In Remembrance, Robert Dziekanski

NOVEMBER 21, 2007

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Alright, I have to talk about Robert Dziekanski.

For those of you who don't know, there was a death at Vancouver's Int'l Airport (YVR) last month. A death of tasering by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Robert Dziekanski was the victim, a 40-yr old Polish immigrant on his first international flight who spoke no english and was immigrating to Canada to live with his mother. His mother (erroneously) told him to just wait at the baggage claim area. But she didn't realize or forgot that baggage claim is still in the secured area, and she would not be able to meet him there as she thought. For ten hours, Dziekanski waited for his mother at the luggage carousels. *10 hours*. Just outside the doors, his mother waited seven hours in the public receiving area. After that, she figured he must have missed his flight and headed back for home in inner BC. Anyway, in those ten hours lost and confused and wondering where his mother was, Dziekanski grew agitated and the authority came in and tasered him, twice, to restrain him. Dziekanski died as a result of the electric jolts.

I remember when I first flew to YVR back in 1998. I was equally confused about the setup. It was my first time through international airport customs and security. Sim hadn't told me that he didn't have access to baggage claim. So I was lost as can be, and just focused on following the rest of the crowd. Eventually, I found my way out of the public area. But I think I had to ask someone in baggage claim area where to go next. Thankfully for me, I could speak english. I cannot imagine what a horror it'd be to do all that and not speak a word of english. Of course, one can always say why didn't he learn basic english on the long flight over? Why did he not talk to an authority, even in polish? Surely someone would've sent over a translator. Why didn't he just watch and do as the thousands of other arrivers as they went through the last check before leaving the secured area? So many questions could be asked. And hopefully with a full inquiry, some of these questions may be answered. But point is, YVR does NOT make much effort to make it an easy transition to a first-timer. I don't recall seeing any signs that point to the end of the security gate. It's very ambiguous, and you have to rely on observation to get the idea of what to do. YVR should realize this, and make changes to allow more ease. Sure this was a one-time thing, but I'm sure I'm not the only person around who felt confusion the first time in YVR.

What made me most angry about this whole situation was the cover-up by the officers who were on duty. A photographer managed to videotape the last ten minutes of Dziekanski's life, and it discounted what the RCMP was saying happened. Thank goodness for that. But, I haven't worked up the desire to watch the video of Dziekanski's death. One thing to see people blown up in an action movie. It's another to watch the death of a real person. In the same place you've been countless times in travels. I feel it's a bit of an invasion. A person's death is a personal thing. And do I really need to see that to know what happened? I should, I know. And maybe one of these days, I will. But not yet.

I'm tired of hearing about the taser. Now I understand it's a lot nicer than pulling a gun on someone. But I think it's almost made the job too easy for police, all police around North America. Now instead of using their wits to restrain, they just taser the hell out of anything that moves. Tasering someone two times? Give me a break. Surely someone could've been over there immediately after the first taser to handcuff him. No reason to show excessive brutality. Especially as you probably also know he's been walking around there for ten hours beforehand. That'd make anyone agitated. After seeing someone walk around unhelped for ten hours, why don't you go over to him and ask him if you can help? There are always staff around the area. It's a big open area. Why didn't anybody go help him beforehand? Ten hours! I don't just blame RCMP for this, I also blame YVR for not helping him in those ten hours he likely needed it.

I can't say it's murder, as the death wasn't intentional. But it's a true shame. And highly avoidable.

filed in Current Events | by Christine at 11:11 AM on 2007-11-21 | permalink | comment


JUNE 20, 2007
When FoxNews justifies torture by mentioning Jack Bauer, that's one thing. When MSNBC says it, that's another. And when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says it? My eyeballs start spinning in my head.

Justice Antonin Scalia is one of the most powerful judges on the planet.

The job of the veteran U.S. Supreme Court judge is to ensure that the superpower lives up to its Constitution. But in his free time, he is a fan of 24, the popular TV drama where the maverick federal agent Jack Bauer routinely tortures terrorists to save American lives. This much was made clear at a legal conference in Ottawa this week.

Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing remark - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in Judge Scalia barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent's rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

"Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. "Say that criminal law is against him? 'You have the right to a jury trial?' Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so.

"So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes."

What happened next was like watching the National Security Judges International All-Star Team set into a high-minded version of a conversation that has raged across countless bars and dinner tables, ever since 24 began broadcasting six seasons ago.

