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Obama Starts His Administration with Some Good Steps

Posted by libhom Thursday, January 22, 2009

Barack Obama's transition can best be described as depressing and infuriating. Obama engaged in blatant heterosexist discrimination in cabinet appointments; he loaded his administration with inept Clinton administration retreads; and he proposed a stimulus plan that won't make much overall difference in stimulating the economy. Worst of all, Obama promoted bigotry, discrimination, and violence against women and queers by involving the totalitarian fundamentalist, Rick Warren, in the inauguration.

However, in his first days, President Obama has taken some welcome and reasonable steps

From the Los Angeles Times (online):

When President Obama today signed executive orders to create a task force to study how to close Guantanamo Bay Prison within one year, he was delivering on an oft-repeated campaign pledge to make sure U.S. foreign policy conformed to U.S. values. With reporters looking on and cameras clicking, Obama said:

"This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard."

It is a good thing that President Obama set up this task force. However, be careful. This is not the same thing as actually closing Gitmo. The media and even many activists are getting this story wrong. This is a baby step in the correct direction, but more needs to be done. Also, one year is an awfully long time, especially for the many detainees who are innocent and have been imprisoned and tortured for years.

Again, from the LA Times:
As for his campaign pledge to ban torture, Obama also signed a directive to ensure that the techniques in the Army Field Manual -- which prohibit waterboarding -- will be the rule for all intelligence and law enforcement services.

This will significantly reduce torture and President Obama deserves credit for this. However, there could be some disturbing wiggle room in the Executive Order. From the Center for Constitutional Rights Press Release 1/22/09:
Again, we caution that the order may leave an escape hatch if the CIA should want more tactics, i.e. torture, available in its arsenal. The Geneva conventions should be the only arbiter of what is possible for governments to do to human beings.

As good as this step is, this also means we will have to keep advocating for an end to all torture by our government.

The Freedom of Information Act
In excellent news, President Obama signed an Executive Order indicating that he would follow the law in regards to the Freedom of Information Act. From the Washington Post:
The first memo instructs all agencies and departments to "adopt a presumption in favor" of Freedom of Information Act requests, while the second memo orders the director of the Office of Management and Budget to issue recommendations on making the federal government more transparent.

"The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears," Obama said in the FOIA memo, adding later that "In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public."

This should prove very useful for journalists and activists seeking to investigate and expose the rampant criminal activity that took place during the Bush regime.

Limits on Lobbying
Obama is chipping away at the power of lobbyists. From the Washington Post 1/22/09:
In two executive orders and three presidential directives, Obama laid out stringent lobbying limits that will bar any appointees from seeking lobbying jobs while he is president and will ban gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the administration.

These actions show the potential of an Obama presidency just as his transition and his inauguration rather pointedly illustrated the dangers. People are going to have to fight at least as hard as they did under Bush if we want positive, meaningful change.



  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. I love Obama, but SO not a fan of Rick Warren. Honestly! What was he thinking! Bad, bad, decision!

  3. I like that he capped salaries of his administration employees... Sets a good tone... Also, he took a lot of flack from the right with the gay Bishop invocation thing... So I give him points for that too... Rick Warren looked like a kook spewing Jesus' name in all those different languages... So sectarian and non-inclusive... It was a total groaner...

  4. Anonymous Says:
  5. All good steps (I've been wanting to post myself but too much to keep up with!) but like you, I'm waiting to see what will really happen.



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