Conferring Immunity from Justice, Barack Obama Becomes “The Great Vaccinator”

Ronald Reagan was The Great Communicator. Lyndon Johnson’s anti-poverty efforts were aimed at realizing The Great Society. Barack Obama’s presidency is moving toward greatness, as well, but not in a good way. At seemingly every turn, Obama has made sure that major crimes are met not with justice but with immunity. Obama has conferred so much immunity on so many different groups that he has earned the title “The Great Vaccinator”.

Ironically, even Obama’s major “success”, the killing of Osama bin Laden, is marred by an illegal act that this time is mingled with biological rather than legal immunity. It appears that Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, working with the CIA, pretended to be carrying out a house-to-house vaccination program so that he could gather intelligence on who was residing in the compound where bin Laden was found. This short-sighted action by the CIA has now put public vaccination programs in a very bad light and set back vaccination programs in impoverished countries significantly.

Even before becoming President, Obama began his quest of conferring immunity wherever justice is demanded. Once he had the Democratic nomination in his pocket, Obama abandoned the principled stand he took during the primaries (when he said he would filibuster any bill with retroactive immunity and would vote against it) and voted along with all Senate Republicans for cloture and then in favor of the bill that conferred retroactive immunity on the telecommunications companies that illegally wiretapped citizens without warrants.

After he won the election but prior to taking office, Obama then began his quest to confer immunity for one of the most egregious crimes committed by our country, the institutionalization of torture as a major tool in the “War on Terror”. As ABC published on January 11, 2009, Obama famously told George Stephanopoulos “we need to look forward”:

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: “We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to look at past practices. And I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.

A key aspect of this “looking forward” to prevent the CIA having to “lawyer up” was to make sure that his Justice Department did not file charges against Jose Rodriguez for destroying the videotapes of torture sessions before the statute of limitations ran out.

The other major scandal from which the country was reeling as Obama took office was the meltdown of the economy caused by banksters inventing various derivative financial instruments, including collateralized debt obligations. When the markets for these invented vehicles collapsed, the accompanying stock market crash resulted in catastrophic losses for millions of Americans who saw their 401K’s and other stock investments lose about half their value in just a few weeks. Coupled with this stock market collapse was a collapse in the housing market, leading to millions of Americans now owing more for their homes than they are worth.

There was reason to hope that Obama would take action to right this huge wrong that had wiped out much of the middle class. After all, during the much smaller Savings and Loan scandal, thousands of bankers were prosecuted and served jail time. But that was not to be. Obama continued the bailout of the financial sector started during the Bush administration but made sure that no prominent figures in the creation and over-selling of fraudulent complex financial instruments ever faced criminal charges.

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded and when the faulty blowout preventer failed, massive amounts of oil flowed unabated into the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama Administration, from the start, did what it could to protect BP and make sure that they didn’t face criminal charges. We have even learned lately that Obama’s White House took an active role in making sure public estimates of the rate of oil flow were lowballed. This undoubtedly came from twin desires to control public opinion on the spill and to reduce the eventual civil fine that BP will pay for the oil that was spilled. Despite countless Gulf residents who depended on the Gulf for their livelihoods being wiped out, Obama’s actions to provide immunity for BP rapidly have helped Tony Hayward to get his life back.

As if conferring immunity on others for crimes is not enough, Obama has now branched out into taking an active role in the extrajudicial execution of US citizens. Of course, those who carried out Obama’s orders in these killings are conferred immunity from him.

This all brings us to the announcement last night that 49 state attorneys general and the five biggest banks that have been at the heart of the foreclosure fraud that followed on the heels of the CDO disaster are nearing a final deal that will charge the banks a tiny fraction of the funds they have stolen from homeowners in return for immunity. The immunity in this case may not be complete, as some cases appear to be specifically excluded, but this settlement removes from criminal prosecution the most easily provable charges of fraudulent documents being used in foreclosures.

Given Obama’s history of working to protect the country’s most egregious criminals from facing charges, you can bet he will be putting effort into quashing the remaining possible prosecutions, as well.

