Final GTMO census number under now former President Barack Obama... forty-one men were handed off to the tender mercies of [gak] President Donald Trump, as of his inauguration mid-day on January 20. Andy, nearing the end of his American post-reality reality tour here has more on the ten men recently released to Oman.
And so we have a challenge...and an opportunity. As Andy and GTMO attorney Tom Wilner recently noted in an op-ed in NY's Daily News, at this census level, it costs around $10 million per prisoner each year... an insane amount of money simply to continue a pointless injustice. It would be a bizarre "only Nixon could go to China" development if Trump manages to shove the actual closing of Guantanamo through a Republican Congress. Not how you bet- but an opportunity. IMHO, people of goodwill were all too often stymied by Obama being notionally "on our side". It made getting public traction quite difficult.
Nothing will likely happen in the short run-- obviously, the rush for transfers comes to an end, and the Obama Administration itself has been oh so helpful in shutting down any legal options for detainees. Trump has threatened to "fill Guantanamo up with bad dudes," whatever that means.
But Guantanamo is still an insane expense, an insane moral stain on this nation, and will, hopefully, be a source of irritation to Team Trump, as, I hope, genuine left-wing opposition becomes a thing again. The concept of someone "who cannot be tried but is too dangerous to release" is anathema to an allegedly free country bound by the rule of law... but that is what GTMO is. But 26 men still fit that definition, including Candace's client Saeed Bakhouche, and have no recourse save executive whim; the courts have abrogated any responsibility over them. And five more are "cleared for release"-- some for as long as eight years in that status-- and yet... we the USA taxpayers will shell out $50 million a year to continue to hold them. And then we hold ten alleged terrorist kingpins as "high value detainees" subject to military commission trials at incredible cost, even though it is almost certain that, if the commission trials ever happen, that any convictions would probably be overturned by real courts.
But the game goes on. We need a better story-- and outrageous cost-- financial and moral-- is as good as any. Facts mean nothing to the American people-- as the obvious facts about the odiousness of the orange-hued cretinous boor we have just handed the presidency too mattered not a whit to millions of voters. They just liked his stories better. And so... the fact, of course, is that most of the men at Guantanamo are not, and have never been "terrorists"-- and the fact that only three have been "convicted" even by the flawed commissions tells you all you need to know. Indeed, they represent only about five per cent of the men who have cycled through the place, and again, five are "cleared" as it is, and, assuming the review process set up by Obama continues, we could assume more would be "cleared." And maybe "cleared" will lead to "transferred." Will any of this happen?
There's the challenge. I for one aren't giving up. Who's with me?
Given that we have the twitter President, at this point, I can only direct you to the twitter site of my good friend, Donald J. Putin.
With the new regime, we have to take it literally, but not seriously. Whatever that means.
With barely 72 hours or so left in his Administration, President Barack Obama announced a commutation of the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. From the Grey Lady:
President Obama on Tuesday commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama’s administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures.
The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.
At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also pardoned Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters to F.B.I. agents investigating a leak of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
The two acts of clemency were a remarkable final step for a president whose administration carried out an unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaks of government secrets. Depending on how they are counted, the Obama administration has prosecuted either nine or 10 such cases, more than were charged under all previous presidencies combined.
In addition, Mr. Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out a string of bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the other members of that group had long since been freed. Mr. Obama also granted 63 other pardons and 207 other commutations, mostly for drug offenders.
Under the terms of the commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year rather than in 2045. A senior administration official said the 120-day delay was part of a standard transition period for commutations to time served, and was designed to allow for such steps as finding a place for Ms. Manning to live after her release.
The commutation also relieved the Defense Department of the difficult responsibility of Ms. Manning’s incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria, including sex reassignment surgery, that the military has no experience providing.
But the move was sharply criticized by several prominent Republicans, including the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees, Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who called her leaks “espionage” and said they had put American troops and the country at risk.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan called it “outrageous.” “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes,” he said in a statement.
But in a joint statement, Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward — two lawyers who have been representing Ms. Manning in appealing her conviction and sentence, and who filed the commutation application — praised the decision.
Oh... ten Guantanamo prisoners were released to Oman. No details on names and nationalities are forthcoming, but this transfer reduces the GTMO census from 55 to 45... will that be the number handed off to incoming President
Voldemort Cohn Trump? We will see,
Meanwhile, it seems, the Cockwork Orange continues to play out his pro-wrestler-heel fantasies... and in three days, from the squared circle known as the Oval Office.
And we're off. In an interview with the German publication Bild and London's Times, the president-elect suggested that the NATO alliance was "obsolete," that only five members (there are twenty-eight total members) are "paying their fair share," he praised the Brexit vote, called the EU a device for Germany's benefit to impose its will on the rest of Europe, and he threatened to impose import duties on BMW if it locates a plant in Mexico, as it proposes. He also suggested he wants a deal with Russia, to reduce nuclear weapons and to eliminate sanctions. He chided German chancellor Angela Merkel for her refugee policy (there's a surprise), noting he believed it a "catastrophic mistake."
And he's not even going to take office for five more days. Here's the thing: this is actually pretty consistent with what he campaigned on. And there is an interesting national debate that would not be inappropriate, as to the appropriateness of our contribution to NATO (which Mr. Trump unsurprisingly is overstating) and indeed, the appropriateness of our involvement in an alliance with other states that are in a far better position to defend themselves than they were in the aftermath of World War II. The bigger question is whether the United States's overall massive defense footprint and expenditures are actually required for our own security, or whether we should scale back in light of both world geopolitical conditions and our own financial situation. Seriously... why should all aspects of our present policies be taken on sheer faith? Same with the EU-- though that is the EU members' business-- as to whether they believe that trade accord is in their interest. That is, it is not Mr. Trump's business.
And import duties on a non-American company choosing to locate its operations in Mexico presents a host of troubling issues (including whether he has the authority to do it on this basis). But again, maybe "a businessman" (even a terrible one like Mr. Trump) might correctly ask why we don't have a national industrial policy? Maybe he's not answering correctly-- but it is somewhat refreshing to see someone asking this kind of question.
Obviously, if his "policy positions" are being driven by his personal financial ties to the Russian state and Russian oligarchs in particular, rather than by actual personal conviction that this is sound policy (a virtual certainty, as Mr. Trump believes in nothing besides his personal aggrandizement)... then we have some deadly serious issues (of a national security nature) in allowing him to proceed. But I am not saying that, in isolation of Mr. Trump's wholly inappropriate motives (some might call them-- correctly-- treasonous), that the policy direction he seems to be proposing is not worthy of debate, and possibly even implementation.
All this said, none of this means that this man who is entirely unfit to be president is not to be opposed, consistently, and vociferously, at every turn, unless and until he behaves in an appropriate manner. Which means, he will likely need to be opposed consistently and vociferously.
It's the 15th anniversary of the opening of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba today; Andy is stateside, and, when not sojourning at Stately Dog Manor, is down in Washington, where I will be as well, protesting near the Supreme Court (festivities start 11:30 a.m., for those able to join...)
Obviously, none of us really know what the next Administration will bring... but, in matters GTMO, drone, indefinite detention, war/peace, etc.... it's not like we don't have "issues" with the current Administration. Just sayin'.
The Associated Press (btw, thanks AP for handing the nomination to Hillary and hence, the presidency to
Voldemort Trump), via ABC, tells us that the president-elect seems to be moving at glacial pace (or not at all) towards divesting his far-flung corporate empire into any kind of "blind trust" prior to the inauguration.
Regular readers (whomever you are) know from a post just yesterday that Mr. Trump himself is deeply in bed with and/or in hock to Russian and Chinese entities. Aside from the possibility (or probability) that unwinding his own actual interests (as opposed to notional interests) might demonstrate once and for all that he is actually insolvent (he has a history of being a terrible, terrible businessperson), such unwinding might also unmask some of the shadowy arrangements he has made. And that would be both bad for bid'ness, and from Mr. Trump's perspective, probably bad for health as well.
In short, we can count on Mr. Trump to truly do what few politicians manage to do: he will stay bought. Yes, it seems somewhat problematic that his personal obligations to instruments of states usually considered hostile to this one to some degree or other might "influence policy"... but... but... Hillary's emails.
Kathleen Parker of WaPo asks the musical question, "If Obama is a Muslim, is Trump a Russian spy?" Heh. Hilarious, actually, given that the prime mover of birtherism was none other than Mr. Trump himself. What would be a complete disqualifier in any sane and healthy country instead grants him instant credibility in this one.
Alrightie then. Parker observes Trump's steadfast refusal to believe the intel reports of Russian hacking that effected (though not necessarily "decisively") the election in which Trump prevailed under its atavistic rules, and of course, Trump's "common cause" with a nation with whom this nation's relationship might usually be described as "kind of hostile."
But why use the pejorative "spy"? It implies some sort of clandestine relationship with the Motherland. Why not use, oh, "captive," as in personally beholden for his and his family's fortunes.
We might consider the warning in this piece from The Hill called "How much money does
the Trump Organization owe Russia and China?":
We do not want to wake up the day after election to learn that we have elected a president who owes Putin’s oligarch friends in Russia and the Central Bank of China hundreds of millions of dollars.
This piece from Daily Newsbin suggests, perhaps, "Deeply in Debt to Russia, Trump only Ran for President to Avoid Bankruptcy."
But... but... let me offer this piece documenting deep-seated financial ties between Trump and his top advisers and Russia from highly disreputable
Time magazine. The piece notes the magician's trick (misdirection), i.e., Trump denies that he has invested in Russia... conveniently not mentioning that Russia has invested in him... or other ties from his top campaign people at the time:
Trump’s de facto campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was a longtime consultant to Viktor Yanukovich, the Russian-backed president of Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014. Manafort also has done multimillion-dollar business deals with Russian oligarchs. Trump’s foreign policy advisor Carter Page has his own business ties to the state-controlled Russian oil giant Gazprom. … Another Trump foreign policy advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, flew to Moscow last year to attend a gala banquet celebrating Russia Today, the Kremlin’s propaganda channel, and was seated at the head table near Putin.
But it is Trump’s financing from Russian satellite business interests that would seem to explain his pro-Putin sympathies.
The most obvious example is Trump Soho, a complicated web of financial intrigue that has played out in court. A lawsuit claimed that the business group, Bayrock, underpinning Trump Soho was supported by criminal Russian financial interests. While its initial claim absolved Trump of knowledge of those activities, Trump himself later took on the group’s principal partner as a senior advisor in the Trump organization.
“Tax evasion and money-laundering are the core of Bayrock’s business model,” the lawsuit said of the financiers behind Trump Soho. The financing came from Russian-affiliated business interests that engaged in criminal activities, it said. “(But) there is no evidence Trump took any part in, or knew of, their racketeering.”
Journalists who’ve looked at the Bayrock lawsuit, and Trump Soho, wonder why Trump was involved at all. “What was Trump thinking entering into business with partners like these?” Franklin Foer wrote in Slate. “It’s a question he has tried to banish by downplaying his ties to Bayrock.”
But Bayrock wasn’t just involved with Trump Soho. It financed multiple Trump projects around the world, Foer wrote. “(Trump) didn’t just partner with Bayrock; the company embedded with him. Bayrock put together deals for mammoth Trump-named, Trump-managed projects—two in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a resort in Phoenix, the Trump SoHo in New York.”
But, as The New York Times has reported, that was only the beginning of the Trump organization’s entanglement with Russian financiers. Trump was quite taken with Bayrock’s founder, Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet-era commerce official originally from Kazakhstan.
“Bayrock, which was developing commercial properties in Brooklyn, proposed that Mr. Trump license his name to hotel projects in Florida, Arizona and New York, including Trump SoHo,” the Times reported. “The other development partner for Trump SoHo was the Sapir Organization, whose founder, Tamir Sapir, was from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.”
Trump was eager to work with both financial groups on Trump projects all over the world. “Mr. Trump was particularly taken with Mr. Arif’s overseas connections,” the Times wrote. “In a deposition, Mr. Trump said that the two had discussed ‘numerous deals all over the world’ and that Mr. Arif had brought potential Russian investors to Mr. Trump’s office to meet him. ‘Bayrock knew the people, knew the investors, and in some cases I believe they were friends of Mr. Arif,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘And this was going to be Trump International Hotel and Tower Moscow, Kiev, Istanbul, etc., Poland, Warsaw.’”
The Times also reported that federal court records recently released showed yet another link to Russian financial interests in Trump businesses. A Bayrock official “brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians ‘in favor with’ President Vladimir V. Putin,’” the Times reported. “The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a ‘strategic partner,’ along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt.”
Trump Soho was so complicated that Bayrock’s finance chief, Jody Kriss, sued it for fraud. In the lawsuit, Kriss alleged that a primary source of funding for Trump’s big projects with Bayrock arrived “magically” from sources in Russia and Kazakhstan whenever the business interest needed funding.
There are other Russian business ties to the Trump organization as well. Trump’s first real estate venture in Toronto, Canada, was a partnership with two Russian-Canadian entrepreneurs, Toronto Life reported in 2013.
“The hotel’s developer, Talon International, is run by Val Levitan and Alex Shnaider, two Russian-Canadian entrepreneurs. Levitan made his fortune manufacturing slot machines and creating bank note validation technology, and Shnaider earned his in the post-glasnost steel trade,” it reported.
Finally, for all of his denials of Russian ties lately, Trump has boasted in the past of his many meetings with Russian oligarchs. During one trip to Moscow, Trump bragged that they all showed up to meet him to discuss projects around the globe. “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room” just to meet with him, Trump said at the time.
And when Trump built a tower in Panama, his clients were wealthy Russians, the Washington Post reported. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., said at a real estate conference in 2008, according to a trade publication, eTurboNews.
The only instance that Trump acknowledges any sort of Russian financial connection is a Florida mansion he sold to a wealthy Russian. “What do I have to do with Russia?” Trump said in the wake of the DNC hack. “You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida… for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions.”
But it should be obvious to anyone trying to pay attention to these moving targets that Trump is saying one thing and doing something else. When it comes to Trump and Russia, the truth may take awhile to emerge.
Bloomberg reported in June that the Clinton Foundation was breached by Russian hackers. “The Russians may also have acquired the emails that Hillary Clinton sent as secretary of State. Putin might be holding back explosive material until October, when its release could ensure a Trump victory,” it reported.
In the 1970s, burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, was forced out of office for the White House cover up of its involvement in the DNC break in.
Now, a generation later, a digital break in to the national headquarters of one of our two major parties by a foreign adversary in order to leak information that benefits the other national party’s presidential candidate seems to be just the normal course of doing business. The Trump era, it is safe to assume, is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
To coin a phrase... indeed.
That's monologuist Mike Daisey (we've written about him before) and his recent presentation called "Trump Card," in which he notes the original secret of the late Fred Trump's business success (passed down to his heir apparent, the president-elect), that being never, Never, NEVER... NEVER...pay for labor.
As a third separate contractor files a mechanic's lien against the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., because... well... see above.
The champion of the American working man, ladies and gentlemen... he'll be here all week... and, evidently, for at least the next four years.
A Gallup poll shows that the majority of Americans surveyed do not believe that
Cheeto Jesus the most unqualified man ever to be elected president [tm] President Elect Donald Trump is capable of doing the job of President. This is in sharp contrast to his three immediate predecessors, for example, each of whom had significant a majority of Americans expressing confidence in their likely performance. Perhaps Mr. Trump's extraordinary divisiveness at the moment he might be expected to be drawing towards national unity has something to do with this... or maybe the public (the significant majority who did not vote for him) realize he is an unrepentant asshole.
Whatever the actual situation... we're going to find out if what we always suspected to be the case is true, that being that much of the job of President is pretty rote, or handled by the cadres of careerists, or, by and large, not particularly heavy lifting.
Because if that isn't true... we are probably in for a sh*t-storm,
The new year of 2017 rings in with a horrifying bang, as one attacker (or is it more?) apparently with a Kalishnikov automatic rifle, stormed into a popular nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey and murdered at least 39 people celebrating New Year's Eve. Turkey has had a whole lot of bad crap of late, including bombings, the assassination of the Russian Ambassador, a near-coup, millions of refugees from nearby Syria... in short, a witches' brew of much of the world's instability, sitting conveniently at a junction between Europe and Asia, bordering Greece and Bulgaria on the European side, and on its Asian side, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Nothing to worry about there.
Just for fun, Turkey has a huge internal battle going on with its own Kurdish population in its easternmost regions, even as Iraqi Kurds are a key Western ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. And Turkey is perennially involved in negotiations to join the European Union (there's a great idea), and, of course, besides having its own mostly Muslim citizenry of about 70 million, also houses a couple million refugees from conflicts in the Middle East.
There have been night club attacks, of course, in France, and in Florida just within the last few months, so the m.o. is more or less established, and while I am horrified (as, I would hope, any rational human being is), I am at a loss for a response.
The question, I guess, is whether the sh*tstorm first unleashed by the Bush Administration in the aftermath of 9-11, when it decided to "bring democracy" to the Middle East, which, for various reasons, seems to be expanding in all directions, will reach some kind of equilibrium with the coming international Bromance between the leadership of Russia (Pooty Poot) and the US of A (Cheeto Jesus)? Damned if I know.
Let's just say that living and working here in the Donald's hometown for the last fifteen or more years in these "interesting times"... remains as fraught as ever. But at least the Second Avenue subway is open.
An over-empowered minority of American voters chose the form of the destructor. Slate offers us this note that 2016 was some kind of a wake-up call for White liberals... as if.
The president-elect wishes a happy new year to his enemies "who lost so badly." At some point, he might consider stepping out of his professional wrestler persona and comporting himself with the decorum and dignity his newly acquired office requires. Then again, as long as the American media considers any emanations reaching us from the unfiltered, undrained swamp via his short fingers typing on his twitter account to be the most Earth-shattering of news, it seems unlikely... no matter how dire the adverse consequences might be.
And finally, the
four three new stations of the Second Avenue subway line (an extension of the "Q" train from 63rd and Lex to 96th and Second) is allegedly opening tomorrow. I think this is a very apt metaphor. I once interviewed for a legal job with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's capital projects operation over a dozen years ago, when that division had just been organized to manage and complete five projects: an expansion of the South Ferry subway station to accommodate ten-car trains (completed a few years ago, if somewhat hampered after Hurricane Sandy), a renovation of the Fulton Street transportation hub in downtown Manhattan (completed just a few months ago), the extension of the 7 train to the far West Side's Jacob Javits Convention Center (completed around two or three years ago), the Second Avenue subway (first leg about to open) and the Long Island Rail Road connector from Jamaica to Grand Central Station... still in progress, with an opening date sometime... in the future. The apt metaphor being that there are still grand projects taking place, even right in front of us. But the really worthwhile grand projects-- such as the re-invention of a pluralistic, fairness based, democratic society where our leaders are chosen on some basis other than their celebrity and their willingness to offend vulnerable populations-- take time, possibly, a really, really long time.
Doesn't mean that it won't take consistent, day in day out effort. It just means that we all will have to learn the difference between hard... and impossible.
Happy new year, y'all.
One day after Carrie Fisher died of a heart attack, Fisher's mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, died at age 84 of a stroke.
Pretty miserably awful. I got nothin'.
Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. Fisher, the iconic Princess Leia of the Star Wars franchise, and a few other roles, passed away at age 60 after suffering a heart attack during a transatlantic flight.
It's been an unusually tough year for icons, with the losses of Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Oscar Brand, Glenn Frey... and recently, even George Michael, among many others.
I've had my own losses as well (piling on the loss of my own Dad, last year) And, of course, we have all observed the loss of any remaining sense of civic order in the English speaking world, as the respective electorates of both the United Kingdom (voting to leave the EU) and the United States (voting to leave the civilized world) seem intent on cutting their own throats in order to vent their spleens.
And... 2017 presents... very little to look forward to. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.
Hey... I got nothin'...
Not yet the President
Voldemort You-Know-Who suggests that the United States should expand its nuclear weapons capability. Apparently, this comes more or less around the same time that he pressured the Obama Administration with respect to a U.N. vote condemning Israeli settlements.
I could go on. Times they are a changin'. That's what a significant minority of American voters (adequately distributed under our slavery-era-invented electoral disposition to win) decided they wanted.
The question is whether this person will lead us to ruination.