Let the Wild Rumpus Start

Technically, I have to wait 10 hours or so to begin rumpusing. But who am I kidding? I'm already kinda silly and giddy. Good thing I work in a toy store... if I were a mortician or something I'd need to take a sick day.


Every time I consider dropping the Volokh Conspiracy from my Legion of the Damned because of some asinine, knee-jerk anti-Obama screed by one of his co-posters, the good perfesser steps up and posts something interesting about the law.

Given all the various shades of religious persecution throughout history, it always amazes me when someone argues for more religion in government, and that they don't see the danger of eroding that wall separating the two.

Color Me Unsurprised

Any decent poker player learns quickly to trust their instincts, even if logic can't explain a particular move. In fact that's one of the big things I still need to work on in my game, is heeding my first instinct more. I still try to deduce things I should (and do) already know the answer to. (Via Sully).

An Idle Thought

We know by now that Obama is a pretty shrewd cat, right? He proved that in the way he ran his campaigns for Dem nominee and President.

And the CW says that the Dems will be at an enthusiasm disadvantage during the 2010 midterms, and that the Pubs might take back some seats as a result, right?

So what if Obama is deliberately dragging his heels on LGBT equality so he can pull a rabbit out of his hat next summer on DADT and/or DOMA in order to fire up a big part of his base just in time for those '10 midterms?

I mean, what has he got to lose? The Pub base is going to be fired up anyway. They're already fired up to the point of blowing out their boilers. Is there some wingnut out there thinking "I can live with all this Marxism, but if that Kenyan bastard lets those fags get married I'm gonna get right out there and vote those Dems out of office!"?

Given the way health care reform has played out, nothing will get passed until late 2009/early 2010. Assuming there's a decent form of public option in it, that squares away one big chunk of the liberal base. Serious movement on the gay equality front a few months later squares away another big chunk, and gives Obama the troops on the ground to counter whatever wave of right-wing fury the Pubs can generate.

If that theory's correct, then the logical third plank of a 2010 'excite the Dem base' strategy would be movement towards immigration reform, with some version of amnesty built into it.

Politicians vs Activists

Some people -- and I'm thinking here specifically of JC, as well as some of Sully's readers -- don't seem to get the distinction between the two.

Of course Obama, as a rather smart politician, is going to make a list of priorities which will be motivated by concerns and calculations beyond simply Doing What Is Right. That's the job he was elected to do.

That's not the job of activists, which is what Sully is being on this particular issue. It is the job of activists to ignore that kind of political calculus and focus exclusively on Doing What (they feel) Is Right.

And naturally, those two agendas are going to be at cross purposes until such time as public will causes them to intersect. Martin Luther King didn't wake up one day, give the I Have A Dream speech, and poof! the Civil Rights Act was passed. There was a long history of marches and demonstrations and repression and violence and murder that led up to it.

I believe, looking at the similarly long history of the battle for LGBT equality, that we are in the endgame. Within a handful of years the dam will burst, DADT and DOMA and the rest will be tossed aside, and love and justice will triumph over hate.

That doesn't mean I'd expect those on the front lines of that battle to take their foot off the gas, now that the finish line is in sight.

Torturing Innocents

We did it. USA! USA!

Until now, this scenario has only been a fear. Now we know it was a reality. An astonishing, and largely ignored, judicial ruling issued on September 17 in the case of one Fouad al-Rabiah told us that the US government knowingly tortured an innocent man to procure a false confession.

We know that an American interrogator, operating under the authority of the US government, said the following words to a detainee: “There is nothing against you. But there is no innocent person here. So, you should confess to something so you can be charged and sentenced and serve your sentence and then go back to your family and country, because you will not leave this place innocent.”

That’s from page 41 of the court memorandum and order, releasing al-Rabiah. Al-Rabiah was captured in Pakistan in December 2001. He had an unlikely history for a top Al-Qaeda commander and strategist. He had spent 20 years at a desk job for Kuwait Airways. As the journalist Andy Worthington has painstakingly reported — and the court reiterated — he was also a humanitarian volunteer for Muslim refugees. Yet informants had described him as an Al-Qaeda supporter and confidant of Osama Bin Laden, and before he knew what was happening to him, he was whisked away to Guantanamo.

The informants’ accounts were riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions. In her ruling, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly noted that “the only consistency with respect to [these] allegations is that they repeatedly change over time”. The one incriminating statement was given by another inmate after he had been subjected to sleep deprivation and coercion. So the only option left to prove that al-Rabiah had not been captured by mistake was his own confession.

The interrogators’ notes, forced into the open by the court, gave the game away. In the judge’s words, although “al-Rabiah’s interrogators ultimately extracted confessions from him”, they “never believed his confessions, based on the comments they included in their interrogation reports”. In fact, “the evidence in the record during this period consists mainly of an assessment made by an intelligence analyst that alRabiah should not have been detained”.

That CIA analyst, moreover, had told the justice department this was his judgment. Rather than withdraw the prosecution, however, the decision was made to get al-Rabiah to confess. He didn’t and wouldn’t. So he was subject to sleep deprivation and other unspecified “interrogation techniques” that led him to suffer “from serious depression, losing weight in a substantial way, and very stressed because of the constant moves, deprived of sleep and worried about the consequences for his children”.

Whatever the techniques applied to him, the outcome was a breakthrough for the US government. It resulted, in the judge’s words, in al-Rabiah’s “confession that he met with Osama Bin Laden, continued with his confession that he undertook a leadership role in Tora Bora, and repeated itself ... with respect to ‘evidence’ that the government has not even attempted to rely on as reliable or credible”.

The ruling also reveals that during the coercion, al-Rabiah began to make contradictory confessions; and when he tried to retract them, he was punished: “As a result, al-Rabiah’s interrogators began using abusive techniques that violated the Army Field Manual and the 1949 Geneva Conventions ... The first of these techniques included threats of rendition to places where al-Rabiah would either be tortured and/or would never be found.”

The only thing I would find remotely satisfying as a form of justice here would be for Dick Cheney to be prosecuted, convicted, and a special punishment added to the books whereby he would be stripped of his citizenship and exiled from the country. He is not fit to be an American.

Since that will never happen, I'll make do with the prosecutions of everyone responsible for these horrors, top to bottom.

Best Comment About Obama's Nobel

And it comes, surprisingly enough, from the State Department:

Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum — when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes.