Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Constitution, Rights, Rule Of Law: Who Gives A F*ck?

The mushrooming use of surveillance cameras in Canada and the approving comfort derived by a majority of Canadians, combined to the continual, slow erosions of our civil rights (especially privacy), have already heralded the advent of the Canadian National Security Surveillance State - just as the Americans and the Britons have already welcomed the transformation of their countries into likewise National Security Surveillance States.

It is indeed a truism that fear and the need to feel secure and safe always trump unalienable civil rights, let alone humane values normally espoused by the citizens of a given democratic nation.

Still the question remains: how did all of this come about?


On the one hand, a substantial part of the answer can be boiled down to the following:
First - politicians continually prey on our fears of crime and terrorism (especially conservative politicos).

Second, law enforcement and security agencies continually demand better, greater tools/powers to "monitor" crime activity in order to be more efficient at catching criminals (and of course, terrorists) - remember their ever convenient rationale?

And third, security corporations prey on the fears of politicos, on the wet-dreams of law enforcement and security agencies, and on the (already stoked) fears of the populace, in order to not only create a market of surveillance technology but furthermore ever expand said market.
The same three points apply likewise with regards to increased indiscriminate domestic monitoring/spying (internet, emails, phones, credit cards, etc.), airport scanners and patdowns, the ever lowering threshold of reasonnable suspicion for searching and seizing without warrants (if not for the actual need for search warrants), and even the monstruosities that are security letters.

However, those three previous points explain the dynamic of how it all has come about - and keeps on worsening from a democratic point of view - but not the why of it.

Some two and a half years ago, I wrote the following which I present again herein, as I find it quite à propos for the subject of the present post:
Let it be known ad nauseam: living in a democracy is a right and a responsibility.

Granted, this responsibility requires effort. But which is better: having your back bent by the effort required to keep on living in a democratic society, or letting leave for complacency and find yourself one day with a back bent under a totalitarian regime (however benevolent it may be)?

It is high time to remember that it is indeed we who guard all the doors and hold all the keys of our democratic values and institutions.

It is, in the end, up to us to act as the Guardians and Caretakers of our constitutions, our civil rights and our civil liberties.

It has always been up to us.
Now, it must be understood quite clearly that when I use the term "us", I literally mean all citizens of a democratic society - from the unemployed to blue and white collar employed, from civilians to civil servants and military, from firefighters and police constables to sergeants, lieutenants, captains and chiefs, from journalists to reporters, from academicians to business owners (small and large), from clerks to elected representatives to cabinet ministers/secretaries, etc., etc., etc.

In other words: we are all citizens of our respective democratic societies - whether we are Canadians, Americans, Britons, and so on. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), sexual orientation, or musical/culinary/artistic/leisurely/whatever tastes.

Hence, the police officer stands no more apart from me as a citizen than my neighbor from across the street. Likewise, the richest people of the country stand no more apart from me as citizens than my elected MP or my Prime Minister.

Which in turn means that they have the same rights guaranteed under the constitution as you and I.

They also have the same democratic responsibilities as you and I.

The problem, of course, is that those we entrust with protecting us and/or serve us seem invariably to forget these simple verities - that they are no more special than you or I with regards to citizenship.

Still, they do forget these simple verities. Why? Perhaps because of some prevailing mentality to which they must ascribe in order to be accepted by their own respective professional (or elected) peers. Or perhaps the job, the entrusted powers and/or privileges, simply go to their heads, consequently inflating their egos to the point whereby they see themselves apart of the rest of us.

Yet through it all, most of us not only let them forget said aforementioned verities, but moreover most of us plainly forget them as well - period.

How else can the majority of "us" simply shrug without an iota of care when one who seeks our vote displays an utter ignorance of what Teh Constitution says and means, and furthermore elect that person nevertheless?

How else can the majority of "us" pay no attention whatsoever to the gravity of consequences implied by a proposal that voting should be restricted to property owners? What's next - restrict voting to those who make $500,000 and more? To those who serve as police, national security and army/navy/air force? (Should we even care?)

How else can the majority of "us" gladly surrender more and more of our rights in the name of security, regardless of the ballooning costs, if only because "we have nothing to hide"? And then shrug without a care at the alarming increasing number of abuses of power because ... it is someone else that is being abused, not "us"?

How else can the majority of "us" yawn and move on when a top official of one of our security agencies thinks that things such as rights, rule of law and Teh Constitution are hindrances that must be done away with in order to efficiently ensure the security of the Nation?

How else the majority of "us" simply doesn't care that the paranoid mindset of police and security agencies cares only about finding guilt (whether it is truly there or not), not the truth? And regardless whether you are actually innocent or not? (Which brings me back to abuses of power ... just one more example here among so many others)

How else the majority of "us" yawn in boredom upon hearing of secret laws (the very anti-thesis of common law in a democracy - one example here) and the growing acceptance of secret evidence as "evidence established" without cross-examination in judicial proceedings? Same thing regarding military tribunals?

How else the majority of "us" can shrug off the insidious infiltration of corporate lobbyists in the very process law writing/making, and the reality that we are living in a pre-corporatocracy where the mainstream/corporate media is nothing more than a subservient stenographer and defender of the "establishment"?

Because, "who cares?" - right? As long as we feel safe, we have a job and have access to our favorite entertainment, really, who should give a fuck about all of this?

And so now we have the why all of "this" has come about, and why it will only get worse:
First, you need prevalent incompetence in government, since abuse of power, slavery to expediency and deficiency of ethics and morals constitute three landmarks of incompetents.

Second, you need a populace generally afflicted with intellectual sloth-driven ignorance (or their righs, of their constitution, of facts) in order to keep it afraid of the "bad guys", therefore allowing the incompetent decision-makers to justify their abuse of power in the name of Security - a mendacious justification that is in turn all-too-eagerly accepted by the said largely ignorant and fearful populace.

Third, you need the legislative and judicial branches of government to be largely intellectual sloth-driven incompetents as well - therefore facilitating not only the acceptance of abuse of power from the government, but furthermore echoing the ignorance-based fear of the populace, consequently exhibiting an eagerness of compliance by legally ratifying said abuse of power after the fact.

And fourth - you need an equally intellectual sloth-driven MSM to spread the foul propaganda of the government, or conveniently turning a blind eye to said abuse, or even outright excusing said abuse, consequently solidifying its lies and mendacious justifications for abuse of power as "evident truth".
Consequently, here we are in a "perfect storm" to end our civil liberty-driven democracies and replacing them by authoritarian, corporatocracy-driven, security and surveillance states:
As I said before, no one is safe from the convenient rationale of security agencies to spy indiscriminately on their own citizens - when we allow them to do so, that is.

Of course, and as I discussed previously at length in numerous posts here at APOV (such as here, here or here, as a few exanples), a confluence of attitudes is required for a democracy to arrive at a stage whereby pervasive domestic spying comes to be not only instituted, but furthermore ratified as legal after the fact - despite its illegal nature to begin with.

Then voilà - you have abuse of power made legal throughout the land.
Now, simply add the aforementioned profit- and control-driven self-interest of corporations in widespread electronic surveillance, along with their control of mass media, and ... well, you should get the point now.

Then again - perhaps you just won't. Because, "who gives a fuck?" - right?

A democratic society, whether breathing through a parliamentary system or a republic one, can only bring about - and sustain - the commonwealth and common good of its citizens so long as said citizens (i.e. all citizens) remain knowledgeable, respectful and protective of their civil rights as entrenched in the constitution of their democratic society.

How ironic, then, that in these times of mass information so easily accessible, an increasing majority of our citizenry grows uninformed, uncaring or disrespectful of their constitution and their rights - let alone feeling any inclination in participating responsibly in the democratic process of their own society.

And how tragic this sad situation is as well, for it can only lead to one thing: the death of democracy and its replacement by some form of authoritarian regime - whether a corporatocratic one or otherwise.

So ... who gives a fuck?

Well, I do.

Do you?

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Spy ... Mendacity And Hypocrisy All Around

So. The US has been spying heavily on its allies and friends - including us.

No surprise there, eh?

In fact, it's nothing new - everybody spies (at least to some extent) on their friends and allies.

This is as old as the very first meetings between ancient civilizations/nations/empires.

Hence why the US won't apologize for this, all the while regretting nothing - except of course for the fact that their acts of espionage were leaked for all the world to see.

Then again, I remember the indignation and outrage regarding some suburban Russian spies in the US, not so long ago. And what happened consequently.

But no worries - the prosecution and/or deportation of US spies diplomats certainly won't happen here in Canada. Indeed, our own Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has already reassured us and the Americans that such spying activities won't "change the strong relationship that we have with the United States".

And never mind the previous indignation and outrage at finding out that China has been spying on us ... for quite some time at that. Or that "foreigners" have been influencing Canadian politics, for that matter (and never mind that we do the same elsewhere, even in the US - as this recent instance well illustrates).

In this respect, I also remember the utterly bogus "Canadian spy-loonie affair" - and how it was essentially received with a shrug of "who knows?" on the part of the US.

However, what actually increases the unease in me is the following (emphasis added):
The July 2009 directive to embassies around the world, including the one in Ottawa, asked diplomats to go beyond collecting the usual information of name, title and phone number. Diplomats were also asked to pass along “Internet and intranet ‘handles,’ Internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs, credit card account numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules and other relevant biographical information.”
Now, what would such information be of use to the US, except as to provide the means for any eventual operation targeting specific ministers (Prime or otherwise, federal or provincial), high officials (civil or military), business leaders, scientific leaders, etc., for "pressuring" (e.g. voting for, or against, something in order to favor US interests) or "removal" (e.g. muckraking in order to leak terribly embarrassing or even criminal information, or performing actual identity theft to socially, politically or even criminally compromise the target)?

Aside from the fact that this the kind of private information that identity thieves actually crave, is there anybody out there that still believe that the US would never-ever-ever do anything like this?

Aside from war crimes, torture, assassinations, renditions, indefinite detentions and indiscriminate drone bombings anywhere they please, that is?

Well as a matter of fact, our fine-fine-fine Minister of Foreign Affairs is not even appalled or troubled by such elevated spying activities on the part of the US. No, he instead finds deplorable that "documents like this are leaked in this fashion (by WikiLeaks)".

So, there.

Because, you know, this is not about what WikiLeaks, well, keeps on leaking, but instead this is all about WikiLeaks itself and the terrible, horrible danger it represents.

Case in point: its past leaks on the Iraq war? Countless - I repeat: countless - lives were put at risk consequently! (except that, no ... not a single life was endangered despite the propaganda run by the US government and a compliant mainstream media to the contrary).

Another case in point: its past leaks on the Afghan war? Again countless - I repeat again: countless - lives were put at risk consequently! (except that, no ... again, not a single life was endangered despite the propaganda run by the US government and a compliant mainstream media to the contrary).

In fact, the only casualties that have resulted in the activities of WikiLeaks are the image of the US as a law-abiding, Geneva convention-following, human rights-protecting, honest and gosh-darn-it-all-around Good Guy, and the misplaced pride of a government-subservient mainstream media.

Hence, why WikiLeaks must not only be stopped, but it must furthermore be deemed as a foreign terrorist organization! They are criminals constituting a criminal syndicate! We have to classify them as enemy combatants!!! How dare they leak Teh Truth of things (such as this, or this disgusting autoritarian crap)?!? This is a veritable attack on the International Community!!! We must hunt them down like the terrorists they are!!! And ... and ... and ...

Ahh, the nauseating, blatant, mendacious, all around hypocrisy of it all.

Again, nothing new here.

At all.

It's all par for the course - take this yet other example to this effect.

Nevertheless, I dare say this: Canadians and Americans - Hypocrisy is thy name.

Rather, Cowardice is.

Or perhaps both.

Yet, I know your complacent, automated, numb retort all too well: "what - me worry?"

Quite right.

Quite right, indeed.

(sigh)

And The Mendacity Of Harper And Co. Keeps On Going ...

... and going and going and going.

Just like that annoying Energizer bunny.

Case in point (emphasis added):

Canada will establish “equivalent” regulations for major polluters if the Obama administration in the United States goes ahead with a plan to demand greener technology in new industrial plants, Environment Minister John Baird says.

It now appears that efforts to pass a U.S. bill that would create a cap-and-trade system to control greenhouse-gas emissions are doomed, so the Obama administration has taken steps toward regulating polluters with its own executive power, through the Environmental Protection Agency.

In Canada, where the Harper Conservatives have insisted that moving faster than the United States to cut emissions would damage the economy, Mr. Baird said in an interview with The Globe and Mail that federal officials will try to match U.S. steps with equivalent measures, but won’t be able to completely harmonize with state-by-state enforcement of new EPA rules.

Canada, the United States and other nations are convening at an international climate-change conference in Cancun, Mexico, this week, where hope for progress is dim (...)

The EPA measures would require major new industrial plants to use the best available technology to limit emissions as of Jan. 2. But the system is supposed to be implemented by each state when it issues permits for plants, so it is unclear what it will mean in practice. Moreover, there are political and legal challenges to the EPA measures.

Mr. Baird said Canada won’t be able to harmonize its own regulations with that kind of complex system, but will look to impose equivalent regulations.

“As things progress, we’ll be establishing equivalents,” he said. “If the EPA has a plan that can be successful and can actually regulate large final emitters, we have every interest in the world to have equivalencies that go as far or farther than them.”

