Wednesday, July 01, 2009

"...nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror..."

Selling ice to an Eskimo is supposedly some kind of measure of the prowess of an advocate. Looked at one way, convincing someone they want to part with something of value in exchange for something they clearly don't need is an impressive display of the art of persuasion and of the ability to dispatch logic and reason with a carefully calculated series of suggestion.

From a different set of eyes, though, obfuscating reality for gain in exchange for worthless fodder is at best immoral and at worst completely fraudulent.

And so I look, wide-eyed, at the perpetual media barrage through which the State is selling safety to Albertans in exchange for civil liberties and democratic freedoms. Alberta's Minister of Justice and Solicitor General and our increasingly politicised Chiefs of Police are behaving either as impressive advocates or immoral fraudsters in the ongoing plight to better position the boots of State power on the backs of the necks of the citizenry.

Consider the following news item on June 29th with the headline "Helping to drive off gangs":

An amendment to the provincial Traffic Safety Act gives police the power to order safety inspections of armoured vehicles, allowing them to immediately seize those driven by gangs. The move is a positive, pre-emptive strike against organized crime, even though it offers little practical use to local police. The vehicles have never been spotted here, but they are the luxury car of choice for gangsters in B. C.

Now, in case you missed it, I'll separate the wheat from the chaff for you:

"The vehicles have never been spotted here..."

This article was a follow up to an earlier June 25th headline in the Calgary Herald that read:

"Alberta challenges Ottawa to ban "killing machines"

Redford says they pose a safety threat to other drivers.

"Anyone of us can be stopped at a red light next to one of these vehicles, one of these moving targets, and not even know it," she said.

"After-market modifications also generally add significant weight to the vehicle and that impacts traffic safety. If that weight is not offset by an enhanced engine, suspension and brakes, the vehicle is unsafe and poses a serious risk to other drivers on the roads. We need to get these vehicles, which are weapons in and of themselves, off the streets."


Calgary police have not seen any armoured vehicles driven by gangsters in the city--but they do regularly search cars with hidden compartments for drugs and loaded guns.

"We know they're there, we just haven't come across any of them," said police Chief Rick Hanson.

Okay, Chief, I guess we'll have to take your word for it. Knowledge is, after all, a tricky high-level philosophical quagmire. As we are repeatedly told, the police know who the gang members are, though they've never successfully charged any person with being one. And they know who committed most of the so-called gang murders, they just don't have that pesky stuff called evidence sufficient to actually charge anyone. Minister Redford must be right we need to take these vehicles that no one has ever seen on our streets off the streets!!!! Now!!!!

I'm sorry, but I think I'm totally with Kent Hehr, MLA on this one:

Alberta Liberal justice critic Kent Hehr says the announcement is only "an attempt to appear tough on crime."

"I put forward a bill to make our streets safer. The minister killed that bill, and now she's playing Mad Max chasing imaginary criminals in non-existent armoured cars," said Hehr.

Instead, the government should be devoting resources to "more immediate criminal threats."

"There is no indication that this is a necessary measure right now. This is not a real problem in Calgary, or any other part of Alberta. If I were cynical, I might conclude that this is a measure designed to feed off public fears."

This article itself was a follow up from a previous June 24th article in the Calgary Herald that ran under the following headline:

"Alberta to ban gangster vehicles"

Except for some aboriginals and the traditional bikers, most members don't wear colours or announce themselves in any way. The gang leader could be the kid across the street or the young businessman in the next apartment.

Redford says some gangsters are moving to lavish houses in rural areas. Once established, they use younger siblings and recruits to infiltrate local schools

What?!?!? The kid next door could be a gang leader?...I could be at a stop-light beside a gangster in a killing machine and not even know it?...And he's on his way to a mixer at the kindergarten down the block? THANK GOD WE'VE BEEN SPARED THE MAYHEM...of the thing that was never here in the first place. Thank you Alberta government, I thought I was safe until you told me I wasn't safe and then passed a law that made me safe again...PHEW...that was close.

Now, look, I know that Alberta is land-locked and our climate a bit different than tropical oceans, but how can we possibly not also have a law that bans Great White Sharks from our glacial lakes?!?!?!?! I mean, I've seen the Discovery Channel and in places off the coast of Australia, people are routinely dying from Great White attacks.

I mean, I hate to even think it, but if you tell me to I will, but is there a plot to take out the iconic Calgary Tower with a West Jet Airbus?:

"Alberta police chiefs warn of terrorism following in the wake of gangs"


Chicken Little thought the sky falling was Alberta, sasquatch, boogeymen, and the Loch Ness Monster are actually taking sky by the handful, loading it into RPG's and shooting it at us from their highly fortified paramilitary luxury cars!

Okay, the facetiousness is getting a bit thick.

So, I'll go back to the title of this post. It is part of a quote that is incredibly well known...but for a different part of the quote. The whole expanded quote is as follows:

This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.

So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear. . .is fear itself. . . nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Inaugural Address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, March 4th, 1933.

On this anniversary of Canada's birth, these words of an American President are apposite. The USA is in a transition from an era of legislation outlawing habeas corpus for persons detained without charges, of legislation permitting State monitoring of private conversations, of legal memoranda torturing language to allow the Executive branch of government to deny the use of torture, and the list goes on.

The current American President had this to say on the topic in his Inaugural Address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

In the words of Edmonton Police Chief Mike Boyd:

"Often trends that we see in other parts of the world often emerge here in Canada, and we need to get out in front of these things..."

Let's cut the rhetoric, deal with real problems, end the fear-mongering and avoid giving up our rights and freedoms to the State who promises to benevolently protect us from the very fears they have conjured. Let us too reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

The justice system is not broken just because bad things happen to good people. Reasonable bail is a Constitutional right and not a plague in our society. A patient should have confidentiality with his doctor...even if he has a puncture wound. Private property should not be seized by the government based on a belief that it might be used for crime.

This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. There are undoubtedly gangs operating in this province. There is undoubtedly gun crime occurring from time to time. There are unquestionably victims of crime who don't deserve what they get.

But, Alberta is undeniably a safe place to live and we need not accept every politician's sounding of alarms as genuine and we need not accept police officers being given more power to curtail liberties as a positive outcome. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself...and just how much freedom a government can take from its citizens when they are afraid.


Blogger Rob said...

It's true that reasonable bail is a Constitutional right. But, it's also an arcane aspect of are system, utterly useless in the modern world. The vast majority of people, can safely be let go, while waiting trial, as they know the consequences for failing to do so are extremely severe, and few wish to live a life on the run. In modern times, living your whole life on the run, just doesn't work for most people. Heavy bail often devastates the lives of completely harmless people, for no purpose whatsoever.

Those that wish to flee a pending trial, would do so anyhow, regardless of how much bail has been set for them. Nobody planning to flee to avoid a life sentence, is going to turn themselves in just to get some bail money back.

So, basically, almost everybody falls into one of two groups: the majority who should be freed without bail, and the minority who should be jailed, without bail.

The only thing bail is good for, is keeping loan sharks in business.

4:26 a.m.  
Blogger M Bates said...

gorden - should we also be legislating against killer bees? We actually know they exist and there is some science to suggest they are migrating northward. Isn't the list of dangerous things that we don't have in Alberta infinitely long? Should we not deal with problems we already have rather than ones that could come here?

Rob - The term "bail" in Canada really refers to "judicial interim release". Bail connotes cash money, but in Canada most people's bail orders do not include cash deposits...and the ones that do are most commonly only a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

The majority of people do follow their release conditions (commonly including no contact orders, curfews and other sucht things) and as such the bail system is still a very important part of maintaining confidence in a justice system which does uphold the presumption of innocence.

Thank you both for your comments

8:36 a.m.  

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