some #J20 tips for protesters

In preparation for the upcoming #J20 protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump, the following tweetstorm serves as a general advice thread for protesters (and for organizers). The flow of the tweets has been edited for clarity.




















































































tldr: don’t talk to cops, try to avoid arrest but prepare for it anyway, SUPPORT YOUR COMRADES, don’t talk to cops, don’t talk to cops, don’t talk to cops

Advertisements

Official dinners and forms

[from Emily Post’s Etiquette, published 1922, revised 1940]

An invitation to lunch or dine at the White House is a command and automatically cancels any other engagement.

The acceptance must be written—by hand of course—and furthermore it must be left at the door and not sent by mail. It may however be folded once in the ordinary way and not fitted into a full-page-size envelope as is necessary in answering court invitations abroad. The following is

An example of best taste

and the wording of the date is at is should be in all invitations, acceptances, and regrets:

Mr and Mrs Richard Worldly
have the honor to accept
the kind invitation of
the President and Mrs Washington
for dinner on Thursday the eighth of May
at eight o’clock

The following form is to be avoided:

Mr and Mrs Notquite
present their respects (or compliments) to
the President and Mrs Washington
and beg to express
the great pleasure it will afford them
to be present at dinner
on Thursday May the eighth
at eight o’clock

It is ardently to be hoped that one who aspires to social distinction will not write as follows:

Mr and Mrs X
present their compliments to their Excellencies
the Ambassador of France and Mme Bonnet
and are most happy to accept their courteous invitation
for dinner on Thursday May eighth
at eight o’clock at the French Embassy

The above example is given because its counterpart is actually being received in Washington embassies. The proper form is:

Mr and Mrs Richard Worldly
have the honor to accept
the kind invitation of their Excellencies
the French Ambassador and Madame Bonnet
for dinner on Thursday the eighth of May
at eight o’clock

The note to a deserted hostess:

Mr and Mrs Richard Worldly
regret extremely
that an invitation to the White House
prevents their keeping
their previous engagement for
Tuesday the first of December

Although customs vary somewhat during succeeding administrations, the following details represent the conventional pattern from which each administration necessarily adapts its own procedure.

The President and his wife always give a number of state dinners each season, such as the Cabinet dinner and the Diplomatic dinner, as well as many numerous smaller dinners and luncheons. In any event, the guests, who arrive several minutes before the time set, assemble in the Blue Room and form in a large circle, standing according to their official rank with the highest at the head of the line.

Preceded by their naval and military aides, the Chief Executive and his wife descend the stairs promptly at eight o’clock and make the tour of the room. Each waiting guest is presented first to the President and then to the President’s wife by a military aide.

The President escorts the lady of highest rank into the dining-room exactly as every host “takes in” the guest of honor, but his wife, instead of coming last, immediately follows her husband with the gentleman of highest rank.

At the largest dinners, the Diplomatic ones usually, the table is arranged in the form of a horseshoe, and the appointments include gold knives, forks, and spoons as well as the gold-framed plateau, gold candelabra, vases, and compotes which Monroe brought over from France in 1817. The china consists of a service of seventeen hundred pieces of American-made porcelain in an ivory tone, a Wedgwood set of twelve hundred pieces and the Roosevelt china. The latter services are used for the smaller dinners, with silver that is very plain in design but engraved with the national coat of arms, or marked with charming simplicity “The President’s House.” The formalities at White House dinners differ in no way from those at all well appointed houses, full details for which are given in Chapter 16.

Dinner is usually followed by a musicale, to which additional guests have been invited. The President and his wife receive other guests promptly at ten o’clock, after which they go into the East Room and take their places in the front row. As soon as they are seated the guests follow—and as always in Washington, according to rank.

Details of White House etiquette

When you are invited to the White House, you must arrive several minutes at least before the hour specified. No more unforgivable breach of etiquette can be made than not to be standing in the drawing-room when the President makes his entry.

Exactly as at a European court, the President, followed by his wife, enters the room at the hour set and makes a tour of the room, shaking hands with each guest in turn. When your turn comes, you bow deeply and address him—if he talks to you—as “Mr. President.” In a long conversation it is proper to vary “Mr. President” occasionally with “Sir.” You call the wife of the President “Mrs. Washington,” and treat her as you would any formal hostess, but you do not sit down while either the President or his wife is standing. No guest of course ever leaves until after the President has withdrawn from the room.

I’m not voting Obama in 2012 (and neither should you)

For some time now, I’ve been compiling information for this post, and though I don’t feel it’s complete, I’ve decided to post it anyway; otherwise, I’d just keep working on it forever.

