Friday, February 29, 2008

The holy roller set crowing over the Harper government film censorship plans

This is the kind of stuff that you can't keep a lid on forever. Sandra Buckler's worst nightmare. Well, one of them. The other is exploding all over the news these days in the form of the Cadman allegations. Here's the kicker today:
A well-known evangelical crusader is claiming credit for the federal government's move to deny tax credits to TV and film productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other offensive content.

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and "numerous" meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office.

"We're thankful that someone's finally listening," he said yesterday. "It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government."

Mr. McVety said films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not receive tax dollars, and backbench Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers support his campaign.

"There are a number of Conservative backbench members that do a lot of this work behind the scenes," he said.
Too bad this McVety guy isn't an MP that they can stifle into silence, hey? Lettin' the cat out of the bag like this is a bit of a problem for the message control freaks up there that he's dealing with. But thank you, sir, for your candour. Agenda exposed. Please don't hesitate to alert the Canadian public to all of your successful work with the Conservative government from here on out.

And hey, don't you just love hearing that term "conservative values?"
My word...:)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Harper track record on financial offers to candidates

Here:
The federal Conservative party has quietly settled a lawsuit with a former candidate who had accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of libel.

Lawyer Alan Riddell, who ran unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in the 2004 federal election, launched the libel suit against Harper and party president Don Plett after he was dumped as a candidate the following year.

Mr. Riddell claimed he was promised $50,000 by the party to cover his expenses if he stepped aside to make room for a new, high-profile Tory candidate in his Ottawa riding; the party claimed Mr. Riddell was disqualified.

Mr. Harper, prior to becoming prime minister, flatly declared there was no deal between the Conservatives and Mr. Riddell — but courts subsequently ruled there was indeed an agreement.

The party released a single-line statement on the weekend saying they had “mutually settled all legal proceedings.”

No details were provided by the party or by Mr. Riddell. (emphasis added)
And here. Context for the current conversation to inform people's judgments as to whether or not they should believe Mr. Harper on such matters.

No sex please, we're Conservatives

The 1950's Harper gang are outrageously getting their censorship pens out. Details here.
The Conservative government has drafted guidelines that would allow it to pull financial aid for any film or television show that it deems offensive or not in the public's best interest - even if government agencies have invested in them.

The proposed changes to the Income Tax Act would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits to projects deemed offensive, effectively killing the productions. Representatives from Heritage and the Department of Justice will determine which shows or films pass the test.

Game and talk shows, news, sports, reality television and pornography are already excluded from access to the tax credits. The proposed prohibition would cover a sweeping range of material, such as anything of an explicit sexual nature, that denigrates a group or is excessively violent without an educational value.
...
Robert Soucy, director of the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office, the branch of Heritage that determines certification for productions, said last fall that Ottawa wants to be more selective about the cultural products it helps to fund.

The government provides refundable tax credits to productions that are certified as having Canadian content. Producers shoot the film or TV show, finish post-production, pay their bills and then file a corporate tax return. The tax credit is included in the production company's tax refund.

Mr. Soucy said that a panel set up by CAVCO and the Department of Justice would review content. CAVCO would have the final say based on the panel's recommendations.

He hinted then that the government was considering a "public policy" criterion for tax credit certification and a definition of what would be "contrary to public policy" that would make a production ineligible for film and TV tax incentives, as well as funds directed to sound recording and book publishing.
This is going to be a major clusterf*%#, count on it. Possibly gutting a big chunk of Canadian productions that might not meet the new, still undefined, morality police standards and creating a ton of uncertatinty. Not to mention that this system is going to be ripe for legal challenges on the grounds of free speech violations. %!*#su#@ers.

Let's hope we're not going to have to wait too long to defeat these reactionaries. The Cadman story may change those calculations in any event.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Call in the RCMP

Someone's in beeg trouble:
The widow of former B.C. MP Chuck Cadman says two Conservative Party officials offered her husband a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in May of 2005.
...
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is quoted in the book, Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, as confirming that a visit took place, and that officials were "legitimately" representing the Conservative Party. But he says any offer to Mr. Cadman was only to defray any losses he might suffer due to an election.
I suggest section 119(1)(b) of the Criminal Code as a starting place for the legal authorities to commence their investigation:

Note the wording of sub-section (b). Directly or indirectly.

Don't mess with the war widows

My oh my, lying to war widows. Harpie never learns:
Only a fraction of Canada's elderly war widows will be eligible for a new $2,400 home-care program announced in the federal budget.

Opposition critics and a surviving spouse were quick to condemn the move after reading the fine print Wednesday of the $282-million extension of the Veterans Independence Program.
Harper's special role in failing to deliver on his promises:
While still in opposition, Prime Minister Stephen Harper reaffirmed the party's pledge in writing to the widow of a Nova Scotia veteran.

In a letter dated June 28, 2005, Harper said: "A Conservative government would immediately extend the Veterans Independence Program services to widows of all Second World War and Korean War veterans - regardless of when the veteran passed away or how long they had been receiving the benefit prior to passing away."

Frustrated with no action by last spring, Joyce Carter brought her complaints to Ottawa, where she confronted Harper in the foyer of the House of Commons.

In a private meeting last June, Harper told Carter that the promise would be fulfilled in the next budget, which Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled Tuesday.
Oops:
Background documents show the new program will be restricted to low-income and disabled widows. A government official, speaking on background late Tuesday, said the extension would help about 12,000 individuals - far below the estimated 150,000 widows that Veterans Affairs bureaucrats estimated would eligible under the Conservative promise.

"He promised to give it to all the veterans' widows," Carter said in an interview from her home in Sampsonville, N.S.

"That would mean each and every one of the veterans widows should be receiving this (veterans independence program) in this budget. He lied to me again. He did not keep his promise and I'm outraged."
Sing it, sister! Line it up with all the failed promises from Mr. Harper. Thankfully, ambulance chaser McTeague is on the case holding them to account...

Will the Siegelman case get the white whale?



Developments in the Siegelman case today...here's Rove manoeuvred into holding up a "Free Don Siegelman" banner at an event...:) Brilliant. More here on that incident.

And the New York Times editorial page calls attention to the "technical difficulties" experienced by the CBS affiliate in Alabama which saw the 60 Minutes Siegelman segment blacked out to a chunk of Alabama.

Scott Horton writes today about the alternate reality of the Birmingham News, highlighting the use of such media by Republicans to attack any challenges to the Siegelman prosecution. Republican friendly Alabama media have done their best to characterize the focus on the Siegelman case as Democratic driven, despite the leading role played by Republicans such as the whistleblower, Jill Simpson, and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a leading McCain supporter.

