcare. So in each US county, etc., there got to be fights, with lawyers, for the available number of beds. I was involved as an expert witness on the statistics of how many beds were needed. Then Reagan came into office and right away cut out the group trying to regulate the number of beds; that was just part of Reagan wanting smaller government. Yup, I lost that part of my consulting business!

Maybe one likes Obama better or Reagan better, but there are differences!

The best the Federal Government does is terrific stuff -- NSF, NIH, DARPA, TVA, FAA, FDA. Otherwise I figure that any money the Federal Government doesn't spend it doesn't waste; any program it doesn't pursue does no harm. So, I'm for a more limited Federal Government.

Then in a sense I should like Obama because from all I can see actually he isn't doing much, that is, is concentrating on his golf game and jump shot.

He is spending a lot of money, but likely the economy still needs that. Otherwise I suspect that the next president will have lots of places to cut back.

Oh, by the way, we should not miss that mostly or entirely, Obama has never had a Federal budget! So apparently he just spends money, and when he runs out Congress gives him some more.

One effect may be that starting in 2016 real estate prices within 200 miles of the Washington Monument will head for the floor, e.g., from DC beltway bandit body shops no longer paying GED employees up to $200,000 a year. That area is now the third richest in the US, behind Silicon Valley and the hedge fund area of CT. I suspect DC's going on a diet, especially as interest rates start to rise!


Sounds like the Germans are getting a genuine American experience.


Now imagine you live in the USA and double that before/after feeling.

Not saying there was a better alternative but what have we done.


For now, the whole world don't trust US, or any cloud service provided by US.


First: what does this have to do with technology? Second: damn right Germany shouldn't trust us, because the world doesn't trust Germany and hopefully it never will. It doesn't bother me in the least that we're keeping an eye on them, I'd be nervous if we weren't.


Getting kind-of tired of this. When the Snowden "revelations" came out, my thought was "And...?"

Everybody paying attention knew the US government, and all governments, were sucking down all the data they could get. If you don't like it, AES-256 is widely available. Problem solved. If you think bitching or voting (Ha!) is more powerful than encryption, think again.




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