As background: I voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and attended the inauguration festivities in DC in 2009. As you may already know, my politics have moved significantly leftward since Obama took office, but this post is not an exhortation to join the communist party or instigate people’s revolution or what have you. Instead, I’m trying to show that President Obama’s actions in office represent a hard shift to the right from his campaign rhetoric. He and his administration are responsible for outrageous abuses of human rights and civil liberties, and have consistently worked to further corporate profits at the expense of the American (and global) public. His actions in office are infuriating, but what frustrates me even more is the response of his supporters. All too often they bend over backwards to frame the latest abuse of power in a positive light, seemingly unwilling to accept the possibility of an Obama who is less than perfect. More often they simply ignore it, for the same reasons. And, most disturbingly, many people will concede that Obama and his administration are doing very little good and a whole lot of bad, but say they will support him anyway for fear of hypothetical future Republicans—it doesn’t matter what our guy does, because he’s Our Guy.

If you read through this post and decide you agree with the choices Obama has made, then fine. I obviously don’t agree with you, but at least you’re be justified in voting for him. But if reading this post leaves you as outraged over the administration’s actions as compiling it left me, I urge you to reconsider where you cast your vote. Choosing the “lesser of two evils” is not how democracy is supposed to work—and, as a comparison of, say, Obama’s military policies with Bush’s suggests, Obama isn’t even the clear “lesser”.

For ease of reading, I’ve broken the post into loose categories. Each assertion is cited; please let me know if any links are broken or if you see any typos. If you find more items that belong on this list, feel free to post them.

Immigration

  • ICE has deported over a million people since 2009. Deportation rates are rising every year, and are currently approaching 400,000. (ACLU 8/18/11) Despite the fact that unauthorized immigration rates are sinking (Pew 9/1/10), Border Patrol has more agents than it’s ever had before (White House 5/2011) and ICE’s budget has risen to nearly $6 billion. Despite a stated policy of targeting high-level criminals, the majority of those deported under ICE’s “Secure Communities” program have only misdemeanor convictions or no conviction at all. (Deportation Nation 5/25/11)
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s has rescinded the Secure Communities agreement memos with various jurisdictions and announced that compliance with the program is mandatory, despite legislation to the contrary. (IPC 11/29/11, Restore Fairness 8/8/11)
  • The vast majority of ICE detainees have no access to counsel. (ABA 2/2010) Half of ICE detainees are kept in private prisons (ACLU 11/1/11); detainees in both private and public detention centers are subject to sexual abuse (ACLU), physical abuse and lack of medical care (ACLU 10/24/11), lack of access to counsel (ACLU 11/17/11, ABA 2/2010)
  • DHS has denied people entry into the United States due to mental illness; one Canadian was turned away at the border due to a suicide attempt five years prior. (CBC 9/9/11)
  • At least 5,100 children are in foster care in the United States because their parents were deported. If current deportation trends continue, this number could rise to 15,000 in the next five years. (ARC 11/2011, Frontline 11/3/11)

Israel/Palestine

  • Despite his stated support for a two-state solution, Obama has opposed Palestine’s UN bid for statehood, and has declared that, if the issue is brought to the UN Security Council, the United States will veto it. (Guardian 9/21/11). When Palestine was given membership in UNESCO, the United States canceled UNESCO funding. (Reuters 11/2/11) Similarly, though Obama makes public statements deriding the continued advance of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, the US vetoed a UN resolution (sponsored by 130 nations, including all other members of the Security Council) opposing the settlements. (Christian Science Monitor 2/18/11)
  • The Obama administration dropped its attempts to persuade Israel to halt construction of settlements in Palestinian territory and allowed the moratorium on construction to expire, a serious problem not just morally but diplomatically, as Palestinian authorities have refused to engage in direct talks as long as Israel was building on lands seized from Palestine in 1967. (Reuters via MSNBC, AP via Huffington Post, both 12/7/10)