This is getting interesting...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Life in Republican America

If you take on Karl Rove as Jill Simpson, a former Republican operative did by testifying in front of congress and appearing last night on 60 Minutes, you could be risking quite a bit. Here's what happened to her:
The response to Simpson’s affidavit has been a series of brusque dismissive statements – all of them unsworn – from others who figured in the discussion and the federal prosecutor in the Siegelman case, who has now made a series of demonstrably false statements concerning the matter. She’s been smeared as “crazy” and as a “disgruntled contract bidder.” And something nastier: after her intention to speak became known, Simpson’s house was burned to the ground, and her car was driven off the road and totaled. Clearly, there are some very powerful people in Alabama who feel threatened. Her case starts to sound like a chapter out of John Grisham’s book The Pelican Brief. However, those who have dismissed Simpson are in for a very rude surprise. Her affidavit stands up on every point, and there is substantial evidence which will corroborate its details. (emphasis added)
The Alabama GOP is firing up the attack machine against Simpson and in the wake of everything that's already happened, Simpson said this today:
“I don’t feel safe,” Simpson added this morning.
No kidding. I'm sure there are a lot of Americans who would share that sentiment today.

This is not America

Below you'll find the powerful 60 Minutes segment on the politically motivated prosecution and conviction of former Democratic Governor of Alabama Don Siegelman which ran last night. While a case involving a U.S. state governor may not sound worthy of your time to peruse or consider, it's about much more than that. This case is emblematic of the abuse of power committed by the higher ups in the Bush administration. And like all matters involving the Bush administration, Karl Rove is at the core of this one where the weight of the U.S. Department of Justice was brought to bear by Republicans against a political enemy. That's the kind of thing that should not happen in a fair judicial system, it's the hallmark of authoritarian states.

This is the broadcast in which a former Republican operative fingers Karl Rove for his role in the effort to prosecute Don Siegelman. Rove's attorney had this to say last night:
Rove declined to be interviewed by 60 Minutes and by The Associated Press. But his attorney, Robert Luskin, denied Simpson's allegations.

"60 Minutes owes Mr. Rove an apology for circulating this false and foolish story," Luskin said.
Why doesn't Mr. Rove sue 60 Minutes then for this malicious falsehood? After all, a report has been nationally broadcast telling the world that he encouraged someone to take photos of a politician in flagrante and that he'd played a role in bringing down this Democratic Governor for political purposes. A defamation suit would surely be in order. Fat chance we'll see that from Mr. Rove though.

And of course, Scott Horton is a must read today on this story. Horton points out the "bombshells" in the piece that will hopefully spur on the congressional investigation of the prosecution, including the need to either get Mr. Rove under oath or commence a criminal investigation of those involved in this concerted effort to bring down the Democratic Governor, including U.S. attorneys in that state with close political ties to Rove and the current Republican governor:
The CBS piece, for which I was repeatedly interviewed, came through on its promise to deliver several additional bombshells. The most significant of these was the disclosure that prosecutors pushed the case forward and secured a conviction relying on evidence that they knew or should have know was false, and that they failed to turnover potentially exculpatory evidence to defense counsel. The accusation was dramatically reinforced by the Justice Department’s failure to offer a denial. It delivered a fairly elaborate version of a “no comment,” and even that came a full twenty-four hours after it had conferred with the prosecutors in question. The gravity of the accusations made and the prosecutors’ failure to deny them further escalates concerns about the treatment of the former Alabama governor.
Horton also tells us that the Siegelman part of the 60 Minutes episode was blacked out in a third of Alabama by a CBS affiliate there. Un-f*%#ing believable:
I am now hearing from readers all across Northern Alabama—from Decatur to Huntsville and considerably on down—that a mysterious “service interruption” blocked the broadcast of only the Siegelman segment of 60 Minutes this evening. The broadcaster is Channel 19 WHNT, which serves Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee. This station was noteworthy for its hostility to Siegelman and support for his Republican adversary. The station ran a trailer stating “We apologize that you missed the first segment of 60 Minutes tonight featuring ‘The Prosecution of Don Siegelman.’ It was a techincal problem with CBS out of New York.” I contacted CBS News in New York and was told that “there is no delicate way to put this: the WHNT claim is not true. There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.” I was told that the decision to blacken screens across Northern Alabama “could only have been an editorial call.” Channel 19 is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners, who can be contacted through Rhonda Barnat, 212-371-5999 or rb@abmac.com. Oak Hill Partners represents interests of the Bass family, which contribute heavily to the Republican Party. Viewers displeased about the channel’s decision to censor the broadcast should express their views directly to the station management or to the owners.
Horton also brilliantly dissects the first AP reporting on the 60 Minutes segment which is highly misleading and hues heavily toward Republican talking points.

What a twisted, corrupt, makes-your-blood-boil story this is. I'm surprised it's not American lawyers demonstrating in the streets these days.

Part I:



Part II:

"Bitch is the new black"



The Tina Fey segment from Saturday night...right on. If the YouTube version gets pulled down, you can also find it here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Harper MIA on the Kosovo independence question

It's getting to the point where the Canadian Prime Minister needs to make a statement on this. Serbian-Canadians, in weekend marches continue to throw around the Kosovo=Quebec equation to argue that Canada should not recognize Kosovo's actions. That needs to be publicly redressed by the PM. Here are the types of comments making their way into the public discourse that are going unaddressed:
"It would be contrary to Canada's national interests because we don't want separatists in Quebec getting the precedent from Kosovo that it's OK to secede unilaterally," said Bojan Ratvokic, a Brock University student who led the event hosted by the University of Toronto Serbian Student Association.
...
Several hundred protesters led by bicycle-mounted police proceeded from near the Ontario legislature to the consulate just down University Avenue, where hundreds more greeted them. Many carried placards, including some reading "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia" and "Kovoso (equals) Quebec."
Kosovo's situation does not equal Quebec's in any respect, as pointed out by many, referenced here, and to let such arguments go unchallenged is irresponsible. It is established in Canadian law that Quebec cannot secede unilaterally, contrary to the voices heard in the above report. If Stephane Dion makes a public speech, the Conservatives are all over it to beat back whatever he says. Yet on such matters of international significance, they're MIA and dithering.

Still waiting...

The answer is John Crosbie

I had a pile of hits on Saturday from people looking for the answer to the following question, in some internet quiz that I see in my stats from time to time:
who was the former provincial politician turned finance minister that introduced the fateful budget along with joe clark?
Since my blog seems to come up, due to my use of the word "fateful" in connection with some Conservative politician...I thought I'd provide my answer. It's John Crosbie. Try it in your crossword or whatever the heck it is.

