Obama administration new measures

Nice start:

[quote=“CBC: Prosecutors request suspension of Guantanamo trials on order from Obama”]Military prosecutors have requested a suspension of all trials at Guantanamo Bay at the behest of newly installed U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama verbally requested a 120-day continuance in the trials through U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, according to a spokesman for the military commissions at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Prosecutors then filed the request with judges hearing the cases of Canadian Omar Khadr and five men accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“In the interests of justice, and at the direction of the president of the United States and secretary of defence, the government respectfully requests the military commission grant a continuance of the proceedings… until 20 May,” states the motion, filed late Tuesday.[/quote]Khadr’s the only remaining Western citizen in that legal black hole. According to his lawyer, he could be back in Canada if Harper so much as ‘picked up the phone.’

Also good, a touch of realism:

[quote=“New WH site offers candid bios”]The new White House website debuted Tuesday with several surprisingly candid biographies of the nation’s presidents and first ladies.

The site puts a journalistic spin on previous presidents, assessing their weaknesses and strengths and wavering between critical and kind.

Consider a few.

Why Jimmy Carter was a one-term president: “Jimmy Carter aspired to make Government ‘competent and compassionate,’ responsive to the American people and their expectations. His achievements were notable, but in an era of rising energy costs, mounting inflation, and continuing tensions, it was impossible for his administration to meet these high expectations.”

Bill Clinton’s low point (detailed in a slightly jumbled passage): “In 1998, as a result of issues surrounding personal indiscretions with a young woman White House intern, Clinton was the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives.”

How George H.W. Bush lost the presidency: “Despite unprecedented popularity from this military and diplomatic triumph, Bush was unable to withstand discontent at home from a faltering economy, rising violence in inner cities, and continued high deficit spending. In 1992 he lost his bid for reelection to Democrat William Clinton.
[…]
Although a different section of the website criticizes George W. Bush for his administration’s “unconscionable ineptitude” in responding to Hurricane Katrina, there is no mention of Katrina in Bush’s official biography.[/quote]

Lots more here: Politico 44.

7 reasons for healthy skepticism

Very interesting piece. I haven’t read much on politico before but I think I’ll have to start. Their articles seem well written. The one above is about why we shouldn’t assume that because President Obama has taken office that everything is ok.

Here is one of the funnier quotes:

More good news: transparency, and a pay freeze.

[quote=“NYT”]The transparency and ethics moves were set forth in two executive orders and three presidential memorandums; Mr. Obama signed them at the swearing-in ceremony with a left-handed flourish.

The new president effectively reversed a post-9/11 Bush administration policy making it easier for government agencies to deny requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act, and effectively repealed a Bush executive order that allowed former presidents or their heirs to claim executive privilege in an effort to keep records secret.

“Starting today,” Mr. Obama said, “every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.”
[…]
“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an advocacy group that tangled frequently with the Bush administration over records. “For the president to say this on Day 1 says: ‘We mean it. Turn your records over.’ ”
[…]
“Historians are overjoyed by this,” said Lee White, executive director of the National Coalition for History.[/quote]

The transparency sounds good to me. The pay freeze sound stupid. I understand it as a political/PR move, but high level government employees already get so little money compared to what they would make in the private sector… it’s just silly.

The pay freeze also strikes me as a little out of sync with some of Obama’s stated goals. In my opinion, paying people less is likely to be counter-productive in recruiting top talent for his better-not-bigger government idea, for one thing. He also made a move to rein in lobbying today, right? What’s one of the big factors behind the revolving door lobbying phenomenon? It’s the fact that top-level government employees are, on the whole, paid salaries that are simply laughable given such individuals’ backgrounds and abilities. First year lawyers with no experience right out of law school make more than top judges and justice department officials, for example. These folks are paid a tiny fraction of what they are worth, and they cash for their cheap labor by going to be lobbyist when they are out of office. If Obama wanted to curb lobbying he should be doubling or tripling the salaries of those top-level people, not freezing them.

I get the idea that it sends a warm&fuzzy message to people to say “We understand the economy is bad and we’re tightening our belts too”. I just think the negatives outweigh the value of sending that message.

Yeah, but the pay freeze applies only to those making over $100,000. At that level, I’m not too concerned about retaining talent. Unless you’re going to pay them astronomical salaries, the grass is always going to be greener on the other side, and there are attractions other than the monetary.

I’m not sure what effect raising those salaries would have. Would it lead to greater professionalization (and less partisanship), or make that battles for high office much more bitter?

I see your point, and agree that, as a practical matter, lobbyists will probably always get paid more. It just seems to me like you don’t want too big of a gap between the government salary people are paid and the going rate for those people on the market. I think it makes corruption (both envelope-full-of-cash and the “softer” kind) more likely. Not that there wouldn’t be corruption regardless, I just think the massive disparity makes the problem worse.

In the big scheme of things I don’t think it’s a big deal. The timing just seemed funny to me – that on the very same day: (a) he announced that he was cracking down on White House lobbying, and (b) he enacted measures giving top White House people more incentive (if only a little bit more) to find a loophole to go become lobbyists.

On a separate note, does getting rid of the jacket-required rule in the Oval Office count as a new measure? I give that one a thumbs up. :thumbsup:

Picked many of the right people, invoking the right principles, applying them to his own office.
A complete turn around from Bush on each point.
So far, so good.

[quote=“Obama”] The directives I am giving my administration today on how to interpret the Freedom of Information Act will do just that. For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that [color=#000000]this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.[/color]

To be sure, issues like personal privacy and national security must be treated with the care they demand. But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.

I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness. Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. [color=#000000]Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution.[/color]

Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.[/quote]

If you really want to take a big picture approach to solving the nation’s current problems then recognizing that lobbyists are one of the biggest reasons why those problems exist would be a better approach.

huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/2 … 59784.html

:bravo:

Trivial, I know, but it does represent a new way of doing things: dealing with the task at hand rather than worrying about irrelevancies.

Obama looks good sitting at the Resolute Desk!

All US Presidencies start with high minded talk about transparency and ethics, and most of them end with the Presidents Legal minions pleading "Executive Privilege " or “National Security” to a Special Prosecutors until term limits kick in and get them out of office.

What are the odds that Obama will end up like Bush II or Clinton?

But some actually mean it.

Fresh air, sunshine… I wonder how long till all the good news gives Cheney another heart attack.[quote=“Politico”]Executive Order revokes Executive Order 13440 that interpreted Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. It requires that all interrogations of detainees in armed conflict, by any government agency, follow the Army Field Manual interrogation guidelines. [color=#000000]The Order also prohibits reliance on any Department of Justice or other legal advice concerning interrogation that was issued between September 11, 2001 and January 20, 2009.[/color]

The Order requires all departments and agencies to provide the ICRC access to detainees in a manner consistent with Department of Defense regulations and practice. It also orders the CIA to close all existing detention facilities and prohibits it from operating detention facilities in the future.
[…]
Finally, the Executive Order requires that conditions of confinement at Guantanamo, until its closure, comply with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and all other applicable laws.[/quote]

Can’t say I like his choice in appointing Paul Volcker to lead the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Volcker has been a Trilateral Commission North American Honorary Chairman, a Director of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a present CFR member.Paul Volcker is also a Bilderberger.

Sort of like appointing Osama Bin Ladin as Secretary of Defense.

Interesting rejoicing by non-USA persons over the Obama decisions to lessen USA sovereign control of its military and governmental decisions.

Quite interesting.

Of course this is a non-issue as the International Red Cross as well as numerous Congressional tour groups have enjoyed full access to the terrorists detained at Club Gitmo.
Not one single beheading has been observed, videoed or released to the news media.
But weight gains and excellent medical care have been enjoyed by the jihadiis.

And so the future comes out.
[url=http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/17831.html]Obama flashes irritation in press room visit
“President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question.”

Its not nice to question the Supreme Leader.

The Obama Countdown clock

Day 2…and still no pony.

Of course this is a non-issue as the International Red Cross as well as numerous Congressional tour groups have enjoyed full access to the terrorists detained at Club Gitmo.
Not one single beheading has been observed, videoed or released to the news media.
But weight gains and excellent medical care have been enjoyed by the jihadiis.[/quote]

I’m curious, how are you, aside from the rhettoric, any different to a good old fashioned pro-Soviet thug?

The real issue here is these people have never been tried. They have been detained, shipped half way across the world without a trial or any recourse to independent legal advice, just like the golden days of the gulags. Why is it so difficult for you people to see a problem here? Is it the glaring lack of a fundamental education, or is it indoctrination?