In areas where the United States adopts a national standard for emissions regulations, Canada can harmonize its regulations, but in others, it will have to hammer out a different but equal measure, Mr. Baird said.

“Obviously, in some areas we can have full-on harmonization, like for automobiles, for light trucks, where we can adopt the same tough standards to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. We’ve done that in those areas. In other areas, we’re going to have to have equivalencies, because the Canadian system and the reality is different.”

The EPA regulations still face a political battle in the U.S. Congress, where some senators want to block them for two years.

Mr. Baird noted that the new regulations apply only to new plants and major expansions. To be effective, regulations will have to require that existing plants start to adapt to the best available technology, he said.

“The U.S. is signalling [that] with new plants they want the best available technology, and that’s something we strongly support for new plants. But let’s underline the fact that we’ve got to tackle the existing large emitters. We can't give them a pass, that would be a huge mistake.

What we have here (of course) is yet more self-serving, hypocritical double-talking on the part of a Harpie Environment Minister (does it really matter at this point whether it's Baird -again- or not?). Here's why:

1) The coyly-delivered mantra of "we're waiting for the US to harmonize with them" is nothing-new-kind-of pure bullshit served as an excuse to do absolutely nothing about fighting climate change - as already well Q.E.D.'ed over and over and over again.

2) The pious, empty claim of being/wanting to be "on top" of big polluters/large emitters constitutes yet more talking the talk but not walking the walk on their part regarding fighting climate change. Such blatant self-promoting, self-aggrandizing bullshit is even more galling when considering the following:
- from day one, the Harpies have never considered fighting climate change a priority issue ... except whenever they feel the need to give it politically-expedient lip-service;
- accordingly, the Harpies have buried damning environmental reports ... more than once;
- additionally, the Harpies have not only strangled slowly environmental/climate change science research by hypocritical, mendacious and willfull attrition, they've finally come around to start cutting off funding altogether;
- not surprisingly, Canadian diplomats (who get their orders from ... the Harper government) have been quietly dealing with Big Oil Corporations (such as Exxon and BP) to help them kill U.S. global-warming policies in order to ensure that Alberta oil keeps on flowing into the U.S. marketplace;
- also not surprisingly, the Harpies have already canceled a program that helped businesses to conduct energy audits to pinpoint areas where they could reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases;
- true to form, the Harpies killed the climate change accountability act (Bill C-311) in the Senate, a heavily modified/downsized/shriveled incarnation of Bill-288 which had been passed more than three years ago by the House of Commons, claiming (as usual) that the bill was flawed, irresponsible, useless, ineffective at cutting anything and ... and .. and ... bad for the economy (what else is new here, exactly?);
- meanwhile, Canada has not only been ranking quite low among industrialized countries in matters of fighting climate change, but furthermore has managed to fall behind the US already in matters of developing clean/renewable energy.
3) In addition to the above, the sheer hypocrisy of the Harpies in the matter of climate change and their claim to want to fight it by harmonizing with the US is all the more revealed when considering the following:
- big polluters/large emitters in the US are already freed from environmental oversight, thanks to President Obama's stimulus package;
- bis repetita: Canadian diplomats (who get their orders from ... the Harper government) have been quietly dealing with Big Oil Corporations (such as Exxon and BP) to help them kill U.S. global-warming policies in order to ensure that Alberta oil keeps on flowing into the U.S. marketplace;
- as Mr. Baird himself admitted, the new EPA regulations put forth by President Obama apply only to vehicles, new plants and/or major expansions of older facilities;
- with the climate change-denialist Republicans back to controlling the Congress, you can not only expect zero progress on fighting climate change from the US for the next two-to-five years at least (especially with the Senate Democrats pissing even more in their pants following the last general elections), but furthermore expect their ignorance- and monetary/lobby-based sheer insanity on the matter to continue full blown without any restraint whatsoever.
So, to summarize: a Harper Minister of the Environment coyly proclaims (again) that Canada is simply - but eagerly - waiting on the US to harmonize greenhouse gases emission regulations, knowing full well that the US ain't gonna do a damn thing about this in the foreseeable future.

Conclusion: Harper and his Harpies keep on finding any excuse to avoid doing anything about climate change, all the while trying to pass themselves off as willing and determined to do something about it.

Funny, but this reminds me of a quote from our Prime Douchebag of some three years ago:
"Canada won't meet its Kyoto targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but can be a world leader in battling climate change."
And what magnificent leadership we have provided so far indeed, eh?

Why, the world is in awe of us Canuckleheads!

Yeah ... ri-i-ight ...


(P.S. oh, and by the way: I'm ba-ack!)