Alleged Al Qaeda Terrorist Trial Begins This Week in NYC Courtroom

When Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was first transferred to New York from Guantanamo Bay last year, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio called it "the first step in the Democrats' plan to import terrorists into America."

More than a year later, Ghailani remains the only detainee from Guantanamo Bay to be brought to the United States. He's scheduled to go on trial starting this week in lower Manhattan. Jury selection begins Monday.

Ghailani is a Tanzanian accused of helping to bomb two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 that killed 224 people. Like the September 11, 2001 attacks, those bombings have been attributed to Osama bin Laden.

In hundreds of legal charges filed with the federal court in New York, Ghailani is accused of having scouted out the American embassy in Tanzania before it was bombed, assembled bomb materials and escorted the suicide bomber to the site. After the bombings, prosecutors say he fled to Afghanistan and rose up the ranks of al Qaeda, forging documents for the group and working as a cook and a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.

When he was captured in Pakistan in 2004, U.S. authorities deemed Ghailani a "high-value" detainee and sent him to a secret CIA prison for interrogation, where Ghailani claims he was tortured. Indeed, a variety of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, were authorized for use by CIA interrogators on high-value detainees.

Ghailani was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. Last year, more than ten years after the embassy bombings, he was transferred to the New York prison. The same prison has safely held such notorious criminals as John Gotti and the blind terror leader Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.

Critics of Ghailani's transfer warned that his prosecution could be derailed by his abuse in prison and the long delay in bringing him to trial. But the federal judge hearing the case, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, has denied the defense lawyers' requests to dismiss the trial on those grounds.

Last week, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani insisted that it would be safer to try Ghailani in a military commission in Guantanamo Bay than in New York City.

Ghailani has already appeared in court for pretrial hearings, however, without incident. New York City police have said that while they will provide some extra security for the trial, the proceedingswill not require any of the elaborate and costly measures that New York City officials had warned would be necessary for a trial of the 9/11 plotters. After receiving complaints from local business groups about the potential disruption that trial might cause, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced that he would take a range of extraordinary security measures, including a flood of uniformed police officers, checkpoints and thousands of interlocking metal barriers. Mayor Bloomberg estimated the cost at $200 million a year, and the Obama administration soon backed away from the plan.

Despite the huge costs and inconvenience predicted for the 9-11 plotters' trial, no such estimates have been made for the trials of any of those accused of carrying out al Qaeda's U.S. embassy bombing attacks.

Four other men have already been tried and convicted in the same New York courthouse for their roles in the U.S. embassy attacks. All were sentenced to life in prison without parole.



Boehner Jokes

One of Jon Stewart’s most outstanding moments during the Bush administration was a 2006 segment—they called it “Rambling Man”—in which he dutifully displayed the 43rd president’s hapless and constant speechifying in response to violent events in Iraq that had spiraled out of his control and the resultant collapse of his popularity. In the interest of fairness and journalistic integrity—two things are no doubt synonymous with the awesome Daily Show—Mr. Stewart has now given the 44th president the very same treatment. The result: Escapist hilarity followed by a depressing comedown.  

If Barack Obama’s personal and much-publicized attack on incoming House speaker John Boehner is any indication, we can assume the White House has finally caught up to what is certain to be the ugly result of the upcoming elections. This, Dear Readers, is what both people like me (self-aware employers of clichés) and the president (as a basketball enthusiast) must recognize as running out the clock.

The president journeyed to someplace known as Parma, Ohio, to tout three new economic initiatives. Since we know for certain that the demonstrable failure of already-implemented policies aren’t to blame for Democratic electoral woes, many in the Washington chattering class have been hectoring him to make a “hard pivot”—i.e. renewed speechifying and feckless stop-gap measures—to economic issues to shore up support for the party.

POLITICO has some salient details:

Touting his own economic plans, Obama alluded to three new proposals to jolt the struggling economy: a $50 billion federal investment to overhaul the nation’s railroads, highways and runways; a big tax break for businesses that conduct research and experimentation; and tax write-offs for companies’ expenditures on hiring, equipment and expansion.

Those measures carry a $180 billion price tag; Obama was careful to avoid calling it an economic stimulus plan, given the current national mood against government spending and the massive national debt. Republicans have nevertheless hammered the president, comparing his plan to the $814 billion emergency spending package he pushed through Congress last year – a measure the GOP leadership has declared a failure.

