Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How to trap a whistleblower (salon.com)
289 points by alsothings on Aug 18, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 113 comments

Obama could have been special. The symbol, the icon for an America forgiven of its past and now authoring hope for future people of all races. Perhaps it was power that corrupted him or maybe it was his close advisors that stymied his original purer motives.

I remember feeling so proud that we had a black President. I knew he was human, I know that skin color does not matter, but it was hard to not hope that given what his race has been through - he could understand what was wrong with the world ... and maybe fix it.

For reasons he only knows, he choose to side with abuse. He has perverted himself with something so addictive that perhaps the best course of action maybe for him to take a seat at the back of the bus.

Another explanation that I sadly believe to be much more realistic is that Obama never had pure motives. He was just playing the game (as any candidate must to win the support of either establishment party), and he took many millions of hopeful people along for the ride.

It's important for people who believed in Obama's rhetoric to stop making excuses and realize that they were conned. Fool me once, shame on you...

I wonder, though, if perhaps a lot of "power decisions" are made at the margin.

(I mean "making decisions at the margin" in the way that economists use the term. For example: I wish cheese was free. But, in real life, I have a choice between $2.49 cheese and $2.19 cheese. So I buy the cheaper cheese, not the free cheese. Because the free cheese doesn't exist.)

If the President has to make small decisions about "the lesser of two evils", then how much power does he really have?

For example: He said he would close Guantanamo Bay, but didn't. One theory is that he was full of shit. He's just a tool. Another theory is that there wasn't the political capital to accomplish such a thing. As in: there was enough push-back from his own party... he didn't want to alienate some of his friends... as in, he couldn't afford to. So he says: "Screw it. A couple hundred people in hell isn't worth my career if I can focus on other things that can benefit more people."

(I'm not trying to be an apologist for Obama here. I think Washington is pretty horribly corrupt in both parties...)

So I'm left to wonder: Sure, no smart politician is going to burn his own career for a couple hundred foreigners that the citizens hate anyway (I guess...). But why is Gitmo still open? What does it accomplish? (I keep going around in circles trying to figure out why anyone loves Gitmo...)

A president "spends power" at the margins. He spent a lot of power on Obamacare. (You call in favors, you do the horse-trading...) But he has spent no power against the "Security Industrial Complex". I guess it's not something that he cares to achieve. People are calling it "Bush's 4th term". I understand the contractors profit from "Fear of Terrorists". And I'm sure there are some military / intelligence people who are actually hard-core about it. But, outside of that.... who the fuck loves it? I just don't get it... Washington has wrapped itself into a self-sustaining engine of fear...

... oy vey. And here we're not supposed to be getting all political on HN... :-/

Lesser of the two evils, I don't think its that polarized, there are grey areas. Not closing down Gitmo because of the lack of political will from congress is understandable but there are other decisions such as curbing the hunger strike with forced nasal feeding every day is another decision. I agree it's in the rule book that says if the body weight index drops beyond a point, use nasal feeding but I guess when you make such a decision you can weigh the differences between a medical decision and a hunger protest and deal with them a little differently.

Besides, if you are the president and your campaign promise was to close a prison. Keeping in mind that many people there are held without charges for over a decade and a few are already cleared to be let go but are still there for reasons I don't understand, if you can't do this being a president in 2 terms then perhaps you just can't do it, least you can do is make way for someone who can.

Agreed, he was bought and paid for like nearly all the politicians that came before him.

It's kind of amusing on some level because the trope goes: Let's demand xyz be done about xyz, but let's not do/think of what we can to work on xyz ourselves within our own local communities before we are given permission by the establishment, who made xyz possible, to impose it on everyone else.

If by rhetoric you refer to Obama's campaign: The fact he didn't act as he said he would doesn't lessen the values of the rhetoric he held.

The arguments, the conviction, the ideology developed during his campaign holds the same values today as it did yesterday. The earth is round and it isn't less so if crooks say it.

It does reduce the faith in the hope and change that was promised by our president. After all he does not walk the talk. He is the do as I say president not as I do. After all he does send his children to private school while preaching the virtues of public education. He is no different than any other politician in that regard, a hypocrite.

Past performance or lack there of is an indicator of future performance. Obama has not been able to deliver on most of his promises from closing Gitmo to bringing this nation together. Does anyone believe he is capable of doing the right thing? Just talking about it does not count.

I am not defending Obama and I am not saying he's going to change.

I never thought I'd see the day when I'll see a sentence with both "Obama" and "change" in it with a "not" in between.

Green and naive.

Yes. He had one motive, to get elected. He said whatever would convince money to contribute, and he said whatever would convince people to vote. And none of it meant a thing.

This is true for all politicians. Even the one you think is yours.

There will be no Messiah.

> Another explanation that I sadly believe to be much more realistic is that Obama never had pure motives.

FYI, no one has pure motives past the age of 10. There are only people who delude themselves into thinking their motives are pure.

Not speaking of a tremendously high bar for purity here. I would have settled for someone who didn't think it was ok to kill and imprison people without trial, psychologically torture whistleblowers, and attempt to spy on the digital communications of everyone on the planet.

Perhaps what we should advocate is for every presidential candidate to go through a brainwashing program that removes these tolerances?

"Perhaps it was power that corrupted him or maybe it was his close advisors that stymied his original purer motives."

