April 29, 2011

Toronto Star: War crimes investigation possible for Canadians in Afghanistan

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 15:52

The International Criminal Court seems to think that Canadian officials may be complicit in war crimes over the Afghan detainees:

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says in a documentary soon to be aired on TVO that Canadian officials are not immune to prosecution if there is evidence that crimes were committed by handing over detainees to face torture.

When Toronto filmmaker Barry Stevens asked Moreno-Ocampo in his film, Prosecutor, if the ICC would pursue a country like Canada over its role in Afghanistan, he replied:

“We’ll check if there are crimes and also we’ll check if a Canadian judge is doing a case or not . . . if they don’t, the court has to intervene. That’s the rule, that’s the system, one standard for everyone.”

Moreno-Ocampo could not be reached for further comment about the case Thursday when attempts were made by the Star.

Update: Adrian MacNair is underwhelmed:

As one who has actually been to Afghanistan and seen how the military cares for and treats detainees, it’s a little difficult to swallow the news that the International Criminal Court could investigate Canada for so-called war crimes. I’m not sure what that would accomplish, but it certainly would do nothing to help with the main problem in the country: the insurgency.

I’m unsure as to how or why anybody believes that Canada’s role in Afghanistan is anything more than a humanitarian mission buttressed by security. We’re in the country to provide stabilization for the democratically elected (though admittedly corrupt and fraudulent) government with whom we have specific agreements and rules we must follow.

In providing security to Afghans we are not allowed to hold Afghan nationals for more than 96 hours in our custody, though at the time of the allegations (pre-2007) this was 72 or 48 hours.

It doesn’t seem reasonable to me to expect a foreign military with finite resources to ensure absolute humanitarian oversight of detainees after they’ve been handed over to the Afghan government. That’s like expecting a police officer in Canada to ensure proper oversight of a prisoner he has arrested and brought to justice. Is a police officer morally culpable if a prisoner is raped in prison?

QotD: The NFL draft is “The Oscars for Straight Men”

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 13:59

Some comedian once called the NFL Draft “The Oscars for Straight Men,” and there is something to that label. While everyone will “grade” the teams’ drafts, and fans will argue and kibitz about who their team should have drafted, there are no definitive winners or losers. One of the more ridiculous aspects of the day is how every team claims to have gotten the players they wanted or rated highest. Just once, it would be thrilling to hear a general manager come out and say, “Look, we know he’s a reach, but all of the guys we rated highest were picked already, the coach and head scout got into a screaming match, the clock was ticking down and so I flipped a coin. Knowing his pain-in-the-tush agent, he’s probably going to hold out most of training camp, anyway.”

Jim Geraghty, “Why Is the Draft So Engrossing to NFL Fans?”, National Review, 2011-04-29

Stephen Gordon: Layton needs to avoid disruptive monetary policies

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:20

It’s almost as if nobody bothered to read what the NDP had in their platform until last week . . . and paying even less attention to what Jack Layton said on the campaign trail. They’re paying attention now:

In my recent post on the prospects of a possible NDP government, I came to the conclusion that not very much would change; their platform had none of the transformational elements that had been a feature of so many NDP campaigns in the past.

But if recent reports are correct, and if Jack Layton seriously thinks that it would be a good idea for a Prime Minister to instruct the Bank of Canada to keep interest rates low, then this benign assessment no longer holds. Such an intervention would be a serious mistake that would seriously endanger the recovery, and could generate another spiral of higher inflation and higher interest rates.

The first thing that would happen after such an order is that Governor Mark Carney would have no choice but to resign. This would be a serious shock to the financial system, and unless his successor could extract a promise that no further orders would be forthcoming, the Bank of Canada’s credibility would simply disappear.

You remember all those smug, self-congratulatory pieces about how well Canada had weathered the recession and how well positioned the country was to take advantage of economic growth? Perhaps this is the imp of the perverse coming back for a revision of all that hearty back-patting.

NDP surge extremely taxing for . . . NDP candidates?

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:35

I’ve worked on political campaigns for minor party candidates (provincial and federal Libertarians) who had to keep their campaigning to the weekend and after-work slots because they still had to earn a living during the election. I find it hard to believe that so many candidates for a “major” party are running part-time candidacies:

There’s a standard-bearer in Quebec who went on a Las Vegas vacation for a week because she didn’t want to lose her deposit. She also reportedly spoke French so poorly that a local radio station had to scotch an interview rather than air the exchange. Another candidate went to the Caribbean and one travelled to France. There’s a Toronto candidate who has not campaigned at all, can’t be reached, and, judging by a Toronto Star report, quite possibly is an apparition. There are all kinds of students who, presumably, did not have the pesky constraints of full-time work that weighed down Mr. Larkin.

None of these things are unusual — third-place parties usually have a fair bit of cannon fodder — but it is unusual for anyone to be asking about them. And that’s what’s happening to the NDP. People are asking about them, and about the party and its platform, far more than they were last month, or even early last week.

It’s what naturally happens when an also-ran finds itself suddenly very much in the running. The key question for the NDP is: Can it manage four days of impromptu scrutiny?

