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Friday, November 30, 2012

Not an easy piece

An iconic scene in an iconic movie has an iconic character played by Jack Nicholson who faces the pettiness of an iconic waitress and who comes up with an iconic retort to that pettiness.

In case you don't want to click on the Youtube link, here's a summary:  He orders some sort of breakfast, with special requirements: an omelet with tomatoes instead of potatoes.  The waitress says "no substitutions," so he orders an omelet and asks for a side of toast.  The waitress says the diner offers no sides of toast.  He protests.  She threatens to get the manager.  He orders a chicken salad sandwich on toast, with no butter and no mayonnaise and no chicken, with a bill for the chicken sandwich so she will not have broken any rules.  When she asks what to do with the chicken, he tells her to hold it "between your knees."

I have just presented the scene out of context and it's out of context that I'll continue to discuss it in this blog post.  But first, something about the context.  I have seen at least part of the movie the diner scene comes from, "Five Easy Pieces."  Or at the very least it was on TV several years ago back and I channel-surfed, and I saw much of it in between watching other shows on other channels.  As far as I can tell, the movie is some character study of a piano virtuoso born into an upper-middle-class family who for some reason opts for the semi-anonymous life of an oil rig operator.  (Apparently, being an oil rig operator is so easy even someone who is born into the upper middle class and whose life to to that time had involved no training in that job can do it.)

During the movie, Nicholson's character goes through a series of adventures, one of which is the famous diner scene I have described and linked to above.  The scene probably plays an important role in the movie.  It probably helps define, and elaborate on the viewer's understanding of, Nicholson's character.  One clue to the role of this scene is the admission, at the end of the clip, that Nicholson's character didn't get his toast.  (In fact, he and his gal friends are thrown out of the diner.)  In short, I allow that if I fully understood and appreciated the movie (and my understanding and appreciation is less than "full"), the scene would resonate in a way that is much more nuanced than it might seem without the context.

What's my gripe with the scene then?  It's the way some people celebrate it.  Some people seem to think of the diner scene as one of those "perfect retorts" of the sort that one would have oneself oneself if only one had thought of it first.  And the target of the retort is the rules-supersede-all-that-is-sensible-and-decent mentality, what people seem to mean when they rail against the "bureaucratic mindset."  You see, we all encounter stupid rules and inflexible employees who enforce these rules without giving any or at least much regard to how the inflexible enforcement of the rules affect those the rules are enforced against.  The waitress is standing in the way of something that Jack Nicholson's character wants and something that he has a right to:  a side order of toast.  She is the machine of bureaucratic rules, and Nicholson finally pops and rages against the blind subservience to the rules.  (Hah!  you thought I was going to say "rages against the machine," didn't you?)

My claim is that those who celebrate this scene sometimes go overboard.  They operate under the assumption that if rules seem stupid, then they necessarily are stupid and must be broken regardless of the collateral damage.  Worse, the celebrants operate under the assumption that it's okay that Nicholson's character insults the waitress, or at least it's not so bad as to call into question his actions.  She deserves it because she's a bureaucrat waitress.

"Sometimes" really means "sometimes" and not always or not even necessarily most of the time (after all, I did write it in italics, and when I put something in italics, I mean it!).  I am pick and choosing my anecdotes (cue in the tired but true point that the plural of anecdote is not data....there I go with the italics again, but this time not for emphasis!), and the celebration I claim others make of the scene may be more noticed by me than other interpretations of the scene offered by people who, unlike me, have seen the whole movie.

Still, at least one anecdote illustrates my point.  Take this post at the "middle-age cranky" blog.  The author uses the scene as an example of what is for him a decent illustration "of the frustration in that time [c. 1970] for people who blindly followed the rules, no matter how nonsensical those rules were."  He doesn't really comment on whether the waitress deserved her treatment--except perhaps when he describes her as "rigid," and we're probably supposed to know that "rigid" people don't deserve our respect--and he uses the scene primarily as a starting-off point to discuss the allegedly mindless rules he encounters in his career as a freelance technical writer.

Now that the caveats are out of the way, I'll start by noting how convenient the scene is for those who praise it as a strike against THE MAN (well, as a strike against THE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE RESTAURANT EMPLOYEE).