HG

Well, I think closing Guantanimo (at least the prison) is a good step. Perhaps mostly for symbolic effects, but appearances matter. Substantively, holding detainees in the U.S. (assuming that’s the plan) is significant because persons held in the U.S. have greater procedural rights than those held elsewhere, so there’s a potential positive, but we’ll have to see what kind of tribunal is ultimately set up.

I would keep in mind though that not all problems go away. Underlying issues as to what to do with people who can’t safely be set loose in the U.S., but can’t safely be returned to Afghanistan either will still persist. Also, simply moving them to a different facility doesn’t necessarily ensure better treatment.

So, all in all a big positive step, but still just a step.

[quote=“TainanCowboy”]Interesting rejoicing by non-USA persons over the Obama decisions to lessen USA sovereign control of its military and governmental decisions.

Quite interesting.[/quote]
What’s interesting is how little support you give the notion that the US ought to be a nation governed by law, not the whims of the sovereign.

On Independence Day, do you don a Red Coat?

[quote=“Huang Guang Chen”]
I’m curious, how are you, aside from the rhettoric, any different to a good old fashioned pro-Soviet thug?

The real issue here is these people have never been tried. They have been detained, shipped half way across the world without a trial or any recourse to independent legal advice, just like the golden days of the gulags. Why is it so difficult for you people to see a problem here? Is it the glaring lack of a fundamental education, or is it indoctrination?

HG[/quote]

The first difference is that the Soviets sent their own citizens to the gulags. That’s a minor, but important, distinction to make. These guys weren’t ever citizens of the US.

The problem here is that President Bush tried to make a new category for these detainees so that they could be interoggated indefinitely. That came back to bite him in he ass because you have to do something with these guys eventually. You can’t keep them locked up forever, and as time went by, their intelligence potential went to 0.

Under the Geneva convention, the detainees picked up in Afghanistan, who are not the Al Qaeda guys charged with 9/11, should have been tried in a military courtroom. The Al Qaeda guys are a different situation because from what I’ve read, they can’t be tried by the military for what they did on 9/11 and before due to there not a declared state of conflict. The men picked up in Afghanistan shouldn’t be granted POW status because they don’t follow the requirements to be POW’s in a fight between two belligerents.

[quote=“ICRC”]Who should be recognized as belligerents combatants and non-combatants
Art. 9. The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer corps fulfilling the following conditions:

  1. That they be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
  2. That they have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;
  3. That they carry arms openly; and
  4. That they conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
  In countries where militia constitute the army, or form part of it, they are included under the denomination ' army '.[/quote]

By not following numbers 2, the men picked up shouldn’t be granted POW status. They weren’t wearing distinctive uniforms that distinguished them from civilians. They also shouldn’t have had some silly “enemy combatant” status made up for them. They should have been treated as the Geneva Convention and Hague protocols allow, i.e. as “francs-tireurs”, saboteurs and spies are treated. When captured, they are tried by a military tribunal using military rules and then punished accordingly. That is what the courts determined in the Hostages Trial in 1947.

The underlying issue is that none of them should be given civilian trials, or held this long without a military trial. They should have been quickly tried, convicted and sentenced, or repatriated back to their country of origin as applicable. If we don’t want to give them expensive trials, then when captured they should be summarily executed as provided for under the Geneva convention and Hague protocols, not detained at tax payer expense indefinitely without a trial.

Taking things seriously: George Mitchell named Special Envoy to for the Middle East, and Richard Holbrooke named Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Excellent choices.

Hmm… Mencken’s Ghost thinks drawing any analogy between Israel/Palestine and Northern Ireland is ridiculous and refuses to so much as discuss it. Now, Mitchell was a Mideast envoy for the Bush administration, and wrote a 2001 report that called for a halt to Israeli settlements and greater Palestinian efforts to crack down on terror, but his greatest accomplishment is certainly the role played as peace broker in Northern Ireland. :ponder: Not that that proves anything. Still… is there a need for Mencken correct Obama? Probably better to just reconsider that offhand dismissal.

huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/2 … 59784.html

:bravo:

Trivial, I know, but it does represent a new way of doing things: dealing with the task at hand rather than worrying about irrelevancies.

Obama looks good sitting at the Resolute Desk![/quote]

Reminds me of the old joke about the Founding Fathers writing the Constitution: “It’s so hot wearing these damn frock coats, let’s put something in their about the right to bare arms.”

Always admired the earlier generation of Israeli leaders for refusing to submit to the tyranny of the necktie.