...so, his purity, innocence, and honesty was corrupted from the outside, by others? Did he not choose and hire his own advisors? Isn't this like blaming Cheney for everything Bush did?

"he could understand what was wrong with the world ... and maybe fix it."

Obama the Messiah? What U.S. President could ever 'fix' the problems of the world?

"...perhaps the best course of action maybe for him to take a seat at the back of the bus."

So, let's revert back to racist treatment? This statement of yours is what drove me to the keyboard this early in the morning.

Your arguments are _bizarre_. It is amazing what the Left projected onto Obama in terms of hopes and aspirations. His _only_ career has been that of a politician, yet the Left expected him to be something else? He never ran a city, a state, a company, or ever made/produced anything. His career is an extreme example of Affirmative Action, if anything. For goodness sake, he was awarded a Nobel Prize for simply having been elected. That seems quite premature and misguided in hindsight now, doesn't it?

I admit, I voted for him in '08 and was proud to do so. I've never been more regretful of any of my votes in my 32 years of casting ballots.

To understand that Nobel, you have to understand two things:

1. The awarding of the Nobel peace prize is ALWAYS political, not just in this case. The committee is wielding a tool, that is all.

It is no use getting upset by the assumption that this committee is a moral authority and Obama got unfair special treatment. They give these prizes as a political tool or signal.

2. This prize was given in the context of a bounty of needless new wars/colonial projects, especially Iraq. You can figure out what the intended signal was from this.

Now you have to admit that our involvement in Iraq has reduced dramatically, and now at least we have a timetable for Afghanistan. But that's actually beside the point. The peace prize is given as a tool by a certain European set to exert influence. It's not a justly-given award for moral perfection.

Unless you understand these things, you are going to keep scratching your head about that Nobel prize forever.

Quote: "So, let's revert back to racist treatment? This statement of yours is what drove me to the keyboard this early in the morning."

Forgive me, I only meant to say that he was supposed to help injustice, a world he claims to have come from. Now, he "sits in the front seat" so to speak and makes a mockery of what Rosa Parks endured. She really created change.

I'm all for welcoming more people to the Don't Trust Obama club, but let's be honest here. Many of us saw his flaws long before this NSA scandal, which he and his minions now lump in with the set of "phony scandals".

Voting for someone because of their race is every damned bit as bad as voting against someone because of their race.

Maybe you folks who are surprised by the recent change in your attitude toward our President should stop voting for candidates who consistently hold positions against individual liberty?

the alternative was mccain/palin. In the primaries, Hillary was the alternative. Second time around it was Romney. None of these candidates would have had any substantive differences on these particular issues and on almost every other issue would have been far worse. Single issue voting is just as naive as believing rhetoric at face value.

we absolutely need to protest Obama's actions in this area but as far as voting differently at the presidential level, unless we can radically change our voting system to realistically support 3rd party candidates, presidential politics isn't going to change much.

Even with a changed voting system, I don't think it's going to change much.

The reality is that the average American is frightened of terrorism and wants the government to protect them. The average American believes in "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." The average American is still in a Cold War mindset and thinks that we need a massive military and intelligence apparatus to avoid being invaded and conquered.

The conversation in the tech community has centered around the system and the process, making the implicit assumption that the American public generally agrees with us that these acts are bad, and they're being foisted upon us without our consent by an out-of-control government. The reality, as far as I can tell, is that the American public does not generally agree with the tech community on these issues, and that we've ended up with these massive spying and anti-terror programs because that is the government the American public wants.

I firmly believe that our efforts should be directed toward convincing the public at large of our positions. If accomplished, the government will follow. The system is not (yet) that broken.

So I think this is actually not true. The average American isn't really frightened of terrorism. They don't pay attention and just want decisions made by someone else. They are comfortable when those decisions are framed in simplistic Manichaean terms because it demands little thought.

I think we may be in agreement. I don't think Americans are deeply frightened of terrorism in the sense that it keeps them awake at night, causes them to be unable to carry out daily activities, etc. However, I think they buy into the narrative pushed by media and government that terrorism is a significant threat and one that we should be concerned about. This is not really the fault of media and government, however, because it ends up as a feedback loop. Government and media amplify the fears of the populace, which then feeds back into the public as a whole. I think that breaking the public away from paying attention to the "This common household product could be killing you, details at 11!" style of TV news is key.

Of that entire group you just mentioned, the most divisive class warfare big government statist was Obama.

At least if McCain had been elected then we would have had opposition party contention between the executive and legislative branches.

At least with a Republican in office, the media would have been more likely to do its job by asking tougher questions and analyzing rather than fawning and adulating.

Before all that, though, maybe people should get involved earlier in the process and not let the media, the party leaders, and Saturday Night Live pick their candidates for them?

right, because when we had republicans like Bush/Cheney in office, everything went far better than they are now. Feel free to be a Republican just as I feel free to be a Democrat, but that's not really relevant to this issue. The majority of Obama's support on these issues comes from Republicans.

Since I never voted for any Bush, your straw man does not apply. I'm not advocating being a Republican. I'm advocating being independent and making strategic decisions about candidates based upon core principles - rather than being a jersey-wearing die-hard fan of a political party.

That said, I do think that having a Republican administration take the blame for the current scandals (IRS, NSA, AP, Benghazi) would have been a good thing.

If we extrapolate the level of anal probing that went on as a result of the Valerie Plame outing to the above scandals, the media wouldn't let any of them go until something more meaningful happened in congress, in the courts, or in voting booths.

As it is, these scandals are all disappearing from the MSM's coverage. Maybe they can do another multi-month coverage of George Zimmerman-like trials to take our minds off of important things.

I'm not a "fan" of the democrats, as I said, if we had a viable multi-party system I'd much more often be voting green, with democrats as my second choice, so that a losing green vote isn't a winning republican vote. But as it stands, there is no way to vote for a "first and second choice".

Also, as we went to war in Iraq because the MSM, including the new york times, as well as congress, went along with the republicans, so you can't generalize that a certain combination of R/D leads to the most checks and balances via the government or the media. The democrats in congress rubber stamped a whole set of republican policies - the democrats are a terrible opposition party since they offer so little of it. Checks and balances are essentially working terribly (we currently have 100% obstruction for almost all issues, then for this one we have too little) and no R/D pattern will fix that, only changes to the rules including voting (compulsory, allow second choices) and campaign finance (there should be almost no finance in campaigns) will change that.

Not really, there is a small minority of democrats and a small minority of republicans that don't support him on these issues and all the rest do on both sides.

Our current voting system is a conservative wet dream. It's designed so that you're voting against every other party, so you're not trying to advance a platform, but rather trying to prevent the onset of a worse one.

It's not our voting system that needs to be radically changed. It's the extent to which we rely on representatives to hold power for us. It's the 21st century; why don't we have tools to collaboratively write legislation?

These videos show what is wrong with our voting system and give a better alternative http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE

"Obama could have been special."

I have a honest question, did you read his voting record, see what bills he had wrote / sponsored / co-sponsored, or listen to his podcast[1] before deciding he was worth your hope for that symbol? The media narrative for both sides is smoke and mirrors. The only real truth is what the do in legislation.

1) Yes, he had one as a US Senator.

What they do in legislation isn't the full story, either. People vote against bills that sound like good ideas because there's something nasty subtly buried inside them. People vote for bad bills to collect votes for good ones.

Someone who kept a pristine voting record would not actually get anything done.

Yes, the legislative system is has its game, but sponsorship and co-sponsorship tells a lot. Most legislators tell folks what their vote meant and most bill titles are fantasy. You need to look deeper than the soundbite to determine what the legislative record means.

The lesson should be not to elect slippery lawyers in future, the UK made that mistake with Tony Blair too.

The lesson IMO is to rebuild the whole political system, on a foundation made of sane rules. (And that should obviously include all government agencies, especially those which have been corrupting democracy for a few decades now.)

EDIT: Don't forget that one of the earlier whistle blowers said (a few months back) that Obama had been put under surveillance by the NSA as well [0], which means

a) you should expect him to have been vetted by the powers in place before being admitted as a presidential candidate by that 1 of the 2 parties available,

b) "they" have stuff on him and can handle him like a puppet that he seems to have become.

Ergo, it's not about which puppet you elect, it's about the system.

[0] http://www.peterbcollins.com/2013/06/19/boiling-frogs-blockb...

And not Cameron?

Blair had a plan, he managed to execute a fair amount of it, then fell apart. Exactly like Thatcher. Cameron has none. Oh yeah, "austerity", which I think the US has now shown to be not the way to go. Heh, Cameron even nicked that idea off Brown. Like Obama, he just continued with the previous leader's polices.

Sorry, both sides are full of crap. UK, US, its all the same. Its that old thing, "no matter who you vote for, the government always get in."

I was discounting Cameron as he hasn't won an election and isn't very good at getting people to believe in stuff.

>Perhaps it was power that corrupted him or maybe it was his close advisors that stymied his original purer motives.

I think it's more likely that the Federal bureaucracy is simply more powerful than our elected officials, at least some ways. They provide a great deal of the information Congress and the President use to inform their worldviews and decisions, and probably have well developed methods of getting what they want from the two. The bureaucracy has a real advantage by simply having less turnover, more continuous time in the system, hence more institutional knowledge of how to work the system, than the average politician.

Why would you be proud to have a black president? If his race ever entered into the equation for you, that's a data point in favor of establishing a screening process for voting eligibility. (I'm against such a thing but I often feel that most people are making completely arbitrary decisions.)

Race is just one of many things that is "wrong" with the world. The two biggest things seem to be the tendency of humans to want to kill or convert anyone who follows a different ideology, and poverty. If I had to guess, in many cases the former is keeping many parts of the world from escaping the latter.

Did you really need to say that Obama should sit at the back of the bus? What does that add to the political discourse? It is needlessly inflammatory. Say that you want him out of politics, not something that sounds racist for no reason.

Forgive me, I only meant to say that he was supposed to help injustice, a world he claims to have come from. Now, he "sits in the front seat" so to speak and makes a mockery of what Rosa Parks endured. She really created change

I suggest you watch lesterland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw2z9lV3W1g

It's all in comparison. Obama is surely no saint but please name a president (or even a recent president candidate) with better record than Obama.

Clinton? Bush? Reagan? Romney?

Your mistake was believing that (1) there was a choice and (2) the _two_ choices actually differed in any meaningful way.

Both parties have the same masters.

I hear that a lot, but I'm curious who these masters are. And if you say "corporations" I'd like to know which ones you suspect.

I am unable to say. The name of the group, or groups, controlling both the government and corporations is unimportant. Call it the illuminati or the jews or whatever. All I know is that money is an extremely good reason for the super rich to create groups that help them continue be super rich.