Military and foreign policy

  • Obama’s State Department secretly directed its diplomats to spy on the United Nations, directing them to uncover computer passwords, credit card numbers, and biometric data. Similar directives ordered embassy staff in oil-rich African countries to conduct military surveillance and embassy staff in the Middle East to seek out travel plans of leaders in the Palestinian Authority. (Guardian 11/28/10)
  • Under the Obama administration, use of unmanned drones in military raids has severely increased—of the 309 known strikes, all but 52 took place after Obama took office. The exact number of people killed is not known (publicly at least), but the Bureau of Investigative Journalism places estimates between 2,373 and 2,997; at least 391 and possibly as many as 780 were civilians, including 175 children. These figures are based largely on media reports; in most cases, the actual identities of the victims are unknown, and as such there is the real possibility that a large number of “alleged militants” are actually civilians. (BIJ 8/10/11) The bulk of drone attacks have been in Pakistan, but the U.S. has also used the weapons in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia. (Independent 7/1/11) A State Department legal adviser said it was “the considered view of this administration” that American drone attacks abroad constitute “self-defense”. (Wired 3/26/10)
  • In September, Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was killed in a targeted assassination on Barack Obama’s explicit orders due to alleged al-Qaeda ties. (NYT 10/1/11) Obama’s Justice Department argued in court, after Awlaki was placed on the list but long before he was killed, that the President has the authority to order the assassination of American citizens deemed a threat without a trial or even charges, and that this authority is not subject to judicial review. (ACLU 11/8/10)
  • After the scheduled military pullout from Iraq at the end of the year, the State Department will continue to employ 5,000 private security contractors in the country. (ABC 10/21/11), including the controversial company DynCorp (NPR 12/27/11)
  • During the “limited humanitarian intervention” (Yahoo 3/23/11) in Libya, the U.S. dropped dozens of bombs on the nation, even after the rebels succeeded in taking the capital. (Wired 10/20/11) American-backed anti-Gaddafi forces have been implicated in numerous human rights abuses, including indiscriminate arrests of sub-Saharan African nationals, torture and sexual assault of detainees (Amnesty International 10/2011), and a mass execution of Gadaffi loyalists at a hotel in Sirte (Human Rights Watch 10/23/11); there are reports that black Libyans are being lynched by rebel forces. (Liberation 8/30/11) The National Transitional Council’s interim leader announced a desire to return to traditional law and repeal the nation’s divorce laws. (Radio Netherlands 10/24/11)
  • Obama has resumed the war in Somalia. In addition to the aforementioned drone strikes, the U.S. is giving millions of dollars to Somali troops described by reporters as “ineffective”. The U.S. is also giving support to Ugandan, Kenyan, and Ethiopian military troops to fight in Somalia. (Washington Post 11/24/11)
  • In 2009, the United States used a cluster bomb against an alleged al-Qaeda training camp; the attack is estimated to have killed 41 civilians. (Amnesty International 6/4/10) The United States is one of few industrialized nations not to have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. (CCM) The Obama administration has continued Bush’s refusal to sign the Mine Ban Treaty. (AP via MSNBC 11/24/09)
  • The Obama administration shipped arms to Saudi Arabia to quell a rebellion in North Yemen, while publicly claiming to be uninvolved. (Salon 12/9/10) When larger masses of Yemenis began protesting the long-standing rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Obama administration supported Saleh; after it became clear that the movement against Saleh was too broad, the White House became involved in the negotiations to remove Saleh peacefully (Reuters 4/4/11), all while continuing its drone war against alleged Yemeni terrorists. (NYT 6/9/11) When Saleh finally stepped down, Obama praised the transfer of power as “a new beginning” (White House 11/23/11), despite continued protests in the country against the immunity from prosecution Saleh received in the power transfer agreement. (Guardian 11/23/11)
  • The Obama administration revived a Rumsfeld plan to equip ICBMs with conventional warheads—a plan that even the Bush administration eventually scrapped because it was too dangerous. (NYT, Wired, 4/23/10)
  • In 2010, the State Department hired Xe services, better known as Blackwater, to provide security at new U.S. consulates in Afghanistan. (Washington Post 6/21/10) Nearly simultaneously, Xe was given a contract to provide security at CIA bases in Afghanistan and other undisclosed countries. (Washington Post 6/23/10)
  • The Department of Defense sold $60 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in 2010, including 84 F-15s, 190 helicopters, and massive amounts of bombs and missiles. (Washington Times 11/19/10)
  • The United States has expanded its clandestine presence in Middle East and nearby countries, friend and foe, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. This new order makes it clear that such operations are intended to be long-term. (NYT 5/24/10)
  • The Obama administration worked out an agreement with Afghanistan that would keep U.S. troops in the country until 2024. (Telegraph 8/19/11)
  • According to a CIA lawyer involved in the Bush-Obama transition, the incoming administration sought to do away with the torture program but keep virtually every other aspect of Bush’s CIA programs. (Frontline via Raw Story 9/1/11)

Domestic spying, black site prisons, and civil liberties

  • In an interview on America’s Most Wanted, President Obama expressed support for a national database of DNA samples taken from arrestees, regardless of whether they are convicted, equivocating the practice with taking mugshots. (LA Times 4/9/10)
  • In a statement coinciding with the release of Bush-era memos from the Office of Legal Counsel regarding torture programs, Obama promised that agents who had been involved in torture would not be prosecuted, saying “This is a time for reflection, not retribution.” (White House 4/16/09) The administration has also declined to prosecute CIA officials who destroyed dozens of videos of agents torturing suspected terrorists. (NYT 11/9/10) When a Spanish human rights group called for Spain’s National Court to prosecute several Bush officials including Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, Obama joined with Republican officials in secretly pressuring Spain to circumvent the Spanish legal system and drop the charges. (Mother Jones 12/1/10)
  • Despite campaign promises to end the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program, whereby individuals were kidnapped without charges, taken to secret locations on foreign soil, and tortured, the Obama administration has largely kept the program in place, turning prisoners over to foreign countries and relying on “assurances” from those nations that the prisoners will not be tortured. (LA Times 2/1/09, NYT 8/24/09, Pro Publica 9/6/11) The administration has consistently invoked “state secrets” privileges and national security concerns to deny rendition survivors any hope of legal justice. (ACLU 11/15/11)
  • Similarly, Obama’s DOJ has sought to block litigation against the NSA over warrantless wiretapping, continuing the Bush administration’s invoking of “state secrets” (a practice which Obama himself opposed on the campaign trail). Obama’s administration, however, has gone beyond Bush’s argument to a disturbing new level, with the unprecedented claim that the federal government is categorically immune from litigation regarding illegal spying. (Salon 4/6/09, EFF 4/7/09)
  • Obama’s DOJ has also argued to the Supreme Court that the government should be able to attach GPS devices to suspects’ cars without warrants. (Wired 6/27/11)
  • The Obama administration denied UN investigators access to Guantanamo prisoners and information on secret prisons. (Washington Post 7/23/09)
  • A terrorism strategy released by the White House recommends increasing the monitoring of “extremism” on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. (CNET 8/3/11) The Justice Department is seeking to require ISP’s and cell phone companies to hold on to records for significant periods of time to aid law enforcement. (Raw Story 1/25/11)
  • Obama’s Department of Justice has issued new guidelines on the use of Miranda warnings in interrogation of terrorism suspects, but has refused to make these guidelines public, further clouding an already murky subject. (Salon 1/19/11)
  • The Department of Defense released a list of names of prisoners at the Bagram prison, where allegations of torture and abuse have been raised for years. However, the list did not contain such important information as length of detention, location of capture, or national origin (BBC 1/16/10), information which the Obama administration has fought hard to keep secret. (TPR 10/26/10) The administration has opened a second prison at Bagram, referred to by former inmates as “Tor Jail” or “Black Jail”; the DoD refuses to acknowledge that this prison even exists. (BBC 4/15/10, 5/11/10)
  • The Pentagon has stated that it has the right to react to hackers with military force “when warranted.” (Reuters 11/15/11)
  • In a memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama personally waived portions of a Bush-era law that forbade providing military assistance to countries known to recruit child soldiers, in order to provide military aid to Chad, Sudan, Yemen, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Foreign Policy 10/26/10, White House 10/25/10)
  • Obama’s FBI has raided homes and offices of anti-war activists and labor organizers on pretexts of connections to “foreign terrorist organizations.” (Democracy Now 9/27/10, Washington Post 6/13/11)
  • President Obama refused to release photos depicting abuse against detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan in violation of a Freedom of Information Act request, claiming that doing so would inflame terrorists against the United States. (ABC 5/13/09)
  • Obama declared that some Guantanamo detainees would be held indefinitely without trial, claiming that such prisoners “cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but . . . nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.” (Washington Post 5/22/09) The following year, his Justice Department argued in court that a ruling requiring the government to give Guantanamo prisoners their habeas corpus rights did not apply to prisoners at Bagram; a District Court judge rejected this argument, but an appeals court reversed the ruling, essentially granting the DOD power to imprison people indefinitely so long as the prison is in a war zone. (Salon 5/21/10)
  • Part of Obama’s campaign was focused on curtailing the more egregious portions of the PATRIOT Act, but he signed a one-year extension of the act in 2010 and a four-year extension in 2011, neither with any changes. (Christian Science Monitor 3/1/10, Huffington Post 5/27/11)
  • An FBI policy made public after an FOIA request reveals that the agency keeps people on a terrorism watch list even if they have been cleared of any charges. (NYT 9/27/11)
  • TSA is performing unannounced security screenings, including pat-downs, not just at airports but train stations, ferries, and bus terminals. They have begun working in tandem with ICE, predictably targeting people of color, through the “VIPR” program (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response). (Mother Jones 6/20/11) In San Diego, a joint TSA-ICE Trolley raid led to 21 arrests, including the deportation of three teenagers on their way to school. (Union-Tribune 5/23/09)

Law enforcement

  • In 2009, the ATF began a secret program called “Operation Fast and Furious” in which illegal firearms were deliberately allowed to fall into the hands of drug cartel members in Mexico in an attempt to reach the higher members of the cartels. The program was kept secret from both the American public and the Mexican government. A gun purchased in the program killed a Border Patrol officer in late 2010. U.S. attorneys denied the rumors of the program in the announcement of a series of arrests, but it was eventually made public by a disgruntled ATF officer who went to Congress. (Washington Post 7/25/11) Attorney General Eric Holder denied knowledge of the program, but had been receiving regular briefings on the subject since at least July of 2010. (CBS 10/3/11)
  • The DEA is involved in laundering millions of dollars in drug cartel money to further their investigation of cartel leaders; the practice is understandably controversial, and has seen little apparent success. (NYT 12/3/11)