That will depend on how the traditionally Liberal media handles this unexpected surge from the left: they know how to find awkward quotes and disreputable connections for candidates on the right, but generally have treated leftists with a faint air of “isn’t that cute?” rather than as serious campaigners. Can they apply the same standards in a mirror image?

It’s possible that they will give Jack Layton a much rougher ride than they have so far:

Jack Layton himself is also now facing a different sort of question about his own policies from reporters travelling with him. He was asked on Thursday about how his platform, which calls for a price on carbon, would affect gasoline prices. One analysis says the NDP plan would add 10¢ a litre at the pumps. Mr. Layton insisted that an ombudsman would be able to keep oil companies from raising prices for consumers, but he disagreed that he was proposing to regulate gasoline prices. Reporters described the exchange, which included questions about the AWOL candidates, as “testy” and “heated,” which has been rare for the NDP leader thus far. And testy exchanges lead to stories about how a leader is “on the defensive” or “responding to critics.” Eventually they can become “embattled.” (In the case of Mr. Ignatieff, a report on Thursday referred to him as “beleaguered.”)

“Tone matters,” explains Prof. Matthews. “People do respond to the media. Not everyone, of course, not the partisans and not the people who aren’t paying any attention, but there are people who take their cues from the coverage.”

Update: Publius points out that the situation could be at least as good as last season’s CBC offerings:

Everyone has been stunned by the NDP surge. The newly minted Sun News has started calling it an “Orange Crush,” which is a gross insult to a fine fizzy beverage. No one has been more surprised than the NDP. For years the party has run non-entity place holders in most ridings, as they did this time around. One of them is a Quebec barmaid who took a vacation mid-campaign, which says everything you need to know about the NDPs organization in Quebec. Now some of those ridings are competitive. We could have MPs in the next Parliament that were “accidentally” elected. There’s a sitcom in there somewhere.

The first round of the NFL draft

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:05

As I’ve said every year, the NFL draft is not a huge fascination for me because I don’t follow college football. I don’t know enough about any of the players, and after you’ve read two or three mock drafts, you know even less. Once the draft is over, you still won’t know whether your team was a big winner or a big loser in the draft . . . it really does take a few years to put perspective on it.

This year, the Vikings had the 12th pick in the draft and an immediate need for a quarterback, which meant they took Christian Ponder of Florida State. Joe Webb, who was a late-round draft choice last year got the chance to start a couple of games late in the season after Brett Favre was injured. He did fairly well, but he’s not widely considered ready to be a regular starter yet. Ponder will have a good chance to show what he can do in training camp (assuming that the labour situation is resolved fairly soon after the draft).

Here’s Judd Zulgad’s take on the Vikings’ draft choice:

Vikings executive Rick Spielman, coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave were among the members of the Vikings brass who spent a day-and-a-half with Christian Ponder last month in Tallahassee, Fla., putting the Florida State quarterback through various drills and evaluating his football smarts during a private workout.

“I thought the whole interview went great, the whole process,” Ponder said. “I was impressed by Musgrave and what he was doing on offense [and] Coach Frazier. I’m not sure how interested they were going to be, but I thought the whole process went well.”

[. . .]

While the Vikings could attempt to sign a veteran free agent to play in front of Ponder for a season, there also is the chance he will step in as the team’s starter. Frazier attempted to frame it as if Ponder will be competing with Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar for the job, but that’s a bit hard to believe considering the commitment the Vikings have made.

“I want it to still be an open competition with the guys that are on our roster,” Frazier said. “It will be those three. What happens with free agency? Who knows? We’ll eventually get to that point. But right now it’s a competition between those three and we’ll line up with the best guy when we get ready to line up against the Chargers [on Sept. 11 in the regular-season opener].”

In addition to a quarterback, the team has lots of other needs that could not be addressed in free agency, including both offensive and defensive linemen, linebacker, corner, safety, wide receiver, and tight end.

Update: Jim Souhan thinks that the jeering fans at the Winter Park draft party should give Spielman and Frazier a break:

The inebriated might wind up being right. Ponder might prove too fragile for the NFL and might become one of the many first-round quarterback busts in recent league history.

But this is one of those moments when it might be best to invest a little hope in the Vikings’ brain trust, because there is no greater thrill for the modern-day sports fan than to watch the development of a good, young quarterback, and there is no better template for winning than a coach and a young quarterback growing into their jobs together.

Let’s skip the usual draft-day analysis. It doesn’t matter whether the draft experts think the Vikings reached. Or think there were better quarterbacks available than Ponder. Or think there were better players at other positions available at No. 12.

Draft experts and NFL teams alike are often wrong, not because of a lack of due diligence but because projecting young quarterbacks is an inherently risky business.

[. . .]

What we know is this: Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was desperate to draft a quarterback who could lead his team, and he seemed very happy at the lectern late Thursday night.

Why not? This is a day for hope, and Ponder gives Vikings fans reason to do so.

The consensus: He’s smart, diligent and tough. His injuries gave his detractors reason to question him; the Vikings say they liked his toughness in trying to overcome them.

What we know for sure is that Frazier has tied his future to Ponder. So has personnel boss Spielman.

If Ponder develops into a star, Frazier and Spielman will be here a while. If he proves to be a bust, Zygi Wilf probably will be hiring a new personnel guru and coach within three years.

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