Uighurs! Will Europe Take GITMO Detainees? Not if We Don’t!

One of the more bizarre aspects of the debate over where to relocate some inmates detained at Guantanamo Bay is this. Several European countries which had previously agreed to take some of them are now hesitating. Their reason?

It’s the reluctance to do the same right here in the USA.

We’re not talking about the high risk terror suspects who will remain locked up. We’re talking about people both military and federal courts said should be freed.

The Obama Administration planned to resettle about 50 detainees in a number of European countries, who had agreed to take them in. The drumbeat of opposition in the Congress to allowing detainees on US soil has until now largely been centered on those who would remain detained. Now, however, the ante has been upped in the case of 17 Chinese Uighur detainees.

Who, you may ask? Uighurs are Chinese Muslims, and all 17 were captured in Afghanistan after the Sept., 11th terror attacks.

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Last October, a federal judge said none posed a security threat and should therefore be freed. Problem is, their attorneys say to return them to China would condemn them to certain imprisonment or possibly death.

The German government had tentatively agreed to resettle nine of the Uighurs in Bavaria, where a community of them already exists. However, the inability of the Obama Administration to reach agreement on resettling several of them in Northern Virginia has seen Germany’s willingness evaporate. The central question here is whether these people represent any security threat, either to the US or Germany.

The US courts have said no, and in fact have ordered the release of 21 GITMO detainees, including the Uighurs.

That’s not good enough for some members of Congress, who want no detainees on US soil, no matter what the courts may say. So then the question must be asked, not of the Europeans but of us. When and under what circumstances are we willing to admit the detention of some of those at Guantanamo was wrong?

We know some of our elected representatives on both sides of the partisan divide have no interest in this fundamental question of justice.

This is not, by the way, a call for freeing dangerous people onto the streets of America, and our elected officials know this (or should). We locked these people up. Dealing with the relocation of the innocent among them is our responsibility, not Europe’s.

So how do we solve this?

The Uighurs and their situation is metaphor for a lot more than simply where they end up. Do we trust our court system? Isn’t this at some point about the rule of law?

You tell me.

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Isn’t it Time for Burris to Go?

Illinois’ once (and probably not future) Senator Roland Burris has even seasoned political junkies scratching their heads in amazement. Even as secretly recorded conversations between Burris and disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s brother were being played in state and national media, this guy mounts what he thinks was a counteroffensive. From our “Ya Gotta be Kiddin Me” department:

Burris is telling the nation that those conversations with Robert Blagojevich prove he’s innocent of any pay to play allegations. The Blago sibling, for those who have forgotten, was his brother’s chief fund raiser. Burris wanted very badly to be appointed to Barack  Obama’s vacant Senate seat. So badly, in fact, that he tried to figure out ways to raise money for Blagojevich without making it look like that’s what he was doing. 

Burris says the fact that he never actually sent a check. Trouble is, he promised in the phone conversation to do just that by December 15th. Blagojevich was busted on December 9th. One would think that in light of all this Burris would  finally acknowledge that his time as a US Senator was coming to a close. Nope! His media blitz Wednesday indicates he’s not going quietly into anyone’s good night.

This blog has long maintained Burris’ original appointment was tainted by the alleged actions of his benefactor. At best he should have publicly announced that he was a placeholder, and that he wouldn’t run in next year’s election. No such luck. Whether it’s ego, chutzpah, or just plain political blindness, Roland Burris continues to act as though he’s not tarnished by this ethical firestorm, and that he can win a primary battle for the seat he now holds. 

Even most of his ardent black supporters in his home state are off the bus now. They realize his chances in a primary are slim, and in a general election against a crusading Republican, nil. Maybe President Obama, who has already interceded in one possible Senate battle (in New York) can make Burris see the handwriting everyone else sees on the wall. 

Perhaps an appeal to the legacy Burris holds so dear might work. If not, how about this. The president calls Burris and tells him if he doesn’t either quit now or pledge not to run next year, he, Barack Obama, will campaign in Illinois’ black communities for whoever is Burris’ strongest primary opponent. There are reports that’s just what he did in New York.

Yet it shouldn’t come to this. Roland Burris should do the right thing, which, in light of these phone conversations, is quit, and quit now. Anything less opens up the possibility of a Republican winning that seat in next’s year’s election.

What do you think. Will Roland Burris quit? Should he?

Will Repubs Go After Sotomayor?

First, before I get started, from by blog post, “Who will POTUS pick for SCOTUS?” on May 4th comes this.

“Based on what I know about her, and the politics of the moment, I’m going with Sonia Sotomayor”

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Hah!!! Don’t want to say I told you so, but this time I got it right. Sonia Sotomayor is the right choice for this court vacancy for a whole bunch of reasons. She has, you see, the legal background and life experience to make ann outstanding Supreme Court Justice. Sure, the Mitt Romneys of the world will call her nomination “troubling”. Fortunately for the nation, he’s not president.

Yet the short answer to the question at the top of this post is, “not as hard as you might think”. Republican elected officials, unlike those who carry their water in the media, realize what extraordinary damage the immigration issue did to their party among Latinos. To rake Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina nominated to the highest court in the land, over the coals would doom the GOP among Latinos for years to come.

No, they’ll leave the heavy lifting to their shadow government on talk radio and cable television. Let’s see now, who have we got here? Rush Limbaugh. Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and don’t forget Lou Dobbs and Joe Scarborough, although they’re not as reliable as the first group. These will be the warriors the Republicans will use while members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on camera mind you, tell her how inspiring her life story is.

What shouldn’t be missed is this. Sonia Sotomayor is not a story without substance. Her nomination shouldn’t simply be seen as the first Latina and the third woman in the history of the court. She brings serious chops to the job. She’s been on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for more than a decade. You don’t get that far being a lightweight.

As I said in the May 4th post, all of those being considered for this job had serious qualifications. We should have expected nothing less from a president who used to be a law professor. What will be interesting going forward is the measure of bipartisan support her nomination receives. If Samuel Alito can be confirmed by a vote of 58-42, Sonia Sotomayor should pass muster no problem.

Unless, of course, you think the conservative echo chamber can kill a Supreme Court nomination single handed. Are they dumb and egocentric enough to think they can?

You tell me.

Jobs! Unemployment! Will Business Pushback Work?

The Obama Administration, through the Treasury Dept., is getting ready to test how far the government can go in regulating American business. Fresh off its victory to reform credit card practices, the next battleground will be Treasury‘s plan for tougher oversight of the financial industry through revamping the agencies that regulate it.

That old phrase about every action having an equal and opposite reaction couldn’t be more apt in this case.

Already the financial industry is pushing back on plans that haven’t even been unveiled yet.

They concede that the economic crisis has significantly weakened their hand. Yet they now say their concern is that the government will overreach, and impose too much regulation.

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For the rest of us, the problem is determining what constitutes overreaching? Americans aren’t comfortable at all with big business making that determination. Just as many may be a bit nervous about the point man in this financial oversight reform. That would be Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. You can include me among the skeptics that he’ll come up with a package that embraces meaningful change.

Is it too much to ask that those charged with changing a failed system not be too cozy with that same system? Geithner doesn’t come off as a sinister, evil bureaucrat. He just seems content to nibble around the edge of real change rather than confronting the financial community and using the power he does have.

No matter what he comes up with (we may see later this week), expect Republicans in Congress and their buddies in talk radio to skewer any talk of regulatory change as another Obama step down the road to socialism. Of course, they know better. Few people, least of all President Obama, want to totally inhibit the financial markets’ ability to operate, and make money. Their excesses, as evidenced by the market meltdown of last fall, must be curbed.

Expect to see and hear much noise if part of Treasury’s plan is to increase the power of the Federal Reserve.  The Fed has a long and involved history in terms of its role in the American economy. This we do know, however. Big business has lined up lobbyists galore to make their case once legislation reaches the Hill.  While it may take place out of the glare of the media spotlight, this is a battle worth watching as it unfolds in the weeks ahead.

Who do you think will win? Big business, or the government?

And, most importantly, what if anything will the American people get out of it?

Economy? Who cares…

You may have noticed, as I have, that our politicians seem to have stopped talking about the economy.

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Nope, what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it…Dick Cheney’s trash talk…and whether US prisons can house terrorists …seems to have blown economic news right off the front pages.

The question is, did somebody fix things while the rest of us weren’t looking, or is our attention being diverted for a reason?

Cynic that I am, I choose the latter. Take a look around, America. While things may have bottomed out, they certainly haven’t gotten better. And here’s a telling statistic for you. Last year, there were about 1.7 applicants for every available job. Right now that number is 4.8 applicants. That means those who have been thrown out of work are facing daunting obstacles to finding a new job, even if they’re good at what they do.

Chances are, there are four other people just as good who have sent their resumes to that same HR department. And that’s a single stat. Expand that outward and what you see is a wholesale scramble to reinvent or reset job skills to fit a fast changing market.

But how much do we read or know about the struggles of the everyday working person, or person seeking work?

Hey, that’s not important, pal! Ridiculous arguments about who’s calling the CIA liars (which, by the way, GOP Pelosi stalker Pete Hoekstra actually did), now that’s important.

Barack Obama making the mistake of getting into a spitting match with Dick Cheney (Dick Cheney!!!) over national security is what we ought to spend our time contemplating this Memorial Day Weekend.

Oh, and by the way, our lawmakers don’t just take Monday off. They’re off the whole week! And the House calls it the Memorial Day District Work Period, and they do so with a straight face. The economy, health care, climate change, they’ll all keep until Congress returns. And when it does, we’ll hear more about Republicans wanting a full blown probe of Nancy Pelosi.

