What Police State

Police are presumed to be more reliable witnesses than those facing criminal charges and their witnesses. That’s what police state.

At the G20, officers wearing riot helmets removed their name tags. Officers arrested citizens for wearing scarves which “could be used as disguises,” so police state.

The police union head in Toronto is ‘Big’ Mike McCormack. Here you will find a page containing the following quotes:

McCormack is no stranger to controversy and has, along with his brother, William Jr., been enmeshed in a series of legal woes.

He was charged in 2004 under the Police Act for corruption and discreditable conduct for his alleged involvement with a drug-addicted, used-car salesman with purported links to organized crime. All charges were later dropped.

Last March, another charge for discreditable conduct was dropped. The charge stemmed from allegations he secretly taped conversations with the late Toronto Star reporter, John Duncanson, after the latter was arrested.

On Sept. 25, he was found guilty of insubordination for inappropriately accessing a police database.

This man is running the police union.

In the same page you will find this comment on his brother:

McCormack’s brother, meanwhile, is accused of shaking down club owners in the entertainment district, and was charged criminally in 2004 with corruption. His trial is pending.

What really happened, since the Star article was written, was, as I recall, the charges were dropped because the grinding gears of our law enforcement system had taken too long to get to court. I think it had been seven years or so.

That’s an insight into the leaders of what I call our police state. But there’s more.

In the Samy Yatim case, Officer Forcillo shot a teenager three times. One shot was fatal, one was paralyzing. Then the officer shot six more times, missing once. Then the dying youth was tasered. Forcillo’s partner had drawn her gun, but had re-holstered it. Here you will find these words from Officer Fleckeisen:

She had her gun out as well — “at the low ready” — but soon holstered her weapon, court heard.

“I reholster my firearm for the purpose of calling a Taser on scene because that is our only other recourse,” she said, denying a suggestion that she put her weapon away because she didn’t find the situation dangerous.

Back to the G20 and the removed name tags. Here you will find these words:

TORONTO – A Toronto Police officer who assaulted a G20 protester with a weapon was sentenced to 45 days in jail Monday.

Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani lowered his head as it became clear Justice Louise Botham would not opt for the absolute discharge his lawyer Harry Black had passionately advocated for during the morning hearing. Nor would probation or a fine do.

“Police officers also need to understand that any use of force on citizens will be scrutinized,” Botham said. “When they act criminally in using that force, meaningful sanctions will be imposed. Any sentence, therefore, must send a message to the police that they are not above the law.”

Despite the sentence, the officer will not spend any time in jail while he appeals his conviction.

Well, you might say, at least one officer paid for breaking the law, in this case, an assault that was, fortuitously, captured on video. (I note that Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star put a picture on the front page, when the police were unable to provide identification.) But before you settle back and say all is well, have a look at this page, where you will read these words:

The sole Toronto Police officer convicted for using excessive force at the G20 summit has been docked five days’ pay at a police disciplinary tribunal, after the retired judge who heard his case ruled Toronto police Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani “has already paid too large a price for his misdeed.”  and these words:  “In my view, a penalty of forfeiture of five days’ pay is the appropriate penalty.”

When the police are immune to prosecution for misdeeds, you are either in, or headed for, a police state.

Apparently a police officer who draws his weapon frequently is monitored. Here you will find me harping back to Officer Forcillo:

Constable James Forcillo’s unusual reliance on his firearm brought him to the attention of a Toronto Police early warning system the year before he fatally shot Sammy Yatim on a downtown streetcar.

Forcillo testified that he pulled his weapon about 12 times in three-and-a-half years on the job.

Some of those he used his gun to control, one source said, were people “you’d never draw your firearm on.”

Finally, let’s have a look at personal freedom. I will go after ‘carding’ first. Here you will find these words:

Ask the Torontonians most affected by it to define “carding” and they’ll tell you it’s a new name for a decades-old problem: random police checks that target young African-Canadian men.

The practice was once called “intervention” and before that “street checks.” The police now label it community “engagement.” The name everyone else tends to use—carding—is a reference to the contact cards police have been using for about 10 years to collect information about those who are stopped and questioned.

In fact, the police commission in Toronto has requested that carding be stopped, the police chief has said he’ll study it, and the Mayor (who is on the police board) is allowing it to continue.

A final observation on freedom. This actually happened to a friend of mine. AWH was a brilliant contributor to an online Internet company. He had a Mazda protegé, not new, but in excellent repair. He found a shortcut to work that went through a residential area. He drove below the speed limit, stopped fully for all of the numerous signs, observed the law at all times.

Nevertheless he was stopped by a police officer in a cop car who demanded to know why he was in the area. (This turns out to already be an illegal questioning, as there was no reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.) AWH is non-confrontational and explained he was driving to work.

Eventually the cop made AWH understand that, if he drove through this area again, he’d be charged with a violation: perhaps failing to stop for a sign.

AWH is white, average build, non-threatening. Most cops are quite large. AWH was intimidated enough to change his route to work.

Now for the dumb questions:

Was AWH in effect denied a fundamental freedom of movement?

Was that police officer in effect keeping a rich area free of ‘less desirables?’

Can a police officer remove a name tag, don a helmet, assault an innocent demonstrator, and lose only five days’ pay?

(The argument that the officer’s life fell apart is irrelevant. Assaulted people’s lives also fall apart. Sammy Yatim’s life is over.)

Is the leadership of the Toronto Police Union interesting?

Do the police (and in some cases the prosecutorial machinery) protect the police?

Are we in a police state? If not, how close are we?

If you see any errors in fact above, post here and I’ll fix them. I think I’ve pretty much researched carefully, and you can easily check the sources above.

Just a Sign of the Times Katie Lewington

This is a copy of a review posted on Amazon.com.

Just a Sign of the Times    Katie Lewington

complex and personal    four stars

Star counts are personal, so, as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to the interesting stuff: Lewington’s work.

Some of the poems are long, almost happenings. Turn to Ketchup: None for an example of this. For a weird commentary on drugs, turn to High, where the first person speaker is the drug.

For a complex and personal poem, turn to The Subject Will Be, which includes this: “Hear him sing /Hear her say I love you /Hear the soft moans and groans /Of something pure /Hear the silence and tear it down /This won’t end….”

For personal disaster, turn to Screwed. It’s impossible to capture this long poem in a quick quote. For another tough situation, turn to Confessional, where we find this: “And although she viewed this man, her husband  /Through bruised eyes  /Hearing his confession  /Through boxed ears  /She knew she loved him…”

If you’re scrolling for the tiny carps, they are few. Possibly some typos. The formatting could imho be much nicer, and the work clearly deserves top-notch presentation. Enough, already; back to the poems.

Social commentary abounds here, as in Smart Girl. Relationships are probed in Tattoo and Family, and again in Photos.

A personal favourite here is Love, which begins thus: “Love is the one that won’t leave….”

Give all the above, how do I decide on four stars? My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer, and I try to be consistent. This is an early work of an extremely promising writer. If you find as many satisfying pieces as I did, you will agree that four stars is clearly justified. Definitely recommended.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)

Jeb Bush: what’s going on here? Primary questions.

I meant to do this post ages ago, and forgot about it. Now that Jeb Bush is sort-of a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, I felt I should put some ‘noise’ up here for you to think about.

Here you will find the current Wikipedia article on Jeb Bush.

I am working from my notes of long ago, so feel free to check me up at every turn.

Jeb Bush as Governor of Florida is my main observation point. I would score him thus:

  • Education: yes, except for libraries
  • Fiscal: yes
  • Labour: no (removed some protections)
  • Environment: yes
  • Gun Rights: egad, very first stand-your-ground law.
  • Health: odd. Caps on non-economic damages. Supported anti-abortion license plates. Pushed from Medicaid to private health care. I guess those are no-no’s.
  • Immigration: Brave. Tried to give illegals drivers licenses.
  • Vetos: I think good. Stopped High Speed Rail Authority.
  • Climate change: waffle
  • Gay Rights: only correct politician I can think of. There should be no special rules for minorities: all laws should apply to all of us. Special rules are, in effect, reverse discrimination.
  • The famous Florida West Election recount: (GWB got in because of this).
  • Vote Pairing. look this up and see if you like it or not.

Given the above observations, how do you rate Jeb Bush? That’s the dumb question, which leads to a few extra ones:

Given the stand-your-ground law, which makes using a gun much less likely to result in charges, and which law has been copied repeatedly elsewhere, why is the gun lobby and NRA not supporting Jeb Bush? Do they think Donald Trump is even more shoot-from-the-hip?

Is Jeb too pro-illegals? Or do he and Obama vaguely agree on trying to create more solid citizens out of partially-fugitive persons?

Being in Canada, I can beg forgiveness for these last dumb questions.

Is it nuts to have roughly a dozen candidates for a single nomination? Or is each campaign part of a publicity stunt to ‘store up’ visibility for future possible campaigns? And, it that nuts too?

nameless, by Sana Mitchell

This is a copy of a review done on Amazon.com on this particular poetry book. Here goes:

complex and subtle, sometimes; a punch in the gut, other times. Strong writing.

five stars

Star counts are personal – mine reflect my tastes, background, and impression from the work. So as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to the good stuff: Mitchell’s work.

We find some sixty free verse poems. For an extended metaphor, turn to Vows: “if you were my bootstrap /i’d tie you once /and then twice, /cross you up /make a nice design.” The poem goes on from there, so no further spoiler here. For a strong piece of personal experience and insight, turn to A Road with No Name.

Again in Wasting of a Life we find this: “I will stop making holes in my heart /And you can hold your hand up /To stop the wasting of a life.” For a more complex love poem, turn to Wild Flowers.

For something on the edge of erotic turn to A New Art, which begins thus: “Fingers trace the edges of her smooth skin /above that fissure /where pleasures moan and rivers surge,….” This is personal experience writ large, and communicated to the reader.

For social commentary, turn to Seduction, which begins thus: “self-confession /is a woman /provocatively sitting alone /in a bar.” For an additional personal experience turn to There is Nothing Worse than Being in Exile, which includes this bit of description: “a newspaper sits on the table like stale crackers /moist from the humid air,…”

If you’re scrolling for the tiny carps, forget it. There may be a single typo. In short, nothing.

For a bit of a riddle, turn to He Walks Among Us. I guarantee you will not guess the contents of this fine poem from its title.

I must confess that I found the longer poems more cryptic, perhaps requiring more re-reading than my usual two passes. So my favourites are often shorter pieces, including the amazing piece, Spilling the Mocha, which includes this: “Love is /an old dog, /too loyal to leave /too tired to bark….” If you think that’s a spoiler in a short poem, you’re in for what I call a ‘gut-punch’ when Mitchell finishes you off with this experience.

Back to the star count. My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. In the very best works I generally find a handful of favourites (sic au Canada) that really stick in my mind. I’ve quoted some of those above from Mitchell’s offering. I think five stars is right on. Extremely recommended.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

The Right Size of Government

Some Libertarians apparently believe that government should be very small. Stephen Harper apparently believed this too, which I infer from his scuttling of environmental protections, among other things.

I beg to disagree. I make my case by looking at Haiti, where the government is essentially powerless and the country is, in effect, run by outsiders. Thus the recovery from the earthquake is narrowly focussed, and the actual inhabitants receive little of it and control even less. That is because Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are running the country.

Here you will find a page from which I take the following quotes:

Less than one cent of each dollar of U.S. earthquake relief is going to the Haitian government. As reported by the Associated Press, NGOs working on disaster assistance receive 43 cents, while 33 cents of that same dollar ends up with the U.S. military.

USAID and other government agencies from Northern countries provide 70% of the funding of NGOs in Haiti. The other 30% comes from corporate and individual donations. Thus, the label “non-governmental” is a bit of a misnomer.

Here you will find a page from which I take the following quotes: (emphasis mine)

The wire fence that surrounds Haiti’s National Palace in the heart of the country’s capital has been covered, recently, with a green mesh. Inside, the multi-domed structure has been reduced to rubble, finally knocked down after it was all but destroyed by the country’s deadly 7.0-magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010.

Several miles northwest of downtown sits the Logistical Base, or Log Base, the headquarters for the United Nations and its recovery efforts. Here, it’s a different world. Within the massive blue-and-white compound are revamped trailers, golf carts and more glistening public toilets than any other place in Haiti. (Log Base is germ—and cholera!—free.) Flowers line the walkways, and machines blow a cool mist into an outdoor restaurant whose menu, on one random day, included sushi, jasmine rice, German potatoes, Brazilian cheese bread, halal shawarma and Häagen-Dazs ice cream. The American dollar, not the Haitian gourde, is the currency of choice.

Shortly after the earthquake, Log Base became the nerve center of the international recovery effort, the place where aid organizations could coordinate reconstruction strategies. At the peak, there were more than seventy coordinating meetings each week among aid agencies and other interested parties— though not all interested parties. Few Haitians can cross from one side of the compound’s walls to the other. To do so requires identification documents and an invitation from someone on the inside, two things very few Haitians have. And when they do, they find that most meetings are held in English, not Creole or even French. When a steering committee for NGO coordination was elected in July 2010 at Log Base, sixty international organizations cast their votes, but since there were no local NGOs present, Haitians were not represented.

Welcome to the NGO Republic of Haiti, the fragile island-state born, in part, out of the country’s painfully lopsided earthquake recovery. On one side are the thousands of aid organizations that came to Haiti with the entire international aid budget in their bank accounts (several billion dollars among them) and built a powerful parallel state accountable to no one but their boards and donors. On the other are the many representatives of the Haitian people—elected officials, civil society leaders, businesspeople—who remain broke and undermined by the very NGOs that swooped in to help. And in between? The Haitian people themselves: impoverished, unemployed, homeless and trapped in a recovery effort that has all too often failed to meet their needs.

What, you may be asking, is my point here? Simply this:

Representative government is what fixes buildings, makes roads and hospitals, collects taxes and funds citizen support systems. There is a right size for such a government, and tiny is not it. If you’ll pardon a bad pun, we have a right to right-size our government. It should make choices that benefit society as a whole. It should not be in the pockets of outside organizations, nor in the pockets of the rich, nor in the pockets of international corporations.

I submit that we need a bit more government here, in Canada. I will dare to suggest that our neighbours to the south could use a bit more too, perhaps achievable simply by giving up on the idea that stopping everything the President wants to do is good politics.

Unfortunately, vested interests tend to stay vested, and to keep over-vesting themselves. So now for the dumb questions:

  • Is it even possible for Haiti to get out of this convoluted, inefficient, ‘recovery?’
  • How long will it take Justin Trudeau to undo 9.5 years of Harper government’s dismantling of academic freedom, environmental protection, and industries other than petroleum-related?
  • Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership give multinationals the right to sue our government for passing laws that, in any way, appear to reduce their profits?
  • Are the above questions related?
  • Are we lucky to have a democracy that at least sort-of works? Or do we?