Oh, and I’m sure it’s totally unrelated, but just this week Obama reversed himself and endorsed the use of SuperPacs in the 2012 elections. That can’t have anything to do with the banks now having extra funds on hand they probably held in reserve for the much larger damages they should have been responsible for paying, could it? But just in case they are feeling grateful to Obama, I’m sure the banks know where to find his SuperPacs.

 

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
27 replies
  1. Bob Schacht says:

    Jim,
    I suppose I should thank you for this dreadful compilation of acts of injustice, but it’s so depressing that it is hard to do so. This debacle is really getting to be too much.

    I’m afraid that nothing much will change unless the public makes more noise about it. And so far, despite the OWS movement, it’s not happening. I hope the OWS folks are taking notice and developing a plan of protest that would give us something to sign up for, but that would be waiting for someone else to do something. Each one of us should ask today, what can I do about this? And then, do it!

    Bob in AZ

  2. DWBartoo says:

    Thank you, Jim.

    Knowing what we now, clearly, know about Barack Obama, how may any of us, in what is termed “good conscience”, vote to retain this man in power?

    Not only is Barack Obama not worthy of re-election, but the people of this nation must also face the stark reality that this nation, and “the people”, no longer have a national government which may, by any reasonable consideration, be honestly termed “legitimate”.

    A government which cares not in the least to earn or to respect the consent of the governed and, instead regards the people as the enemy of power and money has forfeited ANY claim to proper authority.

    Before any rise to suggest otherwise, this comment is NOT a call to overthrow the clear tyranny which the people face, rather it is an appeal to the reason and sense of the people to realize that this nation, this society, and “the people” who comprise both, have been deliberately and intentionally undermined to the benefit of a few who regard themselves as a “natural elite”.

    What course may “the people”, now, properly consider? The Rule of Law is perverted on EVERY “front” and the clever, manipulative, and protected usurpers of democracy are completely convinced of their “legal” protection from accountability and just consequence. As well, 911, very conveniently, has provided this “elite” the technical means, whether “legal” or lethal, to incarcerate or literally attack, to “legally” kill, “the people”, individually or in groups, or even all, together, on the whim and the “say-so” of a single person, the President of the United States of America. This “power” is then, essentially,and in fact “invested”, at this moment, in the subject of this post, Barack Obama. It is both rational and reasonable to suppose that any and every successor to Barack Obama shall be invested with this same power.

    In truth, this power is actually only “exercised” by the President, but its “interests” and its “motivations” are decided, not by the President, alone, but rather, by his or her “advisers” and such hidden “agendas” and desired results as an insulated and anonymous elite may desire.

    I do not raise these issues to alarm or to shock, but that they might and must, be considered as we, the people, consider the nature and form of the actual reality of what we face.

    None of what has been mentioned here troubles the political class, which includes the media, for they are all, saving such exceptions as may dare to reveal themselves, already aware and benefiting from aspects of the crony capitalism and conspiracy of mutual interest which has this nation and the civil society of “the people” in a death-grip stranglehold.

    All three branches of this “republic”, this pretend democracy, are equally complicit, for the most part, in the undermining of the Rule of Law, excepting those individuals who might dare to reveal otherwise.

    Unless and until there is compelling evidence to the contrary, this, we must all consider, is the nature and substance of our common plight.

    DW

  3. Benjamin Franklin says:

    “But my general belief is that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

    Holy Moly. He actually said he can’t learn from the past. Whew. At least he’s been consistent with this ‘no look back’ philosophy. It’s what he said when he gave the Telcoms immunity through his vote in the Senate.

    I had hoped he would wait until 2nd term before shaking the hornet’s nest of Bush criminals, but I’m afraid he doesn’t want the next Prez reviewing the legality of his Admin.

  4. rugger9 says:

    @CasualObserver: #2
    Best not to do that since it is a gift that keeps giving, a sort of “legal herpes” if you will, and the ideologues foisted on us by the Koch-approved candidate will ensure justice will never again be done.

    We also have our last options, not pleasant.

  5. Bob Schacht says:

    @DWBartoo: The trouble is that not voting for Obama means, in essence, voting for someone who is probably worse. Things are not all black and white. I have toyed with the idea of voting for Ron Paul because of his anti-war and civil rights positions that place him at odds with Obama on many injustices. But that means voting for someone who has really reactionary ideas on a lot of other things that I don’t agree with.

    The work of citizenship requires making intelligent decisions given the choices that we actually have, not the choices we wish we had. Meanwhile, what we can do is work with groups such as Alliance for Justice that lobby for some of these issues and values we hold dear.

    Bob in AZ

  6. CasualObserver says:

    @rugger9: Yes, that is the age-old argument, if I understand you correctly. And it’s a good argument. But voting is also a form of endorsement. And at some point, endorsement morphs from “very difficult” to “impossible.” And besides, the difference between the two evils (see scarecrow at fdl on this) is narrowing. at what point does that difference cease to be significant?

    Agree on the last options, which are already out there on the street.

  7. Bob Schacht says:

    @CasualObserver:

    But voting is also a form of endorsement. And at some point, endorsement morphs from “very difficult” to “impossible.”

    It is important to not read too much into what an endorsement means. It does NOT mean that you are endorsing every position that that candidate makes. It only means that, on balance, you endorse more of that person’s positions than you endorse the positions of his/her opponent (counting quality as well as quantity).

    It still comes down to making difficult decisions.

    Bob in AZ

  8. prostratedragon says:

    You know, until we start prosecuting pre-crime —and with the way scary terrorist cases are constructed that day might be dawning— what else is law enforcement through the courts but “looking back?”

    It dropped in on me during the 2008 campaign that this was precisely the reason for the recruitment and rapid, nearly effortless ascent of Barack Obama: to put the clean getaway strategy in place for his banker patrons.

    But like the final demise of someone who one had long known was gravely ill, long knowledge and preparation are not helping today. This is indeed a date to remember.

    (And at times when I’m feeling less baleful than at the moment, I do like The Great Vaccinator, too. Think I need some detoxifying tea now.)

  9. prostratedragon says:

    Oh, and regarding the election. It should be clear now that Obama and the likely GOP candidate, who’ll be either Romney or a “compromise” not currently on the horizon whatever it takes, represent the same interests. But they don’t necessarily have the same skills and operational methods, despite a certain sponginess common to both. That means that figuring out where the backers are in their game plan and what the next objective is probably should get more of the weight that intelligent, responsible voters would normally devote to understanding “issues,” whatever those are.

    As for me, I might be sitting here hoping that Roseanne Barr is serious.

  10. DWBartoo says:

    @Bob Schacht:

    This system of governance, Bob, will, likely, not respond to the wishes OR the will of the people, although all possible avenues must be examined, whether it be the seeking of Constitutional amendments to overturn Citizens United (which, as a certain Justice has hinted, if that is the proper term, very broadly, to Congress that Congress might choose, relatively easily, to do, were Congress to make clear the proper role that “money”, to be crass, is to play in elections, which is a clear part of the function of “oversight”) or by encouraging the wide and deep realization among “the people” that there is little fundamental difference between the two supposed political parties who effectively control, on the surface, our collective fate. Certainly, efforts should continue to be pursued that might alter the present course of this nation’s political-economy, yet there must also be made efforts at encouraging broad understanding regarding the intractable and entrenched forces, economically, politically and militarily, which the people of this nation actually face.

    As a society, we are at, virtually halted at, even “broken-down” at, a most significant crossroads. The tri-fold “leadership”, economic, political, and military, of this nation have made clear their intention of pursuing endless war, the means and mechanisms of which are obviously intended to be made use of, here, in the “Homeland”, and the nature of the decision regarding the largest criminal fraud in history, this “settlement”, makes clear that money, and those who control it, in very large measure, will be protected legally in past, present and future depredations. As well, the message is clear, that the next “economic crisis”, which will surely come, will see the same “solution”. Indeed, as EW has suggested, numerous times, the trajectory we are now forcibly directed upon leads, inevitably, to a neo-feudal economic system . Which “political-economy” will, if we are honest, further enshrine and “legitimize” the notion of the Divine Right of Money.

    Who might successfully argue, at least at certain “sites”, and places, that we are not already almost “there”?

