Posted November 30, 2015 on 5:53 pm | In the category Terrorism, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

On November 22, 2014, 12 year-old Tamir Rice made the mistake of playing with a toy gun at a playground in my old hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. A citizen called 911 to report that there was a person in the playground with what looked like a gun. Said citizen also told the dispatcher that the person might be a juvenile and that the gun might not be real. The police rolled into action with only the first part of that information, drove their car into the playground, opened the door and in the time you count one, one-hundred, two one-hundred Tamir Rice was shot, bleeding to death on the ground. The two cops stood around watching while Tamir said goodbye to his chance for a teenage birthday. When his 14 year-old sister arrived and tried to approach Tamir the cops forced her to the ground, handcuffed her and locked her in the backseat of the patrol car. The shooter was a white rookie cop who had flunked a Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Deputy exam (46%, when 70% is a passing grade), had been refused employment at several neighboring towns’ police departments, had been terminated after 5 months for poor performance at another neighboring police department, and then hired by Cleveland’s PD without a proper background check.

A year later Tamir’s family waits for justice. The prosecutor hired three outsiders to investigate and report on the incident and as in almost every incident of police abuse, the reports said that while tragic, the policeman’s action were “reasonable”. Tamir’s family hired their own experts (two separate California former police officials) whose reports are highly critical of the policemen – both the shooter and his colleague, or accomplice. A sidebar to the story emerged that an off-duty FBI agent appeared on the scene while Tamir was dying and administered first aid while the two cops stood around either bewildered, or just uncaring.

So- a year after Tamir’s death a grand jury continues to consider evidence. Perhaps justice will be done, but precedence is not a cause for optimism. The dice are almost always loaded in cases involving police killing citizens; there is always some real or imagined or made-up threat. For Tamir it is that he was reaching for his “gun” so the policeman had to shoot him in less than 2 seconds after arriving.

This is only one example of what may have been an historic epidemic of white policemen shooting black males regardless of age or real threat. Much of the current public awareness results from the ubiquitous presence of videos. And the judicial system seems to have been unable to address these incidents impartially, often now in the face of overwhelming eyewitness or video evidence. Currently there are at least three high visibility cases in various stages of potential or actual prosecution. In addition to the Tamir Rice case there is the matter of 17 year-old Laquan McDonald, shot by a police officer 16 times in Chicago, mostly in the back and mostly while lying on the street, and Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who died while being transported to jail by Baltimore police. The Rice and McDonald cases are being presented to Grand Juries; the Freddie Gray case is being prosecuted in court in Baltimore after a Grand jury confirmed prosecution charges. These cases are tests of the American judicial system, but in a broader sense are tests of America’s basic values of judicial equity and fairness.

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A Tale of Two Countries

Posted November 27, 2015 on 3:23 pm | In the category Canada, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that his election pledge to accept 25,000 refugees from Syria by the end of 2015 will have to be altered with a new deadline of March 1, 2016 in order to provide sufficient security checks and to deal with transportation and housing issues.  10,000 refugees will arrive by January 1, 25,000 by March 1 and 35,000 by the end of 2016.  The refugees will be restricted to families, single women and children.  All the premiers of all the provinces and the two northern territories have agreed to this and there has been virtually no opposition.  On the contrary.  Housing will be located on military bases and other available sites, and no one will be settled in tents.

The United States has pledged to resettle 10,000 refugees by the end of 2016. However, according to CNN, the governors of 31 US states have announced that Syrian refugees will not  be welcome in their states, including President Obama’s home state of Illinois, and  Canadian  border states Michigan, New Hampshire  and Maine.  Dylan was right.  The times they are really achanging.


