Letters to President Obama

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one sending letters to President Obama.

And it’s nice to know that he reads some of them.

And it’s nice to know that he responds to some of them.

I wonder if the detainees in Gitmo and Bagram write him letters?

Or the insurance industry executives;do they have to write him letters? Do they send checks? Or can they just visit him in the White House?

…sorry, is that overly cynical of me? I voted for him, I supported him with energy and money during the campaign and in the early days of his presidency, and I still believe that in some ways he’s far superior to #43, and represents some of my concerns far better than Sen. McCain would have (not that either of those is a very high bar to surpass, mind you)…

…but there are still some serious concerns that President Obama has utterly failed at in defending the country and the Constitution; particularly in his approach to our two wars, our continued detention of prisoners captured in the “War on Terror”, the investigation of the obvious crimes of the previous administration, and the illegal gathering of surveillance of Americans, to name just a few. I’ve documented my concerns to the best of my meager ability. I just wonder if President Obama has read my letters/emails, or others like them. What would he say?

Maybe I’ll find out some day.

My email to President Obama (a series)

Since the president acknowledged in his town hall meeting in New Mexico on 5/14/2009 that single-payer is the insurance option that makes the most sense (takes advantage of economies of scale that only the government can provide; ensures that health care is available to everyone, not just those with jobs), why not, y’know, just push for a single-payer medical insurance system?

I may be one of those “little single-payer” advocates the president so breezily dismissed, and I may not be able to buy and sell politicians like the insurance industry that comprises a giant one-sixth of our economy, but I am someone who supported Barack Obama in his campaign for the presidency on the basis of, among other things, the hope that he would in fact ensure that all Americans have access to health care that does not simply further enrich the rich.

But all I have on my side is a voice, a vote, and the support of the majority of Americans and the backing of the political party that controls both houses of Congress, in name at least if not in actions. I don’t have the billions of dollars that the insurance industry that represents one-sixth of America’s economy has. Which one is more important, I wonder rhetorically?

My email to President Obama (a series)

Is it OK for an ordinary citizen to escape a trial for a felony (e.g., murder, armed robbery, rape) in Federal court using the same rationale that the Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, is using to avoid its positive obligation to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed by the United States government; to wit, that we must look forward and not backward, and that any investigation into such crimes and attempt to uphold the law of the land is simply angry revenge-seeking?

How far do you think an ordinary citizen would get with that defense in Federal court? Why does the Obama Administration feel that that is an adequate defense for obvious war crimes like torture, indefinite imprisonment of non-combatants, and pre-emptive war? Why is such a defense allowed only for a few in our free society? Surely a citizen accused of a most hateful crime would be willing to affirm that the crimes that had taken place shall not occur again, if they could be relieved of the obligation to face the consequences of their actions? Surely anyone can justify a past action to be in their own best interest, or the best interests of society as a whole? Of course anyone could view the judgment of a jury and court of law as “a force to divide us” or simply an action taken in “strong views and emotions”, instead of, you know, the price of disobeying the law.

In fact, even having to make that argument in court, before a Federal judge, means that the ordinary citizen has a greater burden than the civil servants, appointed officials, and elected political leaders, that have designed, justified, implemented, and carried out detention and interrogation schemes that violate international treaty and our own laws. Detention and interrogation schemes that were in fact denounced by military leaders and civilian intelligence agents, in addition to being denounced by Senator Barack Obama, candidate for the United States Presidency, campaigning on a platform of hope and change.

As a side note, by what legal rationale are non-military civilian employees of the CIA allowed to adopt the defense that they were “only following orders” when it comes to acts that, if pursued by any other world government, would be considered torture and a violation of our international treaties and our own country’s laws? I’m just curious.

My letter to President Obama regarding Geithner and Summers Economic Plan

Yes, please do let the financial executives keep their bonuses, and let the banks and financial institutions assume all of the upside and let the taxpayers take all of the risks. Make sure that the banks have lots and lots of money that they can charge we, the people, exorbitant interest rates on for the basic housing, transportation, and medical care that we require, so that those who abused the lack of regulation to get rich can remain rich.

Yes. That’s an excellent plan for restoring the balance of the economy. Keep on explaining it to us poor middle- and lower-class people. I’m sure that the plan that Geithner and Summers keep floating, and that respected economists like Paul Krugman keep shooting down, will work like a charm! Money and riches await – for those who are already rich.

Yes, please, this economic plan is awesome. Obviously Wall Street likes it – the market keeps going up, up, up, as the banks and financial institutions realize they are not going to face any consequences for their disastrous decisions.

Keep pursuing that wonderful, wonderful plan. I’m sure that it will all work out for you, and the people to whom you promised change and hope, in the end.

Note to President Obama

Just sent the following note via the White House contact form:

I understand the President’s desire for “bipartisanship”, however, I believe it is naive to think that making concessions to Republicans in order to get their support for things like the stimulus bill. Republicans have pruned their party leaders for the last 30+ years such that they are simply opposed to Democrats on principle. Please simply produce the best legislation you can, and let the Republicans vote on it as their conscience dictates. Don’t weaken the bill.

My letter to President-Elect Obama (2nd in an open-ended series)

Sent via the Vision form at Change.gov (links added for this post):

President-elect Obama keeps saying that there’s a seat at the table for everyone.

I am requesting a seat at the table for the nonsecular, please. And I believe I am not alone.

I am requesting a seat at the table for those who do not hate gays. And I believe I am not alone.

I am requesting a seat at the table for those who do not wish to “drown government in a bathtub”. And I believe I am far from alone.

I am requesting a seat at the table for those who believe that failure to manage a company should be rewarded at the expense of the middle class. And I am far from alone – we number in the millions.

In fact, I believe that giving seats at the government table to those who do not believe government can work, those who speak out against good governance and helping everyone do better, and those who preach hatred to any part of humanity is, in fact, failure of governance.

And I am not alone.

My letter to President-Elect Obama

OK, Mr. President-elect, I supported you and worked on your behalf and donated money, and voted for you and encouraged others to vote for you. I defended your policies and decisions during the campaign, and I disagreed (respectfully, but forcefully) when I thought you were wrong… and accepted your decision after hearing me out, and continued to support you as the best man for the job.

So now you’re on your way to White House. It’s been a long campaign and I’m sure you’re tired, but Mr. President, respectfully, there are some things I have to tell you now. Yes, now, before the celebrations have died down, and three months before you’re even sworn in.

One of the very few upsides to the incompetence and malevolence of the Bush/Cheney Administration has been the rise of the new progressive movement. The mistakes of the past eight years has galvanized the opposition, from the grassroots up, and we have taken advantage of new technologies to organize and communicate effectively. We have used that organization to try to pull our leaders to the left on policy after policy; to oppose Cabinet and court appointments detrimental to the progressive cause; and to reward leaders who are already pursuing laws that will help all Americans and the world.

Simply because we now have large majorities in Congress, and a popular, intelligent and effective leader in the White House, do not expect the progressive movement to become silent. One key trait that distinguishes liberals from conservatives is the fact that liberals demand accountability from all leaders, regardless of whether they have a D or an R (or a G, C or an ID after their name (Sen. Joe Lieberman’s days in the Democratic Caucus are numbered – but that’s not a concern for you, Mr. President-Elect).

I don’t have to tell you that the country, and the world, is in a bad way. You have acknowledged that, many times. In fact, your honest speaking about the troubles we are all in together is one of the things I most respect about you, and I firmly believe that that plain speaking was the key to your victory. Sen. Clinton had the popularity and the Democratic nomination was hers to lose – and I believe she lost it because she never spoke about the one major issue on American minds in the early part of this year: the war in Iraq and the tarnishing of our country’s reputation.

Remember, sir, how just 14 months ago, when you spoke in Portland, how your stump speech specifically did not mention the two disastrous wars, in Iraq and forgotten Afghanistan? I’m glad that you did eventually add that to your presidential campaign. I believe it was the key to your victory.

But now that you have prevailed, and have begun the difficult task of transitioning from campaign to governance, now is the time for me, and all Americans who care about the direction of this country, to state for the record what our goals are.

And in another move that pleasantly surprises me… you have created a place for us to speak, and for you to communicate and listen. That gives me great hope.

In fact, it hasn’t even been a week since your victory and I have already used the communication tool you’ve presented to give my thoughts on potential Cabinet appointees. Unfortunately, as these things go, my thoughts are negative ones: I am firmly against appointing Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to any position that requires rational thought and trusting the research and science before making policy decisions, because of his virulently anti-science stance on vaccinations, when rumors arose that RFK, Jr. may be considered for heading up the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of the Interior; and likewise, I am against the appointment of Lawrence Summers for the Department of the Treasury, since he is elbow-deep in the deregulation that led us to the massive failure of the investment banks that we have seen in the last few months.

