Monday Reads

Good Morning!

There’s some news up from Wikileaks and WAPO on the current status of detainees held at Gitmo that I thought worth mentioning.  First, WAPO had a big feature up on Sunday explaining why Obama may have difficulty dealing with the remaining detainees and why the the facility hasn’t been closed.

This account of the unraveling of Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo is based on interviews with more than 30 current and former administration officials, as well as members of Congress and their staff, members of the George W. Bush administration, and activists. Many of them would speak about internal or sensitive deliberations only on the condition of anonymity.

The one theme that repeatedly emerged in interviews was a belief that the White House never pressed hard enough on what was supposed to be a signature goal. Although the closure of Guantanamo Bay was announced in an executive order, which Obama signed on Jan. 22, 2009, the fanfare never translated into the kind of political push necessary to sustain the policy. “Vulnerable senators weren’t going out on a limb and risk being Willie Hortonized on Gitmo when the White House, with the most to lose, wasn’t even twisting arms,” said a senior Democratic aide whose boss was one of 50 Democrats to vote in 2009 against funding to close Guantanamo. “They weren’t breathing down our necks pushing the vote or demanding unified action.”

UK’s The Telegraph  has this latest Wikileak on the detainees themselves and the loosie goosie rationale used to hold them. It now seems that many will never see trial let alone a release date.

Al-Qaeda terrorists have threatened to unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” on the West if Osama Bin Laden is caught or assassinated, according to documents to be released by the WikiLeaks website, which contain details the interrogations of more than 700 Guantanamo detainees.

However, the shocking human cost of obtaining this intelligence is also exposed with dozens of innocent people sent to Guantanamo – and hundreds of low-level foot-soldiers being held for years and probably tortured before being assessed as of little significance.

Both articles are long but well-worth the read. There is additional information in the NYT in their “Guantanamo Files” section that demonstrates the unreliability of information gained through torture. It also shows how many of the detainees were held or considered risks.  You’ll be horrified by the thin evidence. Just about anything was considered proof of Al Quaeda membership.

The guide shows how analysts seized upon the tiniest details as a potential litmus test for risk. If a prisoner had a Casio F91W watch, it might be an indication he had attended a Qaeda bomb-making course where such watches were handed out — though that model is sold around the world to this day. (Likewise, the assessment of a Yemeni prisoner suggests a dire use for his pocket calculator: “Calculators may be used for indirect fire calculations such as those required for artillery fire.”) A prisoner caught without travel documents? It might mean he had been trained to discard them to make identification harder, the guide explains. A detainee who claimed to be a simple farmer or a cook, or in the honey business or searching for a wife? Those were common Taliban and Qaeda cover stories, the analysts were told. And a classic Catch-22: “Refusal to cooperate,” the guide says, is a Qaeda resistance technique.

While we’re already reading the Brit Press, I’d like to give a shout out to a really interesting article at The Independent which looks at the mystery that is Easter Island.  Evidently there is a new theory about the moai and the ecology on the island.

In their new book, The Statues that Walked: Unravelling the Mystery of Easter Island, to be published in June, Dr Lipo and Professor Hunt present their evidence that Polynesian colonists arrived in 1200, up to 800 years later than the conventional theory claims, and immediately modified the environment with slash-and-burn agriculture. The effect this had on the giant palm forest was magnified by the rats that arrived with them. The rodent population, feeding extensively on palm seeds, exploded. Dr Lipo argues that deforestation didn’t make things much worse for humans. Rapa Nui was no tropical paradise. It’s an old volcanic island and many of the nutrients in the soil had already been washed away. Burning the giant palms actually helped, but the settlers soon turned to a technique called stone mulching, in which freshly broken volcanic rocks are planted in the poor soil to add nutrients and cut down on erosion. The same people who used rock mulching and greeted the Dutch could have moved the moai from Rano Raraku, the quarry where they were carved, to the shore, he says. The statues seem designed to allow small groups of men to move them by rocking them, as you would a refrigerator. Similar suggestions have been made in the past, but experiments indicated that the moai would have been worn away by the time they got to the coast. Dr Lipo, aided by anthropologist Sergio Rapu, the island’s first native governor under Chilean rule, thinks he has found a way around this, with more rocking and less shuffling.

In some happy news, Representative Giffords has the okay from her doctors to watch the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor.  The congresswoman’s recovery from shots to the head continues to astound many.

Friday, the Arizona congresswoman will witness her husband’s own inspiring moment: Commanding the space shuttle Endeavour on its last launch. Doctors have cleared Giffords, who was shot in the brain at a January 8 event in Tucson, to attend the scheduled launch in Florida, a source close to her said Sunday. The source told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that Giffords will be accompanied by a nurse. There will be no doctor or medical assistance on board. The source was not sure what kind of plane Giffords will be going on, but it will not be a commercial airliner. “She’ll probably be going either Wednesday or Thursday,” the source said. Asked by “The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” what Giffords’ reaction was to the decision allowing her to go, Kelly replied, “I think she said, ‘awesome’ and she pumped her fist.”

The Democracy contagion in the MENA region continues.  Peaceful protesters in Morocco are demanding constitutional reforms.

Thousands of protesters have participated in rallies in cities across Morocco, demanding social and economic reforms. They called for an end to corruption, and want more jobs for the increasing number of university graduates who face joblessness. The peaceful protests are predominately working class in tone, demanding constitutional reforms and new parliamentary elections. The marches on Sunday were organised by the February 20 movement, which has led protests for the past two months, with support from Morocco’s best-known Islamist movement, Adl wal Ihsan, which is barred from politics in the North African kingdom. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has already pledged changes to the constitution for the first time in 15 years, but protesters remain sceptical about the possibility of real change.

The government of Kuwait has donated $180 million to the rebels in Libya. They have not yet formally recognized the rebel shadow government but are trying to help within the limits of the UN resolution.

Kuwait on Sunday gave 50 million dinars ($180 million) to the Libyan opposition Transitional National Council (TNC), its chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said. “This amount will help us pay part of the salaries of employees,” Jalil told reporters after talks with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. “We are in need of urgent assistance.” Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah said “Kuwait will provide large and urgent humanitarian aid through the national council.” Sheikh Mohammad said Kuwait and the TNC “will work closely so that it becomes the legitimate channel of the Libyan people,” but stopped short of officially recognising the council. “Recognition is a secondary issue,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoqa, spokesman for the TNC in Benghazi told reporters, adding that the quality of cooperation with Kuwait showed the friendly nation’s “approval” for east Libya’s nascent government. France, Gambia, Italy and Qatar are the only countries so far to have recognised the TNC, Libya’s parallel government.

Isn’t it amazing how one storekeeper in Tunisia who was frustrated with his government turned into the spark that lit a match that put so many people on fire for democratic reform?   Most of these countries are either ruled by monarchs or dictators.  The middle class and well-educated are tired of no opportunity and all the looting of national treasure for the benefit of the very few.  Even with the violence and loss of life, it is exciting to read about ordinary people who have just had enough and are taking their future into their own hands.  It makes you want to fight for what we’re losing every day.

So, that should get things started!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

14 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Good morning, Dak! Thanks for an interesting roundup.

    The one theme that repeatedly emerged in interviews was a belief that the White House never pressed hard enough on what was supposed to be a signature goal. Although the closure of Guantanamo Bay was announced in an executive order, which Obama signed on Jan. 22, 2009, the fanfare never translated into the kind of political push necessary to sustain the policy.

    Why am I not surprised?

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s another Wikileaks story from the WaPo about where al Qaeda leaders were on 9/11.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Obama’s Awful ’70s Show, by Eric Alterman

    Gas prices are heading toward $5, single-family home sales are at a low—and with President Obama ignoring his base like Jimmy Carter did, he could end up being another one-term president, Eric Alterman writes.

    Can You Spell “M-A-L-A-I-S-E?”

    • fiscalliberal says:

      Gas prices in Troy Michigan were $3.95 cash yesterday. With the summer peak comming, we are well on the way to solid $4.00 gas.

      So is inflation upon us????

      • bostonboomer says:

        It’s the same price here.

        It’s not overall inflation–just rising prices on the things people need to buy most. If it doesn’t affect Wall Street, who cares, right?

