Patterico's Pontifications

5/23/2010

Closing Guantanamo: One Year and Counting

Filed under: Obama,Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 9:46 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Five months after Obama’s deadline to close Guantanamo, the LA Times‘ Andrew Malcolm points out a new problem:

The controversial alternate plan was to transfer these bad guys onto the U.S. mainland and put them in another prison facility that just happened to be in the president’s adopted home state of Illinois and would cost $350 million from somewhere to fix it up while abandoning the still functional though unpopular-abroad Guantanamo prison.

This week the Armed Services Committee, which is controlled by Democrats who overwhelmingly control the House of Representatives, voted to prohibit such a detention facility within the United States.

Finally, some bipartisanship. The vote to prohibit was unanimous.

Other than that, President Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by the end of 2009 is moving along swimmingly.”

The New York Times describes it as a “blow to President Obama’s hopes to close Guantanamo.” It sounds more like a knockout.

– DRJ

A Lupin

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 6:34 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

For your Sunday evening pleasure, see Dana’s photo of a California relative of the Texas bluebonnet:

“Like most members of their family, lupins can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia via a rhizobium-root nodule symbiosis, fertilizing the soil for other plants, this adaption allows lupins to be tolerant of infertile soils and capable of pioneering change in barren and poor quality soils.”

– DRJ

Venue in the Oil Spill Litigation

Filed under: Environment,Law — DRJ @ 5:35 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The oil may still be flowing but the legal issues are well underway, and there’s a chance the BP Oil Spill litigation could be consolidated in Houston:

“On May 13, Transocean filed a proceeding in Houston under an outmoded 1851 law known as the Limitation of Shipowner’s Liability Act to limit its legal exposure to $26.8 million, or the value of the sunken rig and whatever freight it was carrying. The limitation of liability act also allows a vessel owner to consolidate all litigation over a shipping accident to a venue of its choosing, and like a bankruptcy filing, halts all proceedings in other courts.

In maritime law, a rig is considered a vessel. Attorneys say it’s an uphill battle for vessel owners to successfully limit their liability in a such a proceeding, so the primary reason for filing may be to nudge the massive litigation that is expected over the rig explosion and oil leak to Houston.

“I think there was a considered thought process on behalf of BP and Transocean to hometown the litigation and do anything that they could do to get the litigation in Houston and out of Louisiana,” said Scott Bickford, who filed the first lawsuit the day after the explosion in federal court in New Orleans on behalf of the family of a worker who was killed. “Why is this thing in Texas other than the fact that the wrong-doers are there? This is a terrible situation.”

More than 100 cases have been filed in federal courts across the Gulf Coast over the rig explosion and oil spill, many of them in New Orleans, plus others in state court, and those proceedings are expected to be consolidated into one giant case.

Reserve plaintiff attorney Daniel Becnel has filed an application with a panel of federal judges that considers consolidation requests to hold the proceedings in New Orleans. BP, which leased the Macondo well where the Deepwater Horizon was drilling, has filed application with the panel to consolidate the proceedings in Houston. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation will meet in Boise, Idaho, on July 29 to consider arguments from both sides about where the proceedings should be held, and is expected to make a decision within a few weeks of the gathering.

But as Transocean’s proceeding moves forward in Houston to determine whether the company is eligible limit its liability, all depositions and discovery of facts will take place within the context of that suit. As work on the Transocean case proceeds in Houston, it could preempt the work of the panel of federal judges or help make the case that Houston has already become the nucleus of the litigation.

“The center of the entire litigation will move away from Louisiana to a state that has absolutely no damage. The legal implications are you get Texas justice for Louisiana,” Bickford said.”

Here’s one reason why plaintiffs’ lawyers don’t want Texas justice:

“Despite the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 65% of Likely Voters in Texas still support offshore oil drilling, according to a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state. Twenty-one percent (21%) oppose such drilling.”

Support for offshore drilling in Texas has dropped about 12 points since the BP oil spill. Meanwhile, national support has fallen to 46%, a 16 point drop, which is another reason Houston-based Transocean might prefer venue in Texas.

– DRJ

Republican Wins in Hawaii (Updated)

Filed under: 2010 Election,Politics — DRJ @ 4:02 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Congratulations to Charles Djou, Congress’ newest member and the first GOP representative from Hawaii in 20 years:

“Republicans cited Rep.-elect Charles Djou’s victory for a seat long out of their reach as evidence of steadily increasing election-year strength, but Democrats said Sunday the winner’s 40-percent vote share portends a short stay in Congress for him and predicts nothing about the fall.”