First, the rules in this case border on the extreme and unbelievable.  I find it incredible that a diner would not serve sides of toast.  The audience might have viewed it differently, or slightly less sympathetically, if Nicholson's character had noticed that the diner served huevos rancheros and therefore had ordered a side of corn tortillas.  After all, you need corn tortillas to make (some versions of) huevos rancheros, but people don't generally order sides of corn tortillas with their breakfast.  Not that having them for breakfast is wrong, but it's just not the staple of the good ole American dining experience.  I'll also point out that when Nicholson's character learns he can't have "tomatoes instead of potatoes," he accepts that limitation, if grudgingly.  My point is, I imagine the character or the audience might accept a similar limitation on corn tortillas

My second point about the scene's "convenience" is the waitress's rudeness.  She is not only "rigid" in her enforcement of the rules.  She is also pretty far to the rude side of the rude-friendly spectrum, and not in the waitress-who-works-at-a-truck-stop-diner-and-seems-rude-but-has-a-heart-of-gold sense.  She was unapologetic about the restaurant's policy and adopts a tone of "of course these are the rules, didn't you read the small print by the asterisk we put on the last page of the menu?"  If anyone is deserving of the Nicholson treatment, she is.

Fair's fair.  The categorical "no toast" rule is a foolish one.  It might have been different if it had been a special circumstance, say, the diner is perilously short on bread and it needs to, temporarily, impose the ban to make sure there's enough bread for the sandwich-rush at lunch and dinner.  But that doesn't seem to be the case here.  And again, what diners, as a matter of policy, don't serve sides of toast?

And there are indeed rude servers. I personally think it's better to approach encounters with such people with the assumption that the server is overworked and underpaid, or perhaps is having an off-day, or has to deal with a dictatorial manager, or the restaurant is short-staffed, or what seems like rudeness might actually be only a defensive ploy because she knows the management is inflexible on the "no substitutions" policy and she'll get in trouble (or at least scolded for the n'th time) if she doesn't enforce it right away.  But I acknowledge it can be frustrating to deal with passive and not-so passive aggression of that sort.  Certain people (say, a piano virtuoso born into an upper-middle-class family) might not have the service industry experience to make approaching the situation with empathy a realistic possibility.  And maybe at the end of the day one can make a plausible case that a rude affect calls for a sharp retort.

So where are we?  What's accomplished by the Nicholson character's put down of the waitress?  He doesn't get his toast and he and his colleagues get kicked out of the diner.  He's also delivered one of those witty comebacks that other frustrated patrons who have to deal with the lowly service workers wished they had given in lieu of resorting to lectures about good service and about how traumatic it is not to get it.

I think I'm saying something more than simply "we need to be nice to service workers," although we do need to be nice to service workers.  In keeping with my wonted humorless and priggish disposition when it comes to such things, I see in the Nicholson retort a fundamental disrespect for others, a facile notion that the proper comeback is sometimes something you just gotta do regardless of who gets hurt in the process and regardless of the triviality of the "offense" you have suffered.

Wow!  I probably come off as a moralizing jerk.  I admit that my point, taken to an unwarranted extreme, would require me to be courteous to the executioner as I'm walked toward the scaffold, should my circumstances ever become so dire.

And again, the function the scene serves in the movie might very well be more nuanced than I'm allowing.  Maybe a careful viewing of the movie suggests that we are to see Nicholson's character as someone to be criticized and not as someone to celebrate, as someone who really wants to be an island but can't because no man is an island, or as someone who doesn't realize that living in a society means complying with some stupid sounding rules.  And I'll also say that the point of view represented by "middle-age cranky" above, from which I have gathered so much anecdotal straw to build a knock-downable scarecrow out of, might be an interpretation that strays from the movie's main point.

But my main takeaway is that we shouldn't celebrate that comeback uncritically.

UPDATE 12-1-12:  I've edited this post for clarity.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mining for a heart of gold: my 3d party vote

[This post is cross posted at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, all with a nifty photo of James Weaver, third party candidate for the Greenback Party in 1880 and for the Populist Party in 1892:  click here to read it and the comments there.]

As I've noted, I voted for Gary Johnson.  In large part, I drew the inspiration for my vote from Jason Kuznicki's point that we might look at our vote as an expression of how we affiliate ourselves, as a sort of self-declaration of principles (again, my apologies if I am in some ways misconstruing his argument, but that was my takeaway).  One feature of such self-declaration, however, is the false sense of purity one might take away from it.  This feature is dangerous and probably unavoidable.  And although self-declaration seems the way to go, any disposition toward honesty requires the self-declarers to acknowledge this danger upfront.

One reason to vote for Johnson is that in theory, he would scale back or check the power of the military, and (even more theoretically and more doubtfully had he by some fluke actually won) he would scale back the power of the executive.  Affiliating with this idea is pretty easy, but dangerously so.  Yes, on paper I am disgusted with Obama's martial rhetoric and his robust prosecution of war and targeted killing, all the while wondering whether targeted killing, to the extent it's truly targeted, might be an improvement over bombing an entire neighborhood in the hopes that the "bad guy" will be killed amid all the innocent victims.  But in my day to day life, I don't really think about it other than as something that is really unfortunate and that I wish weren't happening.

I also have to entertain the suggestion that I, to quote Colonel Jessup, "can't handle the truth."  To point out--rightly, I might add--that America's military adventures often don't make us safer or that any true invasion of American soil would likely be met by effective armed resistance by the citizenry, such as was done during a policy disagreement over taxes in the late 1700s, does not negate the fact that if someone tried to storm the walls that protect me, the military would likely be first in the line of defense and that I would appreciate its doing so.  (Heck, if my life be in danger, I probably would not hesitate, if I could, to call 911, and be grateful to the very police department that has recently been proven to tolerate torture in the past.)

Similarly, although in an issue less momentous than war, I chose my side and chose it early when it came to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  I wanted and want the act to survive, and that outcome is much more likely with a President Obama than it would have been under a President Romney, or, I will add, under a President Johnson whose first name isn't Lyndon.  I rooted for Obama this time around in a way that I really didn't in 2008 because of the PPACA. In 2008, I wanted him to win but was distrustful of what I interpreted as, as I've mentioned before, the idolatry of a mere human and a might makes right mentality.

To be clear, I see something to be concerned about in some of Johnson's positions.  One example is his position that "TSA should take a risk-based approach to airport security. Only high-risk individuals should be subjected to invasive pat-downs and full-body scans."  He might be right on the merits, but considering who in practice might be targeted as "high-risk individuals," that policy statement, taken by itself, might easily appeal to a constituency more inclined to find scapegoats than security threats.  Although this is perhaps a subject for another day, his immigration policy strikes me as having the (unintended) potential for draconian results.

Yet I got the happy (for me) result of an Obama victory with the self-satisfaction that comes from endorsing a candidate whose message mostly coincides with the type of approach I would like to see when it comes to defining and resolving America's problems.  Like everyone else, I live in an imperfect world condemned to imperfection.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why I shall (probably) vote for Obama [UPDATED!]

Having just written a post about why I'm disappointed in Obama, I'm now going to write about why I shall (probably) vote for him, and not Mitt Romney, Jill Stein or Gary Johnson.  (There are other 3rd party candidates, but Stein and Johnson are the only ones on the Illinois ballot, and I don't know much about the others anyway.)

I'll repeat what I and others have said before.  One individual's vote will not decide the election.  I'm under no illusions that my vote means anything.  And a not too rational part of my psyche tends to believe that the Chicagocracy might (accidentally, of course) neglect to count my ballot if it contains a vote for president for someone whose last name does not rhyme with "Oh bomb, hah!"

Having gotten that out of the way and ignoring what to some might be the logical takeaway (i.e., don't waste the time voting, then), I'll mention the two reasons I'm aware of for voting that don't involve whatever value comes from representing myself to the people at the polling place (i.e., my neighbors) as someone who votes and therefore as a respectable citizen.  Here are the two reasons:

  1. It still is one vote and it adds to the message of total votes.  What's more, if I vote for a third party, the "marginal utility" of that vote is magnified (a little bit) in that it's one more chunk on the pile in advocacy for the  type of change I really can believe in.
  2. As Jason Kuznicki suggested at the League, how we vote--because it's essentially a private act--is more of a decision of how we choose to affiliate ourselves.  (Read his post here, it's possible I'm misrepresenting somewhat his argument, but I think I'm capturing its spirit.)
Reason #1 above might justify, even to the point of encouraging, me to vote for either Stein or Johnson over Obama or Romney.  If I vote for Stein or Johnson, I'll get more bang pop! for my buck.  Reason #2 is perhaps as good an argument as I can find for voting my conscience, seeing it as a way of affirming my commitments with the universe, or whatever.

I don't wish to deride #1 too much, but it is unclear what politicians will take away from the votes that Stein or Johnson will get.  A vote for Stein might assure the Democrats they're doing the right thing, from their strategists' point of view, that is, they can claim that whatever support Stein wins demonstrates that the Democrats truly are the party of the center.  A vote for Johnson would probably be interpreted as disaffected Republicanism, and I don't think the GOP will look at it as a repudiation of their position on civil liberties or foreign policy or the drug war.  Rather, the GOP (just like the Dems) will interpret it and spin it how they want to.  That's the cynic in me speaking.

Jason's point is more provocative, even if I'm not completely understanding it or accurately representing it.  (I've never met him personally, but I can tell from his writing that he's much smarter than I am, and when I read his posts, I usually sense I'm not fully getting all that's in them).  It also allows me to consider each of the candidates more seriously.  So here's my rundown.

Romney.  I simply cannot vote for him.  I really do believe he will be at best Obama-lite on foreign policy or at worse Bush-lite.  I'd prefer the Devil I know to the one I don't on that score, at least when it comes to someone who until very recently adopted what I believed to be a war-mongering stance against Iran, Syria, and even Russia.

I do admit that he probably would operate as more of a centrist on domestic policy than his primary rhetoric would have me believe.  But I believe that the one, low-cost (for him) way to appease the social conservative faction in his own party will be to appoint social conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

When it comes to health care I think Romney is a gamble (of course, I realize the ACA itself is a gamble and that my bar for success is quite low).  At least from the time of his convention speech onward, he has changed his "repeal Obamacare" talk to "repeal and replace Obamacare" and even to "repeal the bad parts of Obamacare [the mandate] and keep everything else that people like."

I suspect that's what he sincerely would like to do, but I think there are three scenarios in which a president Romney "reforms" the ACA.  The first two would depend on a a GOP-dominated Congress (defined as a GOP majority in the House and a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate) winning enough votes from the other side of the aisle to pass something.  This something will be either a repeal of the ACA with a replacement along the lines that Romney is suggesting, or a repeal of the ACA with the promise of a "bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission" to look into further reforms of health care, whose conclusions will be both more respected and more ignored than the conclusions of the Simpson-Bowles commission.  I think the latter is at least a possibility, and I don't trust Romney to veto it and insist on the former.

The third scenario does not require a GOP-dominated Congress.  All it does is require him to appoint as Secretary of Health and Human Services someone who is hostile to the law and frustrate, or even "suspend," its implementation.  That may or may not be legal, but there are a lot of shenanigans that he could do.

Since there is no real reason why I might vote for Romney, the choice comes down to Obama, Stein, and Johnson.  Again, the "marginal utility" argument for voting for a 3d party might or might not work, but that isn't something I'm going to look too much at.  My main concern is Jason Kusnizki's argument about who I affiliate with.

Under that argument, I would like to believe I would choose to affiliate with Stein or Johnson.  They are pretty good on civil liberties and ending, or putting us in the position to see the end of, the state of perpetual war.  At least one or both of them also promotes some policies that I like, such as curtailing the war on drugs.

But it's not a slam dunk, either.  I read Johnson's platform several months ago and at the time decided he engaged too readily in starve-the-beast type of reforms.  Now that I've reread the platform (see it here), I think he either sounds less extreme or has changed the platform to accommodate people like me.  (That is, I'm sure that one day, he was reading my blog, decided my critiques of libertarianism were spot-on, and then ordered a change in platform.  Such is the influence of Pierre Corneille!)  Still, he wants to repeal the ACA and the principal solution he has to the problem of "uninsurable" people is what strikes me as the x-factorish "simple block grants to the states, where innovation will create efficiencies and better care at less cost."

I'm lukewarm about some of Stein's prescriptions.  They seem to follow the mantra of "if only we enact a law that mandates what we want, then that's what we'll get."  I admit that I haven't looked over her platform as thoroughly as I have Johnson's.  But she seems too.....optimistic about what the state can do without things going awry.