Wall Street and labor

  • Obama has claimed that he “understand[s] the frustration” fueling the Occupy Wall Street movement (ABC 10/10/11), and the Democratic Party has made advances toward appropriating the movement. (NYT 10/10/11) Obama’s tepid statements of not-quite-support are understandable considering that his campaign in both 2008 (Open Secret) and 2012 (LA Times 7/22/11, Washington Post 10/19/11) have received massive funding from Wall Street firms; he has received more donations from the securities and investment industry than any other candidate in the past 20 years. (Influence Explorer through Q2 2011) Any hope that he might support the movement were dashed when his Department of Homeland Security aided local governments in suppressing and evicting protesters. (Guardian 11/25/11)
  • Obama’s first appointed director to the National Economic Council, Larry Summers, has had a long-standing close relationship with Wall Street. In 2008 alone, Summers was paid $5.7 million for working one day a week at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw, and receivied $2.7 million in speaking fees from companies such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch. (Washington Post 4/6/09) In 2000, when California Governor Gray Davis contacted the federal authorities with concerns that Enron was manipulating the market, Summers (who at that time was Treasury Secretary under President Clinton) joined Alan Greespan and, in one meeting, Enron CEO Ken Lay to urge Davis to deregulate California energy companies, remove caps on consumer prices, and relax environmental regulations. (The Daily Beast 11/12/08) Obama initially considered nominating Summers for Treasury Secretary, but ultimately decided to appoint him head of the NEC, which would not require Senate confirmation. (Salon 4/4/09)
  • When Summers stepped down from his post, Obama replaced him with Gene Sperling, who had already held the position for several years under Clinton. During this previous term as NEC director, Sperling was a chief negotiator on the Financial Modernization Act (NARA 1999), more commonly known as Gramm-Leach-Bliley. GLB repealed portions of the Glass-Steagall Act that had forbidden an institution from operating as any combination of investment bank, commercial bank, and insurance company. (LOC 11/2/99) On the campaign trail, Obama placed a great deal of the blame for the current recession on this repeal, but this rhetoric has all but disappeared from his public statements (NYT 11/12/09), and his appointment of the very negotiator responsible as his top economic adviser paints a grim picture for those who seek to have Glass-Steagall restored.
  • Obama’s Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has his own host of controversies. The issues range from failure to pay $35,000 in taxes between 2001 and 2004 (Washington Times 1/14/09) to his role in the AIG bonus scandal in 2009. That year, Geithner and Larry Summers lobbied then-Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd to alter an amendment in the stimulus bill. The original amendment limited bonuses and so-called “golden parachutes” at companies receiving federal bailout money; at the request of Summers and Geithner, Dodd added a loophole exempting previously-existing bonus contracts from being affected. (CNN 3/19/09) AIG, a recipient of over $170 billion in bailout money, soon announced a plan to pay $165 million in executive bonuses. (NYT 3/14/09) Geithner himself was involved in AIG’s bailout while he was president of the New York Federal Reserve, as well as the bailout of Citigroup, both in 2008. (NYT 11/24/08)
  • While president of the New York Fed, Geithner discouraged the New York Attorney General from pursuing criminal action against AIG executives involved in the company’s collapse (NYT 4/14/11); that same attitude characterizes the Obama administration’s approach to prosecution. The Justice Department has declined to prosecute executives at several companies; they dropped their investigation against the former CEO of Countrywide Financial, one of the country’s biggest mortgage lenders (NYT 2/19/11), and have decided not to prosecute Washington Mutual executives for their part in the biggest bank failure in American history.(Bloomberg 8/5/11) Federal prosecution for financial institution fraud is at a 20-year low. (Huffington Post 11/15/11)
  • When Wisconsin governor Scott Walker attacked public sector unions in the state, seeking to strip them of their right to collective bargaining, Obama spoke out against the attacks, but made no action to help the workers, refusing to even visit Wisconsin (in contradiction to a campaign promise to “walk on that picket line” when bargaining rights came under fire). (Huffington Post 2/24/11) When the Democratic Party begin mobilizing to support the Wisconsin workers, Obama’s White House staff reined them in. (NYT 3/3/11)
  • Obama and the Department of Labor sat on a review of child farm labor laws for several months, well past the February 2011 deadline for review and public comment; the rules were finally made public in September. In that time, two 17-year-old boys were critically injured on a farm in Oklahoma, and two 14-year-old girls were electrocuted and killed on a Monsanto farm in Illinois. (Huffington Post 8/15/11, DOL 10/31/11)
  • The Obama White House was closely involved in a deal awarding solar panel manufacturer Solyndra LLC a half-billion-dollar federal loan (ABC 9/13/11), and Obama praised the company as an example of the success of his economic policies; the company filed for bankruptcy in August and laid off over a thousand workers. (AP via Syracuse Post-Standard 8/31/11) It was later revealed that Solyndra had run out of money and defaulted; the Department of Energy restructured the loan in an attempt to keep the company solvent. (Wall Street Journal 9/28/11) A decades-long Treasury official testified that he has “never seen” a loan agreement be restructured like Solyndra’s. (Washington Examiner 10/14/11) When another company given a loan under the same program received negative press, the Department of Energy altered old press releases to remove that company’s name. (CNBC 10/19/11) When it became clear in 2010 that Solyndra would lay off workers, the Obama administration asked the company to delay the announcement until after the midterm elections on November 2; the company agreed, and made the announcement on November 3. (Washington Post 11/15/11)
  • The administration has boasted of its foreclosure prevention program, but the foreclosure rate is still increasing. (AP via NPR 11/10/11) The foreclosure program has had little oversight and no transparency. Mortgage companies are being paid millions of dollars in taxpayer money, but audit results are not being made public, and there is evidence that the mortgage companies are performing the same abuses as always without any consequences. (Pro Publica 10/4/11) Obama’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) was based on an industry plan, and deliberately crafter its language to exlude millions of homeowners who were seen as undeserving. The administration was dismissive of proposals to allow bankruptcy judges to lower mortgage payments on primary residences a prohibition not applied to any other type of debt and which Obama himself opposed on the campaign trail. (Pro Publica 2/4/11)
  • Shortly after the mortgage audits were made public, the Obama administration rolled out a new plan to lower mortgage payments for homeowners in need. But the new plan would make the taxpayer liable for refinanced loans; banks would be immune to liability. Furthermore, the plan does nothing to address the fact that most of these mortgages are for significantly more money than the homes are actually worth, which experts say is the core problem in the housing crisis. (Huffington Post 10/24/11)
  • When some states notified the Treasury of their intention to use money from the Hardest Hit Fund (a program under TARP intended to help homeowners in the states hit worst by unemployment and the housing market crisis) on legal aid groups that help individual homeowners, the Treasury told these states that doing so would violate TARP rules—a decision they reached after consulting with a law firm that represents several large banks and lending institutions. (The Nation 12/9/10)
  • A 2011 audit has revealed that the Federal Reserve is “riddled” with serious conflicts of interest. A number of high-ranking Fed officials have strong ties to the financial industry, and have used the Fed to award their companies emergency loans. The Fed’s conflict of interest rules have been kept secret, as well as waivers to the rules; the information was only brought to light under a GAO audit. (Senate 10/19/11)
  • Wall Street is making more money under Obama than it ever did under Bush. (Washington Post 11/6/11) The government has invested with banks to the tune of billions of taxpayer dollars, while U.S. poverty rates are higher than ever. (CBS 9/13/11)
  • Obama signed an executive order announcing his commitment to “review” regulations on business, characterizing the current regulatory framework as “redundant” and “excessively burdensome” on businesses. (NYT, White House, both 1/18/11) Within days, OSHA began withdrawing a number of proposed rules, including a strengthening of workplace noise regulations and a rule to provide a space on employer injury and illness forms to record musculoskeletal disorders. (The Hill 1/30/11)
  • Obama publicly espoused rhetoric that seemed to endorse made-in-America manufacturing policies, but opposed Congressional attempts at including such policies in legislation, and worked in active opposition by pushing trade deals with South Korea, which would deal a significant blow to the American auto industry and provide material support to Korean firms with serious labor rights problems. (Alternet 8/26/10)

Healthcare

  • The Obama administration lauds the healthcare plan as a major success, but it was compromised from the start. Obama made back-room deals with the private medical industry to block the public option he claimed to support. (HuffPo 3/16/10, NYT 8/13/09)
  • When the anti-choice Stupak amendment was removed from the final version of the bill that was passed in 2010, President Obama effectively reinstated it, banning women covered under the high-risk insurance pool program from using that insurance to access abortion services. (ACLU 7/15/10)
  • An analysis by the Physicians for a National Health Program concluded that the healthcare bill as passed will leave 23 million people uninsured while hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars will be shoveled to private health insurance companies. (PNHP 3/22/10)
  • Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services granted waivers to thirty large, mostly private, employers, including McDonald’s and Jack in the Box, exempting them from requirements to provide coverage to their employees; the waivers leave nearly a million workers uninsured. (USA Today 10/7/10)
  • The Obama administration refused to release a list of health industry executives visiting the White House during negotiations over the healthcare bill, using an argument originated by George W. Bush that such documents were exempt from public disclosure laws, and contradicting campaign promises for transparency in healthcare negotiations. (LA Times 7/22/09)
  • During the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations, President Obama offered to inrease the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 in exchange for Republican agreement to raise certain taxes. (Huffington Post 7/11/11) In addition to the obvious threat to public health this poses, it would lead to an increase in total health spending. (CBPP 8/23/11)
  • Obama sought to slash $300 to $500 billion in “entitlement spending”, including massive cuts to Medicare; he has said that “healthcare cuts” are required in any budget deal. (NYT 9/13/11)
  • The Obama administration has fought aggressively to buy a controversial smallpox drug from a company called Siga (owned by a longtime donor to the Democratic Party), despite concerns over both its necessity and its effectiveness. When Department of Health and Human Services officials balked at the company’s asking price, the government replaced the lead negotiator. When Siga was in danger of losing the contract, the government blocked other companies from bidding. The final agreement pays Siga significantly more than what government specialists considered a reasonable price. (LA Times 11/13/11)
  • Part of the healthcare bill required that employer-provided health insurance cover birth control. The Obama administration is seeking to allow a wide range of exemptions to this rule, allowing any religiously-affiliated employer to opt out. This would include a number of universities, hospitals, and clinics, and potentially leaving millions of women without access to birth control. (NYT 11/19/11)
  • Obama is joining House Republicans in seeking to modify a formula in the healthcare plan to count Social Security benefits as income, pushing a potential million Americans out of the Medicaid eligibility bracket each year. (Washington Times 11/24/11)
  • The Obama administration argued to the Supreme Court that hospitals and clinics cannot sue drug companies for discounts they are entitled to under federal law or for recompense after being overcharged. (NYT 1/9/11)
  • The administration rewrote the rules of the healthcare bill, removing coverage for end-of-life planning, apparently due to fears that an incoming Republican majority on Congress would use such language as political ammunition. (NYT 1/4/11)
  • The Obama administration hired a former executive from WellPoint, the largest private insurance company in America, to “help implement” the new healthcare law. (Open Left 7/14/10)
  • Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services overruled the FDA and rejected a move to allow the morning-after pill to be sold without an age restriction. (Washington Post 12/7/11) Obama claims not to have been involved in the decision, but publicly supports it nonetheless. (NYT 12/8/11)

Environment

  • In 2010, President Obama appointed Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agriculture Negotiator. Prior to his appointment, Siddiqui was a vice president of CropLife America, a bioindustry organization representing, among others, DuPont, Monsanto, and Dow. (Huffington Post 3/18/10, CLA) Siddiqui is a staunch supporter of GMO food; during an earlier stint in the Department of Agriculture, he pushed to allow GMO products to be labeled “organic”, and has lobbied for weaking international regulations on pesticide. (GMO Journal 5/6/10)
  • Obama’s USDA and FDA have released a position paper opposing labeling for genetically modified foods. The paper claims that such labels are “false, misleading, or deceptive,” saying that food labels should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods.” (The Atlantic 4/26/10)
  • The Minerals Management Service (later reorganized into the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement) allowed dozens of oil companies, including BP, to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without permits or environmental assessments, and frequently overruled its own staff scientists who raised objections regarding the safety of offshore drilling both in the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska. These fast-tracked approvals included the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded in 2010 and caused the largest oil spill in history. (NYT 5/14/10) The Department of the Interior was warned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that it was dramatically underestimating the frequency of oil spills and the risk of a major spill, but the warnings were ignored and Obama announced plans to expand offshore oil drilling. (Huffington Post 7/3/10)
  • Charles Monnett, a high-ranking scientist with the OEMRE, published a 2006 paper documented the severe effects of climate change on Arctic polar bears and has raised awareness of the issue worldwide. When oil firms seeking to drill in the Arctic complained of environmental reviews causing delays in the permitting process, Monnett was put on suspension, silenced with a gag order, and forbidden from talking with his colleagues; Obama soon signed an order demanding that Arctic drilling permits be expedited. (Guardian 7/28/11)
  • This stifling of scientists’ concerns about environmental effects of government policies is wide-reaching: scientists in the Pacific Northwest were pressured to downplay the effects dams have on salmon populations, water quality experts were interfered with when studying the effects of development projects on the Everglades, biologists throughout the West have reported being pressures to ignore the effects of overgrazing, and calls for further study were ignored when the government decided to treat the Gulf oil spill with massive amounts of potentially toxic chemicals. (LA Times 7/10/10)
  • Obama’s Interior Department upheld a Bush-era rule that forbids use of the Endangered Species Act to combat greenhouse gas emissions. (Time 5/8/09)
  • The Obama administration argued in court to uphold a rule that lifted a restriction on the amount of public land a private company can use. Environmental groups had sued, saying it gave companies unlimited access to dump toxic waste on public land. (CBS 4/2/10)
  • When New York City and eight different states filed suit against a group of coal-burning utility companies to try to force them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Obama’s Justice Department argued to the Supreme Court against the lawsuit, siding with the utility companies. (WSJ 8/26/10)
  • Obama overruled the EPA and a unanimous panel of scientific advisers and canceled a proposed EPA regulation that sought to curb smog by restricting the production of ground-level ozone. (AP via Yahoo 9/2/11)
  • Obama’s Department of State has worked with Trans-Canada oil lobbyists to build an environmentally questionable pipeline from Alberta to Texas. Rather than providing oversight, the State Department has given the company support, even after Trans-Canada suggested dropping their request to pump oil at higher pressures than allowed, then reapplying for a waiver after the project is approved. (NYT 10/3/11) In October, Obama hired a former Trans-Canada lobbyist as a senior advisor to his re-election campaign. (Tar Sands Action 10/24/11)
  • The Obama administration has continued—and stepped up—Bush’s abuse of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, turning what is supposed to be a regulatory research office into a tool for industries to lobby for looser environmental and safety rules. The Obama administration has changed 76% of rules submitted through OIRA, including a staggering 85% of EPA-related rules, for the benefit of industry. (Guardian 11/28/11)
  • The Obama administration is supporting genetically engineered agriculture in fifty wildlife refuges in violation of a lawsuit settlement with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Peer calls the program a “joint effort with Monsanto . . . part of a White House pledge to double exports.” (Truthout 7/25/11)
  • Obama’s Department of the Interior has approved scores of seismic surveys and drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico without permits required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. (Center for Biological Diversity 5/14/10)