The idealist in me died when he realized that even large, powerful governments can be undermined and destroyed by this controlling group (or the group's controlling group). If they can topple countries, like they have done several times in the past, then what kind of resistance can a lowly normal pose offer?

None. I've learned to just keep my nose to the grindstone, make money for myself and ignore the rest of the world. It's easiest that way.

> For reasons he only knows, he choose to side with abuse.

Obama is a vain, stupid man who believes that he is the president of the United States. In reality he is manipulated by a small inner group of people who have the real power and who play him like a puppet. Do you really believe that a man of such limited capabilities can stage a successful campaign to become president? Obama is the biggest con ever played on the American people.

> Obama is a vain, stupid man who believes that he is the president of the United States.

I will intentionally ignore this line above because what you later said would apply to every elected person in any country, not limited to the USA:

> In reality he is manipulated by a small inner group of people who have the real power and who play him like a puppet. Do you really believe that a man of such limited capabilities can stage a successful campaign to become president? Obama is the biggest con ever played on the American people.

Taking that into consideration, I was still hoping that the president's role was something more positive and not completely covering up the NSA's blunders when they got caught with their pants down.

"Misled" the public? No. He lied to the public.

I think it is because "lie" implies a falsehood you could disprove, say in court. "Misled" implies a judgment that the president told a technical truth that he intended to be misleading. It could get confusing if you said he "lied", then he showed you how, technically, what he said was true. Falling back to a weaker "misled" at that point would take a lot of air out of the argument.

Misled is a political euphemism for lied. Politics is full of that sort of indirect language.

Well, reporting of politics shouldn't necessarily be politics. There is no reason to stoop to the low level of politicians when you call them on their bullshit.

Unfortunately, there are lots of reasons to stoop to their level, which is why all the major media do it.

> Politics is full of that sort of indirect language.

Politics may be full of that sort of language, but why are media? This is not North Korea where journalists have to fear punishment for insulting the supreme leader. Or is it?

This may not be entirely true if people like Sen Feinstein have their way - https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/08/why-sen-feinstein-wron...

By changing the definition, or narrowly defining it, they can exclude all of the great new forms a journalism from the protections that 'journalists' provide. The next step would be a government license for 'approved' journalists.

> Politics may be full of that sort of language, but why are media?

Because they're not an opposing force in a war, they're dance partners.

I recommend everyone to watch this "Enemies of the State" video. Thomas Drake speech starts at minute 24. Jesselyn Radack and William Binney also have speeches in it. Drake and Binney talk about how the government treated them even when they went through the "proper channels".


And that's the answer to everyone refusing to call Snowden a whistle blower because he left the country rather than face the legal consequences. The consequences involved were anything but legal.

Goverment is clever enought to change the law befor doing anything. So they can clame that what they do is within the law.

What non-legal consequences did the counterexamples in this article face? I'm not sure what you mean.

Why does technicality matter? It's not like being 'legal' or 'non-legal' even matters when it's a pliable circumstance (which is really the problem exposed here) crafted by the law makers that are at work doing their best to serve themselves over the rights of the people (which is kinda the purpose of laws).

Edit: this comment is not specific to your question alone, it's a comment on this specific thread.

Well the prosecution was lying to the judge:

"The Drake case collapsed in spectacular fashion when the judge found that the information Drake possessed was completely unclassified, and had only been marked otherwise after it was seized from his home."

I did not phrase that properly. I meant: technically in the law books and interpreted as such, but violates the spirit of the law and is unconstitutional. At the risk of beating a dead and buried horse, consider the legal definition of "torture".

I doubt he would have had assassins on his trail, but he would have been put through the legal system the same way Manning was.

Also consider the court of public opinion -- there's enough of an uninformed mass who think this is a scumbag who gave American secrets to China and Russia that an administration can bend the laws quite a bit and get away with it.

Actually he wouldn't have been "put through the legal system the same way Manning was," because Manning was a soldier tried under military law, while Snowden was a civilian contractor.

I don't know which law you are consulting for the definition of "torture," but if solitary confinement is torture then our system hands it out for many people less famous and glamorous than Snowden all the time, without much of any outcry. And this outcry seems to be confined to certain political figures, not just any prisoner caught with a shank.

Financial ruin, stress put on family and friends, etc.

Also, let's keep in mind that Obama has lied to the public when he said that there was no abuse by the NSA.

(Not that we can expect different behavior from any of the future Presidents, nor from the recent ones.)

Sad to say the old joke "How do you know if a politician is lying? Their lips are moving" is no longer funny. The even sadder thing is none of them seems to remembers the story of the boy who cried wolf. You know someday the president might tell us the truth but we won't be able to tell.

Lying implies intentional maliciousness, which is pure speculation. It stands to reason that our elected representatives are simply puppets -- what they say and do are controlled by others.

My guess is that much of Obama's political strategy is mostly just to pretend. So, there he sees a public issue and says something, just something, just says it, to defuse the issue and, then, counts on (1) the mainstream media not getting into the details of what is wrong with the fantasy statement, (2) the voters being busy with other things, and (3) soon something else in the headlines.

Except for the fantasy statements, Obama is careful about actually doing anything. He's good at making sure that whatever happens, he is not held to blame.

