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Amy Goodman
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Thursday 3 January 2013
The president’s second term will publicly begin on Jan. 21, the hard-fought-for holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday.

Obama’s New Year’s Resolution: Protect the Status Quo

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Amidst the White House and congressional theatrics surrounding the so-called fiscal-cliff negotiations, a number of bills were signed into law by President Barack Obama that renew some of the worst excesses of the Bush years. Largely ignored by the media, these laws further entrench odious policies like indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping and the continued operation of the U.S. gulag in Guantanamo. The deal to avert the fiscal cliff itself increases the likelihood that President Obama may yet scuttle an unprecedented cut in the Pentagon’s bloated budget. It’s not such a happy new year, after all.

On Sunday, Dec. 30, the White House press secretary’s office issued a terse release stating “The President signed into law H.R. 5949, the ‘FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012,’ which provides a five-year extension of Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.” With that, the government’s controversial surveillance powers were renewed until the end of 2017. The American Civil Liberties Union called it the “heartbreak of another Senate vote in favor of dragnet collection of Americans’ communications.”

A champion of progressive causes in the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, is leaving Congress after 16 years, after his Cleveland district was eliminated due to Republican-controlled redistricting following the 2010 census. Days before his departure from Congress, I asked him about the FISA reauthorization.

“The FISA bill is just one example,” Kucinich replied, “We’re entering into a brave new world, which involves not only the government apparatus being able to look in massive databases and extract information to try to profile people who might be considered threats to the prevailing status quo. But we also are looking at drones, which are increasingly miniaturized, that will give the governments, at every level, more of an ability to look into people’s private conduct. This is a nightmare.”

Add to that, the nightmare of indefinite detention without charge or trial. Just over a year ago, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, also known as the annual NDAA. That 2012 version of the sprawling NDAA contained a controversial new provision granting the U.S. military far-reaching powers to indefinitely detain people - not only those identified as enemies on a battlefield, but others perceived by the military as having “supported” the enemy. Chris Hedges, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times who was part of a team of reporters awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism, sued the Obama administration because, in his reporting, he regularly encounters those the U.S. government defines as terrorists: “I, as a foreign correspondent, had had direct contact with 17 organizations that are on that list, from al-Qaida to Hamas to Hezbollah to the PKK, and there’s no provision within that particular section [of the NDAA] to exempt journalists.”

A federal judge agreed and ordered a stay, preventing that section of the NDAA from being enforced. The Obama administration appealed, and the case is still before the U.S. Court of Appeals. In the meantime, the court-imposed stay was overturned. With the renewal of the NDAA for 2013, with the indefinite detention provisions intact, Hedges told me, “The appellate court is all that separates us and a state that is no different than any other military dictatorship.”

Couched in the same 2013 NDAA is a section prohibiting the Obama administration from spending any of the bill’s $633 billion in construction or alteration of any facility for the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. This effectively ties President Obama’s hands, despite his 2009 executive order to close the prison complex, and his more recent reiteration of the goal. Of 166 prisoners still held there, 86 have been cleared for release, but remain imprisoned nevertheless. The legal group Human Rights First has just issued a blueprint, detailing how President Obama could close Guantanamo, despite congressional roadblocks.

The president’s second term will publicly begin on Jan. 21, the hard-fought-for holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said. If President Obama aspires to do more than perpetuate an unjust status quo, he must start now.

© 2011 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate



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ABOUT Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

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8 comments on "Obama’s New Year’s Resolution: Protect the Status Quo"

jackwenayscott's picture
jackwenayscott
WA
January 03, 2013 6:06pm

Yes, these measures are surely tragic, our individual rights are being trampled. What about our right to control our own photographic image? I was trained as a photographer, so I know the philosophy of photography and the value of respecting one's right to control one's own image, even if it is a funny video! Anyway, we're lucky Obama is such a good man, believe me, just by his public actions and statements, I'm sure Obama is aware of the truth of my assertion that Los Angeles television rules America. Here he is President, facing the truth that the real power in this world is that zany little tinsel town where all the "Good, Good" things come from.... But, he's going lightly and properly, I was even invited to the inauguration! Now, how smart is that??? Certainly a wise and knowledgable President! We haven't had such a good President since Carter, and this time we beat the Republicans, lucky Romney was a Mormon and not an actor, that made all the difference! Anyway, previous to all these represive government measures, I watched Hollywood-Burbank laying the groundwork for, for example, torture. There were my Mother and daughter in about 1996, laughing and cheering at the TV as a suspect was tortured for information, I just walked away.... No, so long as the top centralized authority is L.A. show-business, the shows will propagandize that the cops are always right and good, torture is O.K., L.A. is the greatest, show-business is good and wise, etc., etc. And, the vulnerable young will gobble it up. UNLESS we TURN OFF THEIR TV!

