Thursday, January 29, 2009

'Guantanamo judge refuses Obama's request for delay'

That's the Reuters headline and here's the story which is sure to stir up controversy:

MIAMI (Reuters) - The chief judge for the Guantanamo war crimes court on Thursday refused President Barack Obama's request to delay court proceedings against a prisoner charged with plotting an attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Hours after taking office last week, Obama ordered Guantanamo prosecutors to seek 120-day delays in all pending cases in order to give his new administration time to decide whether to scrap the trials.

But the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said tribunal rules give the judges sole authority to delay cases and that postponing proceedings against Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was not reasonable and "does not serve the interest of justice."

Nashiri is charged with conspiring with al Qaeda to send an explosives-laden boat into the side of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000. The attack killed 17 U.S. sailors and Nashiri would face execution if convicted. His arraignment was set for early February.

I, along with many others, bought last week's headline that Obama had suspended all military tribunals for 120 days so that second paragraph made me take a look at the actual executive order because that story states that the administration had simply asked prosecutors to seek those delays - in which case that judge may well be within his rights. So which version is true?

Relevant sections:

(4) Determination of Other Disposition. With respect to any individuals currently detained at Guantánamo whose disposition is not achieved under paragraphs (2) or (3) of this subsection, the Review shall select lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals. The appropriate authorities shall promptly implement such dispositions.

...

Sec. 7. Military Commissions. The Secretary of Defense shall immediately take steps sufficient to ensure that during the pendency of the Review described in section 4 of this order, no charges are sworn, or referred to a military commission under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Rules for Military Commissions, and that all proceedings of such military commissions to which charges have been referred but in which no judgment has been rendered, and all proceedings pending in the United States Court of Military Commission Review, are halted.

"Halted" seems definitive but this isn't exactly that clear cut.

"We are consulting with the Pentagon and the Department of Justice to explore our options in that case," [WH spokespuppet] Gibbs said.

The Office of Military Commissions, which manages the prosecutions, may have to temporarily drop charges against al-Nashiri to comply with the presidential order, said Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a spokesman for that agency.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell discounted that possibility but said that no proceedings against al-Nashiri would be going forward.

"The bottom line is, we all work for the president of the United States in this chain of command," Morrell said. "And he has signed an executive order that has made it abundantly clear that until these reviews are done, all of this is on hiatus."

Stay tuned.
 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why Obama Must Investigate Bush's Crimes

Manfred Nowak lays it out:

Cons Will Support Iggy's Report Card Amendment

The Cons, via Josee Verner, have announced in the house that they'll bend over for the soft little slap on the bum to be delivered by Michael Ignatieff. Then they'll get right onto that homework he assigned i.e. those "reports" the Liberals want in exchange for propping up the budget of Steve and his Lying Band of Neocon Misfits.

I'll tell you this: watching the debate in the house with Liberals like Judy Sgro and Paul Szabo justifying this deal Iggy has made and actually shelling out some praise for the budget, it must be (or should be) a wholly embarrassing day to be a Liberal. How Liberal MPs can rationalize this cave without visibly cringing is beyond me. (The NDP's Mulcair did a good job of humiliating them while ripping the Cons a new one in the house in response but one word to that party: will you please stop acting like every public appearance is some sort of campaign stop? You're looking pathetic. Repeating "join us" at every opportunity is just plain annoying.)

The political theatre continues. Good thing that's still free, at least.
 

Ignatieff Puts Harper on Notice; Liberal Party Caves

In true Harvard professorial style, interim Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff announced today that (as predicted) the Liberal government will support the Cons' new throw everything against the wall and see what sticks budget as long as Harper agrees to submit 3 reports while being on probation over the next year. That begs the question: if Steve fails, will he get the strap?

So, what's this really about? Politics as usual.

Delaying a possible election until next year (really - don't expect the Liberals to vote against this government before that time) gives Ignatieff time to be rubber-stamped during the spring convention as the new Liberal leader. If the party had chosen to defeat the government now, Iggy obviously would not have any kind of track record to provide Canadians that might show what kind of PM he would be. If you listened to his press conference or read the transcript, you'll know that he referred to himself much more often that the party - a lot of "I" and very little "we". And if you really paid attention, you caught the fact that he's not all that schooled on parliamentary procedure - preferring to answer those types of questions with political philosophy or using slippery slope faulty logic such as, 'if we propose fiscal amendments to the budget, that process will never end'. Never? Really? C'mon now.

In other words, he needs time to learn what he needs to know to do his job as the leader of a party and as a possible future leader of this country.

As for the opposition coalition, as Jack Layton put it, "Mr Ignatieff has chosen to form a new coalition with Mr Harper." Duceppe called Ignatieff's "absolutely ridiculous" amendment "a smokescreen". Exactly. He's nobody's fool and formally announced, in response to the Liberal party's decision, that the coalition is dead. RIP.

As for the budget, what can you say about a finance minister who lied to the public about an upcoming surplus and who now says that the economy should show a turnaround by July? No one knows when the global economy will show real signs of recovery and the experts I've listened to are predicting possible progress in about 18 months at the earliest. In fact, today the IMF has predicted a "weaker Canadian rebound".

Referring to the IMF's 2010 outlook, Eric Lascelles, chief economics and rates strategist at TD Securities, said it is “the weakest figure we have seen, and it appears that the IMF has revised the Canadian outlook downward by the most of any ‘advanced economy.' “In the Canadian context, what is most noteworthy is that the Bank of Canada and the federal government are of the minority opinion regarding prospects for a short-lived period of weakness in the Canadian economy followed by a strong 2010 rebound,” said Derek Holt and Karen Cordes at Scotia Capital.