But he does actually do some things: He pushed 'clean, green, pure, pristine, 100% all-natural energy' and got a lot of campaign contributions. He has pushed ObamaCare but seems to want to 'push' its implementation out past the end of his second term (fine with me). So, he wants ObamaCare as fantasy but not as actual implementation. He does some little things in Syria, e.g., supposedly trained about 20 rebels in how to use some Russian missiles; so, he gets to claim to support 'fighting for freedom' or some such in Syria without actually doing much or much he could get blamed for. He asks the DoD to give him options for doing more in Syria, no doubt already knowing that all the options would be high on cost and low on effectiveness and that he won't approve any of the options; but just by making public that he asked for the options he will please some voters. After one of the high school shootings, he visited the site and said he was going to 'get the guns' or some such. Of course the Second Amendment and the NRA are still there, along with a lot of gun owners in rural and Western states. But the high school shootings are out of the headlines now. We could go on and on this way.

For the NSA leak issue, he sees right away that a lot of voters are concerned about the Fourth Amendment and so makes statements, like the one to Leno, that he is against 'over reaching government' or some such. But as the Salon article explained in detail, what Obama said to Leno was just nonsense. But such nonsense is about all Obama needs because only a tiny fraction of the voters will get as deep as the Salon article, and the MSM mostly won't go there. So, superficial nonsense is enough.

Maybe it's a smart strategy. There is a danger that once people catch on that mostly he's just passing out fantasy nonsense no one should take seriously, too many voters will get pissed. Maybe. Maybe not.

At least he's not actually doing much, and money he doesn't spend isn't wasted and projects he doesn't do aren't failures. We've got plenty of government and in total don't really need more. So in a major sense, Obama can get by without doing very much. Actually I wish that at times W had done less.

There is a risk if the country actually needs a president; in the meanwhile it's okay for him to spout fantasy nonsense on Leno and work on his golf game and jump shot.

You could replace "Obama" with pretty any other PM or president of any country on earth, mix around the current affairs to suit, and your comment would be just as true.

Welcome to media-driven representative democracy. And when I say "representative", I mean the media represents us, which it basically does. And when the media gets tired of a story, after a few days or weeks, they move onto something else, and so do we, and so do the politicians. That is their job, and that is what we expect from them, as voted by us through our support for the media, who represents us.

Democracy depends on scrutiny, accountability, long-term follow-up. It's a problem.

At times I've blurted out that the most serious problem facing Western Civilization now is the news media, journalism, that fails to provide the information needed by well informed citizens.

My hope is that the Internet will make the needed information available and that enough citizens will get and use the information to get the government we need to meet the challenges of our current world.

E.g., the OP points out some of Obama's superficial nonsense, and we discuss it here. Much more such activity, and Obama will have to think twice and talk once, and we might be on the way to better government.

For further reading on this topic, I can highly recommend Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman.


Looks good.

With great strain I omitted my usual rants about the role of formula fiction -- e.g., a good guy, white hat, with a problem, and a bad guy, black hat -- and morality plays -- evil, sinful humans transgressing against the pure, pristine, precious, sensitive, delicate, snow white, 100% all-natural environment by wasteful, selfish use of filthy carbon, with retribution the destruction of the planet, and redemption through sacrifice of getting rid of cars and returning to bicycles and horses -- in journalism.

Journalism usually fails standard high school term paper writing standards, e.g., the role of primary references.

For nearly all important work in our society, original research in mathematics or physical science, professional engineering, medicine, finance, law, the standards of quality in journalism are laughable. An airplane designed with the techniques of journalism would never get off the ground, which would be a very good thing.

We could go on and on.

The book mentioned TV: My ISP gave me a cable TV set top box with their special deal for lower cost than service without TV, but I've never connected a TV to the box! I haven't watched TV in months and not much for years. The set top box has a good clock!

I agree with your assessment of Obama essentially kicking the can down the road via placating sound bites ready for consumption by the masses. However, I'm curious what would lead one to expect any other response from a politician. Are there any examples where an empower has been told he has no clothes and then the emporer agrees and takes corrective actions?

Unfortunately, I suspect the average American prefers a leader who always gives confident, reassuring statements in response to any crisis. It helps reinforce the illusion that intelligent, honest, and benevolent actors are leading the nation in a healthy direction.

> However, I'm curious what would lead one to expect any other response from a politician.

I will give some examples of US presidents who actually did some things. This will take me into some very contentious history: My goal isn't to take sides in the history but just to illustrate that some presidents actually try to do things. For some of the items in history, you may believe that the presidents did well or poorly; that difference does not concern me here but only that they did do somethings along with, secondarily, to observe that we can differ on the quality of the results. If we do differ on the quality of the results, then we have to accept that presidents who do things can risk failure; one way to avoid both failure and success is not to do anything.

As far as I can tell, no one knows what was in the minds of W and Cheney at the start of Gulf War II -- not even still in the minds of W and Cheney.

But Gulf War II was a big effort and not just some "placating sound bites", platitudes, cliches, fantasy nonsense. I thought that the effort was foolish, but it wasn't small.

So, for Gulf War II, were W and Cheney just pushing out "placating sound bites"? No, I don't think so. Basically I wish all they had done was push out "placating sound bites". Instead, I have to believe that they believed that what they were doing was prudent, maybe even necessary, to "protect and defend" the US. And they had a point: At the time of Gulf War II, doing nothing seemed to risk a significant WMD attack on the US; I didn't really believe there was much risk, but, right, it was a small chance of a big loss and, thus, difficult to evaluate.