Trudeau hits the ground running

Posted November 6, 2015 on 12:54 am | In the category Canada, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Now comes the hard part for young Justin Trudeau. Canada seems to be breathing an audible sigh of relief today as he presented the new cabinet of the Justin Trudeau regime. Young Trudeau  sports a Haida tattoo on his shoulder, which seems to have been accepted by the First Nations peoples (that’s what Canadians now call the people they used to call Indians, a word somewhat taboo in Canada now) because his father was adopted into the tribe.  And Justin just appointed an aboriginal woman as Attorney General who has been both a crown prosecutor and the  top chief of British Columbia First Nations for relations with Ottawa. This move on its own is certain to dramatically alter the increasingly poor relations between indigenous peoples and Ottawa under the last regime. In this case you could almost hear the thunderous applause of First Nations members from coast to coast, as they can finally see that their legitimate concerns with the law would now be judged by one of their own.  Trudeau  named 15 men and 15 women to his cabinet, fulfilling a promise of gender equality that he made at a time when no one thought he would win. (In the Obama government women make up 25% of the cabinet).  He  included 3 First Nations people, 3 East Indians, two of them turbaned Sikhs highlighted by the new Minister of Defence, a former soldier and policeman who looks like a very tough guy, 1 Afghani=born refugee and 1 Inuit.

When asked why he has constructed such a cabinet, Justin simply answered, “because it’s 2015” which also seems like a good way to start trying to deal with the uncomfortable current world scenario. The whole country seems to be breathing a sigh of relief. One of the almost periphery things that this election did was to reverse the growing two solitudes between Quebec and ROC as there is now a completely bilingual prime minister, a very French, very intelligent and very experienced foreign minister, Stephane Dion, and several high-level cabinet ministers who took the oath first in French. The separatist movement for an independent Quebec, which almost won a referendum 20 years ago, has very probably been laid to rest for good with the Trudeau win.

One thing that seems clear is that the relationship between the US and its largest trading partner, Canada, has been very poor during the Obama years. Some say it may well be that Obama simply didn’t like Harper, but that surely can’t explain why the President spent almost no time in his neighbouring country, in any case much less than any of his recent predecessors. Journalists reckon it was a total of seven hours, most of them at international meetings held in Canada. And it surely didn’t help that Obama appointed a Chicago fundraiser for the Democrats to be the Ambassador and he made himself so unwelcome playing the role of the ugly American that he did not have access to members of the cabinet, never mind the Prime Minister, during his term.

Justin is already being warned to try avoid the fate of Obama, who came to power at about the same age but somehow never figured out how to use it well. The US seems to have such a chaotic legislature nowadays, almost a defunct political system, that poor Obama may have had no chance. But there are many who think he’ll go down as something of a disappointment no matter what happens now.  There is good reason to hope that Justin will do better, if only because he will not have to deal with a strange and defiant opposition determined to make his plans unworkable. There are also many who would argue that it is unfair to blame the current dramatic decline of the US position in global affairs on Obama alone but to rather put the most blame on the elected legislature that worked so hard to block all his laudatory efforts. But what should we then conclude about the country that elected the legislature that seems to have become almost unmanageable at a time when Canada seems to be finding its way again through an election. Surely it would be a good idea for these two young leaders to have some friendly talks together, and try to get North America working together again instead of continually at odds, as has been the case with its two biggest countries over the last decade.


Words Fail: The Republicans Try to Debate

Posted November 4, 2015 on 11:24 pm | In the category Politics, Press, Republican Party | by Jeff

When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser(s). Socrates

There has been much mindless toing and froing among the literati and iliterati about the GOP debate that was interrupted – some say ruined – by actual questions directed at the participants. Some say the questions were “snarky”; others that they were – “gotcha” questions (a la Sarah Palin). Then there were some who said they did not really matter since none of the candidates answered any of the questions asked, choosing instead to launch unarmed missiles at the questioners. This has led to an opportunity for the mainstream media to cut off its collective balls and run. which to a large extent they have done.

GOP candidates want to be treated with a respect they have not earned but might actually earn if they found the courage to answer directly and honestly questions. And if they are offended by the questions to answer them anyway. Anyone who watched the Benghazi hearings saw a lesson in intelligence and intellectual courage and patience in the face of some of the stupidest questions anyone could come up with. Seems like Ms. Clinton provided a lesson in grace under pressure while the Republican candidates have provided a lesson in cowardice in the face of facts.

So given that the Republican candidates could stop being whining crybabies and put on their big boy (or girl) pants and answer some semi-tough questions, what about the press? Do your job: report on them, call them out, do not let them get away with their fatuous BS, and defend whatever integrity you have retained. Let Faux News carry their debates and then simply report on them – honestly and toughly.

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