A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s connection to U.S. Supreme Court’s same sex marriage ruling”

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Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc notes how gay marriage in Toronto paved the way for same-sex marriage’s breakthroughs in the United States.

There’s a strange but compellingly human irony in that fact that last week’s momentous same-sex marriage ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court can be traced back to a relationship between two Ontario women who had lived together for almost a decade in a relationship that subsequently fell apart.

Their private acrimony triggered a court battle that set the legal stage for the City of Toronto’s move to start issuing marriage licenses in 2003 to same sex couples — among them, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a long-time lesbian couple from New York who toppled the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, the key precursor to this latest, and hopefully last, decision to guarantee same sex rights in all fifty states.

“M and H,” as those two women are referred to in court documents, met in the early 1980s, started a relationship, moved in together in a house H had owned since 1974, and established a small advertising firm. The business started to go sour, money became an issue, and M eventually walked out. She sued, demanding that the house be sold, and the proceeds divided.

At the time, courts and politicians were grappling with the question of same-sex benefits – i.e., do employee health plans or other benefits apply to same-sex couples in the same way they do with straight partners? But in the case of the break-up of M and H, the issue came to focus on the ragged end of a relationship, not its day-to-day finances. If straight couples, either formally married or in common-law relationships, have to divide up their assets when love dies, does it not follow that the same rules should also apply to same-sex couples?

On May 20, 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld an Ontario court ruling, which had struck down a crucial definition in the province’s Family Law Act. Section 29 of that law defined married or common law relationships as being between a “man and a woman.” That specific language, the Supremes ruled, “is declared of no force and effect.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2015 at 10:31 pm

[NEWS] Some Pride links

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  • Christianity Today notes how the Bible verses used to debate same-sex marriage have changed over time.
  • On the subject of same-sex marriage, Lawyers, Guns and Money observes the differences between this court case and past cases involving interracial marriage, Savage Minds looks at the anthropological perspective, and the Tin Man reflects on the achievement.
  • Locally, Torontoist looks at the political history of Pride, the National Post observes the decision of Patrick Brown, Progressive Consrrvative leader, to march in pride as the first leader to do so, Elton John’s Torontonian husband David Furnish reflects on his history growing up gay in Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s, and an epochal 1976 kiss-in at Yonge and Bloor is described in the Toronto Star in the context of LGBT activism.
  • Internationally, CBC reported on the police attack on a gay pride march in Istanbul.

[LINK] “Kadyrov and Putin: parallel lives”

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Nina Jobe and Karena Avedissian at Open Democracy look at the strange symbiosis between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov.

On 3 June, a group of masked men attacked the offices of the regional branch of the Russian Committee Against Torture in Grozny, Chechnya, destroying computers and documents, and damaging the organisation’s car. The police did not respond to calls by staff about the attack, and the Committee Against Torture reports that the attackers went about their business ‘slowly’, as if they knew the police were not going to be dispatched.

The Russian authorities have remained silent on the case, just as they remain silent on the de facto legalisation of polygamy and forced marriage in Chechnya, and the de facto acquittal of people close to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who are suspects in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. But these events prompt questions about the extent to which Chechnya remains a genuine subject of the Russian Federation, and highlight a deeper tension between the federal authorities and Chechnya – now boiling over after years of Kadyrov’s rule.

[. . .]

Chechnya is perhaps the most striking case of this asymmetry [between national and regional governments]. This has been exemplified in large part by Kadyrov’s repeated defiance and disregard of Russia’s federal laws. Kadyrov’s recent conflicts with the FSB – most notably when he threatened to have his men fire on federal troops who operated on Chechen territory without his blessing – and the silence of Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian elite, have only highlighted this situation further.

For instance, when opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered metres from the Kremlin’s walls in late February, blame quickly fell on men close to Kadyrov. The Chechen leader publicly came to the defence of one of the accused, Zaur Dadayev, and refused to turn over the others. Dadayev was an officer in Kadyrov’s private army, the Sever Battalion, as was Ruslan Geremeyev, another high-ranking member of the battalion, who is alleged to have been involved in organising the murder. Geremeyev has since fled abroad.

With the lack of a pushback or even a statement from the Kremlin for these acts, Moscow’s authority is beginning to lose traction. While this is sometimes mistaken for outright favouritism or even the opening of a ‘soft exit’ for Chechnya from the Russian Federation, this particular free rein of power resembles what Kimberly Marten calls ‘outsourcing sovereignty.’

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2015 at 10:37 pm

[LINK] “WWII Lawsuits Muddy Effort to Ease Japan-South Korea Tension”

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Sam Kim of Bloomberg looks at how ongoing legal issues are hindering improvements in relations between Japan and South Korea.

South Korean activists are complicating President Park Geun Hye’s tentative steps to improve ties with Japan, by turning to courts to seek recognition they were forced to work for Japanese companies, used as sex slaves or suffered after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

A South Korean court Wednesday ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to pay five South Koreans compensation for forced labor prior to Japan’s defeat in World War II. A planned appeal could take the case to the Supreme Court, where two similar cases are pending. Further muddying the issue is a threat this week by women forced into sexual servitude to file a suit against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the U.S.

A separate court Friday turned down a suit by 79 Koreans who worked in Hiroshima during the war. The plaintiffs demanded that the South Korean government either pay them 10 million won ($9,000) each or press Japan harder to compenstate them for their suffering after the nuclear bomb was dropped. Their leader Sung Rak Koo said he will appeal the court decision.

The legal wrangling contrasts with recent efforts by the nations’ leaders to repair ties that have soured over a territorial dispute and Park’s demands for further Japanese repentance over its World War II aggression. Park, who has refused to hold a bilateral summit with Abe, joined him in calling for a fresh start at ceremonies Monday to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties. The spat is weighing on trade and strategic cooperation between the two U.S. allies.

“No start is new unless all sins are redressed,” said Kim Han Su, 97, an activist who was made to work at a Mitsubishi Heavy shipyard in the southern Japanese port of Nagasaki from 1944 to 1945. “Park and Abe are hiding their heads in the sand if they are trying to bury historical wrongdoing,” said Kim, who isn’t one of the plaintiffs.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2015 at 10:35 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On how Russia is run by unserious people and why this is a problem

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Casey Michel’s Politico article “Putin’s Plot to Get Texas to Secede” got quite a few attention, and deservedly so.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union two decades ago, many Russians have come to blame the United States for their plight; a seething resentment over U.S. culpability in the loss of Russian national power is one of the reasons Vladimir Putin is so popular. It has only worsened since the United States has led an international effort to isolate and sanction Moscow over its annexation of Crimea and incursions into eastern Ukraine. Thus, over the past 15 months there has been a sudden, bizarro uptick of Russian interest in and around the American Southwest, most notably Texas, where secessionist sentiment never seems to entirely die out (TNM’s predecessor group, the “Republic of Texas,” disbanded after secessionist militants took hostages in 1997). In a rehash of the Soviet Union’s fate, numerous Russian voices have taken to envisioning an American break-up, E Pluribus Unum in inverse—out of one, many.

Nor is Texas the lone region for which Russia has cast secessionist support since the Crimean seizure. Venice, Scotland, Catalonia—the Russian media have voiced fervent support for secession in all these Western allies. (Of course, Moscow’s mantra—secession for thee, but not for me—means you’d be hard-pressed to find any Russian official offering support for Siberian, Tatar, or Chechen independence.) “Since the destabilization of the West is on Russia’s agenda, they may try to reach out to the U.S. separatists,” Anton Shekhovtsov, a researcher on Moscow’s links to far-right movements in Europe, told me. Russia wants a “deepening of social divisions in the American society, destabilizing the internal political life.” And certain Texans, rather than running from the taint of an authoritarian backing, have reciprocated.

As a political tack, none of this is completely new. Nearly a century ago, British codebreakers presented the American ambassador with a decrypted cable that came to be known as the Zimmermann Telegram, helping to cajole a recalcitrant United States into the Great War. And understandably so: In the deciphered text, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann alerted the Mexican government that, should the U.S. enter the war, “we shall give general financial support, and it is understood that Mexico is to reconquer her lost territory of New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.” President Woodrow Wilson’s pledge to forgo war evaporated overnight.

Just a few months ago, a cousin of the Zimmermann Telegram was delivered by a Russian government official, directed squarely at an American government once more waffling about military intervention in the European theater. The speaker of Chechnya’s parliament, Dukuvakha Abdurakhmanov, warned that should the U.S. increase its supply of arms to Kyiv, “we will begin delivery of new weapons to Mexico” and “resume debate on the legal status of the territories annexed by the United States, which are now the U.S. states of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.” As to the putative destination for the weapons, Abdurakhmanov cited unspecified “guerrillas.” (Sealing his screed, Abdurakhmanov inexplicably cited Joe Biden as the creator of the current Ukrainian government.)

If his comment existed in a vacuum, Abdurakhmanov’s histrionics could be laughed off, another sign of Moscow’s ferment sapping logical discourse. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

As Michel himself notes later in the article, and as many of the commenters and linkers have noted on their own, the Russian state’s interest in trying to cultivate separatist allies–even unlikely separatist allies, whether fascist or insignificant or both–demonstrate the fundamental lack of seriousness and ability on the part of the people running Russia. The people running Russia don’t understand why the Soviet Union came apart; they don’t understand how the European Union works; they don’t understand the nature of separatist movements, critically including separatist movements; they, at best, don’t care about how ridiculous this all makes the Russian state look. They just don’t get it.

There has been a fondness, particularly on the right, to look at Putin and his government and see a cabal of canny geopoliticians, able to take advantage of the petty issues of the West. This, though, is demonstrably not the case. Russia has blundered into being the subject of a wide-ranging sanctions regime that has cost it substantially, in terms of present losses and future shortfalls, and might well plunge into a new warmer version of the Cold War with many fewer resources than the old Soviet Union. (Counting on China to prop Russia up may not be a good idea, for many reasons.) I would think it more likely that Russia, rather, is governed by people who do not know what is going on, run by leaders who keep making mistake after mistake, blunder after blunder, digging their country in deeper with no idea how to get out.

This can be a more dangerous situation than one where Russia is woring for a master plan. If Russia is not being run by people who know where they are going or why their opponents are doing what they’re doing, the potential for mistakes and misunderstandings is obvious

[URBAN NOTE] “Kathleen Wynne says she’ll sign waivers to allow documentary’s release”

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The affair of the TVO documentary of Kathleen Wynne strikes me as needless. What could there possibly be in it so damaging? That it will be released, as the Toronto Star notes, is for the best.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday she expects to soon sign release forms that will enable some version of a controversial documentary about her to be broadcast.

“We have wanted this documentary to be released,” she said, adding her “motivation” for participating was that she wanted to show Ontarians the inner working of their government and that she is not trying to exert editorial control over the project.

She said she expects to sign the waivers as early as next week, saying she has not seen the footage.

The original documentary that was set to air on TVOntario was to offer a behind-the-scenes look at Wynne and her government in the lead-up to the 2015 provincial budget. It hit a roadblock last month after director Roxana Spicer quit the project in protest after Wynne’s office refused to sign release forms.

The film also depicted Wynne under siege during February’s Sudbury byelection scandal, when Wynne, her deputy chief of staff Pat Sorbara and local Liberal activist Gerry Lougheed urged to step aside to pave the way for former NDP MP Glenn Thibeault.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 26, 2015 at 10:33 pm

[LINK] “Federal Court orders government and RCMP to hand over all Quebec gun registry data for safekeeping”

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Wow. Hosted at the National Post, Bruce Cheadle’s Canadian Press article tells a damning tale of the government.

A Federal Court judge has ordered that Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and the RCMP commissioner immediately hand over an external hard drive containing a copy of all Quebec gun registry data.

Judge Luc Martineau gave the government until 10 a.m. Tuesday morning to deliver the hard drive to the court — effectively issuing a vote of non-confidence in government assurances that all the remaining long-gun registry records would be preserved while court challenges continue.

It’s the first decisive legal skirmish in a battle that could last for some time between information commissioner Suzanne Legault and the Harper government over the long-defunct long-gun registry.

[. . .]

Martineau’s order came after a day-long hearing in which Justice department lawyers argued it was unnecessary to produce an actual physical copy of the records because the public safety minister had issued “four separate undertakings” to preserve the data.

Lawyer Richard Dearden, representing Legault, presented affidavits, letters and email evidence showing that previous assurances from the Conservative government in 2012 were ignored as it pushed for the speedy destruction of all gun registry records outside the province of Quebec.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2015 at 11:02 pm


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