I don’t think it means much either, except that neither of two Democratic candidates would give up. But it’s nice while it lasts.

– DRJ

UPDATE: Jim Miller looks at Djou’s win and chances for re-election.

Louisiana’s Jindal Defies Feds (Updated)

Filed under: Environment — DRJ @ 2:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Governor Bobby Jindal says he won’t wait on federal approval to protect Louisiana’s coastline with sand berms:

“Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says the state is not waiting for federal approval to begin building sand barriers to protect the coastline from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Jindal’s defiant comments Sunday came as oil pushed at least 12 miles into the heart of Louisiana’s marshes. Two major pelican rookeries are now awash in crude.

Jindal made his remarks on a boat at the edge of one of the pelican nesting grounds. He and officials from several coastal parishes say the berms would close the door on the oil still pouring from a deepwater gusher about 50 miles off the coast.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying the environmental impacts from the emergency barrier proposal. The Corps didn’t immediately respond to e-mails and telephone messages.”

I can’t fathom why the White House hasn’t expedited or eliminated consideration of these environmental regulations. It’s clueless, and no President can afford to look clueless.

– DRJ

UPDATE: This AP report covers the impact on the pelicans’ nesting place and the Administration’s response:

“A pelican colony off Louisiana’s coast was awash in oil Saturday, and an Associated Press photographer saw several birds and their eggs coated in the ooze while nests rested in mangroves precariously close to the crude that had washed in. Workers had surrounded the island with the booms, but puddles of oil had seeped through the barrier.

Meanwhile, three top Obama administration officials are returning to the Gulf Coast to monitor the spill response.

Anger with the government and BP, which leased the rig and is responsible for the cleanup, has boiled over as the spill spreads. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa P. Jackson was headed Sunday to Louisiana, where she planned to visit with frustrated residents.”

Will the media cover this as intensively as it did Katrina? I doubt it. Sometimes bad things happen in major industries but the media double standard never seems to change.

Sestak Confirms Job Offer

Filed under: Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 1:55 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

As if the White House doesn’t have enough headaches:

“Rep. Joe Sestak, winner of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, is refusing to provide more information on what job he was offered by a White House official to drop of that race, although he confirmed again that the incident occurred.

The White House was backing incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in the primary. Sestak acknowledged in an interview in February that he was offered a position by an unnamed White House official – a potential violation of federal law – but has not offered any specifics on conversation. Republicans are trying to use the issue against Sestak in the November Senate race.

“It’s interesting. I was asked a question about something that happened months earlier, and I felt that I should answer it honestly, and that’s all I had to say about it.” Sestak said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Anybody else has to decide on what they will say upon their role. That’s their responsibility.”

Some members of Congress believe it’s Sestak’s problem, too:

“Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform committee, said Sestak needs to explain what job he was offered and who at the White House was involved. Sestak, who beat Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in the Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday, said on a Philadelphia radio station in February that the White House offered him a job to drop out of the race.

Issa said he or another member of Congress would file a formal complaint to the House ethics committee by July 4 if someone else doesn’t bring the matter to the Office of Congressional Ethics, which handles ethics complaints from outside groups.
***
“I’m not sure what the truth is, I’m not sure what his full statement would be,” Issa said of Sestak. “Practically everyone that interviews him comes back with the same thing: he can’t be allowed to make an allegation against the White House and then say enough is said. It doesn’t work that way. Either he’s lying, or covering up felonies for political purposes.”

This could be a problem for the Democrats and the White House. If a complaint is filed and the Democrats stall — as they tend to do, do they really want Republicans in charge of this investigation if the GOP wins control of the House in November?

– DRJ

Kim Ordered Torpedo Hit on S Korean Ship

Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 1:08 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A “senior American official” claims North Korea’s Kim Jong-il ordered the torpedo hit on a South Korean warship:

“A new American intelligence analysis of a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship concludes that Kim Jong-il, the ailing leader of North Korea, must have authorized the torpedo assault, according to senior American officials who cautioned that the assessment was based on their sense of the political dynamics there rather than hard evidence.

The officials said they were increasingly convinced that Mr. Kim ordered the sinking of the ship, the Cheonan, to help secure the succession of his youngest son.”

Nevertheless, American officials are reluctant to say anything negative about Kim or his government and have looked to China for a solution:

“On Monday, South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, who has moved cautiously since the assault, is expected to call for the United Nations Security Council to condemn the attack and is likely to terminate the few remaining trade ties between North and South that provide the North with hard currency.

But those steps have little chance of proving meaningful unless China, which hosted Mr. Kim two weeks ago, agrees to join the condemnation and refuses to make up whatever revenue North Korea loses from any trade embargoes. China, North Korea’s last true ally, has traditionally been reluctant to pressure the North too much, even when the North Koreans conducted nuclear tests, for fear of toppling the government and sending a flood of refugees across its border.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in Beijing when the South Korean action is announced, leading a delegation of 200 American officials, including roughly half of the Obama administration’s cabinet, in an annual “strategic dialogue” with Chinese leaders on a variety of economic and political issues.

So far, at least in public, both American and South Korean leaders have been careful never to link Mr. Kim to the sinking of the Cheonan in March, which killed 46 sailors. Officials said that was in part because of the absence of hard evidence — difficult to come by in the rigidly controlled North — but also largely because both countries were trying to avoid playing into Mr. Kim’s hands by casting one of the worst attacks since the 1953 armistice as another piece of lore about the Kim family taking on South Korea and the West.”

The Obama Doctrine advocates international efforts to help “nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face consequences when they don’t.” Will North Korea face the consequences of its action? Not likely. Instead, the Obama Administration is relying on “renewed engagement of our diplomats” with China.

That dog won’t hunt.

– DRJ

Al-Awlaki Responds: Kill Americans

Filed under: Obama,Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 12:46 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

In response to the Obama Administration’s decision to put Yemeni clerk Anwar al-Awlaki on a priority list for capture or assassination, al-Awlaki has called on Muslims to kill American citizens:

“The U.S.-born al-Awlaki moved to Yemen in 2004 and is in hiding there after being linked to the suspects in the November shooting at an Army base in Fort Hood, Texas, and the December attempt to blow up a U.S. jetliner bound for Detroit.

“Those who might be killed in a plane are merely a drop of water in a sea,” he said in the video in response to a question about Muslim groups that disapproved of the airliner plot because it targeted civilians.

Al-Awlaki used the 45-minute video to justify civilian deaths – and encourage them – by accusing the United States of intentionally killing a million Muslim civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

American civilians are to blame, he said, because “the American people, in general, are taking part in this and they elected this administration and they are financing the war.”

Obama’s decision to target al-Awlaki produced widespread concern among America’s European allies and raised serious questions here at home:

“To eavesdrop on the terrorism suspect who was added to the target list, the American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is hiding in Yemen, intelligence agencies would have to get a court warrant. But designating him for death, as C.I.A. officials did early this year with the National Security Council’s approval, required no judicial review.

“Congress has protected Awlaki’s cellphone calls,” said Vicki Divoll, a former C.I.A. lawyer who now teaches at the United States Naval Academy. “But it has not provided any protections for his life. That makes no sense.”

Administration officials take the view that no legal or constitutional rights can protect Mr. Awlaki, a charismatic preacher who has said it is a religious duty to attack the United States and who the C.I.A. believes is actively plotting violence. The attempted bombing of Times Square on May 1 is the latest of more than a dozen terrorist plots in the West that investigators believe were inspired in part by Mr. Awlaki’s rhetoric.

“American citizenship doesn’t give you carte blanche to wage war against your own country,” said a counterterrorism official who discussed the classified program on condition of anonymity. “If you cast your lot with its enemies, you may well share their fate.”

I wish the Obama Administration good hunting in the quest to kill our enemies but, while Obama and his supporters will never admit it, he’s relying on the same Bush Administration policies he once blasted as unconstitutional.

– DRJ

Obama Golfs as Oil Gushes

Filed under: Environment,Media Bias,Obama — DRJ @ 10:40 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The oil from the BP spill has arrived at Louisiana’s coast and President Obama rushed home to Washington … to go golfing.

Meanwhile, even Democrats are criticizing Obama for his handling of the crisis as the oil continues to gush in the Gulf:

“Is the Obama administration doing a good enough job responding to the BP oil spill?

No, said Cokie Roberts and Donna Brazile on the “This Week” roundtable. “The oil is gushing and we’re being lied to by how much oil is gushing…and the administration has now named a commission,” Cokie Roberts said derisively. “Now this is what you do when you really don’t have anything else to do: you name a commission,” she said. “That’s not going to stop the oil.”

“One of the problems I have with the [Obama] administration is that they’re not tough enough,” Brazile said. “They are waiting for BP to say, ‘oh we have a new plan to stop the oil leak.’ They need to stop it, contain it, clean it up and try and help us conserve our coastal wetlands,” Brazile said.”

Ditto from James Carville and Chris Matthews:

“I think they actually believe that BP has some kind of a good motivation here,” [Carville] said. “They’re naive! BP is trying to save money, save everything they can… They won’t tell us anything, and oddly enough, the government seems to be going along with it! Somebody has got to, like shake them and say, ‘These people don’t wish you well! They’re going to take you down!’”

Carville also accused the White House of going along with what he called the “let BP handle it” strategy.

“I’m as good a Democrat as most people, and I think this administration has done some good things. They are risking everything by this ‘go along with BP’ strategy they have that seems like, lackadaisical on this, and Doug is right, they seem like they’re inconvenienced by this, this is some giant thing getting in their way and somehow or another, if you let BP handle it, it’ll all go away. It’s not going away. It’s growing out there. It is a disaster of the first magnitude, and they’ve got to go to Plan B.”

Likewise, Chris Matthews argued during a “Tonight Show” appearance that the President was “acting a little like a Vatican Observer.”

“The President scares me,” he said. “When is he actually going to do something? And I worry; I know he doesn’t want to take ownership of it. I know politics. He said the minute he says, ‘I’m in charge,’ he takes the blame, but somebody has to. It’s in our interest.”

The Huffington Post says Obama has thus far avoided comparisons to Bush and Katrina because his Administration has stayed on message. Actually, it’s the media that has stayed on message, but that seems to be changing.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is on message, too: He’s pretty sure the Administration sent DOJ lawyers to Louisiana to pursue criminal charges. Feel better now, Louisiana?

– DRJ

The Obama Doctrine

Filed under: International,Obama,War — DRJ @ 10:01 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

In his commencement speech at West Point yesterday, President Obama repudiated the Bush Doctrine and outlined a new American national security policy:

“Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system,” the president told graduating cadets. “But America has not succeeded by stepping out of the currents of cooperation. We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice, so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face consequences when they don’t.”

Mr. Obama said the United States would “be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well,” while also trying to “build new partnerships and shape stronger international standards and institutions.” He added: “This engagement is not an end in itself. The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times.”

Yesterday’s media coverage focused on the parallels between Obama’s “international order” and President George H.W. Bush’s “new world order” used in announcing the 1990 War in Iraq. But the comparison Obama and some in the media are avoiding is between his policies and those of his predecessor, George W. Bush:

“When Mr. Bush addressed their predecessors, he had toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan and was turning attention to Iraq. “If we wait for threats to fully materialize,” he said then, “we will have waited too long.” As Mr. Obama took the stage on a mild, overcast day, the American war in Iraq was winding down, but Afghanistan had flared out of control and terrorists were making a fresh effort to strike inside the United States.

“This war has changed over the last nine years, but it’s no less important than it was in those days after 9/11,” Mr. Obama said. Recalling his decision announced here six months ago to send 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan, Mr. Obama said difficult days were ahead, but added, “I have no doubt that together with our Afghan and international partners, we will succeed in Afghanistan.”

Mr. Obama all but declared victory in Iraq, praising the military, but not Mr. Bush, for turning it around. “A lesser Army might have seen its spirit broken,” he said. “But the American military is more resilient than that.”

The Bush Doctrine called on nations to “meet their responsibilities” and also forced them to “face consequences when they don’t.” As President, Obama has mastered the rhetoric that calls on nations to do their part. But the adverse consequences have not materialized (or are limited to America’s allies), a fact that is most apparent in the failure of Obama’s approach to homeland security:

“At home, Mr. Obama attributed the failure of efforts to blow up an airplane over Detroit and a car packed with explosives in Times Square to the intense American pursuit of radical groups abroad. “These failed attacks show that pressure on networks like Al Qaeda is forcing them to rely on terrorists with less time and space to train,” he said.

And he defended his revised counterterrorism policies that critics say have weakened America’s defenses. “We should not discard our freedoms because extremists try to exploit them,” he said. “We cannot succumb to division because others try to drive us apart.”

I’d feel much better if the “failed attacks” had been stopped before the fuses were lit, the goal during the Bush Administration. I’d also feel better if the Obama Doctrine relied less on fragile and unpredictable diplomacy:

“The speech offered a glimpse of his first official national security strategy, to be released this week, including four principles: to build strength abroad by building strength at home through education, clean energy and innovation; to promote “the renewed engagement of our diplomats” and support international development; to rebuild alliances; and to promote human rights and democracy abroad.

But even as he tried to distinguish his strategy from Mr. Bush’s, Mr. Obama faced the same daunting realization and expressed it with a line Mr. Bush used repeatedly: “This is a different kind of war,” he said. “There will be no simple moment of surrender to mark the journey’s end, no armistice or banner headline.”

It was President Bush who changed American policy to fight a new kind of war. President Obama has returned to the policies of demilitarization, detente, and diplomacy.

– DRJ

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