Monthly Archives: June 2007

First Nations' Day of Action

The Assembly of First Nations Day of Action has come and gone.  For those who read the post "Shame on Us (Slightly Misleading)" you’ll find that the red nose wasn’t a big part of the action, which is just fine by me, as the likelihood of anyone paying any heed to my suggestions is slim to none.

For those south of the 49th, I’ll translate.  Canadian First Nations (meaning Indians, or Aboriginals) staged a one-day, cross-Canada protest.  There was an element of fear that things would escalate out of control on the Day of Action.  It has happened before.  Search up Ipperwash if you want some more information.   

The overall tone was peaceful, respectful and supportive.  In listening to the various media outlets around Toronto I heard only one of perhaps a dozen ‘person on the street’ clips that wasn’t positive, meaning 11 were understanding and supportive of the cause.

This doesn’t mean the Day of Action was a failure, or too limp-wristed to be of any value in advancing the First Nations’ cause.  Quite the opposite:  It looks like us White Folks are starting to get it.

Since I can only speak for myself, I will.  I’m a fifth or sixth generation, middle-aged, United Empire Loyalist White Canadian Male of British, Irish, Scottish heritage.  The standard Anglo-Saxon Canadian Mutt, who was brought up on Cowboys and Indians in the 60’s in a school system that didn’t know shit from sandwich fixings when it came to First Nations’ history, culture or issues. 

Or, if you want to stereotype me, I would be the second to last person you would expect to be on the side of the First Nations.  The last person would be Mike Harris, former Premier of this province.  Like all stereotypes, there is a grain very broad truth in it, but there are also too many assumptions.  What I do share with another stereotype, of Canadians in general, is an essential sense of fairness.

I didn’t come to this realization overnight.  Around 1977 I was fortunate enough to visit the Golden Lake Reserve and hang out with some folks.  Something didn’t sit right.  I was a 90 minute drive from our nation’s capital city, in a place that I could best describe as the Third World.  I decided to figure out what the hell was going on.  There was reading involved.  There was the asking of dumb questions and some very patient answers from people who took the time to explain things from their perspective.  Then there was some thinking.  Reflection, if you want to use the more formal term. 

Over the years, in watching other First Nations groups, I saw the same things, sometimes in lesser degree and sometimes in greater degree.  It still added up the same.  Canada screwed the First Nations and was acting like a bunch of racist, paternalistic, bureaucrats who moved their mouths, but never their hands to their wallets, or a hand outward in assistance or friendship. 

Consider this:  The only reason any of the explorers of history lived more than a week and half over here, was because the First Nations peoples met the boats and taught effete upper-class twits how to not die in a new land that was nothing like France, England, or Norway.  If you don’t believe me, take a drive up past Maniwaki (less than an hour drive from the Parliament Buildings in the Nation’s Capital) and walk into the bush.  If you get lost, odds are rescuers will not find your body.  Ever.

In exchange for not letting our ancestors die, we took their land, slaughtered several thousand just for giggles, shoved them into reserves, attempted to ‘tame the red man’ and generally trampled all over their existence.  Then we had the bald-faced temerity to set up a system that was designed to systematically rip away any last vestiges of culture, language or history over generations with the Indian Act of 1876.

My voyage to a vague understanding has been long.  Very few Canadians have either taken the time, or had the luck I had to develop a half-informed opinion.  The Day of Action, with all the attendant media coverage of the issues involved is a start.  It helped to put the issues in 20-second sound bites that are digestible by non-First Nations people. 

Which means at the end of the Day of Action, a lot more Canadians are starting to see the beginnings of an understanding of why the First Nations are not happy.  Which also means, a lot more Canadians are potentially willing to stand along side the First Nations because we recognize the vicious unfairness of the whole situation. 

So, fellow pasty-faced non-First Nation Canadians, what are we willing to do about it?




Executive Privilege

I haven’t written much about President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy lately, so I think it is time to turn over that compost pile and let some more moisture and air into the US Federal Scene.

The investigation of the firing of the US Federal Prosecutors is proceeding apace.  Congress has subpoenaed a raft of documents that have bearing on the process the White House used, via Kousin Karl, Shotgun Dick and some other pod people like Alberto Gonzales to decide who would go and who would stay. 

