Thursday, March 24, 2011

Democracy and Legal Conventions

Everyone wants democracy like they want all 'platitudes'. The trouble is 'what is democracy' and how far into a 'system' does it actually spread.  Who gets to vote and who gets to decide who we vote for really define the limits of democracy.  So you may believe you have a democracy but the only 'parties' offered for the voter to vote on are 'neo nazi' and 'nazi'.  Alternatively you may be given the choice between Hitler and Ghengis Khan or more likely today Cheech or Chong.

Appointed people in government increasingly are making the critical decisions.

I recenlty learned that a couple of 'conventions' had changed legally in Canada. When I was growing up if a person was a 'compulsive liar' the onus of proof rested with him to 'prove' he was telling the truth. After 3 lies the next was simply assumed a lie. This is no longer the case in the courts.  Liars actually seem to be favoured by a system that runs on a convention of 'lie, lie, lie, deny, deny, deny'.  Most recently a couple of British Columbian beaurocrats lied consistently in a celebrated Railway scandal.  At the end of the day years later they 'pleaded guilty'.  The cost to Canadians was 9 million in legal fees because the two criminals were government employees.  Government employees today appear to be above the law the rest of the 'citizens' adhere to.  They can lie and then change their lies and have all their court costs paid.  My grandfather would have said that this was not Canadian. They've taken the Bible out of Courts and quite frankly it's left a serious vacuum that Canadians would collectively say explains the Voodoo in such recent high profile decisions.

Another 'convention' that has slipped into the legal system is that "if it's not written down" it didn't happen. We noticed this when admistration took all the nurses and made them their clerks so that patients overnight lost the traditional bedside nursing.  Now doctors are told that patients really are not as important as the record. In the past if I did a blood pressure on every patient , "the onus of proof" was on the other person to prove I forgot to do one on an individual occasion.  Now that convention no longer exists.  This way  the onus of proof is on me to prove that I actually shave each day, as silly as that may seem. We all have rather routine behaviours and yet these are now required to be charted.  Indeed the lawyers have told the doctors that for every 5 minutes they are with patients they need to chart for 5 minutes. No 'voting" citizen knows that by this new convention their health care has been 'halved" and 50% or more of health care expenditure is going to medical legal costs.  Some have estimated that 90% of health care cost is a direct consequence of the legal, administrative and beurocratic  "conventions" which are self serving and do nothing in fact for the patients or citizens in general.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is a legal convention that doesn't hold throughout the legal system. The convention that the police have is that 'first complainant' is the 'victim'.  This 'first come, first served' convention is commonly known by criminals but not by law abiding citizens.  The change in conventions rarely gets to the law abiding citizens as fast as it gets to the criminals.

For democracy to exist it needs to be transparent and when conventions change the 'elected' should challenge them rather than allow the 'beaurocrats' and 'appointed' to rule as is true today.  Politicians are so commonly criticized when in fact the problems of the state exist in the appointments of previous governments, the beaurocracy with it's powerful unions and entrenched patronage.

Clearly democracy is superior to the average tyrrany but I'd really like to see the kind of Electoral Reform that Libby Davis demanded for Canada.  Similiarly we'd all like to see Restorative Justice which serves Canadians and brings the legal system out of the dark ages into the modern world.

As an example of the anachronism of the present jail system there have been modern analysis which have shown these kinds of glaring discrepancies.  I don't have the actual numbers correct but the ball park figures shows the failure of the legal system to be 'true' to it's mandate.  In Manitoba a study of inmates showed at one time roughly 70% of the jails were first nations who accounted for less than 30% of crime and 10% of populations and the crimes were no worse than other groups.  Those are not the stats but that kind of distribution showed the horrendous bias against natives in the legal system.  White collar crime has always been protected as recent revelations regarding those behind the 9-11 and recent recession scandals.  9-11 was a failure of beaurocrats and generals to be prepared. The Japan nuclear meltdown was warned against 2 years before and the government didn't take action. At least in Japan we can expect heads to roll. After 9-11 all the failures were awarded. People whose job it was to protect America and failed utterly in doing so were promoted.  If Indians had been in charge of the security for 9-11 or the safety of the Japanese reactors the Canadian courts would have surely put them in jail.

Recently it was reported that federal prisons in Canada cost $88,000 a year per person, provincial prisons $57,000 a year per person, and drug court $12, 000  a year per person.  Further it's long been estimated that over 50% of prisoners are their due to drugs and alcohol.  An LA policeman told me "After we look for the gun, we then look for the bottle and now we look for the joint".  Crimes of passion are mostly crimes of drugs and alcohol.  Yet there are the stats that show the prison system isn't really working in the world of today but somehow functioning like we all lived in the times of Stalin or Charles Dickens.

The reformer is the enemy of any one who benefits from the status quo.  It was recently reported that there are too many people making too many millions or billions among the Israeli and Palestinians carrying on "peace talks" to make PEACE in the Middleeast Possible. Failed 'peace' talks is the principle industry of the Middle East.  War is necessary for the region otherwise they'd have no media coverage.  It's an ongoing Hollywood episode and the guys who wind up long running bad television sit coms tragedies should be called in to wind up this increasingly sordid human endeavor.

In British Columbia the ombudsman has annually said the jails here promote crime. There's so little rehabilitation and education available and when people are let go only a very few can access the kind of programs the John Howard Society has demonstrated for year stop recidivism. The John Howard Society gets too little funding for the great successes their work has proved over and over again.

So Democracy simply can't work in this entrenched environment of special interest.  Imagine running a birthing centre beside an abortion clinic where the abortionist were paid 100 times what the midwives were paid. This was the finding in the Liquor Control Boards in Canada. The alcohol 'pushers' were paid a whole lot more than those who treated alcoholism in government services.

I don't think our politicians are the problem. I think they inherit a dying beaurocracy and at best can put a new paint job on the corruption that has made too many people rich off failure.  In the movie "Inside Job" the financial institution CEO's made it rich off insurance that literally said that what they were selling would fail.  This in real world terms is like taking 'arson insurance' on a house where the wiring is guaranteed to cause a fire and the home buyers are screwed the day they make the purchase. It was just a matter of time, how many months or days in fact, before the fire would happen.

Democracy is as beautiful flower.  It's not even a hot house plant. It's resillient.  But nothing can grow when legal conventions are sprouting up like weedeaters and all that is good and Canadian is called a 'weed' because no one seems to know the difference between a cultivated 'rose' and a 'weed'.

Canada is on the verge of a new election.  Ideally the budget would be accepted and Canadians wouldn't have to pay for another 'election industry' 'make work' project.  Changing chairs on the Titannic isn't what democracy is about. There's a real need for 'reform' and for democracy to over ride the beaurocrats and courts making rules for themselves without consideration of what is best for the whole of society and not just a 'special interest' group.

Right now Canada appears a legalbeaurocratic Oligarchy.  There's still a lot of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" or 'mother knows best'  in our politics.  I keep thinking that democracy might be a better idea.  But the fact remains Canada is a great nations the way it is.  Maybe just supporting the elected over the appointed would result in a re democratization of this truly fine country.

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