Cheers!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Harper tank fiasco commemorative poster



Gee, I've been out all afternoon and on my return found this little gem in my inbox thanks to the Wingnuterer...:) A propos of this story this week. Since they won't be ready for Afghanistan, maybe they'll come in handy for Harper's just announced big military plans for our nation. Or, at the very least, perhaps they can help with snow removal in Toronto in the future...:)

Road tolls, yes

But no more freaking property tax hikes in Toronto, please. The Toronto property owner is not an endless source of revenue to be tapped year in and year out as the ever present solution to the city's budget problems. Ultimately, there will come a breaking point. The city rate increases - water, for e.g., - and recent tax increases on land transfer are also affecting the cost of living in this city. To see our federal government rolling in revenues while GTA taxpayers continue to be gouged is a constant source of irritation.

Our roads are falling apart. And if tolls will mean that surrounding suburbs will participate in the cost of maintaining them and if it helps ease congestion and environmental conditions, easing more people into the GO system and public transit...this voter says yes, absolutely.

Shocking, I say

It looks like 60 Minutes on Sunday should be a good one. Karl Rove, the esteemed media darling these days, will get a reminder of why he should be celebrated much less and not rewarded for what he's inflicted upon the American people for so many years now:
A Republican operative in Alabama says Karl Rove asked her to try to prove the state’s Democratic governor was unfaithful to his wife in an effort to thwart the highly successful politician’s re-election.

Rove’s attempt to smear Don Siegelman was part of a Republican campaign to ruin him that finally succeeded in imprisoning him, says the operative, Jill Simpson.

Simpson speaks to Scott Pelley in her first television interview, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Simpson spoke to Pelley because, she says, Siegelman’s seven-year sentence for bribery bothers her. She recalls what Rove, then President Bush’s senior political adviser, asked her to do at a 2001 meeting in this exchange from Sunday’s report.

"Karl Rove asked you to take pictures of Siegelman?" asks Pelley.

"Yes," replies Simpson.

"In a compromising, sexual position with one of his aides," clarifies Pelley.

"Yes, if I could," says Simpson.

Simpson says she found no evidence of infidelity despite months of observation. She tells Pelley that Rove, who had been a top Republican strategist in Alabama, had made requests for information from her before in her capacity as an "opposition researcher" for Republicans running for office.

Rove would not speak to 60 Minutes, but elsewhere has denied being involved in efforts to discredit Siegelman.
And I suppose 60 Minutes is lying about that last point. Let's ask Karl's lawyer, who, out of necessity, is on perma-retainer:
Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, denied the allegation.

"Mr. Rove never made such a request to her or anyone else," Luskin said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Had '60 Minutes' taken the trouble to contact Mr. Rove before circulating this falsehood, he would have told them the same thing."
Yeah, we'll take your word for it, Mr. Luskin. The Republican modus operandi, tar the media by calling them liars. The same thing that's going on with the McCain story and the New York Times.

It's quite the claim to be lying about, I'd say. Not exactly the kind of thing you'd forget or get confused about if asked to do. Ms. Simpson is certainly having quite the crisis of conscience.

Meanwhile, Karl has found himself a sweet little post-politics set of gigs, in the pages of Newsweek and on panels at Faux News. He continues to be inexplicably lionized and revered for his deeds.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Silly Globe

Don't you know that such news, "Tories flirt with majority support, poll finds," typically leads to a downturn in the polls for Harpie as people begin to really turn their minds to what a majority would actually mean? That is the comfort in witnessing such prominently reported polls. Knowing that they'll soon come back down to earth. If we were to see a few of these polls from the spectrum of pollsters over a sustained period of time, then I'd be concerned.

Not that they're truly in 12 point lead territory in any event. Note the mention of the Harris-Decima poll with a 35-33 race that was released yesterday. That sounds more like it based on where the polls have been for the past year.

Give them a few days. They're likely to pull a boneheaded move on some front.

Calling all moonbats


The Wingnuterer has commemorated an event of some significance for the moonbat in each of us...:)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Crimes ordered by the President"



Keith reminds us, in the context of the presidential election, that it's a bad scene in the respect for the law department in the U.S. in this day and age. The Supreme Court has now declined to hear an appeal from ACLU v. NSA on Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. The position in the U.S. is now something like this: "you can't sue for being secretly wiretapped, because you can't prove you were secretly wiretapped, because its a secret."

Notable Turley comment of the night: "...you have cases where there are flagrant violations of the law, crimes ordered by the President: unlawful surveillance, torture of suspects and you have citizens that are unable to get a review on the merits to simply have a judge have a look and find that the law was violated." An excellent reason to elect a Democrat, to ensure the next President who chooses judges will have such considerations in mind.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Election speculation

It seems to be the topic of the day, driven entirely by the Conservative plan. Why should we be playing on their field? I say, no thanks. Keep your war room open houses, bogus financial attacks, and stalking of Mr. Dion. The Cons will get their election when it's opportune for the Liberals. This is politics, after all. Electoral viability should be a consideration.

As for the embarrassment of sitting on one's hands, the situation in Ottawa is unique. We have a Liberal party in opposition that has been drained financially by a federal election in 2004, 2006 and a leadership convention that followed. Not to mention the Martin leadership campaign in advance of all that which also tapped into the donor base. And being in this compromised position, nevertheless, many continue to egg them on to call an election while effectively unarmed. What is the point in that? Sure they can get the loans to finance a campaign. Still has to be paid back though. Should we bolster the finances before hurtling in or have no regard to such considerations? The Conservatives would love to have an election now for that reason. They want to destroy the Liberals financially. Why give them their wish?

So why should the Liberals go when they are not election ready? Why should they forfeit the advantage of choosing to go when they are indeed ready at this particular time? Yes, there are many issues that desperately need attention and change. But if an election occurs where the Liberals are not as ready as they decide they need to be, then that change isn't going to be occurring. Didn't I read this weekend that the Quebec wing needs time to find candidates? Pretty important consideration. We could end up with another Harper minority, or worse, majority. Then at least we could all sit back and be happy that Dion stood up for his principles. Wouldn't be worth much then, would it?