Throwing financial crumbs out to a starving public is no way to ensure a solid, timely recovery but that apparently doesn't bother the Liberal party enough to bring down this government. It's politics first. What else is new?
 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Quote du jour: He said what?

From the Shouldn't this guy have been fired already? department:

Senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office have already said the stimulus package would plunge the country into a $64-billion deficit over the next two years.

The massive deficit estimates are a far cry from the slim $800 million surplus predicted by Flaherty for the next fiscal year in his economic update in November.

Back to blogging...

I've been on a self-imposed hiatus lately for several reasons (in no particular order):

- new upper arm pain and weakness: I've had this since about October but because I moved I thought it was just related muscle soreness. It's not. My doctor thinks it might be PMR. I think it could be lupus myositis. The tests will give us the answer. Anyway, if you have chronic pain (or know of someone who does), you'll know that the last thing you need is some new manifestation when it's tough enough dealing with what you already have. (In 2006, beyond my lupus and fibromyalgia, I was diagnosed with scoliosis as well. That's been a huge adjustment.) So, emotionally and physically, it's been a very challenging time. Some days I can't pour my tea without forcing myself into some weird contortion. Other days, it hurts to pick up my cats. The pain and weakness is constant and my OTC (over the counter) medications provide very little relief. (I don't like taking anything stronger because I'd rather stay in touch with reality - as dark as it's been lately.) I can still type but this, combined with the following reasons, had me pulling away from daily blogging because my head wasn't really into it. There's a grief process that comes with losing physical abilities.

- Israel's war against the Gazans: I posted daily updates during the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war so I knew I simply could not stomach documenting yet more of Israel's war crimes this time around - not with how I was already feeling in general. I've commented on other blogs as it unfolded but the disgust and anger (feelings which disturb me greatly) would have erupted into a raving rant day after day if I had chosen to write about it here. Of course, I also struggled with the fact that my feelings meant absolutely nothing next to the suffering of the Palestinians and that I ought to have spoken up about the human rights violations but I really hit a wall because I knew that our government and the supposed "change" administration in the US would just rubber stamp the actions of the Israeli government and the IDF once again - non-actions that I find absolutely abhorrent. That there are rumblings of possible war crimes charges is somewhat heartening but I'll believe it when I see it - just as I will when Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of those war criminals are actually sitting in a dock somewhere having to defend themselves for their barbarity.

I'm not holding my breath.

- the Canadian scene: It's budget day tomorrow and I haven't had to follow the federal party maneuvering too closely to know that the Liberals, under Ignatieff, will vote for the Cons' budget thus pushing the coalition into the dustbin of history. It's the same old song and dance: the so-called "fiscally responsible" Conservatives sink the country with massive deficits and the Liberals will return sooner or later to clean up their mess. This is all rather simple, isn't it? Conservatism is a failed philosophy. We've seen that on so many levels. That's why it irks me when Liberals or Democrats prefer conservatism lite as if that's the pill for what ails us. Centrism is simply a flag of surrender and a public show of the fact that political parties embracing it are terrified of new ideas that might actually put the "progress" in this "progressiveness" that they talk so much about.

Which leads directly to my next reason for stepping back...

- Obama mania: No, I don't have Obama underwear or one of those new commemorative plates and I never will. (He's a product. Seems to me I wrote about that quite a while ago.) While I applaud the historic moment that came with inaugurating America's first black (or bi-racial) president, I have also been struck with the very real fact that far too many of his supporters are now acting like Bush's blind sheeple who could rationalize or justify absolutely every action he took. Maintain reason and reality, people. I jokingly refer to him as 'Obamalama' because, for some, he's the next best thing to The Almighty™, it seems. It's going to be an annoying 4 years. As for his promises to close Gitmo and ban torture, I'll give him props for suspending the military tribunals but, because that's the legal route he took, Canada's Conservative government can still claim there's a legal process to complete while refusing to repatriate Omar Khadr. (I find it ironic that war crimes charges have been brought against a Congolese official - finally - for using child soldiers in that country but that Khadr, who was a child soldier and therefore ought to be protected, is caught in this legal Twilight Zone that makes no sense at all. And, as far as torture goes, I know I heard Obama repeatedly say during his campaign that "the US does not torture" - towing the official government line - so why did he feel it was necessary to ban torture if it's not happening? (I'll have much more to say about those 2 topics. Stay tuned.)

- the weather: did I mention that it's been so damn cold here that I can barely stick my head out the door to get a breath of fresh air without my saliva instantly freezing? No? Well I have now.

It's a relief to finally let all of that out - a purging of sorts. Now I feel like I can 'get on with it', as Peter Warren would say.
 

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009

I don't know about you but we're all ready for the new year here.

I cannot wait to see the rear ends of Bush & Cheney as they leave DC. May they either live in complete obscurity and /or incredibly uncomfortable jail cells for the rest of their miserable lives.

As for our Canadian scene, expect a lot of tough talk from Iggy but not much action. May this be the year Steve finally spontaneously combusts. (You just know his hairspray has to be a fire hazard.)

And as for the holiday season being the so-called season of peace, well, that never really lasts for more than 2.5 minutes, does it? Everybody loves their God. Nobody listens to him/her/it/the comet. (I'm deityless and quite content about that, TYVM.) May this be the rational century. (I know, I know...that's too much to ask -- especially with that changeyhopeyness mania going on in the US most important country in the world evah. Ramen.) (No, I haven't been drinking. Not in over 2 decades, actually. My cynicism meter is at defcon 4. I don't see 2009 as being a particularly "happy" new year but then again, who ever said I was some sort of prophet?)

Anyway, be as content as possible. Live each moment for what it is. And do something nice for someone every day.