Houston, we have a problem. It’s called MISPLACED PRIORITIES. America has a long way to go before the major work that needs to be done to fix things is even halfway finished. When Congress returns, how about they grow a spine and tell Republicans we have a list of terrorists being held in US prisons as long as your arm already. They include everyone from shoe bomber Richard Reid to 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui to American Taliban John Walker Lindh.

Keeping GITMO open or jobs for the American unemployed, which is the Republican priority? Providing health care to those who don’t have it, or trying to gut Nancy Pelosi?

There are choices, aren’t there?

Which topic do you think should be headline news?

Did Democrats Punk on GITMO?

The short answer to the above question? Yes, they did.

Yes, the people locked up at Guantanamo Bay may well be guilty of crimes against this country and its citizens. How guilty we don’t know in many cases. Some people have been locked up there for years without trial. Yet pandering members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, act like to bring them to justice on US soil is somehow a clear and present danger to the public.

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The Democrats involved in the shameful Senate decision to withhold funding for GITMO’s closure got punked by Republicans, pure and simple. How else to explain the lopsided 90-6 vote? How else to explain Harry Reid’s bizarre statement about the detainees, “We don’t want them around”? So what do you suggest, Senator? Shoot them all? Keep ’em locked up forever without giving many the benefit of a trial?

FBI boss Robert Mueller fed more red meat to opponents of closing GITMO by asserting detainees held or released in the US could pose a threat.

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A cursory reading of history would tell us the following: Several German saboteurs landed in the US, were captured, tried by military tribunal, and executed back in 1942. None were detained for a minute outside the US.

Also, in case people forgot, tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were interred during the same wartime period, again inside the US. If Nazis and Japanese can be securely held inside this country, what in the world is Congress thinking by scaring the American people about GITMO detainees?

President Obama will address the nation on this issue by the time many of you read this. It really doesn’t matter what he says, given that he’s been sold out by his own party on this issue. Americans’ concerns about national security are legitimate ones. However, the idea that suspected terrorists can help fund terror operations from behind bars in ludicrous. That’s what Super Max prisons were made for.

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And the fears about what happens if they’re released? Gee, it seems like the only way that would happen is if they’re found innocent. So is Congress trying to say that America’s courts would be suspect if one or two of these detainees are found not to have done what the government says they’ve done? They’ve already impugned the competence of virtually every corrections officer currently working in the US.

Instead of fighting the Republicans on this issue, the Democrats folded like a gambler with a bad hand at one of Harry Reid’s Vegas casinos. Not to mention they’ve spoon fed the GOP an issue that they’ll certainly use going forward in their war of “no” with the president.

And what’s their end game? Keeping GITMO, an international scar of shame, open and nothing less.

Is this really what the American people want? How about you? Do you want to keep Guantanamo Bay open?

Martin Luther King kids Fight- America Loses

So the film company DreamWorks announces it’s planning a big screen biopic of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And what do two of  his children do? They threaten to sue. Why? They weren’t consulted by their brother.

If ever there was a time for their mom and dad to be here to stop this foolishness, it’s now.

The principals involved are, on one side, Dexter King, and on the other, his brother and sister, Bernice and Martin III.

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The latter say they had no input at all in brokering the deal with DreamWorks, which lists the venerable director Steven Spielberg as co-producer. The project was greenlighted by Dexter, who happens to be chair and CEO of King Inc.

Bernice and Martin III say they found out about the film project in an e-mail from their brother, and say it’s moving forward without their blessing. That likely means yet another lawsuit pitting King against King. There are currently three outstanding, including one involving a book deal worth a reported $1.4 million dollars about the life of their mother Coretta Scott King. That deal fell apart, BTW.

All this is a stain on the legacy of their parents.

I’m sure both sides here would argue this isn’t about money, and certainly not about sibling rivalry, but just what is it about? Does Dexter really think it’s appropriate to make a film deal and tell his brother and sister about it in an e-mail? Do Bernice and Martin III really want to file another lawsuit and continue a cycle that makes them look greedy and small?

While there have been several television movies on Dr. King’s life, there has only been one film, a documentary that was shown once in theaters, back in 1970. That’s why the nation loses if the Kings keep fighting. A well done theatrical film about Dr. King would go a long way toward keeping his legacy fresh in the minds of those who weren’t alive during the civil rights movement.

There is no excuse for the ugliness that has surrounded the Kings since this fighting began. Put simply, there’s more than enough blame to go around. If they’re not careful, people will substitute their squabbling for the extraordinary work both Martin and Coretta Scott King did during their lives.

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It’s not worth the money, or the control. Dexter, Bernice, Martin III, somehow you’ve forgotten you are family. Sit down, break bread, end the lawsuits, and most importantly, live up to your family legacy.

That’s what your parents would want, isn’t it?

How far do you think this should go and who should give?