President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy, yesterday, through his attorney Fred Fielding, told Congress to piss up a rope, asserting Executive Privilege.  Fred, as we know, has a long tradition of Executive Privilege, right back to the Nixon White House.  Kousin Karl hasn’t coughed up the required emails, as the email accounts used were not White House email accounts and were ‘inadvertently’ not archived by the Republican National Committee.  Same with Shotgun Dick’s email trail. 

Fielding is offering, instead of the actual documents, to allow Harriet Miers, Jo Jo’s attorney at the time, Kousin Karl, political director Sara Taylor and their various deputies to be interviewed by Congressional Judiciary Committee aides in a closed door session, without transcripts.  Or, to make it simple, no sworn testimony, no record, no public disclosure.  It might as well happen at a coffee shop, over blintzes and two-over-easy with wheat toast.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is also putting out their share of legal documents.  On Wednesday they subpoenaed the White House and Shotgun Dick’s office for documents regarding the broad, uncontrolled, warrant-free wiretapping and surveillance of American citizens at home and abroad.  The predicted reaction from the White House and Shotgun Dick is "Executive Privilege" again. 

Considering the long, soiled, tradition of Executive Privilege, it is hardly surprising.  There are some things that should be kept secret, like the nuclear launch codes, or some of the back room dealing that goes into any international treaty.  I have no argument with that.  What I do have argument with, is those elected to high office who think that they are above the law and can do whatever the hell they want. 

Yes, on occasion the leadership has to do some things that are questionable.  JFK ordered patently illegal overflights of Cuba by recon aircraft during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  JFK also allowed the CIA to form a secret army to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. 

Espionage is, by definition, surreptitious obtainment of information through all kinds of illegal, extra-legal or barely legal means.  Spy satellites that can see the flies on Vladimir Putin’s lunch salad, near the cucumber slices, are funded by the taxpayer and I can live with a little bit of discretion in how much data is disclosed about capabilities.  I don’t want the bad guys to know what we can or can’t do.

Yes, there should be some secrets, if only because other countries don’t play by the rules.  It doesn’t make it right, but I can tolerate it, a bit.  Executive Privilege is something different; we’re not dealing with things that protect the security of all of us.  Executive Privilege as a blanket statement isn’t right. 

Running over the Constitution and the Bill of Rights like it’s a speedbump, isn’t right, not by any stretch.  Using high office to line the pockets of your cronies isn’t right.  Using high office to manipulate policy and budgets to benefit a very select few isn’t right. 

Spying on American Citizens without a warrant isn’t right.  Sending American soldiers to a foreign country to die for no valid reason isn’t right.  Lying to Congress and the Senate isn’t right.  Rewriting the rules any time you want to isn’t right.  Signing statements aren’t laws, they’re marginalia at a press conference.

Hiding behind the dirty skirts of Executive Privilege isn’t right.  Unless you’re President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy, Shotgun Dick, Kousin Karl and the rest of that gang.

For this, I put half the blame right on the media.  The US press has gone flaccid.  Mind you, daily chain whippings by Ari Fleisher, Scott McLelland and Tony Snow will tend to do that to the media.  Having Shotgun Dick put the arm on your employer will add to the pressure to ‘play along’.  The White House didn’t have to create an Enemies List, as anyone not on the Pro-Bush list is an Enemy. 

We need another Saul Alinsky with a side of Carl Bernstien and Bob Woordward to truly dig into the seven years of rampant illegality that are the hallmark of President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy’s reign.  We get Michael Moore and Ann Coulter as the high water marks on either end of the spectrum. 

The voters also have to assume some of the blame.  Remember that you elected these people to high office.  They work for you and if you’re willing to swallow Executive Privilege as an excuse, then you’re getting the government you deserve. 

You’ve already got the media you deserve.



Nifong Goes Under The Bus

Mike Nifong, the District Attorney in Raleigh North Carolina has officially gone under the Duke University Lacrosse Team Bus. 

The Duke Lacrosse Team Rape Trial, as it became known, looked like a slam-dunk.  Out of Control Rich White Boys sexually assault a stripper during a drunken team party:  It sounded completely plausible.  If you are honest, you probably nodded you head and said "Yeah, I can see that" after reading the initial coverage.

Nifong, not above gathering a truckload of national publicity, promised a speedy conviction and did what lawyers do:  He made sure the Duke University Lacrosse Team was convicted in the court of public opinion long before getting near a judge.  Duke University suspended the students, shut down the program and generally helped encourage the climate of charged-tried-convicted-sentenced that prevailed. 

Things were not as they appeared and eventually the wheels fell off the prosecution.  Mike Nifong winds up being tried and disbarred for hiding evidence that supported the defense, some stunning ethics violations and generally being an Asshat in Public.

The part that perplexes many Americans I’ve talked to, as well as most Canadians is this:  An Elected District Attorney?  WTF! 

There are some positions that should not be elected, as it is too easy to game the electoral process.  Any meat puppet who wants to run for sheriff or judge or DA just has to say "Tough On Crime" and they wind up wielding immense amounts of raw power.  That doesn’t mean they know their earlobes from their elbow, or are the kind of folks you want running the show:  It merely means they can get elected. 

Getting elected on either side of the border, is nothing more than a high school popularity contest.  Based on the voter turnout statistics in local elections, like the school board, mayoralty, or city council, less than 50 percent of eligible voters have the time, energy or sense to vote.  Usually it is less than 35 percent. 

As for the voters’ motivating factors?  The TV commercial or lawn sign they saw last seems to be about right.  This means the candidate for local office with the most money for commercials, signs and other media will most often win.  There are notable exceptions:  Steve Forbes, the zillionare, pumped tons of personal cash into media for his Presidential campaign and came away 43rd out of a field of 6, but that was a national show. 

Local politics comes down to money.  The potential candidate wants to win.  To win, the potential candidate must have the backing of groups with very deep pockets to pay for lots of ads and signs and the other media pixie dust that makes up a winning campaign.  

Who has the money?  Real Estate companies and business interests come to mind.  Those with money want ‘their person’, someone who ‘understands the issues’ and is ‘concerned" about the rise of whatever talking point is out there this afternoon. 

Civic groups, like environmental or neighbourhood groups, don’t have enough money to pique the interest of a potential candidate.  Again, there are exceptions, but the exception doesn’t always prove the rule.             

Up here our Crown Prosecutors and Judges are employees of the government.  They are paid well and don’t have to ‘run for office on a Law and Order ticket’ or other such madness. 

There are malicious prosecutions up here, of course there are, but not like the one in Raleigh.  That trashed everyone involved from the police to the DA, to the stripper, to the Duke Lacrosse team, the University itself and most of all, the voters in Raleigh who gave Mike Nifong a mandate.




Gangs and Security

Yesterday morning the police in Toronto swept across various areas to gather up the members of a gang here called the Crips.  Yes, Toronto is a world-class city, in that we have gang violence as well, so you can have some of that "back home" feeling of a car full of gang-bangers shooting at each other in public.

The operation was successful, in that there were sixty arrests.  The dangerous point, somewhat buried by the media was this:  Six known gang members were working on the ramp at Pearson Airport, the largest airport in Canada.  Ramp workers have access to the baggage holds of aircraft and are in a great position to steal, smuggle or generally cause much mayhem.

Which brings up the lax state of security at airports.  I’ve written about it before, that airport security is a massive game of bullshite theatre designed to look like something is being done, while the facts indicate that nothing has really changed.  Actually, things have changed.  The security lines are long, the passengers are treated like meat and the airlines can claim it is all in the name of "security" while crying poor to government. 

This opens up two questions.  First:  If we’re not actually doing anything constructive about airport security, then where did all the money go?  Second: When will this come back to bite us?

The first answer is easy:  Consultants and Those who Create Management Processes.

To get your Transport Canada airside pass you have to pass a couple of courses and a background check.  The courses are not that challenging:  "Should you put your head in a running jet engine?  Yes or No.  Who has right of way, an 800,000 pound airplane full of gas and passengers, or your 500 pound baggage tug?  Pick one."  The background check, as best I can determine consists of asking the prospective employee if they’re nice.

The airlines and the fixed-base operators don’t want to set the bar too high.  Ramp workers, generally, don’t make a whole lot of money, with some exceptions.  There are unions involved at some carriers, notably Air Canada.  Specialist positions, like fuelers, de-icers and maintenance techs are well paid.

For the vast majority of others, the labour situation is "get a warm body that breathes and will accept $9 an hour to hump bags into the hold of a two-hole 37.  And we have to clean a bunch of 757 lavatories coming back from the Dysentery Convention at 4 PM."

Needless to say employees that are treated like dirt, tend not to be the most motivated.  The first ones to go away in a layoff are the ones at the very bottom.  Offering a ramp rat $500 will get you half-ownership of their earthly soul.  In exchange for the $500 you can have them pick up or place packages for you, no questions asked.  This also explains why theft from aircraft baggage has not decreased since 9/11.  If you could double your weekly salary by stealing cameras, jewelry or other things, like booze and duty-free, why not?

Then we task them to be part of the "Security Solution" and issue a wad of press releases?  The logic is deeply flawed and the procedures are almost hallucinatory.  Which also explains why six of the gang-bangers arrested yesterday, work at the airport.  

As to when this broken system will turn around and bite us in the ass?  It already has and will again, as long as the process of vetting is this obviously pooched.  If the RCMP and CATSA were to do a real review of everyone’s airside credentials, the number of arrests would go through the roof of the old Canadian Airlines hangar, near Terminal 3. 

Theoretically, with strong airside security, there should be zero risk to you or I putting a camera, or jewelry in our checked baggage, if our system is as wonderful as the press releases.  The concluding statement is easy enough.  If someone can steal my camera from my baggage with no fear of being caught, what is stopping them from putting explosives in my baggage?  

Personally, I’d be rubbing unpasteurized cheese and home made salami on all the bags going out of the country, just to give the Agricultural Inspection dogs something to do in Frankfurt and Charlotte.  Those poor doggies sit around all day on hard airport floors sniffing nothing but sweaty tourist arses and unwashed underwear. 

The powers that be are great at thinking like bureaucrats and process heads, but fall miserably thinking like criminals.



Paris Hilton Freed

If Justice is Blind, then Paris Hilton getting a pass for medical reasons must be the equivalent of Justice having a Grand Mal seizure, followed by a Stroke, then falling down four flights of stairs.

For those of us living under rocks, the iconic debutante, publicity hound and party girl getting 45 days in the LA County Jail was an example of schadenfreude, enjoying the misery of others.  I’m certain that there were those of you out there who created vivid mental pictures of a certain prisoner having the crap beaten out of her by fellow inmates on a daily basis. 

Unfortunately, Paris Hilton has a "medical condition’ that caused the LA Sheriff to cut her loose wearing the latest in ankle jewelery that calls home.  There are some despicable rumors that the subject has a case of herpes so bad that sharing the same zip code with her will get you a case of knob rot that make you wish for the old days of fifth-stage syphilis dementia.  Despicable I say!

There are other rumors, even more despicable, that the inmates took one look at her, without makeup, without hair products, without her colored contact lenses and figured she wasn’t all that.  An orange jump suit is not the most flattering cut, or colour and without various products to assist in attractiveness, she’s just some skinny skank with storebought sweater puffs and a skeevy snatch. 

If the perp was an African American woman who was driving while suspended and probably drunk, the sentence would have been somewhere in the vicinity of 2 years less a day, with the potential for parole around the 728th day.  This explains why the Rev. Al Sharpton is so angry that his hair is standing up like he went to Don King’s stylist.  Rev Al has a point.

If you’re rich and white, you get a different justice from the rest of us.  If you’re a ‘celebrity’ you get an even bigger break.  Was Lance Ito the judge in this one?  Not even the OJ Circus was this odious.

Ahh.  There’s what her sentence should be.  Paris Hilton should be made to hang out with Orenthal James Simpson for a month.

Actually, I have a crueler punishment than that:  Let’s just ignore her for the next year.  Yep.  That would do it. 

I’ll do my part and not write a thing about Paris Hilton, unless she goes completely off the plot and kills fourteen with an automatic weapon in a two-day standoff with the police.  I promise. 

Now, you do your part:  Ignore her.  Don’t read or look at coverage about her.  Send her to Celebrity Siberia.  In a year we can come back and find out she’s doing cover tunes in the bar of a Motel Six near Pueblo, Colorado.  Agreed?  Done.



High Speed Chases

Last weekend another high speed police chase in Toronto ended with deaths.  All of the dead were under 18, two in a cab that were hit by the suspect, who also died in the crash. 

Right now the families are grieving and the Toronto Police are under the microscope for the how and why of the chase.  The essential facts are that the chase lasted less than a minute and the cop had barely even turned around to pursue the suspect vehicle.  The suspect saw the cop turning around and nailed the accelerator right into the path of two cabs.  60 miles per hour is 88 feet per second:  There are other calculations, like mass and velocity and so on.  End point?  Three dead, two of which just happened to be in the wrong place, in the wrong cab at the wrong time.

Toronto Police have very strong procedures regarding pursuit.  The officer must obey all commands of the incident commander at HQ.  If things are getting silly and dangerous the pursuit must be broken off.  Helicopters can be used.  Other cruisers can be positioned to intercept the suspect.  The police, as best I can tell from reports in the local media, did exactly what they should have done.  Saw a suspect speeding, turned around, hit the lights and went after the suspect.  The cruiser hadn’t even started getting near the speed limit when the collision happened. 

The suspect didn’t do what he should have: Pull over and take his spanking.  He matted the gas and tried to outrun the cops.  Seconds later the collision ocurred when the suspect’s driving ability was exceeded by his velocity and the inverse of his IQ.  Three dead in a very sudden, violent way. 

There are hundreds of unanswered questions.  Was the suspect driving dirty, meaning carrying substances or devices that would get him jail time?  Was the suspect under the influence of things that would have clouded his decision-making ability?  Was the car stolen?  Was the suspect wanted for other things?  This will eventually come out, but right now, media is focusing on the cops. 

Police forces know that pursuits at high speed invariably end badly, despite what you might see on "America’s Wildest Police Chases Part 5"  It doesn’t work that way in the real world.  Most often it is some innocent passerby who gets killed. 

Police, at least in Canada, take pursuit driving courses and are, as a group of people, very good high-speed drivers.  The command oversight is extensive, the default being break off the pursuit.  Unless the target car is being driven by an armed and crazy known perpetrator who just raped a nun and kidnapped a grade 7 class of special ed kids, while brandishing several guns, a sword and expired sour cream, that kind of criminal, they would and should, chase. 

The rest, the police will most often break off.  Remember, cops have radios and guns, with which they can get more cops with more guns and more radios.  The bad guys also know that the police have helicopters and ways to track the bad guys that don’t require high speed pursuit.

Where things go bad is when the lights and siren go on.  I’ve seen it too many times for it to even be entertaining.  People freeze up and lose their minds.  A street near where I live is a regular route where ambulance and fire equipment come up on traffic, with the emergency equipment on full lights and siren.  Drivers stop dead in their tracks, or turn on their four-way flashers, or stare at their rearview mirror. 

A significant percentage are blissfully unaware that an emergency vehicle needs to get by them and are perplexed by the bright and shiny things they see.  They might consider turning down their tunes or might not talk on their cellphones for a second or two.  You can even see some ask the person on the other end of the cellphone what they should do. 

As a public service for those too dumb to live, here’s what you do when a vehicle with blinking red and or blue lights and some kind of loud siren comes up behind you:  Pull as far to the right as you can safely and stop until the emergency vehicle is past you.  Use your right turn signal, as other drivers might be too stupid to live as well.  The right turn signal is usually near the steering wheel. 

If the emergency vehicle is a fire engine, keep your wits about you, as there is usually more than one coming.  Use your rear view mirror to look behind your car, not as a makeup and grooming aid and you might spot another fire engine or an ambulance wanting to get by you.  You don’t have to call someone to tell them that you were just passed by an ambulance or a fire engine or the police:  This is a normal occurrence in a city.

If you are a bad guy, please stop if the police want to talk with you.  You can’t outrun them and you can’t hide.  They have your ass and it is going to jail.  If you feel duty-bound to shoot it out with the cops so you can be on the news, have the courtesy to stop, as very few cellphone video cameras get good pictures when shaking and bouncing around in a moving car. 

We need a few seconds to get good, clear, saleable video footage of you screaming and yelling threats.  If you must scream and yell while brandishing a gun, do use a clear voice.  If there are obscure references to your Grade 6 shop teacher and/or religious political positions you feel you need to take, ensure that the references are short, concise and will make good captions or headlines. 

A nice final touch before you die in a hail of bullets, is to scream "Rosebud!" or another equally obscure cultural reference.  However, if you decide to extend your demise by taking hostages and engaging in a long stand-off with the police, could you schedule your rantings with a ten minute break each hour please? 

Occasionally the amateur media does need to take a pee, or get another coffee and we don’t want to miss anything.