Okay Jack Bauer should never be mentioned in the court of US law. Not even casually. Especially in the Supreme Court. Because Jack Bauer does not exist. And although torture seems to work like a charm for CTU, it doesn't really work in the real world. And that's the true scary part. The lines are seeming to blur between fact and fiction, between reality and entertainment.

What a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world we live in.

filed in Current Events | by Christine at 9:40 PM on 2007-06-20 | permalink | comment

The note that could implicate, or Cheney's godawful handwriting

FEBRUARY 1, 2007

Copies of handwritten notes by Vice President Dick Cheney, introduced at trial by defense attorneys for former White House staffer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, would appear to implicate George W. Bush in the Plame CIA Leak case.

Bush has long maintained that he was unaware of attacks by any member of his administration against [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson. The ex-envoy's stinging rebukes of the administration's use of pre-war Iraq intelligence led Libby and other White House officials to leak Wilson's wife's covert CIA status to reporters in July 2003 in an act of retaliation.

But Cheney's notes, which were introduced into evidence Tuesday during Libby's perjury and obstruction-of-justice trial, call into question the truthfulness of President Bush's vehement denials about his prior knowledge of the attacks against Wilson. The revelation that Bush may have known all along that there was an effort by members of his office to discredit the former ambassador begs the question: Was the president also aware that senior members of his administration compromised Valerie Plame's undercover role with the CIA?

Further, the highly explicit nature of Cheney's comments not only hints at a rift between Cheney and Bush over what Cheney felt was the scapegoating of Libby, but also raises serious questions about potentially criminal actions by Bush. If Bush did indeed play an active role in encouraging Libby to take the fall to protect Karl Rove, as Libby's lawyers articulated in their opening statements, then that could be viewed as criminal involvement by Bush.

Scroll down to the end of the linked page for the actual scanned-in documents. This is what it says:

"Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy this Pres that was asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

While I think the ambiguity of it all won't alone hold Bush accountable, I think it's definitely worth pursuing. Via digg.

filed in Current Events | by Christine at 10:14 AM on 2007-02-01 | permalink | comment

More troops will not fix the problem

JANUARY 11, 2007
Juan Cole: To listen to Bush's speech on Wednesday, you would imagine that al-Qaeda has occupied large swathes of Iraq with the help of Syria and Iran and is brandishing missiles at the US mainland. That the president of the United States can come out after nearly four years of such lies and try to put this fantasy over on the American people is shameful.

The answer to "al-Qaeda's" occupation of neighborhoods in Baghdad and the cities of al-Anbar is then, Bush says, to send in more US troops to "clear and hold" these neighborhoods.

But is that really the big problem in Iraq? Bush is thinking in terms of a conventional war, where armies fight to hold territory. But if a nimble guerrilla group can come out at night and set off a bomb at the base of a large tenement building in a Shiite neighborhood, they can keep the sectarian civil war going. They work by provoking reprisals. They like to hold territory if they can. But as we saw with Fallujah and Tal Afar, if they cannot they just scatter and blow things up elsewhere.

But people don't quite get that. And stop calling the militants in Iraq "al-Qaeda". How grossly they've tacked that small organization's name to every single reactive action that has happened since the onset of war. Now I can see why some Americans often confuse Saddam for Osama.

[via AmericaBlog]

filed in Current Events | by Christine at 10:11 AM on 2007-01-11 | permalink | 1 comment

Project Hamad

JANUARY 11, 2007
The lawyers for Adel Hamad took extraordinary measures on behalf of their client, traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan to verify his story and to take video testimony from people who knew him at the hospital where he worked. "Guantánamo Unclassified" is the result.

These detainees need trials, people. If they are guilty, let them come to justice. But we can't assume ownership over another human being, keeping him away from his family for years and years if he's not actually guilty.

I still can't swallow the pride of some Americans knowing that places like Guantánamo are open and operating. Don't they realize that their country is abandoning their virtuous ideals about fair trials to play havoc with the lives of other human beings? Or do they just not care? Something tells me I know the answer but I would rather not believe it.

filed in Current Events | by Christine at 9:40 AM on 2007-01-11 | permalink | comment

SEPTEMBER 29, 2006
This Is What Waterboarding Looks Like

Torture is torture. And it just doesn't work. How would you like to be strapped to that thing? Would you tell them what they would want to hear? Oh yeah, and rape is also not considered torture. Uh huh. Rape. Bend over and have a nice day.

filed in Current Events | by Christine at 11:00 AM on 2006-09-29 | permalink | comment

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