Which brings me to Obama.  Should I affiliate with a president who has what some call a "kill list"?  Maybe not, although I confess that from my standpoint much of that talk strikes me as academic or, in some ways, overwrought.  The "strikes me as academic" stance ought to offend anyone who cares about such issues, but I really do suspect that whatever the "kill list" refers to is an organic continuation--even if it's a continuation that worsens things--from past policies dating back at least as far as Harry Truman and probably further.  A president Johnson or Stein would, I am sure, on their first day issue several executive orders renouncing all sorts of practices.  One month later, however, when the actual authorizing statutes come up for consideration for repeal, or when other statutes are offered to criminalize certain executive actions that otherwise met some (if arguably specious) standard of legality, they would demur to whatever committee is working on it in Congress.  Six months later and after daily counterterrorism and national security briefings, they would note that while they support "the spirit" of the pending legislation, they would advise against a rush to action and offer to issue another executive order that offers a super-duper promise never to use such tactics in exchange for withdrawing the pending legislation.  Eighteen months later (if not sooner), in their first bona fide national security crisis, they'll quietly rescind the super-duper-promise executive order and order an attack against a person who is a clear and present danger to some U.S. military base that they have theretofore declined to dismantle per their campaign promises.

That's a very cynical view of things, and it ignores the main gist of Kuznicki's argument that we are choosing to affiliate with the pure of heart.

But I'm not.  I want Obama to win.  However satisfactory it would be for me to vote for Johnson, I admit that I'm rooting for Obama, although I also admit the country will be an interesting place if the Libertarian or Green party gets 5% of the vote and qualifies for federal funds, provided they have an organizational structure in place that'll prevent a fight-over-money that we saw with Perot's party-child.  In short, I fear that affiliating myself with Johnson (or Stein) would be hypocritical.

Anyway, that's probably why I'll vote for Obama.

UPDATE:  I voted for Gary Johnson.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

About the "I'm not disappointed in Obama" post I was going to write

There was a time when I was going to write a post entitled "I'm not disappointed in Obama."  In that post, I would've said, essentially, "I told you so."  During the summer and fall of 2008 when he ran for election and during the time of his transition, the winter of 2008-2009, I wrote several posts warning against what I saw as the near deification of Obama or what I saw as the impulsive, potentially dangerous devotion to a mere human.  (If interested, you can see the posts click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) In the post I was going to write, I was going to say that many of my predictions turned true.

Now, saying "I told you so" is poor form, so I won't say it now, even though I have succumbed to the vanity of citing my own posts on the matter.  But if you read the posts, you'll notice that my "predictions" were general and grounded, in large measure, in cynicism.  And it is probably the case that general predictions grounded, in large measure, in cynicism usually turn true, so my own predictions were not particularly prescient or noteworthy.

The original impetus for writing the post about why "I'm not disappointed in Obama" was an attitude I had witnessed as early as spring 2010 at a labor history conference.  A large majority of the attendees were specialists in American labor history.  They may not have been intimately familiar with the minute intricacies of presidential politics or the tricks and turns of different presidential administrations (some were more "social" or "cultural" historians), yet they knew, or should have known that any president faces constraints on his actions, that "liberal" or "leftist"-friendly presidents make compromises and come up short.  (In such a crowd, you can find no shortage of people who condemn President Franklin D. Roosevelt for curbing the power of unions through legislation that to the uninitiated empowered unions dramatically.  They have a point, but my point is that it's a well-trodden road.)  Yet they were not only disappointed, but surprised, that this happened in Obama's case.  The occasion for their surprise....I don't remember exactly.  It had something to do with the health care law and some sort of compromise or pending compromise on the "cadillac plans" enjoyed by certain unions.  I don't even remember what the compromise was or even if it was actually made.  But the point is, they were indeed surprised.

The tragedy (from their point of view) of American history is that the "system" has failed to live up to its leftist potential when things could have gone otherwise, when, for example, we could've had a vibrant union movement if only THE STATE hadn't intervened on the side of THE CAPITALISTS during that one strike that, for example, THE UNION threatened the lives of THE SCABS.  (Another way of putting this is that the state used its police powers to prevent some people from killing others because the others in question had a different view on whether they owed allegiance to a union or a "working class."  Yet another way of putting this is that the notion of competing allegiances is more complicated than the narrative of "well, wi' any luck, the li'l guy might get some'ing out o' it this time exceptin' that Mister Pierpont Morgan has his way.")

Along the same lines you might hear from them, Oh, if only [name the president, governor, or mayor] hadn't sent in THE TROOPS, we'd have single-payer health care and syndicalism, with nary a whiff of oppression!  Some of them have a counter-narrative that runs thusly:  Some quasi-mythic but historically actual person, usually a governor, who was "the first person in the history of the world ever" to send in troops to protect the strikers might have helped usher in social democracy if only the people had risen up to it and voted for their economic interests.  When it comes to governors being "the only" one to send in soldiers to support strikers, I have seen this claim made of Colorado Gov. Waite Davis and Illinois Gov. John Altgeld. 

However, if it's too much to ask American historians to note what has been the dominant trend of American history that the historians in question have often repeated, or at least to note the institutional incentives and constraints on political actors, well maybe it's not too much for me to be more sympathetic to their frustration.  After all, I wanted a "robust public option" and yet settle, perhaps to a point of unreasonableness, for the gamble that is the ACA.  Things did not turn out the way I would've liked them.

But the "I'm not disappointed in Obama" post I was going to write, I would have said that we got what we could've expected from someone who seems (and in my opinion, seemed as early as 2004) to excel primarily in being good looking, giving platitudinous speeches, and benefiting from luck not of his own making.

But, but, but....I am disappointed in Obama.  And again, it's not all bad.  Some things he had little control over, and he indeed did the best he could.  The ACA is one of those, in my view.  And on some issues, like gay marriage, he eventually did the right thing.  And on others, like repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he pursued the policy change in the most respectable matter possible.  I'll also suggest that whatever the wisdom or cynicism or idealism behind his postponement authorizing the Canada/US pipeline, it was in at least some ways a gutsy move.  It became one basis among many of Romney's criticisms of Obama's energy policy.

But on some issues over which he had a lot more control he chose poorly when he didn't have to.  One example is his apparent ramping up of prosecutions against medical marijuana distributors when the states in which they are located permit them.  My problem is not only that I object to the policy, but also, I agree with Will Truman at the League, who pointed out something I hadn't really thought of but that rings true nevertheless, namely, Obama gave little guidance about his enforcement priorities ahead of time.  He promised he would defer to state laws, and then he reneged on that promise without fair warning.  Even if the president had given such warning, I admit I would disagree with his policy, albeit on less firm ground.

Another issue, which I have already discussed, is what I consider to be the unnecessary and still ongoing "we killed bin Laden" fest.  Yes, I get that "he is a man of political courage" and his approval rating may have dipped a few points for an entire two weeks if the attack he ordered had turned out fruitless.  But killing is killing and sometimes it's necessary, but it's always regrettable.  As I've said before, first, do not strut.

And then the war came.  Or rather, "the war continued."  It's winding down, except for where it's not (*cough*, Libya, *cough*), and I'll give kudos for Obama's refusal to commit himself to an attack on Iran, his refusal so far to implicate American forces in Syria, and what appears to my not-very-informed-foreign-policy-perspective to be his deft refusal to antagonize Russia needlessly.  (I'm out of my element here, but that's my sense.)

To be clear about my concerns, it's not so much that I find the drone attacks troubling, although I do, but not really because they're drones (I don't really see a moral distinction between collateral damage caused by drones over that caused by warplanes, unless one mechanism is more likely to incur more such damage than another).  It's not even so much that the president has what is effectively a "kill list."  (That does bother me, but I also think its more a continuation of practices that go back to covert-operations-with-plausible-deniability that stretch as far back to instances like overthrow of Mossadegh in the 1950s or the debacle that resulted, probably unintentionally, in the assassination of Diem in 1963.)  Nor is it even the prospect that the al-Awlaki (sp.?) was a U.S. citizen (I think due process ought due to non-citizens if it's to be due at all and while there's an extra disturbing factor when we're talking about a citizen, any problem I have has to go back to the original debate over targeted killing to begin with.)

What it is about, for me at least, is his escalation of the powers of the presidency.  In 2008, I did not expect Obama to abrogate Bush's arrogations of power.  In fact, in one of the posts I cite above, I said s much.  And he has disavowed the "enhanced interrogation techniques," such disavowal being, I suppose, a good start.  But he also signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act.  [click here to read James Hanley's explanation of the law and his criticisms against it, almost all of which I agree with.]

I'm not sure Obama necessarily promised anything much different.  But I am disappointed.