Quick Hits

Here are some other stories making news today.

The House Ethics Committee released its formal charges against Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters who represents the California Thirty-Fifth Congressional District that covers South-Central Los Angeles. Representative Waters and Mikael Moore, her grandson and chief of staff, are accused of improperly intervening on behalf on OneUnited, a minority-owned Boston-based bank in which Waters's husband owned stock.

The charges are laid out in a ten page Statement of Alleged Violation released today by the House Ethics Committee. If OneUnited had not received the aid from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Waters' husband's financial interest in the bank would have been worthless, according to the House Ethics Committee's 10-page statement of alleged violations. The report accuses the 10-term congresswoman of violating three House rules: one that requires its member to "behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House"; a second that prohibits lawmakers from using their influence for personal benefit; and a third forbidding the dispensing of favors. The story in the Los Angeles Times.

The Hill reports that Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has been hospitalized with a high fever.

The first Guantánamo Military Tribunal of the Obama Presidency started today at the Guantánamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba. The trial of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, faces a maximum life sentence if convicted of charges that include conspiring to commit terrorism, providing material support to Al Qaeda and the killing of US Army Sgt. Christopher Speer in Afghanistan with a hand grenade near the end of a four hour battle. US forces captured Khadr in Afghanistan in July 2002, when he was just 15 years old. The military trial is in violation of various international statues that state that children captured in war should be treated as victims and not perpetrators. More from the Christian Science Monitor.

Speaking of Afghanistan, National Public Radio reports on the evolving, by which they mean increasing, US role in Afghanistan as NATO allies depart.

Letitia A. Long is the new director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency becoming the first woman to head one of the 16 major US intelligence agencies. More on the appointment from the Associated Press.

Bloomberg News reports that for the first time since the start of the financial crisis in August 2007, U.S. investors own more Treasuries than foreign holders. Mutual funds, households and banks have boosted the domestic share of the $8.18 trillion in tradable U.S. debt to 50.2 percent as of May, according to the most recent Treasury Department data.

Matthew R. Simmons, the founder of Simmons & Company International, a boutique energy investment bank, has died of a heart attack at his vacation home in Maine. Mr. Simmons, 67, was one of the foremost experts on energy and a leading advocate of green energy. He was also the founder the Ocean Energy Institute in 2007 to investigate ways to use the ocean to generate power.

Editorial of the Day
The editorial board of the New York Times writes on the slowing economy - Goldman Sachs last week cut its forecast of US GDP for 2011 to 1.9 percent from 2.4 percent - urging policy makers to tackle the nation's anemic economy.

The economic news — on growth, consumers, housing and manufacturing — was bad enough before the jobs report for July, released last Friday. The report leaves no doubt that a slowdown is well under way. The odds of renewed recession remain uncomfortably high.

And yet, the response from Washington has been inadequate, at best, with Democratic initiatives too timid and Republicans bent on obstruction. When legislation does emerge from the gridlock, it is invariably a disappointment in the face of a dissolving recovery.

With unemployment persistently high, the economy is losing whatever momentum it had after last year’s stimulus. Recovery, such as it is, appears to be a repeat of the lopsided growth of the Bush years, with corporate profits rebounding and jobs and incomes lagging. Back then, policy makers advised patience, saying that with time, economic gains would distribute themselves more evenly. We know how that ended.

There is no one way to foster job growth. There are many ways, and they should all be deployed. Maybe after Congress gets back from vacation.

The Obama Administration Prepares to Relent on Military Tribunals

According to the Washington Post, a team of advisors to the President is close to recommending a reversal of the decision made late last year by Attorney General Eric Holder to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the September 11th 2001 attacks, in a civilian court. The officials within the Administration now will propose that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other co-conspirators be tried in a secret military tribunal. 

While the review is not likely to be finished this week, the sources cited in the Post's story note that the President wants to make a decision before he embarks on a trip to Indonesia and Australia on March 18th.

If true the decision is another hard to believe reversal by the Obama Administration and one which civil libertarians simply cannot endorse. It is a deep blow to the rule of law and a betrayal of the principles upon which this country was founded.

From the Post's story:

The president's advisers feel increasingly hemmed in by bipartisan opposition to a federal trial in New York and demands, mainly from Republicans, that Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators remain under military jurisdiction, officials said. While Obama has favored trying some terrorism suspects in civilian courts as a symbol of U.S. commitment to the rule of law, critics have said military tribunals are the appropriate venue for those accused of attacking the United States.

If Obama accepts the likely recommendation of his advisers, the White House may be able to secure from Congress the funding and legal authority it needs to close the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and replace it with a facility within the United States. The administration has failed to meet a self-imposed one-year deadline to close Guantánamo.

The administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the president's legal advisers are finalizing their review of the cases of Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators.

In response, Anthony D. Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union lamented that "if this stunning reversal comes to pass, President Obama will deal a death blow to his own Justice Department, not to mention American values." He added that "even with recent improvements, the military commissions system is incapable of handling complicated terrorism cases and achieving reliable results. President Obama must not cave in to political pressure and fear-mongering. He should hold firm and keep these prosecutions in federal court, where they belong."

Those are valid concerns but the Administration should also consider the political consequences of alienating perhaps irrevocably those for whom civil liberties are non-negotiable as well as the certainty that Cheney-led right will use the reversal to further paint the President as a dangerous neophyte who is weak, indecisive and who lacks the proper judgment to be Commander-in-Chief. 

The President needs to understand that this not about Khalid Sheik Mohammed but about us and who we are as a nation. How we treat our enemies, especially one who has done us such grave injuries, is ultimately reflective of our values and our commitment to the rule of law no matter how heinous the crime. 

There's more...

The Guantánamo Reports Delayed

I've noted before that undoing Bush is proving harder in practice than it was in theory. While White House still insists that President Obama's pledge to close the Guantánamo Bay prison by January of 2009 remains in place, it is difficult to foresee the Administration meeting its self-imposed deadline. Furthermore, it now looks likely that a large number of detainees will remain held indefinitely without charge.

On his second day in office and much to the delight of civil libertarians, the President issued executive orders setting six-month deadlines for one task force on current and future detainees, and for another panel to look at how prisoners captured in the future should be interrogated. These reports were due today.

The first panel ordered by the President to develop new US policy on the detention of so-called terrorism suspects as part of the effort to shut the Guantánamo Bay detention center will delay its report to the President until the end of the year. The second panel reviewing detainee interrogation rules will also fall short of the deadline and will be granted an extra two months to submit a final report.

There's more...

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