How Long Does Change Take?

[This post will be updated with links]

Six months ago I explained the dearth of posts at my blog by posting this from Chris Hedges:

A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies. And we are dying now. We will either wake from our state of induced childishness, one where trivia and gossip pass for news and information, one where our goal is not justice but an elusive and unattainable happiness, to confront the stark limitations before us, or we will continue our headlong retreat into fantasy.

I agreed with Chris then and couldn’t agree more after a week of hearing, seeing and trying not to listen very much to stories about Tiger Woods’ extramarital affairs and minor car accident.  Six months ago, I couldn’t think what part, even what very small part, I could play waking people up.  So much wrong, so much to do, so many people really wanting “something” different but not knowing what or how to get it anyway, so many victories for darkness, so much fragmentation, so little time, too much space.  I believe many more people want “justice” than are able to figure out how to articulate their desire in the first place; and certainly not how to make it so in the second.

Recently, two US Senators and the American Conference of Bishops prompted some questions and I began to formulate something like a coherent response, if not exactly an answer. 

In 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Roe v. Wade.  In a nutshell, necessarily simple, they decided that a woman may abort a pregnancy for any reason up to the point of fetal viability.  No doubt Roe v. Wade was a victory for women but it was far from a straightforward one, in part due to America’s constitutional system and in part because of the wording of the decision itself.  The definition of “viability” has continued to be a contentious issue for one thing; for another, ensuing state restrictions on abortion, when litigated, made important incursions on the territory staked out in the case.  One thing is clear, however: the decision was never accepted by rightwing, Conservative Christians and the people who represent them.  The onslaught has been continuous, successful enough and often devious – as in the very recent activity of the US Conference of Bishops in negotiation with House representatives trying to get a healthcare reform deal.  Voila Stupak/Pitts.  What women were thought to have won they have had to win (and lose) over and over again since 1973.  Perhaps that victory has never been as threatened as it is right now.  It’s important to see that the threat comes not just from the “wingnut” right but also from among anti-choice Democrats – once touted as the natural allies of feminist objectives.

The history of reproductive rights in Canada is more than a little different.  In 1988, in R. v. Morgentaler, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the entire section of the Criminal Code that criminalized abortion and there has been no replacement of that law.  Incursions on women’s reproductive rights have occurred less visibly via hospital boards that refuse to permit abortions at Catholic hospitals or hospitals controlled by other religious denominations; via supply and demand problems respecting the availability of abortions in the healthcare system – some doctors refuse to perform abortions; because some doctors or hospital boards have imposed their own limits on when, in a term of pregnancy,  they will perform abortions; and because of the unaddressed accessibility problems of rural and First nations women.

In some ways, the difficulties that American women experience in trying to access full reproductive rights are more visible.  But in many ways they parallel the problems experienced by Canadian women.  The Stupak/Pitts amendment seemed to come out of nowhere.  There have been several points in the process of trying to achieve healthcare reform when the abortion issue has been raised but it doesn’t seem that anyone expected it to come out of negotiations with Nancy Pelosi, a couple of cultish Christian congressmen and the Conference of Bishops.  But there it is, the congressmen were ready and willing, the bishops pounced and the Democrats caved.  Some of those same Democrats who supported the amendment then went ahead and voted against the reform bill!  And what did the Dems gain by supporting the amendment?  The vote of one Republican (reprobate).  That’s right folk.  One.

We haven’t seen anything quite so dramatic in Canada – a few slippery Conservatives have tried to pass disguised private members bills by us but always unsuccessfully.  The point is though, the rightwing is there, more than ready and more than willing if not quite so able, thus far, to pounce in just the way that Stupak and Pitts, a whole bunch of Reprobates and more than a few Democrats just did.  Witness the comments of Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott just a few weeks ago:

“a growing body of research reveals significant health problems caused by abortion,” including breast cancer, cervical injury, uterine perforations, hemorrhaging and infections.

He said further that pro-life women view abortion as “part of a male agenda to have women more sexually available”.

Following on Mr. Vellacott’s comment, this exchange took place in the House of Commons:

Mme Lise Zarac (LaSalle-Émard, Lib.): Monsieur le Président, le député de Saskatoon-Wanuskewin a récemment émis des commentaires sur l’avortement qui insultent et dénigrent les femmes. Le député fait des affirmations qui sont médicalement inexactes pour hausser son programme idéologique moral.
   La ministre de la Santé dénoncera-t-elle les croyances de son collègue au sujet du droit des femmes de choisir?
Hon. Helena Guergis (Minister of State (Status of Women), CPC)
   Hon. Helena Guergis (Minister of State (Status of Women), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I note for the member that all members of Parliament in the House are required to have their opinion. It does not mean it is the opinion of the cabinet.
   Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it looks like the muzzles are off. The Conservatives are sounding like Reform Party extremists.
   The member for Saskatoon-Wanuskewin’s comments are completely degrading to women. He claims that abortion causes ‘a greater risk of breast cancer’ and he asserts that ‘abortion is part of a male agenda to have women more sexually available.’ His comments show an odious attitude toward women.
   Will the Minister of Justice stand up for women and denounce these vile comments?

Hon. Helena Guergis (Minister of State (Status of Women), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I again will note for the member that each member of the House is able to have their own opinion. It does not mean it represents the government.
   What I will highlight is that this government under the leadership of this Prime Minister has made significant investments in Status of Women Canada. We have three pillars of focus: economic security, violence against women and women in leadership roles.
   We also have the highest percentage of women in cabinet in Canada’s history and the highest level of funding at Status of Women Canada, the highest level in Canada’s history with an increase in the number of grass root organizations that are now able to receive funding to support the most vulnerable women in Canadian society.

Guergis would not renounce Vellacott’s statement even though they were incorrect and even though they were degrading to women.  Apparently she believes that the presence in this government of a larger number of women will suffice to shut women’s mouths even if those representatives are not advocating for them.  And she is not averse to lying.  This government has stolen funds from Status of Women and has done absolutely nothing to guarantee women’s economic security – remember the governments attempts to make inroads on pay equity in the public service last year?

But we cannot blame all these betrayals on the CONS alone.  Liberal and NDP members have also been willing to turn their backs on the women who elect them.

For instance.  The much discussed private members bill to do away with Canada’s long gun registry.  It’s a classic rightwing hot button issue and in case not many people have noticed, it’s contradictory as hell alongside the usual “law and order” kvelling done by the nuts.  Crazy like foxes they are though.  As someone who’s noticed has pointed out, though the “right to bear arms” is a classic American cris de coeur of the Christian right, it’s been adopted by the Canadian right too.  Why?  It provides a brilliant wedge between rural and urban constituencies and helps to frame other, conservative v. “liberal” debates.  It’s also a divisive issue between men and women – even rural women are overwhelmingly pro-registry.  It’s been estimated that, in tight races, the gun registry is “vote-determinating for about 5% of the voting public”.  It’s not stupid, crazy people who use this issue to their advantage.  But it just might be stupid people who ignore it.

I’ve also watched how the issue divides “progressive” men and women.  If you can achieve this political result simply by introducing a system to register (not “control” mind you, just register) you’ve gained a lot of ground on the cheap.  Similarly, watch progressive Americans, men and women, try to rationalize the passage of Stupak-Pitts.  “We don’t like it but it was a ‘compromise’ we had to make for the greater good”.  Over and over again.  As if you can trade off the rights of one group of people (a mere 52% of the population no less) for the rights and needs of another.  But over and over “progressives” are willing to do it while women scream “betrayal” and bear accusations, not only of hysteria, but even of selfishness.  This must make conservatives just bliss out.

Then there are the more quiet betrayals.  I’m not sure how they end up being quiet but it’s been done by the HarpyCons with the passage of criminal legislation that provide for mandatory minimum sentences for a load of offences, and with the agreement of both the Liberal and New Democratic Parties of Canada no less.  Thanks guys.  Love women of Canada.

Here’s why the mandatory minimums are a women’s issue.  The m.m.s have a disproportionate effect on groups who have experienced historic and current political, social and economic disadvantage.  One of those groups would be women, in this case, particularly First Nations and African American women.  First Nations women are the most rapidly growing group in the prison system.  They are vulnerable to arrest because of police targetting and the poverty,  and social and political injustices that have led to increased drug useage.  First Nations women suffer disproportionate effects once they’re imprisoned.  Often primary caregivers, they’re separated from children for long periods of time and often lose them to foster care forever.  Programmes for women in general receive fewer monetary and staffing resources than those for men.  Women in general are subject to strip searches and body searches in prison that put them at great risk.

African Canadians, also over-represented in our prison population, are similarly at risk for similar reasons.  But women, and particularly African Canadian women, are especially at risk, as pointed out by Professor Elizabeth Sheehy in her recent evidence to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs:

Women are often caught up in the prosecution of drug offences through their relationship with male partners, often while having minimal actual involvement in drug transactions.  Acting as drug mules is a crime committed often out of economic desperation.  African Canadian women will be the subgroup of women most dramatically affected by mandatory prison sentences.  They are already over-incarcerated at seven times the rate of white women.  Some commentators and judges have observed a growing presence of African Canadian women accused as drug couriers.  It seems evident that the new mandatory sentences will augment the number of women currently imprisoned, with African Canadian women and their children feeling the worst effects.

Professor Sheehy ended her comments with these words:  “I believe Bill C-15 is an affront to our commitment to equality and non-discrimination.”

An affront?  Yes, I agree.  But it’s an affront that very few people know about and that therefore even fewer are concerned about and that the opposition parties of Canada have chosen to ignore so absolutely that Bill-C15 has been passed through the House and now awaits only Senate approval.  There are all sorts of reasons that women’s groups haven’t picked up on this issue in an effective way but I’m not going to blame the women.  I’m looking at the people who women, feminists especially, voted for to represent their interests.  I’m looking at Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton, the Liberal and New Democratic Parties of Canada who have seen fit to add their votes to the Conservative votes needed to pass this legislation.

The legislation effects vulnerable groups most but those vulnerable groups are less able to shake the sturdy trunks of the political trees/parties that represent them.  The always waiting, not stupid rightwing is there to pounce.  The mandatory minimum sentencing issue fits squarely with the conservative “law and order” agenda which would be an absolutely irrational policy if it were actually meant to affect law and order.  But it isn’t.  Surely the rightwing is not quite so stupid as to believe that longer prison sentences for drug users and dealers does anything at all to prevent crime – there’s just too much empirical evidence showing that it doesn’t.  No, once again this is a divisive issue being used to achieve political ends, not the least of which is the building of a prison industrial complex to rival that of the United States of America.  It might not “work” but it sure does make a lot of money, create lots of jobs and make constituents in ridings that host prisons pretty happy.

The “liberal” parties supposedly elected at least in part to represent the interests of women and minorities are quite willing to sell out these constituencies out because it just doesn’t do them much harm.  So far.

I, for one, want to make it hurt.  I want to keep sorting out the links between these rightwing policies and liberal betrayals and putting them out there.  I want to defeat the HarpyCons but I also want to make it dead clear that, as a woman, I can’t find a blessed party that truly represents me and my sisters and others for whom I care.  I reject a “headlong retreat into fantasy”.  I’ll not sit around waiting for this culture to die.  That might all sound a little melodramatic but there it is and it suits me just fine.

On this day, December 6th, 2009, when I want to reflect and grieve the women’s lives lost in Montreal in 1989 and all the women of this country who died before or since as a result of intimate partner violence and public violence against women – all those whose names we don’t know – I’ve actually had to time defending my right to define, with my sisters, the meaning of the event and the meaning of those lives and deaths.  When women are murdered because they are women, we still have to fight to say so.  We are so far away, still, twenty years later, from doing those things that must be done to begin the end of male violence against women that we still struggle for the definition itself.

I wish no person physical harm.  But I do want to make that hurt by defeating this government and any other government that thinks it can lead a country while ignoring the needs of half its population.

Braidwood

Kelly McParland does an admirable job of summing up the testimony of RCMP officers at the Braidwood Inquiry:

Whatever conclusion is ultimately reached at the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, one conclusion now seems inevitable: the original tale peddled by the RCMP about that day at Vancouver airport was overwhelmingly bogus.

The 40-year-old Mr. Dziekanski did not grab a killer stapler and wave it threateningly over his head, as the police claimed. He did not advance on four officers with threatening gestures. He did not stay on his feet after the first jolt of the Taser they fired at him. He did not have to be wrestled to the ground. He did not, it appears from the testimony of the officers who were there that day, represent any kind of threat at all. Continue reading

US Turns From Truth

Glenn Greenwald on the Pentagon’s self-serving conclusion that conditions at Guantanamo Bay meet the standards of the Geneva Convention:

For reasons that human rights groups and detainees’ lawyers immediately pointed out, this self-exonerating Pentagon report, from the start, was suspect in the extreme.  But a sign of how broken our discourse is and how in love with ourselves we continue to be is that, on the question of current Guantanamo conditions, the conclusions of the United States Pentagon released this week were treated not only as credible, but authoritative. If the DOD — which has long overseen Guantanamo and continues to do so — says that everything is great there, well, that’s the end of that.  What else is there to know?

Well, according to his lawyer, US Army Lieutenant colonel Yvonne Bradley, Binyam Mohamed was beaten at Guantanamo, right up until his release today:

He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don’t like to think about it because my country is behind all this.

According to The Guardian:

… doctors discovered injuries and ailments resulting from apparently brutal treatment in detention.

Mohamed was found to be suffering from bruising, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores to feet and hands, severe damage to ligaments as well as profound emotional and psychological problems which have been exacerbated by the refusal of Guantánamo’s guards to give him counselling.

Mohamed’s British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client had been beaten “dozens” of times inside the notorious US camp in Cuba with the most recent abuse occurring during recent weeks. He said: “He has a list of physical ailments that cover two sheets of A4 paper. What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the middle ages.”

But it wasn’t.  It wasn’t left in the middle ages.  If those responsible for the torture are not held to account, it won’t be left in the 21st century either.

InConvenient Questions!

On Friday, the US Justice Department, Barack Obama’s Justice Department, told a federal court that it shouldn’t consider the legal challenges of prisoners held at Bagram Prison near Kabul and under US control:

In a short legal filing, Justice Department lawyers said they planned to maintain the Bush administration’s claim that the roughly 600 prisoners held in Afghaninstan have no right to contest their detention in the courts. “The Government adheres to its previously articulated position,” the attorneys said.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that war-on-terror prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have the right to file court petitions because the U.S. has “de facto sovereignty” over the base, located on land leased from Cuba.

However, the Justice Department has argued that prisoners in Afghanistan, held at the Bagram Airbase outside Kabul, lack recourse to the courts because the U.S. does not have similar control over that region.

“Bagram is in a theater of war where the United States is engaged in active hostilities,” so extending those legal rights to the prisoners would be “impracticable,” Justice Department lawyers argued in a brief filed last November. They also argued that the habeas petitions are barred by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, a law Obama vocally opposed.   [more]

How large does the area of de facto sovereignty have to be?  Big as Bagram?  Bigger?

How big is a “theater of war” that isn’t a war on a nation but on an activity, i.e. terrorism?  Very, very big?

How difficult would it be, or should I say “impracticable”, for the US to set up a system for holding hearings in or around Bagram?

How long can the US hold prisoners in places like Bagram without hearings?  Till the war on terror is over?

NB:  The US is now handing over thousands of its prisoners to Iraq according to a security agreement that took effect on January 1st.  Do they remember or care that Iraq is known to torture and mistreat its prisoners?

Articles 10 and 12 of  The Geneva Convention govern the “transferrability” of prisoners of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Prisoners can only be transferrred between countries that are both signatories of the Convention.  The Republic of Afghanistan is not a signatory.  Prisoners cannot be transferred by an occupying authority into the hands of the country it occupies.  Iraq is occupied.

Back to Afghanistan.  When Canadian forces take prisoners, should they turn them over to the US when it’s widely known the Americans torture their prisoners?

I remember watching a movie that began with an trip into an Morrocan prison where infidels had languished for so long the bony hands of skeletons were clamped to the mouldering walls.

Please write to me if you have answers.

UPDATE:

The word “Guantanamo” serves as shorthand among some Afghans for all the reasons they hate foreign troops, but the impending closing of the notorious prison has gotten surprisingly little attention in this country.

Nothing changed with last month’s U.S. presidential order to close Guantanamo, many people here say, because another prison inspires even greater fear: Bagram.

Even a man who could be expected to feel the most joy about Guantanamo closing, a former detainee who spent more than six years in the camp, quickly turns the conversation to the detention facility north of Kabul, inside the U.S. military base at Bagram.  [more]

Plausible Deniability

From The Guardian.co.uk:

US defence officials are preventing Barack Obama from seeing evidence that a former British resident held in Guantánamo Bay has been tortured, the prisoner’s lawyer said last night, as campaigners and the Foreign Office prepared for the man’s release in as little as a week.

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal charity Reprieve, which represents Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed, sent Obama evidence of what he called “truly mediaeval” abuse but substantial parts were blanked out so the president could not read it.

In the letter to the president [PDF] , Stafford Smith urges him to order the disclosure of the evidence.

Stafford Smith tells Obama he should be aware of the “bizarre reality” of the situation. “You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command.”

It is understood US defence officials might have censored the evidence to protect the president from criminal liability or political embarrassment.

The letter and its blanked-out attachment were disclosed as two high court judges yesterday agreed to reopen the court case in which Mohamed’s lawyers, the Guardian and other media are seeking disclosure of evidence of alleged torture against him. Mohamed’s lawyers are challenging the judges’ gagging order, claiming that David Miliband, the foreign secretary, changed his evidence.

Mr. Obama had better do something about this soon.  He is being held responsible for withholding this information –  as well he should be.  It would be a good idea if he knew what it was.

Read the whole article here

Très Stupide

If Binyam Mohamed hadn’t been tortured in this scenario, it might be funny:

[UPDATED below]

A British ‘resident’ held at Guantanamo Bay was identified as a terrorist after confessing he had visited a ‘joke’ website on how to build a nuclear weapon, it was revealed last night.

Binyam Mohamed, a former UK asylum seeker, admitted to having read the ‘instructions’ after allegedly being beaten, hung up by his wrists for a week and having a gun held to his head in a Pakistani jail.

It was this confession that apparently convinced the CIA that they were holding a top Al Qaeda terrorist.

This is the British case that was in the news last week when the justices held that documents pertaining to Mohamed’s interrogation could not be made public because the US threatened to stop sharing intelligence with the British if they gave up its “state secrets”.  By the way, this was the policy of the Bush administration but Barack Obama has adopted it to the apparent dismay of the British court.

The “build a nuclear bomb” article in question was a satirical piece written by Barbara Ehrenreich, Rolling Stone journalist Peter Biskind and scientist Michio Kaku.  It claims that a nuclear weapon can be made ‘using a bicycle pump’ and with liquid uranium ‘poured into a bucket and swung round’.  It was published in the American magazine Seven Days and was later available on many websites.

 Don’t get me wrong, it wouldn’t be acceptable to torture someone for a better reason.  Still, this does add insult to injury.  If anyone thinks that the US has its hands tied because the real reasons for Mohamed’s detention and torture can’t be revealed in order to protect national security, think again.  The story is coming out anyway, as these stories so often do.  At this point, I can only think the US doesn’t want to acknowledge the sheer stupidity of its buffons-in-action,  post 9/11.  Better we should think they at least thought they had good reason to be freaked out, a lá that most serious and altruistic of torturers, Jack Bauer.

UPDATE:  The wonderfully lucid Glenn Greenwald provides an excellent synopsis of the way the Bush administration, and now the Obama adminisration, used the State Secrets Act –

What was abusive and dangerous about the Bush administration’s version of the States Secret privilege — just as the Obama/Biden campaign pointed out — was that it was used not (as originally intended) to argue that specific pieces of evidence or documents were secret and therefore shouldn’t be allowed in a court case, but instead, to compel dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance based on the claim that any judicial adjudication of even the most illegal secret government programs would harm national security.  That is the theory that caused the bulk of the controversy when used by the Bush DOJ — because it shields entire government programs from any judicial scrutiny — and it is that exact version of the privilege that the Obama DOJ yesterday expressly advocated (and, by implication, sought to preserve for all Presidents, including Obama).  

 

Polygamy & Civil Liberty

From Canadian Press (at The Star):

A civil liberties watchdog group is calling on the Crown to immediately drop polygamy charges against the leaders of a controversial B.C. religious sect.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler, leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Bountiful, B.C., were charged last month with practising polygamy.

Blackmore, 52, is accused of having 19 wives and 44-year-old Oler, three.

But the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said Monday that the 1892 law that the two men have been charged under violates religious freedom.

“The Criminal Code provides adequate provisions for protecting vulnerable women and children without invoking section 293,” the group said in a statement.

“We should not… stand by quietly while the anti-polygamy law is used in a selective fashion to intrude on religious freedom and/or on responsible adults who make relationship choices that alarm or puzzle other Canadians.”

The association called the law barring multiple marriages “archaic and over-vague,” and said the prosecutions were “ill-advised.”

“The provisions are drafted very broadly. Their original intent was to keep Mormons out of Canada,” association policy director Micheal Vonn said in an interview.

“They have the potential to be used again in a discriminatory fashion.”

The association said it has long been concerned about allegations of child abuse by the sect, a breakaway of the mainstream Mormon church which abandoned polygamy more than a century ago. The group urged police to lay appropriate charges if there is any evidence of abuse.  [more]

I’m inclined to agree that the polygamy law is discriminatory and not likely to stand up if challenged (and it will be).  The law was originally drafted to protect vulnerable women and children and, as this article says, to keep certain religious groups out of Canada.  If there is evidence of the abuse of women and children, the B.C. Crown should, indeed, lay those charges.  They’ve had long enough to gather that evidence – “interest” in the community at Bountiful, B.C. is longstanding.

I’m certainly not “pro-polygamy”.  It does strike me as a particularly patriarchal practice.  Men are in control of their wives and families and, of course, of women’s sexuality.  No doubt religious views are used to regulate women’s behaviour.  Nevertheless, to the extent that women say that they freely choose polygamous relationships, they have a right to do so.  It’s not clear to me that living in polygamous families is abusive to children, per se.  Not any more so than living in families where mothers and fathers practice serial monogamy.  I don’t like that.  But it’s not against the law.

Note that these two men are not being charged with bigamy – they have committed no fraud and have not attempted simultaneous or serial “legal” marriages.  As far as the law goes, there is one legal wife; the women thereafter are co-habiting with legally married men.  To insist that it’s not in their best interests to do so is to infantilize them.  If we can ban these relationships, why not polyamoury?

How the family laws of the provinces would deal with these parents and spouses upon family breakdown is not a matter that we’ve had to face, since these families do not appeal to the courts to regulate their relationships.  Again, if there are child protection issues here, the problem ought to be dealt with in that way and there’s little doubt that regulating these relationships would cause problems – there are just too many people in loco parentis.

I’ve yet to be convinced that these families necessarily do a bad job of raising children – not more so than any other demographic.  And thus far, living according to the rules of patriarchy is not a crime, for men or for women.

Unlike many gays and lesbians, these people are not asking to have their marriages recognized at law.  Though if they did, I’m not sure on what rational grounds they could be denied.  In fact, if we want to regulate these relationships, we should recognize them as legal marriages.  Get it?

RCMP Threatened By Stapler

We’ve all seen the video of RCMP at Vancouver International Airport tasering Robert Dziekanski five times until he dies.  It appears that lawyers will argue that what we can’t see on that video is the stapler in Dziekanski’s hands.  Right.  Four big touch macho RCMP officers armed to the hilt, threatened by what Dziekanski could do to them with a stapler.  Fuckneckery.

The sequence of events surrounding the police confrontation with Robert Dziekanski is becoming a central issue at the public inquiry into his death.

A bystander’s video that shows Dziekanski being repeatedly stunned by an RCMP Taser at Vancouver’s airport in October 2007 has been played several times as witnesses recount what they saw.

The inquiry has heard that Dziekanski picked up a stapler that he had in his hand but what he was doing with it in the seconds before he was shocked is under question.

On the infamous video, Dziekanski’s arms appear to stay down by his sides as officers surround him, and only raise above his head after he is stunned.

But lawyers for the RCMP officers suggest the video, which shows Dziekanski’s back, doesn’t show what he was doing with his hands or the stapler.

The stapler was cited by Crown prosecutors in December when they announced they wouldn’t charge the officers involved, who are expected to testify later at the inquiry.

Here ya go.

“Unfounded” Sexual Assaults

Women are such liars, eh?  From Jennifer O’Connor at This Magazine:

According to Statistics Canada, for a case to be deemed unfounded “the police investigation must establish that a sexual assault did not occur or was not attempted.” In 2002-the most recent StatsCan info available-an average of 16 per cent of sexual offences reported to police nationwide were classified this way, a rate that had remained steady since 1991. (By comparison, seven per cent of other violent crimes, such as homicide, abduction and robbery, were catalogued as unfounded in 2002.) “I think it’s a statement on women’s equality,” says Susan Havart, administrative coordinator and counsellor at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa. “Sexual assault cases are perceived differently in the courts and through the legal system. It speaks volumes that those that they don’t want to do anything about or can’t do anything about get pushed into that unfounded category.”

Cases …  are not pursued to court, nor are they reported to the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System, a national database that allows police to identify whether someone may be responsible for multiple offences. They are not included in annual statistical reports, and, in many jurisdictions, information about them is only available through Access to Information requests. StatsCan no longer requires law enforcement agencies to supply data regarding these files. Most people don’t even know the term exists. How does an investigation establish that “a sexual assault did not occur or was not attempted”? Too often, by scrutinizing who a woman is and overlooking how investigations are supposed to be done.

[…]

Lee Lakeman is a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres and has been a rape crisis counselor for more than 30 years. Having answered crisis lines across the country, she’s noticed some patterns. If a woman lives in a poorer neighbourhood, a rural area or on a reserve, if English isn’t her first language, if she’s reporting about a man with any social privilege, or if she has none, she is more likely to have her case labelled unfounded. “Our biggest problem,” says Lakeman, “is women are not taken seriously when they report and are immediately questioned as to their integrity.”

Just one more example of how women are made invisible.  By the way, the false reporting of a crime is a criminal offense.  I wonder why there aren’t more charges of public mischief against women reporting sexual assaults that are “unfounded”?  Not that it hasn’t happened, mind you …

This is a great article.  Go read

Here’s the website of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres

Facist Bureaucrat

From “An Oral History of the Bush White House: Politics and Power” at Vanity Fair:

We had this confluence of characters—and I use that term very carefully—that included people like Powell, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and so forth, which allowed one perception to be “the dream team.” It allowed everybody to believe that this Sarah Palin–like president—because, let’s face it, that’s what he was—was going to be protected by this national-security elite, tested in the cauldrons of fire. What in effect happened was that a very astute, probably the most astute, bureaucratic entrepreneur I’ve ever run into in my life became the vice president of the United States.

He became vice president well before George Bush picked him. And he began to manipulate things from that point on, knowing that he was going to be able to convince this guy to pick him, knowing that he was then going to be able to wade into the vacuums that existed around George Bush—personality vacuum, character vacuum, details vacuum, experience vacuum.

Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later Chief of Staff to Colin Powell

And this:

That night, on 9/11, Rumsfeld came over and the others, and the president finally got back, and we had a meeting. And Rumsfeld said, You know, we’ve got to do Iraq, and everyone looked at him—at least I looked at him and Powell looked at him—like, What the hell are you talking about? And he said—I’ll never forget this—There just aren’t enough targets in Afghanistan. We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kind of attacks.

And I made the point certainly that night, and I think Powell acknowledged it, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. That didn’t seem to faze Rumsfeld in the least.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It really didn’t, because from the first weeks of the administration they were talking about Iraq. I just found it a little disgusting that they were talking about it while the bodies were still burning in the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center.

Richard Clarke, chief White House counterterrorism adviser

And this:

October 7, 2001 American and British forces begin an aerial campaign against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda has its base, followed weeks later by a ground invasion. The Taliban government falls and al-Qaeda is routed from some of its strongholds. One person captured is John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. His handling proves to be a harbinger. The Defense Department’s general counsel, Jim Haynes, authorizes military intelligence to “take the gloves off.”

I was called with the specific question of whether or not the F.B.I. on the ground could interrogate [Lindh] without counsel. And I had been told unambiguously that Lindh’s parents had retained counsel for him. I gave that advice on a Friday, and the same attorney at Justice who inquired called back on Monday and said essentially, Oops, they did it anyway. They interrogated him anyway. What should we do now? My office was there to help correct mistakes. And I said, Well, this is an unethical interrogation, so you should seal it off and use it only for intelligence-gathering purposes or national security, but not for criminal prosecution.

A few weeks later, Attorney General Ashcroft held one of his dramatic press conferences, in which he announced a complaint being filed against Lindh. He was asked if Lindh had been permitted counsel. And he said, in effect, To our knowledge, the subject has not requested counsel. That was just completely false. About two weeks after that he held another press conference, because this was the first high-profile terrorism prosecution after 9/11. And in that press conference he was asked again about Lindh’s rights, and he said that Lindh’s rights had been carefully, scrupulously guarded, which, again, was contrary to the facts, and contrary to the picture that was circulating around the world of Lindh blindfolded, gagged, naked, bound to a board.

Jessalyn Radack, ethics adviser at the Department of Justice

And this:

When I arrived in New York, in July 1998, it was quite clear to me that all the members of the Security Council, including the United States, knew well that there was no current work being done on any kind of nuclear-weapons capability in Iraq.

It was, therefore, extraordinary to me that later on in this saga there should have been any kind of hint that Iraq had a current capability. Of course, there were worries that Iraq might try, if the opportunity presented itself, to reconstitute that capability. And therefore we kept a very close eye, as governments do in their various ways, on Iraq trying to get hold of nuclear base materials, such as uranium or uranium yellowcake, or trying to get the machinery that was necessary to develop nuclear-weapons-grade material.

We were watching this the whole time. There was never any proof, never any hard intelligence, that they had succeeded in doing that. And the American system was entirely aware of this.

Sir Jeremy Redstock, British Ambassador to the U.N. and later the British special representative in Iraq

[…]

November 4, 2002 Defying precedent, the Republicans make decisive gains in the midterm elections; the White House interprets the results as an across-the-board green light. In an interview with Esquire released in December, John J. Dilulio Jr., the former head of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, complains that the “compassionate conservative” agenda is dead and that politics alone drives the White House.

I happened to be in the stairwell of the West Wing when the president was walking down, and he goes, Hey! He goes, Dilulio piece. He goes, Is this true? Is this … I mean, is this stuff … is this, is he right? What the hell’s goin’ on?

And whoever was with him at the time—it was probably Andy Card, Andy and Karl—they were like, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, it’s fine. We’ll get back to it. That afternoon we get a call from Josh Bolten, who was at the time the head of domestic policy, saying, O.K., we need to have a “compassion” meeting.

I’ll never forget the discussion—we’re sitting around the table, and someone says, I know what we should do. We should tackle chronic homelessness. I hear there are like 15,000 homeless people in America.

What can you say to that?

David Kuo, deputy director to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives [more]

I can think of a few things to say.  In all likelihood, I’ve said them all.

It’s not okay to let all of this go and move on, as Barack Obama has said.  The Bush administration needs to be held accountable before moving on can be healthy and wise and can lead to new restrictions on executive power that will make future administrations accountable.  It’s called democracy; it’s called the rule of law.