My view, they should be playing to win. And ramping up to get there. If that means we go this spring, fine. If it's a bit later, fine. In the meantime, if we see some by-election wins, fundraising going up, candidates being lined up and an increased profile for Dion, fine by me.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Priorities

Just a little item of note, I thought. From Friday's Government of Canada news, scroll down this entire page to get a sense of the Harper government's electoral priorities. More this weekend on the topic from Chris Waddell.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Stephen Harper commemorative Leadership poster

Which encapsulates brilliantly how it is that the man leads:



Yes, with hatchet in hand, that's our man...:)

They should

Thomas Walkom asks the big question today: "Why shouldn't voters discuss war?"

Oh for the love of...


Did you catch that glimpse of the new Conservative election poster last night? The Conservatives are going all-in with Harper's "strengths" as a leader in the next election. Cough, cough... yet I can already envision a thousand photo-shopped versions of that picture of dear leader. Are you out there, Wingnuterer? Please get on this, pronto...:)

The Conservatives are itching for an election, with their tricked out "war room" up there in the deepest, darkest part of the capital region...how sporting of their spokesthingy to show it off to the CTV team last night, just to preen for the cameras and have a go at spooking Mr. Dion, et al. Not. Gonna. Work. And you know, in the face of such juvenile displays, maybe the Liberals won't give Mr. Harper his election. Seems like they want it too badly. I'd be in favour of them sitting on their hands, AGAIN, just to stick it to the dough boys at this point.

Did you also catch this lovely heads-up?
...Conservatives are kicking into high gear. On Sunday, they'll launch a pre-campaign attack on Dion, saying all the spending promises he's made would drive Canada back into deficit budgets.
Yes, that's right, get ready for more negative advertising from the Conservatives. Polls sure as heck don't look good for them. So it's slew-foot your opponent time once again. With the incredible singular emphasis on Stephen Harper that they appear ready to foist on the nation, you have to wonder whether they're risking too significantly the identification of such negativity so heavily with Harper. Isn't that a quality they should be running away from instead?

What a tired Groundhog day kind of feeling this all has. I wonder if the Canadian public will feel the same way.

Friday, February 15, 2008

No independence please, we're Conservatives

Today's installment of IOKIYAC:
As the Harper government puts the finishing touches on an office that's supposed to scrutinize Ottawa's budgeting, opposition critics and a source familiar with the process say what's emerging is a watered-down version of the fearless watchdog promised by Tories.

In the last election the Conservatives pledged to create an independent fiscal referee to deliver "truth in budgeting," with free rein to issue estimates of Ottawa's finances. The promise followed years of heated debate over Liberal governments running windfall surpluses that materialized only after it was too late to spend them on anything but debt repayment.

"Governments cannot be held to account if Parliament does not know the accurate state of public finances," the Tory election platform said.
...
The source familiar with the job design said it's been changed substantially from the original concept and, if it relies on Finance forecasts, will be beholden to the department.

"In a one-sentence description, this person is to interpret the material of the Department of Finance for parliamentarians," the source said.

"I think the person who does this is going to have an impossible job. They're going to be totally dependent upon ... Finance for the analytics."
Anybody surprised at this point? The more banal the issue, the more blatant they are in completely obliterating their principles. Add public finances to the growing list of government functions whose independence has come under attack by the Conservatives...Elections Canada, the Canada Nuclear Safety Commission, the Canadian Wheat Board...it's quite the record they've built.

You'd think Conservatives who tout themselves as business friendly would be mindful of the importance of such concepts as independence, internal controls and risk management particularly when it comes to the public purse. Prudent stewards of our finances would welcome the rigour that an independent budget office would bring. Corporate Canada's boards are required to hew to independence, why can't the Conservatives stomach it?

Two of my faves together yesterday



Keith hosts Richard Lewis, enjoy...:)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day, blah blah blah

This one is right up there with New Year's Eve in the Impolitical books...:) Have yourself a good one...whether single or attached and play safely out there kids...:)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Harper government still OK with Guantanamo Bay

The New York Times today calls for the trials of the six Guantanamo Bay prisoners allegedly involved in the 9/11 attacks to be moved to the U.S. federal court system. Their stated rationale:
The Bush administration’s decision to put six detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on trial before military tribunals and to seek the death penalty is both a betrayal of American ideals and simply bad strategy. Instead of being what they could and should be — a model of justice dispensed impartially, surely and dispassionately — the trials will proceed under deeply flawed procedures that violate this country’s basic fairness. The intense negative attention they will receive will do enormous damage to what is left of America’s standing in world opinion.
...
This week’s announcement is a reminder that those rights will be so limited in the military tribunals that the credibility of any verdict will be undermined. Prosecutors will be able to use evidence obtained by improper means, including by torture. The rules will be stacked in the government’s favor, so hearsay evidence that would not be allowed in civilian courts may be allowed. Prosecutors may rely on classified evidence that the defendants will not be able to challenge. Defendants may not be allowed to call important witnesses.

Hanging over it all is the Kafkaesque fact that even if the defendants were somehow to beat the charges, they would not be set free. They would simply go back to being detainees in Guantánamo.

...

It is reckless to needlessly act in ways that outrage the rest of the world.

(emphasis added)
Opposition to the military tribunal process even for those involved in 9/11 demonstrates just how poorly the Gitmo set up is viewed. Yet Canada continues to remain silent and defer to this flawed process instead of insisting upon the return of Gitmo's lone Canadian citizen to our soil. It is long past time that this government do something about it. This editorial reminds us that Khadr's detention in this modern day gulag is an ongoing embarrassment to our country and our position as a nation committed internationally to the rule of law.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Conservative hatorade watch: writing unbecoming a national paper

I second the sentiment expressed at pogge today with respect to the National Post editorial today. Name calling is really a tactic not worthy of a national newspaper in the heat of a serious debate over the future of a mission that Canada is bound up in. When parties are grappling with the core of their beliefs and trying to do the right thing on the issues. It was really a shock to see such a callous, juvenile, bullying characterization.

On the other hand, I suppose we should have been prepared, that seems to be the hallmark of conservative actions and thought in Canada of late that the Harper government has ushered in...

Exposing a Conservative farce

The walk out by the Liberals today from the House had the effect of leaving the Conservatives hanging there, naked, to justify their motion to cajole the Senate along to meeting an artificial deadline for crime legislation that the Conservatives themselves have delayed.

Why sit and play along with the shenanigans?

Instead, they exercised some chutzpah and stood up to the vaudeville act playing itself out.

And if our PM follows through on this ploy...
Conservatives maintain that if the Liberal-dominated Senate does not pass the crime bill by March 1, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will ask Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament and call an election.
He'll be reminding voters once again that you can't take him at his word. The Conservatives wanted and passed a fixed election date piece of legislation. The PM can't have it both ways. If he chooses to ignore his own law, so be it. That'll make for a nice little bit of hypocrisy to open a campaign.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Harper desperately seeking a break from Bush

A reader was interested in the Policy Options interview with Stephen Harper, referenced in Lawrence Martin's Globe column Thursday as follows:
With Canadians pulling en masse for the Democrats in the U.S. election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is wisely charting more distance between himself and his conservative brethren in Washington.

In an interview with the magazine Policy Options, Mr. Harper ripped into the Bush administration, saying he's been thwarted by it and wants change.

On global warming, Mr. Harper said he's made an effort, but "those efforts are undermined by an energy partner that doesn't have targets and hasn't seen it as a priority."

On trade and security, he said the border is being thickened ostensibly for security reasons, but that sometimes this is a cover for "protectionist sentiment we think is very worrisome."

The PM summed up his views curtly: "We're obviously looking for a fresh start with a new administration."
The distance he's putting between himself and the Bush administration is worth taking note of in view of an upcoming election campaign. After holding W's skirt for two years, the Machiavellian Harper will apparently be attempting to channel Hillary and Obama. Someone's very concerned about the U.S. campaign's potential influence on our own domestic politics, for good reason.

Here's the excerpt from Policy Options:

Apparently it's all Bush's fault that Harper has not been able to make good on Kyoto. By reading this statement from Harper, you'd almost be bamboozled into thinking he was a Kyoto supporter. No one will be buying this hooey for a minute...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Conservatives sure like their manufactured crises

They're threatening to ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament on the extraordinary basis that the government is unable to work if the Senate fails to pass their crime legislation by March 1st. A few points here...

This would seem to violate the Harper government's own legislation preventing the government from manufacturing its own defeat. They are not supposed to be in the business of bringing about an election until the next fixed election date in 2009. To manufacture this crisis in government for their own political benefit shows that there are few lengths to which they won't go, even in order to circumvent laws of their own doing. The Governor General should get some legal advice, now, on her options here, including the option to say a firm no to this nonsense.

To equate the present situation to the Senate's failure to pass the Free Trade Agreement in 1988 smacks of desperation. The Conservatives in 1988 had a majority in the House of Commons, they don't now. And this domestic crime legislation is in no way comparable in magnitude to an international trade treaty over which there were significant political differences and which warranted an election. There is support for the majority of the components of this crime legislation, the Senate is just looking at legitimate questions of constitutional scrutiny.

Let's say the Senate finishes its work by mid-March...then what's the rush? Does somebody turn into a pumpkin on March 1st if the Senate doesn't pass the bill by then? Where's the urgent hue and cry from the Canadian public on this? It's not there.

Not to mention the Conservatives own responsibility for the delay of a bill they claim to be so urgent. They're the ones who put an end to the last Parliamentary session because they were getting hammered on the Afghan detainee issue. And they're transparently citing weekends and holidays in their tally of "delay" days against the Senate.
But Liberal Senate Leader Celine Hervieux-Payette pointed out that the Senate committee studying the bill has agreed to extend its hours and sit through a planned break in mid-February.

Opposition politicians also note that four of the five bills reintroduced last fall were on track to pass last spring - until the Conservatives opted to cut the parliamentary session short and begin a fresh one.

Van Loan dodged those questions and how forcing an early election, once again derailing legislation, would help the suddenly urgent bills pass any faster.

The Tories let months pass after the introduction of the crime bills in their original form, Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs noted.
It's ludicrous.

With all of the issues at the forefront of our public conscious right now, a crime bill is what they're seeking to die on? And manufacture a crisis in government in order to get their election? Some days it just feels like these guys are too much. Too clever by half in their machinations. This definitely feels like one of those days.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Snow in Toronto...we're not making this up



Some humour for the dog days as the snow keeps on coming...we're wimps in the big smoke aren't we? Heh...:)

Do the right thing on the Khadr detention at Gitmo

Two editorials today, from the Star and the Globe, calling upon the Harper government to step up to the plate with the Americans and insist on Omar Khadr's repatriation from Gitmo. Both papers cite the secret evidence which the U.S. authorities mistakenly released to the media on Monday demonstrating that there is no proof Khadr threw a grenade at anybody. With that news, and in consideration of Khadr's capture as a juvenile, it continues to be inexcusable that the Harper government has done nothing.

From the Star:
If Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs an excuse to demand that Omar Khadr be freed from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, he has it now. The Pentagon has just released information that shows that Khadr was not the only fighter who might have killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan five years ago. Someone else might have done it.

For Canadians concerned about Khadr's fate at the hands of a discredited military trial process, this is the last straw.
...
As the Star has written before, Khadr is a poor poster boy for human rights. But he is a Canadian citizen who faces a military tribunal that does not meet American or Canadian standards of criminal justice.

If convicted in Canada even of planned, deliberate murder, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act Khadr would have faced no more than six years in custody. By July 27, he will have spent six years in the Guantanamo brig. In Canadian terms, he will have served a full sentence for a crime for which he has not yet been tried, much less convicted.

This is indecent. Few Canadians have sympathy for Khadr and his family. But what is happening in Guantanamo is not justice. It is vindictiveness. And the Harper government's acquiescence is profoundly disturbing. Before Canada suffers yet more embarrassment, Khadr should be shipped back home, under a bond to keep the peace.
And the Globe strikes similar notes:
Omar Khadr is the suspected terrorist Canada washed its hands of, allowing him to disappear into the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay at the age of 15 and, shamefully, uttering barely a peep in defence of his rights, even as all other Western countries managed to persuade the United States to send their own nationals home. How much more shameful Canada's silence appears now that we know the most serious charge against Mr. Khadr - committing the war crime of murder - was based on nothing more than a soldier's educated guess.
...
By its silence, Canada has told the United States it could do what it wanted with the young prisoner. Canada also sent intelligence agents to interrogate Mr. Khadr, with the information gleaned to be passed on to the RCMP and U.S. authorities. (The Federal Court of Canada put a stop to those interrogations 2½ years ago.) And why was Canada so silent? Partly because, as long as he was in Guantanamo, he was someone else's problem. And partly because of Mr. Khadr's name.
...
The Stephen Harper government has insisted, cynically, that the process should be allowed to work. The process has never been fair, and a juvenile citizen of Canada has not merely been punished but been degraded through a long, painful incarceration in which he utterly lacked rights. Britain, Australia and other Western countries understood that the only process that works for Guantanamo inmates is direct talks with the Americans. Canada needs to speak up, at last, for fairness and ultimately repatriation for Mr. Khadr. (emphasis added)
And in case the above is not enough for the Harper government to be convinced that Canadians should not be left at the mercy of the outlaw system at Gitmo, they also should be considering yesterday's news that the Americans are now admitting to waterboarding:
The international advocacy group Human Rights Watch said that waterboarding was torture and a violation of the War Crimes Act and the federal anti-torture law. The group said officials should be prosecuted.

"General Hayden's acknowledgment that the CIA subjected three detainees to waterboarding is an explicit admission of criminal activity," said Joanne Mariner, the group's terrorism and counterterrorism director. "Those who authorized these crimes have to be held accountable."
War crimes. Yep. But by all means, "let the process work."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

An exemplary start to the Khadr hearing

Word of new evidence at this late date:
A classified document mistakenly released to reporters at the U.S. navy base here has revealed Omar Khadr wasn't the only person alive in an Afghan compound when an American soldier was fatally wounded.
...
The five-page secret document released here yesterday is based on an interview with a man who shot Khadr twice in the back. Identified only as OC-1, the witness described what he saw after the grenade was thrown in the July 27, 2002 attack.

"(The witness) heard moaning coming from the back of the compound. The dust rose up from the ground and began to clear. He then saw a man facing him lying on his right side," the report stated.

"The man had an AK-47 on the ground beside him and the man was moving. OC-1 fired one round striking the man in the head and the movement ceased. Dust was again stirred by this rifle shot.

"When the dust rose, he saw a second man sitting up facing away from him leaning against the brush. This man, later identified as Khadr, was moving. ... OC-1 fired two rounds, both of which struck Khadr in the back."
The implication being that it's possible that it was not Khadr at all who threw the grenade at issue. That's the basis for a reasonable doubt argument in a normal process. An alien concept to the legal luminaries running Gitmo who were at it again yesterday:
Controversy erupted outside the military courthouse when it was revealed the document had been inadvertently given to reporters attending the trial.

At first, a court security official said the document must be returned and that reporters might not be allowed to attend future hearings if they didn't comply.

After reporters refused, and following 90 minutes of negotiation, it was agreed only the names of the soldiers and their units, Khadr's prison number and specific dates and locations in the report couldn't be revealed. With the exception of three names in the document, all those facts have already appeared in media reports.

The document had accidentally been attached to pretrial motions that were given to reporters by a spokesperson for the Office of Military Commissions at Guantanamo. If the document had not been released by mistake it would not have been made public, leaving some to question the Pentagon's assertion that the Guantanamo trials will be transparent.
Oh yes, it's off to a rip roaring start...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Child soldiers being tried in $12 million mobile court complexes

Arguments were heard on jurisdictional issues in the Omar Khadr matter today at Guantanamo Bay. A summary of the arguments:
Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr Monday argued that the US military commission responsible for trying him lacks jurisdiction over the case, saying that Khadr did not commit a war crime by allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002 because soldiers are lawful targets in a war zone. Prosecutors argued that jurisdiction was proper as Khadr violated international rules of war by concealing himself in civilian clothing and living among women and children during combat. Defense lawyers also argued that Khadr's alleged actions in 2002 were not considered war crimes at the time they were committed and thus cannot be tried as such under the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA). Prosecutors countered that the law is retroactive. US military judge Col. Peter Brownback did not issue a ruling on the motions to dismiss at Monday's hearing. Khadr's trial is currently set for May.
In addition to the legal arguments over the rules of war and Khadr's status as a combatant is the argument raised by many defending Khadr that Khadr was 15 at the time of his detention in Afghanistan. That brings him under the UN protocol on children in armed conflict. The U.S. is a signatory to that protocol. Canada and Afghanistan are as well. Articles 6 and 7 of the protocol seem to be the most applicable to Khadr's situation and the opposite of the legal process to which he is being subjected at Guantanamo:
Article 6

1. Each State Party shall take all necessary legal, administrative and other measures to ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the present Protocol within its jurisdiction.

2. States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions of the present Protocol widely known and promoted by appropriate means, to adults and children alike.

3. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons within their jurisdiction recruited or used in hostilities contrary to the present Protocol are demobilized or otherwise released from service. States Parties shall, when necessary, accord to such persons all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration.

Article 7

1. States Parties shall cooperate in the implementation of the present Protocol, including in the prevention of any activity contrary thereto and in the rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons who are victims of acts contrary thereto, including through technical cooperation and financial assistance. Such assistance and cooperation will be undertaken in consultation with the States Parties concerned and the relevant international organizations.

2. States Parties in a position to do so shall provide such assistance through existing multilateral, bilateral or other programmes or, inter alia, through a voluntary fund established in accordance with the rules of the General Assembly.
Seems to me that the Canadian government has obligations here, as a signatory nation, where a Canadian citizen is at the center of a military trial when that citizen was detained as a child soldier. But the Harper government is MIA, as usual.

Further obscenity on the issue is the following report. They take their show trials seriously in the U.S. of A.:
The U.S. military unveiled its new war crimes courtroom at Guantanamo Bay on Sunday as it prepared to resume pretrial hearings this week for Osama bin Laden's Yemeni driver and a young Canadian seeking protection as a child soldier.

The new court building looks like a khaki-colored metal warehouse on the outside and a traditional courtroom inside. It has enough room to simultaneously try up to six prisoners, lined up on faux-leather chairs at cherry-veneer tables.

It is part of a $12 million mobile court complex that includes prefabricated holding cells shipped by barge and cargo plane to the remote U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, where the military holds about 275 captives in the Bush administration's campaign against terrorism.

The court complex is rising even as most of the candidates vying to succeed U.S. President George W. Bush in January 2008 have pledged to shut down the widely criticized Guantanamo prison camp. The court complex is designed to be moved elsewhere if it is no longer needed at Guantanamo.

"Whatever we're told to do, we can pick it up and move it to another location," said Army Col. Wendy Kelly, operations director for the Pentagon office overseeing the war court.

It will be ready for use in March and is part of the military's plan to try as many as 80 Guantanamo prisoners on war crimes charges. So far only one captive has been convicted at Guantanamo, an Australian who pleaded guilty to training with al Qaeda. After being held at Guantanamo for more than five years, he finished his nine-month sentence in his homeland in December.
A $12 million mobile court complex. Yep, better put that faux-leather, cherry veneered thing on wheels, there's very likely a new sheriff a coming to town...

They messed up

So the Conservatives are retracting one of their recent political stunts, tying worker relief to the fate of the spring federal budget, that budget being universally recognized as a possible election linchpin:
The Tories announced they would table a motion Monday calling on Parliament to fast-track approval of the $1-billion community development fund originally announced last month.