Education

  • Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition for school grants continues the policies of No Child Left Behind, judging performance on test scores, pushing school closures as a viable reform method, and promoting charter schools at the expense of the public school system. (Democracy Now 3/5/10) The changes made by state school systems to compete in the program led 746 school principals in New York to sign a letter of protest against testing. (NYT 11/27/11)

Taxes, budget, and social services

  • Obama extended the Bush tax cuts as part of a deal with Congressional Republicans in 2010. In addition to tax cuts or freezes across the board, the deal includes a tax cut for the top 2% of earners, an estimated $120 billion over two years; and an estate tax exemption for property less than $10 million. (ABC 12/17/10)
  • The deal brokered by Obama and Boehner during the manufactured debt ceiling “crisis” is estimated to reduce the United States GDP by $241 billion and cost nearly two million jobs—and these estimates are for 2012 alone. (EPI 8/1/11) The President has argued that the crisis, in particular the meaningless S&P downgrade of the U.S. credit score, makes it necessary to cut funding to social security and Medicare—but not the defense budget. (Politico 8/9/11)
  • Obama revived a failed Bush commission on debt and packed it with officials who have made careers of trying to attack and dismantle social security. (AlterNet 3/28/10)
  • The White House is seeking to cut funding from a program that trains occupational nurses, doctors, and safety professionals, and researches ways to decrease job-related fatalities in the agriculture, logging, and fishing industries, where death rates range from 5 to 58 times the national average. (CPI 8/4/11)
  • Obama supported passage of a House bill drafted by Republicans that would eliminate a tax compliance rule for governmnent contractors and pay for it by reducing Medicaid eligibility. (TPM 10/25/11) He also supported a budget that would cut funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in half, leaving millions without winter heat. (Christian Science Monitor 2/10/11)
  • The Obama administration supported a bill that would encourage public housing authorities to rely on private funding, and would decrease public funding with a goal of, as a National Housing Institute analysis put it, “getting the federal government out of the low-income affordable housing business.” (Washington Post 7/14/10, NHI summer 2010)

LGBT rights

  • President Obama spent two years in opposition to the right of same-sex couples to marry before finally stepping back its policy and declaring it would not defend DOMA challenges in court. (ACLU 2/23/11) A spokesman for Obama said in 2010 that the president “does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples” and that same-sex marriage is “an issue for the states.” (The Hill 8/5/10) Despite its declaration that it would no longer defend DOMA, it used the act later that year to deny immigration benefits to a married gay couple, deporting a man who was the primary caregiver to his AIDS-afflicted husband. (SF Gate 8/9/11)

Transparency

  • One of Barack Obama’s major campaign issues was transparency; it is also turning out to be one of his major betrayals. Federal agencies denied more than 70,000 Freedom of Information Act requests under the “deliberative process” exemption (which Obama claimed to oppose) during the 2009 fiscal year alone; denials under all exemptions in the same time frame approached 500,000. These numbers represent a marked increase in both number and rate of denial from previous years, even though the number of FOIA requests actually decreased. (Huffington Post 3/16/10)
  • Despite campaign promises that he would protect and strengthen whistleblowers’ rights (Change.gov), Obama’s administration prosecuted more whistleblowers and alleged leaks in his first 18 months than any other president did in their entire administration. (NYT 6/11/10) His Justice Department reissued a Bush-era subpoena demanding a New York Times writer reveal his source in an article on a bungled CIA job. This revival of the Bush administration’s prosecution stands in marked contrast to Obama’s “forward-looking” hands-off approach to prosecuting Bush officials for their wrongdoing. (Salon 4/29/10)
  • Breanna Manning, accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and documents to WikiLeaks, has been held in captivity since May of 2010; for almost a year of that time (AP via NYT 4/28/11), she was kept in solitary confinement and forced to sleep in the nude. President Obama defended her treatment (NYT 3/11/11), and the Department of Defense did not so much as set a hearing date until November, a full 18 months after Manning’s arrest. (NYT 11/21/11) [Private Manning was arrested under the name Bradley Manning; since the news reports linked here were published, however, it became known that Manning identifies as female and prefers the name Breanna.]
  • During his campaign, Obama promised that lobbyists and former lobbyists would not be allowed to work for the administration, and once in office he set up rules to that effect. However, his administration has repeatedly given waivers to lobbyists, allowing them to circumvent the rule; in many cases, not even a waiver has been issued. (Obameter) At least 15 high-power fundraisers for Obama’s 2012 campaign are unregistered lobbyists, including executives from Pfizer and Comcast. (NYT 10/27/11)
  • Obama’s Department of Justice is pushing to allow government agencies to outright lie about the existence of sensitive records. Instead of saying it can neither confirm nor deny whether it has a given record, the new rules would give the government the ability to say the record doesn’t exist. (Pro Publica 10/24/11)
  • When he took office, Obama announced he would publicly release White House visitor logs in the interests of transparency, but the actual logs released have serious gaps and omissions. (CPI 4/13/11) Furthermore, the administration has taken to simply meeting with lobbyists at a coffee shop across the street from the White House in order to avoid having records of the visits. (NYT 6/24/10)