Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repealed. Kind of.

Well, it's about time. The discriminatory practice of barring open gays from the armed forces has ended. Except that it really hasn't.

Obama signed a bill that stipulated that DADT will be officially repealed 60 days after a written certification, signed by the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is produced. Additionally, the Department of Defense has to ensure that "the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces."

While this may simply be my cynical side talking, this sounds a lot like the "all deliberate speed" clause in Brown v. Board; in other words, a loophole that can be utilized by those opposed to ending DADT. Given that Obama is against gay marriage and had his administration previously fight DADT repeal, I'm not really expecting him to really fight for DADT's demise. Secretary of Defense Gates, for his part, refuses to even make a vague estimate. Obama told the Advocate that it would be a matter of months, not years, but all we need to do is ask a Guantanamo detainee how Obama's timelines tend to work out (hint: they don't).

So while everyone seems to be patting themselves on the back for a job well done, the reality of the situation is that only a framework to get the job done has been created. It's like breaking open a bottle of champagne to commemorate your new house once you build the frame; there's still a bit to be done. Obama may be saying, "We are not a nation that says 'don't ask, don't tell," but, at least for the time being, that is simply not true.

Photo from Flickr via Third Way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Free Julian Assange?

When Julian Assange was arrested in London to face charges of sexual molestation against two women stemming from a trip to Sweden in August many supporters showed up with signs regarding free speech. That kind of irked me. I mean, in my mind at least, rape and free speech have nothing to do with each other. One is a horrific crime that strips a woman of her ability to choose what she does with her body and the other involves being able to say what you want.

Many will argue that these charges are trumped up and that an international conspiracy involving the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Sadly, this would not surprise me, but there simply is no evidence of that at this point. What is significant is that these charges come after much more serious charges of rape were alleged against Assange and then quickly dropped. That already creates a shadow of a doubt of the validity of the current charges, even though they are from separate cases. It may not be right, but if a person is accused of rape by someone and then it turns out that the accuser was lying, it creates a cloud of suspicion over any other allegation brought by anyone else against that same person. Especially if the accused has had multinational talking heads openly calling for his assassination.

So I say, if the evidence is not there, free Julian Assange. If there is concrete evidence of this let's hand this over to the legal system to sort out. But to be clear, this has nothing to do with free speech; instead it involves allegations by two Stockholm women. If it comes to light that these women are lying, then shame on them for denigrating Assange and undermining true rape/molestation victims.

What does relate to free speech is the utter idiocy of America's elected officials. Take Senator Dianne Feinstein, for instance. She penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for the prosecution of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917. Of course this would be a waste of government resources because history has shown us that this is nearly impossible. First of all, Assange did nothing illegal when he released these files because he did not steal them from the government, Bradley Manning allegedly did that.

So if we're to compare this to the Pentagon Papers, Bradley Manning is Daniel Ellsburg and the government should try to prosecute him, not Assange. If the government wants to try to get an injunction against WikiLeaks to stop publishing the cables they can do that, but they haven't because New York Times v. United States outlines what would happen. They may have a case with Manning, if they don't bungle it like they did with Ellsburg in the 70s. On other words, the vitriol directed at Assange is a classic case of shooting the messenger.

In summation, I'm all for defending Assange in the name of the first amendment, but I'm not going to blindly defend him against these molestation allegations until evidence comes out that the accusers are lying. I have a hunch that the charges won't stick, but a hunch is not enough for me to yell "Free Julian Assange." I'll wait until the United States detains him to do that. The truth about the molestation allegations will come out eventually and if it's not through the justice system then we'll just have to wait for WikiLeaks to release the documents.

Photo - Free Julian Assange? (Mataparda's Flickr)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hey Obama, Make a Decision and Stick to It

I wrote in the Huffington Post a few weeks ago about the Democrats' uncanny ability to never, ever, be on the same page with each other. If some Democrats want single-payer health care, a loud and vocal minority will pledge to fight "Obamacare." But none of this is more embodied in one single man than President Obama, who today has announced that he will enact a seven year ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf and the Atlantic coastline.

I don't disagree with this move; in fact I think it's absolutely the right thing to do. It shouldn't even be a question, especially considering that he was against it during his 2008 campaign. What irks me is the completely equivocal way that Obama reached this decision. Back in March Obama announced that he would be opening up the eastern portion of the Gulf as well as a sizable chunk of the Atlantic coastline for offshore drilling. Now he's not going to do that, opening himself up to (legitimate) criticism of flip-flopping.

The administration is saying that the Deepwater Horizon disaster was the main factor in the decision, but then why did it take months after the spill was even "contained" to announce this? Did he think that is sufficient time passed that we would forget what he had said in March? Was it even a question after the Deepwater Horizon debacle to allow this kind of drilling?

But that's just Obama. His Guantanamo failure and his wavering on health care are just two more examples of his inability to make a decision and simply stick to it. Look at "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He has Justice fight a DADT repeal all the while saying that he supports the repeal of it. The argument for this dichotomous stance was that it is tradition for Justice to fight for Congressional legislation even if they believe it to be unconstitutional or against the president's wishes. So using traditional and illogical tactics to repeal a traditional and illogical measure. Because that makes sense.

So when I saw Obama's tweet this morning about DADT, I about lost it. In it he says, "Send a message to the Senate that you support the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': ." He is the president of the country and has had people under him fighting to keep DADT, yet he wants the American public to call their senators to let them know that they should repeal it. It's like planting land mines across a field and then wondering why people think it's so difficult to traverse it.

So, just to be clear, Obama was for an offshore drilling ban before he was against it and then for it again. He wants DADT repealed but will allow Justice to argue that it should not be repealed. George Bush was for Iraq and was never against it and that's why we're there. He is for waterboarding and was never against it and will probably never be prosecuted for it. In politics it doesn't matter who's right or wrong, as the previous administration made painfully obvious to this country. It matters who can get things done. So my advice to the president is this: when you make a decision, stick to it.

Photo - Do as I say, not as I do (Twitter)