    Societies must recognized their right and their obligation to protect themselves from overwhelming concentrations of great wealth and great power. That is one reason why governments are, as the saying goes, “instituted” among human beings.

    In the stunned and appalled despair of the moment, our society risks the very real possibility that perception of the “crossroads” and of the destruction of civil society itself, through the dismantling of the Rule of Law, will not grow to become considered understanding among the people, either through easily manipulated fears or the manipulated and unreasonable assumption of or “belief” in a “security” premised upon “exceptionalism”, that this dire crux-point shall become … either a mere velleity – a mild desire, a wish or urge too slight to lead to action – or lead to a violent uprising that will be beaten mercilessly and violently down.

    There are other options. However, without widespread understanding and continuing and increasingly inclusive conversation along the lines firmly established by Occupy and those who counsel the conscience and courage of non-violence … then the “drift” will be toward one of the less desirable “options”, at least so I imagine, from the perspective of those who gather here.

    Our own Declaration of Independence, Bob, actually speaks to the crossroads where we now find ourselves stranded, as you may or may not consider or agree.

    It would be well, perhaps, were those of us who have come to see, over time, not merely what is going on but the implications and likely consequences of those things which so concern and disturb us, might better acquaint ourselves, each other, and others who may share of come to share our concerns and perturbations, with that document, for like the Constitution, despite what the self-selected “natural elite” may claim, is NOT just a piece of paper, or merely a quaint but frivolous collection of silly notions …

    DW

  11. CasualObserver says:

    @DWBartoo: Chris Hedges recently used the term “dead electoral system”. Which is along the lines of what you’re saying I think. Occupy is certainly another option. Simply not voting and abandoning participation in political life is likely the most popular “other” being chosen, maybe.

  12. rugger9 says:

    @CasualObserver: #18
    It will probably gain traction, however as noted on the next thread, these are choices with consequences, and if 2010 should have taught us and Obama anything, it’s to be sure your base gets out. The GOP base will, once Faux tells them to go vote.

    Limpy’s comment years ago about winning elections is accurate. You win, you run things. We stay home, they run things, and the Bush years tell us that’s not a good thing.

  13. DWBartoo says:

    @CasualObserver:

    Not voting, for national offices, or at all, while a viable “option” is an interim “action”, Casual Observer, “opting out” out of political life is going to be impossible, politics will intrude itself ever more forcefully, as well as increasingly insidiously, for the yoke of the tyranny we face is not light nor will it be, avoidable.

    A police state must make more clear, every day of its existence, its ready willingness to coerce.

    Such “opting-out” once meant … moving out, away from people, there is no longer, any “way” to effectively do such a thing, simply because there are few places one may go, on this planet, unless it is literally underground, under the surface of the earth, where one’s behavior may not be monitored and even terminated, if so “desired”. For anyone to pretend or to “believe” otherwise, in light of the “success” of drone-warfare. and its well-known pin-point accuracy, is a form of magical “thinking”.

    It would appear that, either we are all in “this” next “movie” of time, together, eventually … each of us, playing “starring” roles … or we shall, certainly, be brought to “pay” whatever may be the telling-price… alone.

    All of the “opt-out” seats are taken.

    There is no way out of this world, in which we, all, find ourselves (or not)… alive … (at the moment).

    DW

  14. Bill Michtom says:

    For Obama, there was no lesson of 2010 because it was just a useful excuse for O to give things away to the 1% while claimimg there was nothing he could do.

    To me, the answer is Occupy: build an alternative system while refusing to validate the current one–along with, perhaps, strategic voting, i.e., DON’T advertise who you might vote for because it merely encourages the “liberal” wing of the duopoly to ignore you, since you’re saying you have nowhere to go.

    Personally, I will not vote for anyone who doesn’t overwhelmingly endorse my values. The economic & political system in this country is not reformable.

  15. rugger9 says:

    @Bill Michtom: #25
    I’m curious how you’ll handle the inevitable GOP administration that arises out your policy. Their base will come out and it will be close enough to steal elections if ours slacks off. We have to hold them off at the walls long enough for the new parties to develop. There is no time to do otherwise at this point, and failure means the end of the chance.

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