Of course, as we know now, what they did in Gulf War II cost the US a lot in blood and treasure. I'm sure there were some brilliant military operations, some grand heroism, and some astounding successes; there were also some major screw ups.

Maybe long term, history will record that the US dumping Saddam in Gulf War II and putting in place a democracy, fragile, a long way from perfect, was a grand turning point in the Mideast, US and world security, taming of radical Islam, and progress for world peace. Hopefully. And I can believe that such was some of what W and Cheney had in mind. I doubt we achieved such success, but maybe.

So, Gulf War II was an example of political leaders actually doing something, that they believed in, that was risky, and that they could get blamed for. I'd say they were high on courage, sense of responsibility, and patriotism but too low on simple, basic, pragmatic smarts.

Else? For Saddam, I'd have put in place one heck of an intelligence operation so I knew what the heck he was/was not doing. I'd turn as an intelligence asset everyone of importance in the place short of his cook and maybe also his cook. Then I'd "Make him a offer he couldn't refuse: 'Behave or you and your family, children, and grandchildren will all perish.'"

Or, for a small example, in Iraq US General "Mad Dog" Mattis told some Sheiks: "I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I plead with you, with tears in my eyes, if you f&&k with me, I'll kill all of you.".

I know; I know; international relations are not supposed to do that. So, adjust the message a little. But, net, I'd have left the thug in power and saved US blood and treasure. If the Iraqi people didn't like their thug, then that was their problem; the role of US policy was mostly just to make sure he was not our problem.

Ike? He pushed the interstate highway system.

Reagan? The Soviets were terrified of Star Wars (I doubt that they should have been), and Reagan used it, along with Poland, etc., to help break up the USSR.

LBJ? He was just determined, beyond belief, to 'fight for freedom' in Viet Nam. He allocated huge US blood and treasure. My view is that the US is fully happy with Viet Nam now (my Brother laser printer was made in Viet Nam and is better than my old HP laser printer), and my view is that the US could have had essentially the same result in 1947, 1956, ..., by doing essentially nothing. Yes, Ho Chi Minh liked to appear on parade reviewing stands in Moscow and Peking -- nothing's perfect -- but actually that meant next to nothing.

Net, lots of US presidents actually try to do big things; mostly I don't like the results; but they don't all just mouth platitudes.

Even so one might be critical of it I think Obamas central accomplishment will be Obamacare. If this will be finally rolled out all other agenda points are going to become just smallprint in his legacy.

The US health care system can use improvements, but the improvements will not be easy to implement in practice, and there is a risk of "doing harm".

If ObamaCare is a good design for the US health care system or can be morphed into such a design, then Obama, Pelosi, Reid, the Senator Kennedy staffers who wrote an early version, etc. will deserve credit.

My guess (from reading some of an earlier bill) is that as passed it was a steaming pile of sewage, to mess up the US health care system and kill people and waste money, but eventually it may get turned into something good as implemented in the Executive Branch.

I do fear the influence of Dr. Karen Davis and her academic, economic, health care systems research nonsense -- I've been too close to such nonsense.

There are major suggestions, e.g., from Barney Frank, that ObamaCare is just a step to 'single payer' and, with the power of the Commissioner, really just nationalization of the US health care industry, a huge fraction of the US economy. I'm very afraid of the consequences in health care quality, cost, and abuses of government power.

I know; I know; the US health care system is a very long way from free enterprise now. NIH pays for a huge fraction of the medical research. Likely, as elsewhere in Federal Government research grants, the research supports the 'research-teaching' hospitals that do so much for patients, and poor patients, training physicians, and doing medical research. The FDA is right on top of each new product. The CDC plays a major role in US health care. The Hill Burton hospitals admit anyone regardless of ability to pay. Many hospitals are funded by city taxes. Etc.

Improvement: Needed? Yes. Possible? Maybe. Easy? No. A mess? Easy!

Yes, Obama has supported ObamaCare, but actually he showed that he knows next to nothing about the issue, e.g., during the summer of the big debate made some uninformed town hall statements and got slapped down hard by the US College of Surgeons and then mostly just shut up about the details.

I suspect that ObamaCare will be put on a back burner, maybe become just a subsidized insurance plan, and otherwise junked, a little after Obama leaves office.

When the press is combative, the press is docile if not subservient since he has entered the political spectrum. If it weren't for Putin's obvious lack of respect for President Obama Snowden would already have been shipped back

> If it weren't for Putin's obvious lack of respect for President Obama Snowden would already have been shipped back

Huh? Got any kind of evidence for this extremely doubtful statement? Or is it just an idle fantasy of yours?

I am sure Putin respects Obama just fine; they're both consummate politicians playing their parts to the T.

The press always likes something that sounds like a scandal and this presidency has been no exception. You are suffering from confirmation bias. The media is not 'liberal'.

"...the nation’s journalists have moved a bit to the right since the 1990s, but are still considerably more liberal than the general public."


Unfortunately for the American people, more people will have seen Obama make his remarks on Leno than those who read the Salon article. Getting your news from clowns is dangerous to our liberties.

Who is the clown here ? Obama or Leno ?

Serious answer? Both.

Which pains me greatly, I used to quite like and respect both.

Obama gives clowns a bad name. The same cannot be said of Leno.

