Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Sterling on Obama

Eric Sterling, who served as former Assistant Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee (1979-1989), is interviewed by Phil Smith in an article today and has a number of excerpt-worthy quotes:

“It’s just the same old programs being funded through the same old stove-pipes,” said Eric Sterling, executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. “In a way, it’s ironic. When Congress passed the legislation creating the drug czar’s office in 1988, the idea was for the drug czar to look at all the federal anti-drug spending and come in and say he was going to take the funds from one program and shift them to a more effective program. I think many in Congress hoped he would shift resources from law enforcement to treatment and prevention because there was evidence that those sorts of programs were more effective and a better use of resources. That didn’t happen,” he said.

“The people who run the bureaucratic fiefdoms at Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State and Treasury have outmuscled the drug czar, and now the drug czar’s budget announcements are reduced to public relations and spin,” Sterling continued. “They take some $15 or $20 million program and bullet-point it as significant, but that’s almost nothing when it comes to federal drug dollars.”

“The hundreds of millions of dollar increases in funding requested for the Federal Bureau of Prisons is particularly outrageous,” said Sterling. “There are too many people doing too much time they don’t need to be doing. Obama has the power to save hundreds of millions of dollars by commuting excessively long sentences. He could reduce the deficit and increase the amount of justice in America.

“He could tell the BOP he was ordering a cap on the federal prison population that now has a sentenced population of 198,000, Sterling continued, on a roll. “He could order them that whenever a new prisoner arrives, they have to send him the names of prisoners who may have served enough time for their crimes for him to consider for immediate release from prison. He could ask all the federal judges to send him the names of people they have sentenced to longer terms than they think are just. If he had the heart to reach out to those prisoners who are serving decades for minor roles and their suffering families, if he had the brains to put in place the means to achieve those cost-serving measures, and if he had the guts to actually use the constitutional power he has to do it, that would be great.”

“We should be disappointed in the Obama administration,” said Sterling. “There was supposed to be change. This was the University of Chicago law professor, the Harvard-trained lawyer, who was going to bring in his own people and make real change. I’m very disappointed in his drug policies and criminal justice policies. My disappointment with his policy failures don’t have anything to do with the economic crisis or the geostrategic situation he inherited.

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What arbitrary indefinite detentions for national security looks like, Sri Lanka edition

Yup, it appears that the Sri Lankan government is using its virtually unconstrained powers to kill political dissidents:

THE 2009 victory of the Sri Lankan government over the Tamil Tigers in the country’s long-running civil war may have brought peace, but it has been an uneasy one. Now people from all walks of life are disappearing. No-one knows why but some blame the government.

Colleagues of two political activists—Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Murugananthan—who went missing in Sri Lanka’s north on December 9th, fear the men are in grave danger.

On January 9th hundreds of clamouring demonstrators marched through the capital Colombo. They demanded that the government release the activists, put an end to abductions in the north and pull the military out of former conflict areas. In fact, the opposite is happening.

Mr Weeraraj and Mr Murugananthan spent much of the past few months campaigning on behalf of hundreds of missing Tamils, many of whom were last seen in the custody of the security forces. The two were intercepted in the northern city of Jaffna by men on motorcycles, bundled into a white van and taken away.

Udul Premaratne, another prominent campaigner, insists that the army—controversially still deployed in large numbers in Jaffna—is responsible. But despite several eyewitness accounts (the incident occurred just before nightfall), the police say they have do not have enough evidence to proceed with the case.

This pattern is now chillingly familiar. In December a government-appointed body, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), wrote in a report that it was alarmed by the large number of complaints of “abductions, enforced or involuntary disappearances, and arbitrary detentions”.

The rest of the article is over at the Economist.

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Obama the tactician

John Pavlus:

How do you kill a concept? Common wisdom is that you can’t. Just ask Bruce Wayne.

Except we just did. Just ask Osama bin Laden. Or rather, ask the Obama administration, who skillfully and quite brilliantly designed a way to not just capture an enemy of the state, but effectively neutralize the symbol he embodied.

The entire post is worth the read, and I am curious what someone like Umberto Eco might add to the discussion.

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On the Presidential beer choice

From Mike Allen’s Playbook this morning:

Seated in dark leather chairs, with the G8 and G20 logo serving as a backdrop in the small room, Obama and Cameron satisfied a wager they had made on the U.S-Britain soccer match. ‘Since it ended in a tie, we’re exchanging, by paying off our debts at the same time, this is Goose Island 312 beer from my hometown of Chicago,’ Obama said, holding a yellow-tagged bottle of beer. Cameron then handed his beer to a smiling Obama. ‘This is Hobgoblin,’ he said. ‘I advised him that in America, we drink our beer cold,’ Obama quipped. ‘He has to put it in a refrigerator before he drinks it, but I think that he will find it outstanding.”

I like 312 Urban Wheat Ale very very much, but I will have to say Cameron is on to something as well. Hobgoblin is a stunningly good beer, a red ale (?) that is complex and flavorful and a versatile beverage with food, like a duck confit crepé made with a cream sauce.

I will also note that Americans prefer their beer, on average, colder than the Europeans. This is partially because during the colonization of the West people developed a taste for crisp, lighter beers that were best consumed cold for refreshment. The more complex, heavier beers from Europe simply did not travel well; both the closures on beer as well as the glass that went into bottles were often less than adequate for the rigors of travel, and particularly with regard to exposure to light and heat.

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On not representing the status quo

…Voters may yet see Obama, in the years ahead, as disappointing or transformative or neither. But the one thing he will never really embody is the status quo.

From an excellent article in today’s NYT, here.

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