Riconui

January 03, 2013 2:14pm

Witnessing Obama's first term should leave no one with any illusions that he is anything remotely like even a LBJ liberal. He's not even a richard nixon liberal. Result being that treachery like the NDAA shouldn't shock. This is one of the most odious and anti-democratic..... hell..... it's simply UN-American, pieces of legislation ever concocted by the Congress, Done in the name of "national security". The "patriot" act, (one of the most tortured and deceitful acronyms ever devised), should be the single most disingenuous and authoritarian piece of legislation ever passed. NDAA it would seem, has set a new nadir for legislative duplicity and proto-fascist machinations. Recall that we weren't attacked on 9/11 because we were lacking intelligence. On the contrary.... All the intelligence was indicating that an attack was imminent. It pointed out who, it had an idea where and there was even sufficient information as to how. Most of that data was supplied to the executive. The only intelligence that was certifiably lacking was the presumed "intelligence" of our commander in chief. Nonetheless, we are being entreated to a quiet campaign of authoritarian rule making as though our government might be crippled or left defenseless without more wiretaps, more intercepts of emails and more intrusions into the personal lives of citizens. What crap!

The arc of the moral history of the United Sates is long but it bends toward fascism.

woetopoe

January 03, 2013 6:10pm

Everything "odious" about the NDAA resonates back to 9/11. This was the fuse that set the rocket in motion. There are "mountains" of evidence that clearly demonstrate this was an "inside job," perpetuated by men who "knew" that the power they sought could only be obtained in one way. We're called "Nutty Conspiracy Theorists" for even suggesting such a murderous betrayal, yet history is littered with the actions of men who quite willingly sacrificed thousands...even millions to obtain their goals.
Machiavelli basically advocated it and Orwell predicted it. Examine, closely, the "collapse" of building seven. A spark helping to ignite a fire that by all accounts, burns evermore out of control. Evil is quite comfortable in Red, White and Blue. Obama is simply another link in a pernicious chain. We NEVER would have invaded Iraq if we thought for a minute they had WMD's. Name a country with "Tony Blair" suggested nuclear weapons that HAS been invaded. And the bastards are going to get away with it. No doubt celebrating the far-reaching effects of the NDAA. Fascism is the equivalent of the 20th/21st century vampire. No one believes its happening until people start dying from holes in the neck. And no...I don't believe in vampires. Simply an analogy.

William Bednarz

January 03, 2013 1:49pm

HE MAINTAINED THE STATUS QUO - - - permanently extending Bush-era tax cuts to 98 percent of American families— while letting the payroll tax holiday expire—
and what will he give away with the debt ceiling ???? Social Security and Medicare will both be on the table. Healthcare - Welfare - Foodstamps - School Lunches - edication ?????

makaainana

January 03, 2013 11:45am

Maybe we need a major news agency to start a "Patriots List".

This would list all the things like Guantanamo, the drone murder score, etc. It would help to keep these items in front of the public eye, and could be updated as needed.

Each item would have a short paragraph that explains what the problem is, and why it is on the list. It would also have to have BY NAME the major sponsors, or the Congressional Committee that approved it with the approvers names.

Or in the alternative what about a list of the top 10 "Wanted for Constitutional Ignorance" list. Each month an organization could publish the list with the name and action that the person did.

We need to get the public involved and knowledgeable The persons name and action has to be short, simple and remember-able. It has to be "cocktail party" conversation simple..

Short of getting the public upset the politicians will do what they want.

anono

January 03, 2013 11:29am

Hobama's just doin' what he always been doin', playin' it 'white'.

CASnyder

January 03, 2013 10:43am

Pres O may have started his political career being a community organizer by, of, and for the little people, but his rise to power is corrupting him more and more, the longer he hangs out with corrupt moneyed interests, the more their goals creep into his policy, and the less he is aware of it. I don't have high hopes for relief for the most vulnerable people in our country during O's 2nd term, but I knew for sure what the alternative was going to do - R&R kept convicting themselves out of their own mouths.

ChetDude

January 03, 2013 10:43am

Surprise, surprise, the new model "Obama" in action is just like the old one -- in spite of the campaign rhetoric...

As that great sage, shrub bush told us, "Fool me once, fool me twice ...uh...I won't get fooled again"...