The Republicans: Poised at the Glory Hole

As we enter the midterm elections the US is like a ship without a rudder – or more appropriately, a ship with a broken one. Obamanism has had mixed results at best with as much complaint from the left as the right. Approval ratings for Congressional Democrats are lower than whale crap at the bottom of the Marianas Trench and for Republicans … well, let’s just say they’re so bad even The Big Dick™ would flinch at the numbers.

The prevailing wisdom is that Republicans will romp and take back Congress for Contract on America – Part Deux. John “Agent of Orange” Boehner and Mitch “Yertle the Turtle” McConnell will rise to the podium and try to control their herd of cats better than the Democrats’ disgraceful performance.

Being egotistical, intransigent buffoons they’ll surely prattle on about non-existent mandates, promises of a new beginning, and demands that anyone – left, right, or center – genuflect and kiss their rings (and their asses too while they’re down there).

After 10 years of Republicans who rule and oppose rule like bungs in the hole of democracy, they’ll find a country a whole lot harder to govern than they remember. First, they were the ones to lay George’s flaming bags of dog crap on America’s front porch for someone else to solve (it turns out, poorly) and the country is none too happy about it.

Second, they will have to expand their limited single word, monosyllabic platform beyond “no” – and hell no, “Hell no” won’t do.

And most dicey, they’ll have to pay for all those Tea Parties they attended so giddily. Now that the Baggers are beginning to spectacularly embarrass or outright turn on them, they’ll have to figure out what to do with the Mad Hatter crowd. The Baggers may be imbeciles, but they’re hell-bent on Change No One Can Believe In and the hell with Hope, Republicans, and the portion of voters who have more brain cells than a doughnut.

The prospect this year’s turnover signals a permanent American move somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan and the foundation for a glorious thousand year Reich is far-fetched (and no, I’m not comparing them to Nazis, only to idiots). They built the gallows over the past 10 years and laid out more than enough rope to hang themselves. And because Dems are the limpest politicians on Earth, they’ll unwittingly help the Republicans put the noose on by doing exactly what they did under the reign of Bush the Lesser and The Messiah – cower and agree with the Republicans on every issue because their natural response to bullies is to pee down their own legs. In other words, the Republicans and their in-bred cousins, the Tea Baggers, will prove they are their own worst enemies.

When Nancy Pelosi rose to power, I cautioned Democrats against being too effusive over what the historic change meant. They didn’t listen. They fist pumped, whooped and hollered, and shit in their own mess kits. I’m cautioning the Republicans against the same thing. However, being recidivist crapweasels I’m sure they’ll pour it on even thicker than the Democrats.

Republicans, ignore me at your peril. Before you even regain power, I can already see how you’ll lose it just as spectacularly as you did before, only the timetable is still left to complete.

Hopefully, you’ll lose it by 2012. We’re in bad enough shape already.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!




Wall Street reform passes, Boehner's Republicans immediately call for repeal

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill just passed the Senate, 60-39. It now goes to the President for his signature. The new law won’t do nearly enough to prevent another Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns – for instance, there’s no practical way to break up too-big-to-fail – but it improves the status quo at least somewhat and was worth passage.

And yet, the man who would be Speaker if voters choose Republican this fall is already calling for the bill’s repeal. That’s right; John Boehner thinks the government should leave Wall Street in exactly the same regulatory position that allowed it to double unemployment and seize up credit.

I understand the politics of demanding repeal of the health insurance bill. The thing’s unpopular. But voters actually care about the economy; they don’t want to lose their jobs, and they understand that the financial industry is to blame for the economic collapse. What the hell is Boehner thinking?  

“I think it ought to be repealed,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference. “There are commonsense things that you should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system that were there, and to bring more transparency to financial transactions, because transparency is like sunlight. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Boehner doesn’t get it. Transparency works when we’re talking about politicians. If we don’t like what we see, we can vote them out. That’s not true of private corporations. If setting up the economy to fail isn’t illegal, it doesn’t matter how transparent it is; there’s nothing the public can do other than yell louder and louder about completely legal activities. If ever there was an industry that screamed for regulation, it’s the financial sector. Under no circumstances can John Boehner be permitted to become Speaker of the House.