    • bostonboomer says:


      So what does Obama propose? Well nothing so simple as his own party’s highly popular political platform for this president. He’s too smart for that. Rather, as Ezra Klein points out,, Obama’s deficit reduction plan, while not quite as brutal as the Republican Ryan plan, is even more conservative than the Simpson-Bowles plan, which was itself deeply conservative. He calls for raising less money in new taxes and far smaller cuts in the defense budget, chasing the Republicans into territory that is well to the right of anything even Ronald Reagan dared propose before his 1980 shellacking of Jimmy Carter.

      Carter, as it happens, took much the same path. Turning his back on O’Neil, his party and its primary constituencies, he accepted the Republican argument that the only way to solve the country’s economic problems was to attack the deficit. He would later explain to a group of political scientists after leaving the presidency, “A lot of my advisers, including Rosalyn, used to argue with me about my decision to move ahead with a project when it was obviously not going to be politically advantageous, or to encourage me to postpone it until a possible second term and so forth. It was just contrary to my nature…I just couldn’t do it. Once I made a decision I was awfully stubborn about it.”

  4. fiscalliberal says:

    Hi – thank you for the reference on Easter Island. I have Jarred Diamonds book which gets into Easter Island.

    Carl Lipo is the son of some very good friends of ours. His father if a U of Wisc Electrical Engineering Professor. I will buy his book as soon as it is available. His father mentioned that some Satalite pictures gave some new information on Easter Island

    • dakinikat says:

      I think that’s very interesting. I’ve always been fascinated with archeology. I wanted to be an archeologist when I grew up as a kid. I got a lot of girl scout badges related to stuff like this. That and I was outdoorsy.

  5. dakinikat says:

    I’ve written that it’s just a matter of years before China becomes the biggest economy on the planet. IMF estimates it will be in 2016. So much for American Exceptionalism.

    The end of the Age of America

    According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now.

    Put that in your calendar.

    It provides a painful context for the budget wrangling taking place in Washington, D.C., right now. It raises enormous questions about what the international security system is going to look like in just a handful of years. And it casts a deepening cloud over both the U.S. dollar and the giant Treasury market, which have been propped up for decades by their privileged status as the liabilities of the world’s hegemonic power.

    According to the IMF forecast, whomever is elected U.S. president next year — Obama? Mitt Romney? Donald Trump? — will be the last to preside over the world’s largest economy.

    Most people aren’t prepared for this. They aren’t even aware it’s that close. Listen to experts of various stripes, and they will tell you this moment is decades away. The most bearish will put the figure in the mid-2020s.

  6. fiscalliberal says:

    If you talk to the average person on the street, they would not be surprised if told that China will be the dominant economy. They have seen their jobs go to China and see their stores with China products.

    I would agree that they do not know the implications of not being the preferred currency. It will take a major demise to curb the US exceptionalism dogma. It has the characteristics of a religious cult.

  7. dakinikat says:

    Glenn Greenwald on the leaked Gitmo docs:

    This is an interesting point:

    Given that multiple media outlets have just published huge amounts of classified information, it is more difficult than ever to distinguish between WikiLeaks and, say, the NYT or the Post under the law. How could anyone possibly justify prosecuting WikiLeaks for disseminating classified information while not prosecuting these newspapers who have done exactly the same thing? If Dianne Feinstein, the DOJ and Newt Gingrich are eager to prosecute WikiLeaks for “espionage” – and they are – how can that not also sweep up these media outlets?

  8. dakinikat says:

    Missouri’s really been hard hit by storms recently. Now it looks like there’s going to be a levee failure. Our poor, tired, old infrastructure just isn’t cutting it any more.

    Police were going house to house in part of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, on Monday, ordering people to evacuate ahead of an imminent “catastrophic failure” of a levee on the Black River.

    The city said the levee had been compromised after a week in which the area received more than eight inches of rain. Authorities ordered some residents most at risk to evacuate immediately. Other residents near the river were asked to closely monitor developments and water levels in their neighborhoods, the police department said.

    “The levee is weakening by the minute and may fail at any time,” the National Weather Service said in an alert Monday afternoon.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      It is funny you mention the infrastructure. This weekend Other People’s Money was on and I watched it…had not watched it since the early 90’s. The speech that Gregory Peck gives at the end of the movie made me laugh, because of what he predicts the country will turn out to be.

      And remember Danny Devito’s response: