Wednesday, January 29, 2014

  • In SOTU, Obama Tells Divided Congress to Expect Executive Action in Face of Continued Obstruction


    In his fifth State of the Union address, President Obama vowed to bypass a divided Congress and take action on his own using his executive power. Obama announced a wage hike for federal contract workers, the creation of a "starter savings account" to help millions of people save for retirement, and plans to establish new fuel efficiency standards for trucks. On foreign policy, President Obama pledged to veto new sanctions on Iran while the interim nuclear deal is in effect and renewed his call for the closure of Guantánamo Bay. On Afghanistan, President Obama said this year would see the end of the U.S. war, but he acknowledged some U.S. forces would remain in the country to train Afghan troops and carry out counterterrorism attacks. We get reaction to Obama’s speech from three guests: "Dirty Wars" film producer and writer Jeremy Scahill; former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert of Demos; and Lorella Praeli of the United We Dream coalition. "The State of the Union address, historically, is sort of propaganda," Scahill says. "On the issue of foreign policy, there is a radical disconnect between what the president was publicly projecting with his remarks and what his policies actually amount to on the ground."

  • "A Silent Coup": Jeremy Scahill & Bob Herbert on Corporate, Military Interests Shaping Obama’s SOTU


    On issues from domestic inequality to foreign policy, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union with a vow to take action on his own should Congress stonewall progress on his agenda. But will Obama’s policies go far enough? We host a roundtable with three guests: Jeremy Scahill, producer and writer of the Oscar-nominated documentary "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield" and senior investigative reporter at First Look Media, which will launch in the coming months; Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow with Demos; and Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy at the United We Dream coalition.

  • Five Years of the "Same Rhetoric": Immigration Activist Faults Obama’s SOTU, Deportation Policy


    At last night’s State of the Union, a DREAM activist was among the guests invited by first lady Michelle Obama. Twenty-three-year-old Cristian Ávila of Arizona fasted for 22 days to push for immigration reform as part of the "Fast for Families" campaign, which took place on the National Mall. But Obama made no reference to Ávila and limited his remarks on immigration to a short passage. "This has been the same rhetoric that we’ve been hearing for the last five years," says Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy at the United We Dream coalition. "For us, we don’t need to give any room to the president on deportations, and we don’t need to give any more room to Republicans on immigration either. We have been waiting and fighting to get something done. The president’s remarks could have gone in deeper and set some legislative markers as well."

  • "Dirty Wars" Filmmaker Jeremy Scahill on the "Drone President" & Obama’s Whitewashing of NSA Spying


    In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on the United States to "move off a permanent war footing," citing his recent limits on the use of drones, his withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and his effort to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay. Obama also vowed to reform National Security Agency surveillance programs to ensure that "the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated." Jeremy Scahill, whose Oscar-nominated film "Dirty Wars" tackles the U.S. drone war and targeted killings abroad, says Obama has been a "drone president" whose operations have killed large numbers of civilians. On NSA reform, Scahill says "the parameters of the debate in Washington are: Should we figure out a way to streamline this and sell it to the American people, or should we do more surveillance?"