Another possible interpretation on the security stuff is that he's just being outmaneuvered by the people working for him. Most of his information on these topics comes from people inside the security bureaucracy or the security industry (if that's indeed a difference). And those people are lifers; the top ones have seen a number of presidents come and go.

This is Obama's first time as an executive of anything substantial, and I don't think he's ever been a bureaucrat. The US faces some significant threats, and there's plenty more that can be made to look significant. He could sincerely believe that he's striking the right balance between security and liberty. And the political situation, which does not encourage democrats to do anything that increases the risk of terrorist action.

I'm deeply disappointed with this, but personally I'm inclined to apply Hanlon's Razor here. Of course, I also tend to apply it to Bush, who I still think was well-meaning and generally sincere, but incurious and somewhat hapless. Trying to run a country with 3 pounds of meat is an impossible task, so "disappointed" is basically the top end of my scale.

It is all PR at this point. Snowden really should study the art of PR in depth. I'm not thinking he is doing a terrible job with his limited contact with the press so far, but more education in the PR area wouldn't hurt. To do PR right, you need to pick your message and stay on it.

I think what the average person may not grasp about Snowden is that he is a true patriot, who truly loves his country, in a way far beyond the average American. I mean, he basically risked spend the rest of his life in some prison to publicize what he viewed as the government invading privacy in gross violation of the 4th amendment to the constitution. Would any of us risk spending the rest of our life in prison to bring that to light if we were in his position? Not likely, and it is because we don't have the same level of love for our country as he has.

Snowden needs to really focus his PR people and efforts on that simple message, that he acted out of love for his country. It is a simple message. Otherwise, he risks being painted as an out of control punk, or whatever.

I believe you have a good point, but it appears that so far he is winning. And the Guardian and the Wapo understand how to push an issue before the public. And apparently Snowden has a long list of stuff he can release slowly, once each few days, for a long time.

How would you classify handling the American economy during the worst banking crisis, killing OBL, pulling US out of Iraq, etc, etc? Pretending or Doing?

I don't know why killing OBL is considered a big win, it's not in my opinion. It took so over 10 years, many human lives, run down the US economy from a surplus, American citizens are giving up on some basic freedoms, people are paranoid with fear, got the ugly side out in form of G-bay, torture etc and more over recently, US is loosing credibility e.g. I saw a cloud services website recently being discussed on HN and they mentioned ...We are serious about security, we do not have servers in US... on their website (paraphrasing), it's bad if not being associated with US is one of your business's selling point. I don't know why killing OBL is considered an achievement, but people don't seem to notice at what cost it came. And, the worst part, it was one attack, and the rest US did to themselves. I wish US was a little more resilient. Regarding the banking crisis, they way I see it they did well to maintain status quo and in my opinion they only setup themselves for the next big fall because the same people are responsible for the same banks are probably doing the same thing again. Pulling out of Iraq, it's probably debatable again, because I was for pulling out of Iraq but the current state of Iraq, July being the bloodiest month ever of more than 1000 people killed in July alone, I wouldn't use this as something exemplary for someone's achievements.

Pulling out of Iraq? I suspect that Iraq will pour blood into the Persian Gulf and then return to a strong man thug, Saddam II. Maybe not. I hope not. There are various people and factions there eager for blood, and when they get killed off maybe there will be peace there again.

For OBL, you are looking at the bigger picture, starting with 9/11, and not just with the Navy Seals and their raid, and your view is fully appropriate: OBL and a few guys with airline tickets and box cutters got the US to do a lot of harm to itself as you listed. We were sucker punched. We've done it to ourselves.

And apparently OBL was not completely nuts but understood well enough to say that his objective was not to defeat the US but just to watch it bankrupt itself! We need to wise up.

What we do to ourselves if there was a really serious threat and attack?

If you paid attention, all of Obama's "deadlines" for pulling the US out of Iraq were the same deadlines as Bush. The only time they were different was before the first election.

Economy: Spend a lot of money via TARP I and TARP II and otherwise let Bernanke handle it.

There is one view that the US went from The Great Depression to a hot economy, with 2-3 jobs for everyone who could work, in just 90 days after people started shooting at us. We spent huge bucks, and nearly everything that the bucks bought was junk on a battlefield in a few weeks or sold for war surplus. Still, the spending, even on stuff that was just junk, got us out of The Great Depression.

My view is that mostly the extra spending was just wasted, but, as for the WWII example, have to believe that even wasted such spending can get us out of a great depression. So, I'm not totally against the spending. But the waste was still a black mark. We didn't have just to waste so much of the money.

OBL? Fine. But bringing in Hollywood to make a movie and letting out secret information on Navy Seal tactics was not good. I credit the Navy Seals and the DoD. Even if a president doesn't do anything, there still is the rest of the government, and sometimes it does things. So, can credit Obama for not messing up a good effort across the Potomac River in that five sided funny farm.

US out of Iraq? Another post in this thread says that that was just the schedule anyway.

I can't claim that Obama never does anything. Still, I see a difference: It appears to me that he has the strategy I tried to describe, on a lot of headline issues, pass out a lot of platitudes but actually do something on only a small fraction of those. Otherwise do relatively little and, thus, don't get blamed for failures.

It's all on a continuum and not 0 or 1. It just looks to me like he talks the talk without walking the walk, or some such, more than other presidents since, say, FDR.

Maybe it's good pragmatic leadership, and if so most of the blame is on the mainstream media and the voters. US voters are awash in power, can shake DC just by pulling some levers behind a curtain, and with the Internet are awash in information. If Obama gets away with what the OP described, then the voters get what they deserve.

>Still, the spending, even on stuff that was just junk, got us out of The Great Depression.

The U.S. was the only major country with cities and factories left standing, that weren't hit by wave after wave of bombers, so rebuilding your country necessitated buying U.S. goods.

The U.S. also suffered relatively fewer casualties than the other major players. The Nazi scientists didn't hurt either.

You are correct in that spending money on otherwise useless military items / people, is indeed useless[0], though those receiving military contracts argue the opposite, called "Military Keynesianism".


No, voters in general are not "awash in power". The vote has been heavily rigged, to the point that House Republicns, who command a majority of ~20 seats, were abor to secure this margin even as Dem candidates garnered 1.4 million more votes.

Some voters are (relatively speaking) "awash in power". But these tend to be while, male, older, and rural.

The thing that confuses me the most, is that Obama used to come across as extremely intelligent, with nuanced understanding of the issues at hand. In his writing and in his speeches, he had no equal, and he was very much a "straight talker", and even on issues you disagreed with him on, you felt that he understood your side (and all sides) of the argument genuinely.

But over the past year, he's practically gone full retard. I'm not even talking about on a policy level -- I'm just talking about his communications, period. On the Snowden issue he's shown zero leadership, zero sense of understanding or sympathizing with Americans' concerns... and all this coming from a former constitutional-law scholar, it's just BIZARRE.

Obviously my faith in Obama has rapidly dwindled, but more than that, I'm just left confused. Why can't the man even communicate anymore?

Perhaps all that brilliant content was written for him by other people that are no longer in his service?

If the head of state is a proven liar, is there any moral reason to tell the truth to any of the organs of state you deal with?


1. They're in power and "but the government lied first" is not going to hold up in court if you're accused of perjury, lying to a police officer, etc. 2. There's something to be said for taking the higher ground. Long after people forget who started it, having a culture that doesn't value honesty hurts everyone.

That's a practical reason, not a moral reason.

Morals are there for practical reasons. Otherwise they're just random.

Ultimately, it depends on where morality comes from.

Is it immoral to lie? If so, why? Is it always immoral to lie, or only sometimes? Why? Does someone else's immoral actions excuse you from your moral obligations? Does the immoral action of the head of state taint the entire organization? Why? If the head of state is a proven liar, but the organs of state you are lying to are honest, is it ethical to lie to them?

If you subscribe to New Testament morals, then there definitely is a moral reason to tell the truth, even if the entire government is corrupt. The government is put there by God to keep order and restrain evil, so when you are acting in that sphere of government, you have an obligation to respect the State as God's agent. (Now if the State oversteps its authority or is using means known to be displeasing to God, disobedience may be in order, but respect should still be there. I expect that respecting someone usually involves telling them the truth.) Also, Jesus says to love your enemies and to not return evil for evil (instead, return good for evil), which would seem to suggest that you have a moral obligation to tell the truth even to liars.

Invoke your right to remain silent when dealing with the government, but be loud as hell in public.

What a lame nick.

Don't worry. Next time there will be a candidate who promises to never be like Obama and never lie to the public. He (or she) will give you hope that maybe this time things are going to change. And you are going to be believe it, because "what's the alternative?". And then you are going to vote sincerely believing that your vote is important and the system works. And all the bad will be forgotten and the life will pass in a blissful ignorance of the fact the they got you by the balls - for your own safety, of course. It's okay, my friend, repeat after me: we are a civilized society, democracy works, voting is important, the government is largely on your side.

I think what I find most disappointing is the stunning amount of apathy when it comes to politicians lying. But then what can we do to stop them? It has become farcical how every time the government makes a statement on this it's almost immediately shown they are directly lying to the people.

These lies bring into question the truthfulness of a lot of other government statements.

Why aren't there legal consequences for politicians lying? I know you couldn't catch everything, but it seems like if you intentionally mislead the public in a high profile context, you should face proportional punishment. Corporations face huge consequences if they lie, even accidentally, in earnings reports.

Lawyers on the clock are always careful that what they say is legally sound; why shouldn't politicians be held to that standard? Maybe it'll make them more vague and hand wavy, but perhaps the law could be structured to be proportional to the malice and deceit behind the lie. If they must do something contrary to what they said, they should have to justify their decision in writing why they have changed their mind.

Who exactly is going to write and pass this law?

I think the answer is vaguely to make them irrelevant to real life. There's nothing we can do beyond voting, and money controls who gets on the ballot. Congress writes its own rules, and gathers the campaign cash.

I don't know how to concretely make them irrelevant. We could just ignore them, and consider the cost of government like friction, but they do fuck peoples' lives up and so we can't ignore them entirely. And they are currently the only significant outlet of safety net, as much as they're trying to fuck that up too.

I don't know. Anyone?

Obama talks like the president of the ACLU but acts like Dick Cheney.

You can hate both, but the things they do aren't the same.

A few months after the group sent out its second round of payments to Omondi’s village, I spent two days walking around the area in Siaya where GiveDirectly is working.

One hell of a co-incidence.

Status Quo is the name of the game in Washington politics.

From a British point of view, that is the most scary thing ever.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact