Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Further Reflection

At the risk of seeming a tad obsessed about James Forcillo, I feel compelled to do yet another post on him and Sammy Yatim, the troubled teen he recklessly and needlessly gunned down three years ago.

We all know there is a great deal of injustice in the world, the bulk of which is not open to easy resolution. Sometimes all we can do is bear witness to that injustice and the suffering it causes. Although hardly an adequate response, a small gesture at best, it is, in my view, better than silence.

First, on the fact that Forcillo has been granted bail due to his pending appeal, this is what Justice Eileen Gillese had to say about releasing the criminal officer:
“Despite the seriousness of the offence for which the Appellant stands convicted,” she wrote, “in my view, fully informed members of the community will objectively understand and accept that it is not contrary to the public interest that he be released.”
The fact that he will now be under house arrest pending his appeal (which begs the question of whether house arrest will constitute 'time served' should his conviction be upheld) is not sitting well with everyone:
Criminal defence and constitutional lawyer Annamaria Enenajor, who wasn’t involved in the case, said there can be a disconnect between what the courts may consider to be supporting public confidence in the justice system and what the public actually feels.

“As a member of the public, I’m outraged by the conduct of Officer Forcillo but I also I view it in the broader context of police violence and impunity. So my understanding of what diminishes my confidence in the administration of justice might be quite different than that of a judge who is really only dealing only with the case in front of them,” she said.

“The reasonable person, who according to the court who is the holder of the public opinion, is somebody who trusts the police, believes the police implicitly and has confidence in them. And that’s not generally representative of many members of society.”
Annamaria Enenajor may be reflecting the concerns of the broader community here, but what about those of the Yatim family, who have suffered grievously over the loss of their son and brother?

Nabil Yatim, Sammy's father, speaks of their ongoing trauma:
Yatim, 68, is thoughtful, articulate, reflective, but he struggles to explain the pain of the past three years. “You go through hell and back — how I can describe that more?”

Immediately after getting the news of his son’s death while on a business trip in the U.S., Yatim, a retail management consultant, says he took things hour by hour, day by day. He became a “hermit,” never wanting to go out, avoiding family and friends, because the subject was always the same.

“You’ve been thinking about it all day and all night, the last thing you want to do is talk about it some more, so you become isolated,” he said. “And you just kind of nurse your wounds, in a sense. It was horrible. It still is.”

Harder still is the public nature of the family’s grief. Sammy’s death and the unprecedented conviction of a police officer for attempted murder have made international headlines. Yatim finds himself reluctant to introduce himself to strangers, knowing his name will prompt questions — are you related to Sammy?

“People are so nice, and they mean well, but sometimes you just don’t want to open up (your) wounds again, every minute of every day.”

With psychiatric help and medication, Yatim says he is at least now able to sleep. “I have a little bit more strength than I thought,” he said.
But he and his wife are not the only people contending with the aftermath of Sammy's death. Sammy's sister, two years younger than her brother, has undergone trauma that I think few of us can fully appreciate:
In the hours after Sammy’s death, it was Sarah, then 16, who had to identify her brother’s body. She is “traumatized,” and has dropped out of school. “I am very concerned about her,” Yatim said.

He is trying to get her professional help, even check her into a residence program to treat post-traumatic stress, but the family can’t afford it, Yatim said.
The other day, in speaking on the conviction of Forcillo, Mike McCormick, head of the Toronto police union, said,
“This is a tragic day for the Forcillo family, the Yatim family - there will never be any good outcome from this, it's tragic all around.”
That may well be, but perhaps Nabil Yatim's pained observation about Forcillo sums up a stark reality that puts things into a truer perpesctive:
“He gets to go home. My son sleeps in an urn.”

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Skating Party For Forcillo

What many of us feared has happened. James Forcillo has been granted bail:
Justice Eileen Gillese’s decision was released to counsel by email this morning.

“The Appellant’s release, pending the determination of his appeal, poses no risk to the public as there is no risk that he would commit further offences,” Gillese wrote.

“For the reasons given, despite the seriousness of the offence for which the Appellant stands convicted, in my view, fully informed members of the community will objectively understand and accept that it is not contrary to the public interest that he be released.”
I guess Justice Gillese's definition of the public interest is far narrower than mine. It should bother everyone that the public's interest in seeing justice swiftly served continues to be ignored.

Kind of gives new meaning to the term 'contempt of court,' doesn't it?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Forcillo Is Sentenced, But Is It Justice?

Toronto police officer James Forcillo, who gunned down Sammy Yatim three years ago, has been given six years for his despicable act. Is it justice? I don't know.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Our Arrogance Knows No Limits

Not even the most powerful water canons in the world would seem able to tame the fires of our collective arrogance, self-indulgence, bloated lifestyles and sense of entitlement. Look where they have gotten us:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Looking Into The Abyss: A Guest Post By Pamela MacNeil

Yesterday, my post consisted of three letters culled from a larger series by Star readers reflecting on the dire state of both the U.S. Republican Party and American society. Pamela MacNeil, always an insightful commentator, offered some very interesting observations about both. I am featuring them here as a guest post:

I listened to a JFK speech the other day Lorne. If you're interested, you can find it at #NoWar2016 and what Kennedy said, Some people consider it his greatest speech and some even think it's what contributed to his assassination.

The speech was about PEACE. Why do I bring this up? Strictly for contrasts. Compare this speech with Trump's nomination speech. Implicitly, both speeches are a reflection of American culture. Kennedy's speech reflects a culture that was serious about ideas, where an intelligent President could articulate how a viable option of peace over the cold war could be achieved. Trumps speech reflects a culture that is intellectually and morally bankrupt. It contains no serious ideas and in fact sounds more like something that would be said at a marketing or business meeting. More importantly it reveals a culture not only in decline, but a culture intellectually having reached rock bottom where all that dominates is faith and force. American culture has gone from the political sophistication and the pursuit of progressive ideals of a JFK to the anti-intellectual rhetoric and sleaze of a Donald Trump.

The GOP with its Evangelical and neoliberal beliefs reflects a culture of power and entitlement. They do not bring anything beneficial to the table for the average American. They are political zombies. Having no political ideas, they need a leader who reflects that lack. Anyone with political substance and intelligence, or even common sense, would completely avoid the GOP. They would feel embarrassed to be associated with this mindless group called the GOP. Donald Trump feels no such embarrassment.

Do Americans ever wonder why they once had an intellectually sophisticated president such as JFK and now have a presidential candidate whose character is that of a P.T. Barnum barker?

Who is responsible for the American cultural and political destruction? Why have Americans stood by and watched their governments, both Democrats and Republicans, turn their country into an ignorant war monger that wants to dominate the world?

Going from a political culture under JFK to a political culture under Trump is like going from super sonic jet travel back to the horse and buggy.

An empire in decline and with its nuclear weapons one that could take the rest of the world with it.

Americans don't seem to know it, but they are looking into a cultural abyss.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Party Of Lincoln

H/t Toronto Star

A series of letters excoriating the deplorable state of American politics and society, epitomized by Donald Trump's presidential nomination, is well-worth the read. Here are but three of them:
The unthinkable has happened. The party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan has nominated Donald Trump for president.

A storm is coming for Republicans in November. They richly deserve the pounding they will get at the polls from the millions of Americans who are repulsed by this egocentric, racist, misogynistic bloviating bag of gas. They will lose the White House in a landslide, control of the Senate, possibly the House and countless governorships and state legislatures across the country.

The good news in all of this is that the Grand Old Party will be forced – finally -- to re-think everything it has done, condoned and stood for the in the last 20 years that allowed Trump to go from a joke to presidential nominee. And that is long overdue.

John Bruce, Niagara Falls

In 1967, H. Rap Brown said: “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” It’s still true.

In 1791, when the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was written, muzzle-loading muskets were high tech. At that time, there was an excuse for guns: wild meat was essential food, bears roamed streets, and the British menaced.

Second Amendment authors couldn’t have foreseen modern assault rifles. Since then, however, no government has had the courage to limit sales of these weapons. Rather than legislating to reduce mass murders of their constituents, or acting to limit corporate power now sucking all oxygen out of the world, politicians welcome gun-lobby donations to fund elections.

The United States was founded on a violent revolution. Their Civil War killed over a million people, more deaths than all other U.S. wars together. They have witnessed the assassination of four presidents and attempts on the lives of sixteen others. Mayhem in America is a daily occurrence, but is mostly unacknowledged in prosperous, white enclaves; few people make connections between tragic events. While some grieve and pray, many are filled with fear and anger, and divisive media fan the flames.

And now, the U.S. has an overtly racist and incompetent presidential candidate. It’s hard not to imagine more riots and more deaths,

regardless of who wins in November. Is the U.S. unraveling before our eyes? Who will, who can, step forward?

Douglas Buck, Toronto

Having just watched the roll call of states at the Republican National Convention, I am reminded of pre World War II Germany, when Hitler gained the support of the country by terrorizing them and uniting them to be the supreme nation and the supreme Aryan race. I see little difference (except that as yet he has not proposed “the final solution”); make the U.S. secure by barring immigrants, let white Americans keep and carry their guns, build walls, etc. He uses any tactic to frighten Americans into voting for him. The governor of New Mexico, of Mexican descent, has disavowed her own parents by supporting Trump!

I used to go to the U.S. for holidays – never again.

Cynthia Stark, Toronto

Sunday, July 24, 2016

UPDATED: Scenes From Hell, And A Small Effort At Climate-Change Adaptation

It may seem rather pararochial that whenever I post video showing the current effects of climate change, I almost always post scenes from North America, despite the fact that floods, fires, heatwaves and other such apocalyptic signs are present throughout much of the world. Part of the reason is that compelling video of such disasters is readily available, thanks to the good coverage given by NBC, whose main concern is the United States. The other reason is a more basic one: while it is hard to relate to scenes of flooding, for example, from faraway places such as China, when it is in our backyard, i.e., North America, the perils and the threats seem far more immediate, urgent and relatable.

With that in mind, take a look at the following clip, which deals with the conflagrations so regularly engulfing California. For me, the scene that is most moving involves the efforts to evacuate both the horses and the inhabitants of a wildlife sanctuary. I'll introduce the second clip afterwards.

In response to my previous post, The Mound of Sound wrote this:
At some point, Lorne, the question becomes how we and our governments at all levels, especially provincial and local, will act on adaptation. If, over the next five or ten years, these "heat domes" you're currently experience worsen and become the norm adaptive measures will be essential especially in "heat islands" such as Toronto and the GTA. If summer droughts are recurrent it may be necessary for the agricultural sector to begin switching into heat and drought resistant crops. These things aren't long term answers. They don't solve the problems. They merely buy time. Perhaps we'll manage to get Trudeau or his successor to switch their focus from bitumen and pipelines into the survival of our civilization or is that too much to ask?
The issue of adaptation does come up in the following clip, a story about how rising sea levels are threatening the wild horses of Assateague Island, off the Maryland coast. Yet, as I think you will agree, the efforts thus far seem puny compared to the magnitude of the threat. Kind of like closing the proverbial barn door after the horses have escaped, perhaps?

Kate Snow, in introducing the above story, describes how the horses are under threat by "Mother Nature herself." Surely that is a mischaracterization. Humanity's collective willfulness, selfishness and mulish refusal to confront the threats we ourselves have wrought are surely to blame. And sadly, our natures seem to lack any real capacity for attitude or lifestyle adaptation to what is destroying us.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, over in the Middle East, things are equally dire.

On Thursday and Friday, with a strong area of high pressure parked across the Middle East, high temperatures soared above 125 degrees Fahrenheit, or 51.6 degrees Celsius, in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and western Iran.

In the community of Mitribah, Kuwait, the high temperature rocketed to a record-setting 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 54 degrees Celsius.

On Friday, Basra, Iraq, which has a population of more than 1 million, also hit 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the World Meteorological Organization verifies these records, they would become the hottest temperature recorded on Earth outside of Death Valley, California, which holds the title of the hottest temperature on record.

This would make the Kuwait and Iraq readings the hottest temperature on record in the eastern hemisphere as well as the hottest on record in Asia.