But I am not entirely negative on your choices so far, and I do not intend to protest every single choice. I have good reason to believe that choosing Rahm Emmanuel for your Chief of Staff is an excellent pick; Rep. Emmanuel’s personal politics, particularly on trade issues, are too centrist for my progressive tastes, but when he explicitly states that the Obama Administration is not going to tie policies needed to immediately help our flagging economy to Bush-requested trade pacts with other nations, that’s incredibly encouraging. President Bush is the least popular president in the history of polling, and his help is not needed to move us forward.

It is also very encouraging to read that your staff have been planning for months what will happen after the election. The fact that the New York Times is reporting that you are preparing to undo as many of Bush’s policies as quickly as possible, makes me realize that you were not just campaigning competently, that you had your eye on the next steps, as well.

With all that in mind, then, as one of your constituents, supporters, and advocates, I present to you my own personal top priorities for your administration, in order of their importance to myself and to our great nation:

  • Close the illegal prisons and “black sites” that hold our political prisoners. Close Guantanamo Bay, close Bagram, close Abu Ghraib, and any others that the public does not know about. Stop torturing. Stop it, and vigorously pursue criminal charges against those who implemented them and allowed them to continue. I realize that your colleagues in Congress may hold some culpability, since many of them, like Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, were ranking Minority members of various committees in the early years after 9/11. But remember how I said I, like other progressives, want accountability from all my leaders? Mine may be an extreme position, I understand that. But I still wish my voice to be heard. Stop the torture, close the political prisons. Not doing so may in fact be a war crime for your administration, not just the one that implemented it. And they represent an enormous stain on America’s moral high ground.
  • Likewise, vigorously prosecute any and all crimes committed by the previous administration. You have stated, during the campaign, that you might do this. I hope that your campaign’s statements were not just rhetoric.
  • Rescind the offensive extra-Constitutional powers contained in the Patriot Act and last year’s FISA Amendment Act. I know that the progressive movement has butted heads with you on this before, and that you went back on your earlier campaign promise to oppose any law that included retroactive immunity. But since you supported that bill and it was signed in to law by President Bush, new revelations have come out about abuses by the intelligence agencies violating the law. Whistleblowers from the NSA have come forward to explain that they and their fellow agents were routinely violating the privacy of Americans, including the most intimate conversations, without any national security pretext for tapping and recording those calls and emails. This surprised approximately no one who has been paying attention, and the knowledge that this has been happening, in violation of both the previous FISA laws, but also the amended FISA laws, does harm to our national security and our status in the community of nations. Repeal and restore the laws that served us well for three decades prior.
  • End combat operations by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pursue diplomacy and social change as a means of combating terrorism; an example would be Michael Moore’s suggestion of bringing clean drinking water to the over a billion people in the world who do not have it. The $10 billion that would cost is a fraction of the cost of putting our troops in harm’s way and killing or injuring thousands upon thousands of others. Remember, again, that prior to the economic meltdown in October, this was the most pressing issue on American minds. It is still just as important as it was before. Bring our troops home.
  • Lead through Congress and sign the Employee Free Choice Act into law. Organized labor brings democracy to what is otherwise a dictatorship (though some employers may be tyrants and others benevolent, non-union workplaces are still subject to the whims of those at the top). Strengthen the Federal Labor Relations Authority to bring more accountability to our industries. Union workers are, largely, progressive workers.
  • Use the $700 billion bailout money to directly help homeowners keep the houses they tried to purchase. Repeal the flawed bankruptcy bill passed in 2005 that forced people to continue paying usurious credit card debt but walk away from the roof over their head by removing sensible bankruptcy protections for them.
  • Create a new public works program to re-build our infrastructure and create new jobs. Invest in alternative fuels and at reducing carbon emissions.

Your stump speech talked of compromise. A true compromise is when everyone gets at least something they wanted. And no one gets anything they didn’t ask for. I could add more, but those will do for now. Everyone will have their own list of policies, but these are the most important as I see them.

And thank you, President-Elect Obama. This is truly an historic moment for our country and the world.