Archive for January 25th, 2009

Shall I Compare Blago To A Summer’s Day?

A (probably) partial list of who and what Rod Blagojevich has compared himself to so far:

Pearl Harbor
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Mahatma Gandhi
Martin Luther King
Nelson Mandela
A dead cowboy

Spectacular.  He should compare notes with Rick Warren.

January 25th, 2009 at 09:59pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Weirdness

The Bankruptcy Reform’s In The Mail

Somehow, I have a feeling we’re in for a lot more of this…

A bill to give judges authority to alter loan terms for primary residences may be the quickest way to arrest the housing market’s collapse. Most Democrats in the House and Senate support that plan. President Barack Obama told Democratic leaders Friday he also backs it, according to a Senate aide who was not authorized to be quoted by name.

But 10 groups representing the lending industry and other businesses are fighting back fiercely. Several have engaged portions of their lobbying machines to stop the legislation. The groups spent $83 million in lobbying on multiple issues in 2008, a figure that shows the power of the banking and investing industry and their business supporters.

(…)

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the chief Senate sponsor of the bill, said Obama persuaded him in a White House meeting Friday to remove the bankruptcy proposal from an economic recovery package — to ensure it doesn’t jeopardize the stimulus bill. But Obama pledged his support for the bankruptcy solution, Durbin said.

Obama said he would work with Durbin to attach the proposal to other ”must pass” legislation — with the hope that supporters of the overall bill would not vote against it because of the bankruptcy provisions.

“We have to make sure the stimulus passes with the requisite 80 votes, but don’t worry, we’ll try to put bankruptcy reform through later.”  This vague, empty “I’ll totally fix it later” promise reminds me of Obama’s feckless stance on telecom immunity.  He completely dropped his opposition to the FISA “reform” bill, but promised that he would push to remove telecom immunity from it – knowing full well that he didn’t have a snowball’s chance of succeeding, and that the only way to block telecom immunity was to oppose the whole bill.

I hope Obama makes good on his word, but this is not an encouraging sign.

2 comments January 25th, 2009 at 03:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Economy,Obama,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

An Early Victory In BushCo’s War On Humanity

Shorter Rummy: What part of “don’t feel bound by the Geneva Conventions” didn’t you understand?

The story begins in the first week of January 2002, when Joint Task Force 160, led by Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, dutifully landed at Guantanamo Bay….

…[I]t wasn’t the logistics that most worried Lehnert. It was the policy vacuum into which he and his troops had been thrown. “We are writing the book as we go,” one officer said at the time. Lehnert said he had been told by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Geneva Conventions would not technically apply to his mission: He was to act in a manner “consistent with” the conventions (as the mantra went) but not to feel bound by them….

In the absence of new policy guidance about how to treat the detainees, Lehnert told me that he felt he had no choice but to rely on the regulations already in place, ones in which the military was well schooled: the Uniform Code of Military Justice, other U.S. laws and, above all, the Geneva Conventions. The detainees, no matter what their official status, were essentially to be considered enemy prisoners of war, a status that mandated basic standards of humane treatment….

(…)

But there were early signs of trouble. Lehnert told me that his request to bring representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Guantanamo — something international law requires for all prisoners being held in war-related situations — was, as he heard it, shunted aside somewhere up the chain of command. “The initial request,” he recalled, “was turned down.” He persisted….  [H]e wanted advice from ICRC professionals to help him ensure the prisoners’ safety and dignity.

Exasperated by repeated attempts to find out which guidelines to apply to the detainees, Col. Manuel Supervielle, the head JAG at Southern Command, picked up the phone and called the ICRC’s headquarters in Geneva. As one member of the Southern Command staff remembers the episode, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had warned the Gitmo task force that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s office opposed getting involved with the ICRC. But now, according to Supervielle, a U.S. officer was asking the ICRC to help out at Guantanamo. The ICRC answered with an immediate “Yes.”

(…)

Brig. Gen. Lehnert had built his own Guantanamo, one with ICRC oversight, a Muslim chaplain and an overriding ethos that stressed codified law and the unwritten rules of human decency. Lehnert’s team let the detainees talk among themselves; it provided halal food, an additional washing bucket inside cells that lacked toilet facilities, a Koran for each detainee, skullcaps and prayer beads for those who wanted them, and undergarments for the prisoners to wear at shower time, in accordance with Islamic laws that proscribe public nakedness.

Perhaps Lehnert’s Guantanamo could have been sustained. But Rumsfeld wanted something else: He expected to get valuable, actionable intelligence from the detainees. By late January 2002, according to Brig. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, Lehnert’s chief contact at Southern Command, the defense secretary told officers on a video conference call with Southern Command that he was frustrated by the absence of such information.

A displeased Rumsfeld seems to have decided to create a second command, one that would exist side by side with Lehnert’s. It would be devoted solely to gathering intelligence and would be headed by a reservist major general, a former U.S. Army interrogator during the Vietnam War named Michael Dunlavey. Jackman told me that he considered the idea of two parallel commands a “recipe for disaster.”….

As Dunlavey’s command took shape in late February and early March, the fabric of prisoner’s rights that Lehnert had woven was beginning to unravel. By the end of February, nearly 200 detainees had mounted a hunger strike to protest their treatment….

(…)

Thanks in large part to Lehnert’s efforts, the hunger strike dwindled to a couple of dozen fasters by the first week of March. But as much as he might have championed the need to respect the detainees as individuals — albeit allegedly dangerous terrorists — Guantanamo’s future had been decided. As the hunger strike wound down, Lehnert said, he and his unit were given notice that they would soon be leaving.

Once Lehnert’s troops departed, a new Guantanamo took shape — the Guantanamo that an appalled world has come to know over the past seven years. Inmates were kept in isolation, interrogation became the core mission, hunger strikers were regularly force-fed, and above all, the promise of a legal resolution to the detainees’ cases has eluded hundreds of prisoners.

It’s a little hard to believe that “actionable intelligence” was really a goal when Gitmo’s recordkeeping was such a mess – more likely that torture was an end in itself, or valued only as collective punishment, or a tool for extracting propaganda in the form of fake terror plots.

It’s not like we needed any further proof that concepts like human decency and the rule of law are completely anathema to Bush and his creatures, but it just keeps coming.  Even now, they’re still fighting a desperate rearguard action against them, trying to block Obama from closing Gitmo and giving the detainees proper trials.

2 comments January 25th, 2009 at 01:55pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture


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