The government previously said the fund would only go forward if the opposition passed the federal budget.
A sign of weakness from the Conservatives in the form of this rare admission that their political tactics have backfired. What gives? Is Harpie shedding his elbows-up Machiavellian form? Maybe on this issue. Whether it's part of a larger pattern, unlikely. It's in their DNA and the tentative life of a minority government will likely keep them on the partisan edge.

Very interesting development to watch though...

A case for impeachment

The brilliant Scott Horton again with a must read post today, "The Case for Impeachment." Yes, that's right, impeachment. It may well be back on the table as the year progresses, driven by the Justice Department's conclusion of its investigation into the firings of the U.S. attorneys for which Gonzo is apparently up the creek. Yet there will be unanswered questions about the roles of Karl Rove and George W. Bush in the effort to use the Justice Department to interfere with criminal prosecutions. This would be where impeachment enters the picture, as a congressional remedy which can go beyond the limited Justice Department investigations. Read Horton's full post for a much more eloquent and historical outline of the rationale for pursuing it:
I predict that before Bush leaves office, the case for his impeachment will and should be given a more careful hearing. It must not be pursued as a partisan remedy to force a transfer of power. Rather it should be used as an institutional remedy. Polling now shows that a large majority of Americans believe that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have committed serious transgressions against the Constitution which would merit consideration of the impeachment process. Impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their attempts to hijack the Constitution would make a clear statement about abuse of power. It would also serve to put reasonable constraints on the conduct of their successors–who are likely to be Democrats. This is a step which genuine Conservatives and Republicans who adhere to their party’s former understanding of a government with an executive of carefully limited and checked powers should welcome and embrace.

But more importantly, the political stage in Washington will soon encounter facts that command the consideration of impeachment. Let me posit a scenario which I believe likely to appear before the end of this summer. The Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility have concluded their joint investigation into the “Gonzales Eight,” namely the eight U.S. attorneys who were fired by Alberto Gonzales on December 7, 2006. The legal standard governing these terminations can probably be summarized this way: the U.S. attorneys could be fired for no reason, or for any reason, but not for an improper reason. But the inquiry has concluded, as I think it invariably must, that in several cases the firing occurred for an improper reason, to-wit: in order to corruptly influence a criminal investigation. In one case, relating to New Mexico U.S. attorney David Iglesias, the facts establishing an improper purpose lie right at the surface, and they implicate Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove and George Bush. The Justice Department’s internal investigation will not address the White House’s involvement in the illegality—surely not President Bush’s and probably not even Karl Rove’s. But it will make a series of adverse conclusions concerning Alberto Gonzales and it will note that Karl Rove and George W. Bush were intimately involved in the whole process. This is because the jurisdictional remit of the investigation is limited–it can only deal with employees and former employees of the Justice Department, so Rove and the president are off bounds. But among the charges it is likely to lay at Gonzales’s doorstep is that he failed to apprise the White House of the fact that their meddling with the U.S. attorneys for purposes of influencing criminal investigations connected to elections was a crime–which it surely was. Gonzales recently engaged savvy criminal law counsel. He needs them. But the facts will point to more systematic and potentially deeper culpability within the White House than the Justice Department itself.

If things unfold this way, it will be incumbent on the Congressional oversight organs, and particularly the House Judiciary Committee, to pick up where the Justice Department’s investigation left off: it will need to scrutinize the role that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove and potentially others played in the whole affair, and generally in the corrupt influencing of criminal proceedings. It’s well settled at this point that if a criminal prosecution is manipulated for purposes of creating some partisan political benefit, that is a “corrupt influencing” under federal criminal law—a felony, and in the language of the Constitution, a “high crime and misdemeanor.”
And Horton's powerful conclusion:
The proper use of impeachment is as a constitutional restorative, just as Berger argues. And following this argument, as Bush’s term of office comes to an end, the use of the impeachment remedy becomes more, not less compelling. It can and should be used to draw a line in the sand about the arbitrary use of executive power, making clear that Bush’s abuses cannot be taken as precedent by future presidents. Indeed, failure to use impeachment has its consequences: it means acceptance of Bush’s transformation of the constitutional order. It means that the careful balance between legislature, executive and judiciary created by the Framers has been undone, and the executive has triumphed as the paramount power. Impeachment may be a painful process, of course, but Americans should consider whether their Constitution is worth saving. (emphasis added)
Those congressional leaders who have taken impeachment off the table for gratuitous reasons such as it being a partisan hammer, a waste of time, etc., should reconsider and reflect on what the long term consequences of their promise will be. Their promise not to pursue impeachment was given prior to the 2006 midterm elections as what appeared to be a means to placate voters that a vote for Democrats would not result in overindulgent partisan investigations. Conducting an impeachment inquiry for proper purposes, as Horton suggests, and with the growing support of American public opinion should enable them to put it back on the table should Horton's predictions come to pass.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Any PM concerned with the rule of law would stand up against Gitmo

As Omar Khadr is about to face a farcical procedure tomorrow at Gitmo, it's worth reminding ourselves of the abomination that is Gitmo. There is no right of habeas corpus for prisoners, meaning that they can rot in cells for years, subjected to whatever treatment the U.S. government desires, without recourse to the law. The UN has condemned the procedures. The former chief prosecutor at Gitmo has outed the political interference going on. It's rife with process that is antithetical to anything we would rightly want a Canadian citizen - no matter how terrible - subjected. Yet the Harper government turns a blind eye, as they do to all inconvenient horrors these days.

The background on Khadr and tomorrow's "pretrial hearing":
Lawyers for Omar Khadr will ask the U.S. military to drop charges faced by the young Canadian as they attend a pretrial hearing at the Guantanamo Naval Base on Monday.

They have maintained that Khadr, the only Canadian being held at the military detention facility in Cuba, should go free because trying him for crimes he allegedly committed as a minor contravenes international law.

Khadr, 23, has been in custody at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. He was arrested at age 15, following a shootout in Afghanistan.