And yet, he’s not alone. Senators Thune, Shelby, and LeMieux:

“If we were in a position to do something, maybe [Boehner] is right," said GOP Policy Chairman Sen. John Thune (S.D.). "We'll see if we can do something about it after the next election."

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Banking Committee, said he “absolutely” agreed.

"If you vote against it, you know it should be repealed. It's the wrong bill. It's not reform. It ignores Fannie and Freddie. It's not going to create any jobs. It's going to create a huge bureaucracy,” Shelby said.

Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) said he would look to repeal parts of the legislation.

Also Senators Graham, McCain, and Corker:

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham called the bill a "missed opportunity" to control spending and set priorities. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was similarly underwhelmed, calling it "business as usual."

"No one can make a convincing argument that this legislation indeed prevents any institution from being too big to fail. You can't make that argument," he told reporters at the Captiol today. McCain's amendment, which would have mandated an end to government support of the failed companies within two years failed, 43 to 56.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a top Republican player in the financial reform debate, slammed the Democrat-backed bill... One reporter noted that Corker had helped to craft the legislation, negotiating several provisions with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, and Corker acknowledged his role but quickly pivoted back to his talking points.

(McCain is right that the bill doesn't end TBTF, but mandating that the government ignore rather than break up such institutions wouldn't solve the problem either.)

Senator Alexander and possible presidential candidate Rep. Mike Pence:

TPMDC asked Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the third ranking Republican in the Senate, whether Republicans would make a concerted push to repeal the financial reform bill.

"Well, that's a good -- that's a good, that's a good question," Alexander said. "We're very disappointed with this...If we have a Congress with a majority of Republicans, and there are ways to improve it or fix it, I imagine there'll be an effort to do that."

Pence suggested much the same... What elements of the law would need to be dismantled?

"There's several aspects of that, but I can break that down for you. Let's jump off that bridge when we come to it," Pence said.

What a message. I think Democratic chances this fall just got a lot better.

Boehner: Taxpayers Should Bail Out BP

Lisa Murkowski’s failed EPA disapproval resolution had two nicknames: the Dirty Air Act and the Big Oil Bailout. The former was more appropriate, since the resolution wouldn’t have given any money directly to the oil industry. Murkowski’s ideas are bad, but not that bad. John Boehner’s ideas, on the other hand, really are that bad.

The House Republican leader, a long time beneficiary of BP campaign contributions, said yesterday that taxpayers should foot the bill for cleaning up BP’s mess in the Gulf Coast. His comments followed a similar statement from the conservative US Chamber of Commerce. From TPMDC:

In response to a question from TPMDC, House Minority Leader John Boehner said he believes taxpayers should help pick up the tab for the clean up.

"I think the people responsible in the oil spill--BP and the federal government--should take full responsibility for what's happening there," Boehner said at his weekly press conference this morning.

Boehner's statement followed comments last Friday by US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue who said he opposes efforts to stick BP, a member of the Chamber, with the bill. "It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game," he said. "Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it. We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that."

This is blatant hypocrisy from Boehner, whose office said just this week that “The federal government should be focused on getting its own fiscal house in order, not providing more bailouts with taxpayer money.” Still, we shouldn’t be surprised – according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the Energy and Natural Resources sector has been Boehner’s fifth largest source of contributions over the course of his career to the tune of $896,148, including $15,200 from BP. In general, BP has given twice as much to Republican candidates as it has to Democratic candidates.

Michael Steel, the Repub leader’s spokesperson (not the RNC chair), has been backpedaling furiously since the press conference, telling Greg Sargent, “No taxpayer money for cleanup or damages -- period. BP pays," and the Huffington Post that “Boehner made a general statement… but he has said repeatedly that BP is responsible for the cost of the cleanup." As the HuffPo’s Jason Linkins points out, though, “Do you agree… [that] taxpayers should pitch in to clean up the oil spill?" is a pretty specific question, and Boehner said what he said. Yet even if Steel does succeed in rewriting history and walking back the leader’s comments, the Chamber of Commerce’s Donohue was even more specific when he said “we are going to have to get the money from the government.” Spin it any way you want, but these are the stated beliefs of the modern Republican Party: oligarchy first, and the people only if there’s time left over.


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