Politics


Yeah.  Obama issues an executive order closing Guantanamo, everybody is thrilled to bits, sings his praises.   Then, less than a month later, he quietly expands plan for another notorious foreign detention center.  And the U.S press doesn’t cover it, so it doesn’t tarnish his image.

This seems to be Obama’s standard m.o.  He seems to have a strong need to make impressive statements and gestures drawing public approval – but behind the scenes, he completely undermines those statements and gestures. 

He’s sort of a pragmatic narcissist, really.  In the average person, an unattractive foible.  In a president, it’s sort of loathesome and despicable.  He should have some cojones and be straight with the public about what he’s doing.  If he’s the great communicator he’s said to be, he’ll find a way to persuade the public, instead of deliberately misleading them.

Obama denies terror suspects right to trial

Less than a month after signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to keep denying the right to trial to hundreds more terror suspects held at a makeshift camp in Afghanistan that human rights lawyers have dubbed “Obama’s Guantanamo”.

In a single-sentence answer filed with a Washington court, the administration dashed hopes that it would immediately rip up Bush-era policies that have kept more than 600 prisoners in legal limbo and in rudimentary conditions at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

Now, human rights groups say they are becoming increasingly concerned that the use of extra-judicial methods in Afghanistan could be extended rather than curtailed under the new US administration. The air base is about to undergo a $60m (£42m) expansion that will double its size, meaning it can house five times as many prisoners as remain at Guantanamo.

* * *

Apart from staff at the International Red Cross, human rights groups and journalists have been barred from Bagram, where former prisoners say they were tortured by being shackled to the ceiling of isolation cells and deprived of sleep.

* * *

“Guantanamo Bay was a diversionary tactic in the ‘War on Terror’,” said the lawyer. “Totting up the prisoners around the world – held by the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, the prison ships and Diego Garcia, or held by US proxies in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco – the numbers dwarf Guantanamo. There are still perhaps as many as 18,000 people in legal black holes. Mr Obama should perhaps be offered more than a month to get the American house in order. However, this early sally from the administration underlines another message: it is far too early for human rights advocates to stand on the USS Abraham Lincoln and announce, ‘Mission Accomplished’.”

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taxitodarkside_tcm6-57718Obama’s executive order: Torture is okay – just not in American territory.

And somehow, from this, the advocacy director for Human Rights Watch manages to take the completely opposite message.

Obama lets CIA keep controversial renditions tool

Under executive orders issued by Obama last week, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, or the secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the U.S.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said the rendition program is poised to play an expanded role because it is the main remaining mechanism—aside from Predator missile strikes—for taking suspected terrorists off the street.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured

But the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.

The decision underscores the fact that the battle with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is far from over and that even if the U.S. is shutting down the prisons, it is not done taking prisoners.

“Obviously you need to preserve some tools, you still have to go after the bad guys,” said an Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing legal reasoning behind the decision. “The legal advisers working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.”

“Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “What I heard loud and clear from the president’s order was that they want to design a system that doesn’t result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured.”

What kind of rights group thinks there’s a “legitimate place” for renditions? Jesus. And how do you get “loud and clear”, from an executive order that specifically preserves the existing system of renditions, that the administration wants to end that system?

Obama’s Inauguration Committee sold exclusive rights to HBO to air the Inaugural kickoff concert, held at the Lincoln Memorial. The Disney Channel got exclusive rights to a children’s event hosted by Michelle Obama and Joe Biden.

I guess people who don’t have digital cable don’t count in the new administration. Apparently the Lincoln Memorial isn’t a public place anymore. And presidential inaugural events aren’t public, either.

Inaugural Panel Sells Exclusive TV Rights

Gotta pay to play, baby.

If he’s selling out this early, will he have anything left to sell at the end of 4 years?

obama20leavng20presser-thumb_small2Actually this has no relation to the 10 plebes picked to ascend in the Inauguration Rapture. Different kind of selection.

Apparently, Obama not only picks ahead of time the journalists he will call upon at a press conference, but informs them beforehand. And doesn’t call on anyone else.

The press corps, most of us, don’t even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who’ve been advised they will be called upon that day.

– Carol Marin, Chicago Sun-Times

Not surprising? But again, a dreary resemblance to the last administration. And a distinct lack of ch-ch-change.

I don’t know why I’m continuing to chronicle exactly how Obama is meeting my low expectations. It just bothered me that, during the campaign, Obama made SUCH a big deal about presenting himself as above “politics as usual”, and got so much mileage out of it, from people who believed the hype.

Just sort of depressing.

rapturesmall1So … Obama’s campaign has this Godzilla-sized surplus. And yet, pleas for money keep rolling into my inbox.

Today, it’s an e-mail from Michelle, announcing the first of 10 “grassroots supporters” has been picked to be flown into DC for the inauguration, all expenses paid.  The first person picked is a woman named Cynthia.

Cynthia is a “builder.” (Not sure what that means, but okay.)

Apparently Michelle needs to select 9 more supporters “like Cynthia” by midnight on Thursday, and Michelle would love for me to one of them. And if I just donate $5 or more before Thursday, maybe I can be! Actually, I don’t even need to donate to enter.

Aw. I’m kind of touched. Except … really, the 10 aren’t picked and vetted already? For real? They’re just pickin’ ’em and rollin’ them out as they go? Not much time for a background check, there. Somehow, it doesn’t seem … likely?

The whole thing just seems weird. The more the Obama team tries to insist that the average unconnected citizen matters, the more distance they actually create. Look! Ten lucky souls, plucked out of the roiling masses to stand with The Man Himself! Obama cares about People Like Cynthia! He cares about us Deltas! Aren’t you blessed, Cynthia the Builder!

I’m not saying they *don’t* care. I don’t know. Maybe somehow Obama is able to keep the millions of average proles from blending into one giant undiffrentiated abstraction – clinging to his guns and religion, but oh, trying so hard to make a better life for his kids. Sure, maybe. But this PR stunt somehow makes it seem the opposite. And I’m skeptical that the 10 haven’t already been picked, and that the campaign-administration (campistration?) is soliciting funds in a misleading way.

ETA: Today, I got a mass e-mail from Barack Obama at noon, and another from campaign e-mail David Plouffe at 5 pm. They thoughtfully reminded me of the midnight deadline to donate for my chance at one of the 10 guest spots. They didn’t mention Cynthia the Builder.

It’s just really hard to believe the 10 are not already picked, given logistics and security. But … they’re politicians. If they *are* being deceitful, why does it bother me? This particular deceit just seems extra tawdry somehow, even for a politician. Dangling the illusion of opportunity to the surging masses.

Tokenism. And if the 10 *are* already picked, FAKE tokenism. Cheap.

So, a businessman is awaiting sentencing for his role in a $2.2B stock fraud.   Two congressman are declining to return campaign contributions from him, and refusing to release an earmark for the guy’s pet project. 

The one that kind of fascinates me is Moran –

In an interview with Politico, Moran said he had been unaware of Samueli’s legal problems but would stand by the couple, the campaign contributions and the earmark. Politicians, he said, cater to the worst impulses in politics when they rush to return contributions from troubled donors.

“They see somebody down, so they want to kick ’em, so they can look good in the eyes of the media,” Moran said. “That kind of annoys me. It disgusts me, actually. I don’t enjoy kicking people when they’re down. Frankly, I’m proud that he saw fit to contribute to me, and I don’t intend to try to embarrass him by sending him back the money.”

So … that’s what returning dirty money is about?  Kicking people when they’re down, just to make yourself look good?  It doesn’t have anything to do with, say, maintaining public trust that our elected officials aren’t riddled with corruption? 

Seriously, Moran thinks that not embarassing this guy who’s been convicted of defrauding investors is more important than cutting financial ties to convicted fraud perpetrators?  The guy was convicted of cheating the public!  I mean, I could see if the guy was just under suspicion and hadn’t been indicted yet.  Or maybe even indicted, but not yet convicted.  But the guy was convicted!  Of massive financial fraud! 

Let’s review.  What do we do when a campaign contributor is convicted of massive financial fraud?  We cut ties with them.  Which includes … returning their money.  So that the public doesn’t think we’re in bed with them.  Simple, yeah?

JPost has a good article about Obama padding his resume.  It struck me, this is one of the big things I really dislike about Obama.  He really reminds me of executives who hop from company to company and care only about their own career and image, not the company. 

They pride themselves on their “leadership abilities”, but don’t actually do anything one can point to.  They jump from stepping-stone to stepping-stone without ever really interacting along the way.  Their chief abilities are promoting themselves and quietly detaching themselves from ill-considered initiatives which they enthusiastically promote until the initiative sinks.  As long as they get their bonuses, they don’t care how the company is doing.

Basically, Obama reminds me of a useless MBA.

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