He is accused of murder in the death of American medic Sgt. First Class Christopher J. Speer. Khadr is also charged with spying, conspiracy and supporting terrorism.
As recently as December 12, 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Martin Scheinin outlined concerns with the "lack of judicial guarantees and fair trial procedures" for detainees facing military commission proceedings at Guantanamo Bay:
Addendum three contains the report of the Special Rapporteur's mission to the United States, from 16 to 25 May 2007. The report considers a number of issues, including the Guantánamo Bay detainees and their categorization as "unlawful enemy combatants"; the use of military commissions to try terrorist suspects; interrogation techniques; definitions of terrorism under U.S. law; alleged targeted killings of terrorist suspects by U.S. agents; and profiling. Among its recommendations are that the categorization of persons as "unlawful enemy combatants" be abandoned, and that the United States release or put on trial those persons detained under that categorization; and that legislative amendments be made to remove the denial of habeas corpus rights under the Military Commissions Act 2006 and the restrictions upon the ability of Guantánamo Bay detainees to seek full judicial review of their combatant status. Gravely concerned at the enhanced interrogation techniques reportedly used by the CIA, the Special Rapporteur urges the United States to ensure that all its officials and agencies comply with international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. He recommends that the Army Field Manual be revised to expressly state that only enumerated techniques are permissible. The Special Rapporteur further urges the Government to take transparent steps to ensure that the CIA practice of "extraordinary rendition" is completely discontinued and is not conducted in the future, and that CIA interrogation techniques are regulated in line with the position expressed above in respect of the Army Field Manual.
The lack of habeas corpus rights pointed out by the UN means effectively that despite minor improvements to the reinstated Military Commissions Act in 2006 following its being struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, detainees can sit in Gitmo for a decade without being able to challenge their detention:
In an election year, development of a carefully crafted system fell by the wayside, leaving all of us to begin again – years after the initial processes started – with a repackaged version of the original commissions system that may not pass judicial muster. To be sure, the Act incorporated some of the piecemeal improvements that have occurred during the last five years of this process, such as the right of appeal, the ability to attend one’s own trial, the explicit exclusion of evidence derived by torture, and the right to self-representation.

But any improvements are overshadowed by Congress’ express desire to strip any ability to enforce these rights from detainees by prohibiting them access to federal courts. And if the original Act stands, any meaningful check on abuses will have to wait for a time where the individual tried is convicted, appeals are filed with the interim Court of Military Commissions, which still falls under the control of the Department of Defense, and only then can the accused petition the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. By the time an individual accused reaches this point, he will have most likely already spent a decade incarcerated. And only at this point will he be able to challenge his right to be tried in a system that appears to be pre-disposed toward conviction.
Further, the blatant political interference with the Gitmo processes has been exposed by the former chief prosecutor there, who resigned citing political interference with the independence of his office:
We already know, therefore, that the military commissions are a bad idea for those of us who want to see speedy justice at Guantánamo. But with the resignation of Colonel Davis as chief prosecutor, we are now learning that the military commissions – whatever their inherent flaws and virtues – have themselves been corrupted by politics. If Davis’s allegations are to be credited, then the commissions system is being manipulated by political actors in an improper, unethical and potentially illegal manner – a politicization of the Guantánamo justice system that echoes the U.S. Attorneys scandal.

According to Davis, for more than a year Pentagon officials have sought to influence his decisions about “who we will charge, what we will charge, what evidence we will try to introduce, and how we will conduct a prosecution.” For example, speaking last week to the Wall Street Journal, he explained that in September 2006, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England discussed with him the “strategic political value” in charging some of the prisoners before the midterm elections. Similarly, in January 2007, Pentagon General Counsel William J. Haynes II (himself on the verge of being withdrawn as a nominee for the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals because of his involvement with the infamous “torture memos”) telephoned Davis to prod him to charge David Hicks, apparently as a political accommodation to the Australian Prime Minister. Even after Haynes was advised that this interference was improper, he again called Davis, suggesting that he charge other prisoners at the same time to avoid the impression that the charges were “a political solution to the Hicks case.”

More recently, Davis filed a formal complaint alleging that Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, the Legal Advisor to the authority overseeing the military commissions process, had pushed him to file cases that would attract more public attention and garner support for the tribunal system, even though such cases would require secretive, closed proceedings. (By Pentagon regulation, the Legal Advisor is supposed to be an impartial administrator of justice, not an arm of the prosecution.)

In September of this year, Davis threatened to resign if anyone tried to intimidate him. He has now done so, stating bluntly that, “as things stand right now, I think it’s a disgrace to call it a military commission – it’s a political commission.”

What makes this all the more alarming is that Colonel Davis is the last person you would expect to stand up as a whistleblower.
In Khadr's case, the judge has issued an order preventing his counsel from discussing prosecution witnesses with Khadr. The details:
US military judge Col. Peter Brownback has issued a blanket order [PDF text] protecting the identities of prosecution witnesses in the military commission trial of Omar Khadr [JURIST news archive], the New York Times reported Saturday. The order, originally rendered on October 15, was contained within previously unavailable commission documents [PDF text, 694 pages] that were only recently released by the Pentagon. The prosecution requested the measure, citing possible terrorist retaliation against those who testify, and may move to bar any information from the trial that could be used to identify the witnesses. Khadr's lawyer has said that the order unfairly hinders their ability to mount a defense because it prevents him from questioning the reliability of testimony as he is unable to discuss the identities of witnesses with anyone, including Khadr.
The right to know the witnesses against you and confront them, one of the fundamental tenets of a fair judicial system...nope.

This order comes on the heel of the June 2007 decision that Khadr was not an "unlawful enemy combatant" and therefore not subject to the Military Commissions Act 2006 as applicable at Gitmo. But never mind, that decision was quickly reversed in September 2007 as a matter of semantics, bringing Khadr back under the Gitmo process:
Congress intended for military commissions to "apply the principles of law" and "the procedures for trial [routinely utilized] by general courts-martial..." This would include the common procedures used before general courts-martial permitting military judges to hear evidence and decide factual and legal matters concerning the court's own jurisdiction over the accused appearing before it.
Canada is in the embarrassing position of standing back and letting this show trial proceed. In the face of all of the evidence demanding that they stand up for the rule of law and extricate a Canadian citizen from this morass, the silence from the Harper government is damning.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Memorial to Bush's failed climate policies

Very cool Greenpeace action in Washington earlier this week (click to enlarge) to coincide with the State of the Union and a meeting the Bush administration is holding this week on global warming:
Responding to the Bush administration’s continued
obstruction of international efforts to address global warming, Greenpeace activists turned one of the nation’s most iconic symbols into a memorial to Bush’s failed legacy on climate change. Greenpeace projected on the Washington Monument the message: U.S. Global Warming Plan: Hell and High Water, accompanied by an image depicting rising sea levels at the base, a predicted consequence of global warming.
...
Greenpeace’s projection served to call attention to Bush’s global warming policies a day after his State of the Union address and on the eve of Bush’s international meeting of the world’s largest emitters of global warming pollution, called the “Major Economies Meeting,” which takes place in Hawaii on Wednesday and Thursday.
Make sure you click, it's a pretty effective and imaginative protest.