Archive for February, 2009

Ignoring the SOS in the snow

February 26, 2009

This story really upsets me.

A skier died while she and her husband spent more than a week lost in Canada’s Rocky Mountains as their distress signals twice failed to prompt searches, police said on Wednesday.

Part of the tragedy is that the couple skied out of bounds at the resort they had been staying  and were totally unprepared for any trouble – only a couple of bars and nothing else in the way of survival gear. But of course they didn’t anticipate any problems; they were off on a little adventure before they headed back home to Quebec. Unfortunately the mountains can be a dangerous place for the ill-prepared.

But the real tragedy is what occurred after the couple realized they were lost.

A helicopter spotted an SOS distress symbol carved into the snow two days later, but authorities did not launch a ground search after checking with the resort and other area businesses and finding no indication that anyone was missing.

The couple had spent the night at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, but had checked out of their hotel rooms before going to the mountain to ski.

The SOS was also spotted by a pilot on February 21, but again no search was launched because authorities thought the incident had already been investigated.

I wonder who thought that the SOS signal that was spotted in the snow was a natural phenomenon and chose not to investigate further. That may be a bit harsh, but surely an internationally recognized emergency signal stamped out in the snow would call for a follow-up look.

But instead the question asked was whether anyone had been reported missing and when the answer was “no”, apparently that was enough to put the report in the ‘complete’ file and left there even when a second report came in from another helicopter pilot.

I also wonder why apparently neither of the pilots took a closer look once they saw the SOS.

I watched a press conference on CBC TV this morning where an RCMP spokesman went through the details of what happened once the first report came in. I was waiting for him to say that protocol had been followed which is often the official excuse for screwing up, but to give him credit that was never said. I think he recognized that the whole process had gone sideways early in the game.

As usual, when you are sitting on the outside and not privy to all of the detail it is difficult to know where the blame, if any, lies. But it seems to me that someone, early on, should have stood up and said, “lets take a closer look at this”.

If that simple and logical approach had been voiced, a tragedy may well have been averted.

Edmonton Mayor calls for a ban on large knives

February 25, 2009

Just when I thought that Toronto’s Mayor David Miller had a lock on bone-headedness with his calls for a total ban on privately owned handguns and the closure of approved shooting ranges as his official effort to stop gang crime in his city, we get Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel wanting a ban on large knives because of stabbing incidents in his bailiwick.

I guess this compares in brilliance to the Brits talking about banning “pointy knives”.

Do any of these people even try to put their brains in gear before they start moving their lips? Do they really think that these knee jerk reactions that they propose as legislation would really stop those people so inclined from performing violence on one another?

I think that I’ve probably said it before, but didn’t Cain kill Abel Sampson kill 1000 men with the jawbone of an ass? Now I’m beginning to wonder if it was a jawbone from a donkey or a deceased politician. (Oh, I know that there are some good ones out there, but there are enough turkeys spouting off in the media that they make them all suspect).

Anyway, the point is that if you want to inflict a fatality on someone there are as many ways to do it as you can possibly imagine. Whether it is a firearm, a large knife or a small knife, a baseball bat, a pointy stick or even the jawbone of an ass.

But we seem to get stuck with too many of these dickheads who feel they must impress the masses with their shallow and  intellectually challenged solutions to crime and violence while they totally ignore the root causes, presumably because they have no fricking idea of how to deal with the real issues.

And if I sound a bit snarly on this issue, it’s simply that I am fed up to my eyebrow level with these mental midgets who think the solution to the problems of crime and violence in the community is to put further restrictions on the law-abiding citizen all the while trying to convince the public that in some magical way it will deter the criminal element.

It’s always worked so well in the past, hasn’t it?

(Postscript)

Thanks to the commenter who kindly pointed out that it was Sampson that wielded the jawbone of an ass with such deadly effect and not Cain committing fratricide. So much for long repressed youthful sunday school memories.  The only thing that stuck with me about Sampson was the haircut.

Tasers and the police

February 25, 2009

Tasers are not dangerous and all police officers should carry one but they are used too often and should only be used when there is a physical threat to the officer.

All of which was a mixed message from the spokespersons for the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police held a news conference Tuesday to outline a 13-point position paper on conducted energy weapons.

They spent almost the whole event defending the devices, and lashed out at claims they’re potentially deadly. They cited two cases where Tasers might actually have stopped people from killing themselves.

Ontario Provincial Police chief Julian Fantino taunted Taser critics, saying they’d never walked in an officer’s shoes and probably couldn’t even pass a basic training course.

“Tasers save lives and that’s the bottom line,” Fantino said. “We decided it was time to set the record straight.”

But the message remained muddled.

Police alluded to multiple studies that disputed Tasers’ capacity to kill – but couldn’t name a single research paper they’d consulted when pressed repeatedly for specific citations.

At the end of the news conference, officers acknowledged that Tasers had been used too often. And they conceded that the weapon has been used in cases where suspects presented no threat.

This after the RCMP earlier made a similar concession, admitting that there was a “distinct possibility” that tasers have caused several deaths in Canada.

A distinct possibility? Over 20 people have died in Canada after being tasered by police.

In fact the RCMP quietly changed its policy in June, 2008 to instruct their members to only use their tasers if there was a direct threat to an officer’s safety.

Much of this reluctant change in policy was driven by the death of Robert Dziekanski after being tasered by RCMP officers in the Vanouver Airport on October 14th, 2008. But it was only because a civilian had caught this incident on video and it became public that it generated so much negative publicity for the police.

There is definitely a place for the use of tasers by police. Certainly the taser is of great value in any situation where the only other option would be for the officer to draw his firearm. The risk to a suspect’s health from an electrical shock is certainly far less than a bullet in the chest.

But, as even the various police organizations admitted, the taser has too often been used improperly. Sometimes simply as a punishment.

One incident that did get reported and publicized happened in November, 2007 in Kelowna, B.C.

A RCMP superintendent has apologized to a B.C. senior who was Tasered last month after double parking his vehicle in downtown Kelowna.

However, Supt. William McKinnon said in a news release today his issue was not that the officer fired his Taser, but with the fact he used it while the victim was still in his car.

John Peters, 68, a newspaper carrier and stroke victim, told the media last month he was shocked twice with the weapon after two Mounties confronted him while he was briefly stopped on a downtown street.

Peters admitted he was double parked at the time and he drove away from the officers when they told him he was getting a ticket.

But that did not justify what happened next, his wife told CanWest News Service in November.

Peters stopped his car at the end of the street. And before he could get out, one of the officers blasted him with a Taser. Once he was out of the car, he was Tasered again, his wife said, and arrested for obstruction.

Today, McKinnon defended most of his officers’ conduct. Peters, he said, “failed to co-operate with police” and “exhibited combative behaviour,” which justified the use of the Taser.

However, he added that the officer erred when he fired the weapon while Peters remained seated in the car.

“We, in turn, regret this particular action and have apologized to Mr. Peters for this tactical error in judgment,” McKinnon said. “Due to the fact that such a serious error was made by the police officer in question, I have ordered a code of conduct investigation.”

In November, Peters was charged with obstructing the peace, resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer.

But today, McKinnon revealed that the Crown wouldn’t proceed with any of the charges.

Now I don’t know this gentleman, but I have seen him on numerous occasions and he is a small, slight man who I find it difficult to believe would cause a police officer to feel physically threatened and I would suggest that if the officer was then he is in the wrong business.

But even then the RCMP official would not admit that the use of taser in this instance was improper, only that it shouldn’t have been used when the man was in his car.

A review of RCMP incidents showed that 4 out of 5 suspects hit by a stun gun were unarmed and that the taser was used more to ensure compliance than to stop a violent confrontation.

A Canadian Press analysis of Taser incidents reported by the Mounties reveals that more than 79 per cent of those zapped were not brandishing a weapon.

In just over one-fifth of cases, the suspect had a knife, bottle, club or other weapon.

The figures, compiled from hundreds of partially censored pages filed by RCMP officers, highlight police preference for the 50,000-volt tool that helps them control dangerous situations with usually minimal injury.

But they also suggest a pattern of use by the Mounties as a quick means to keep relatively low-risk prisoners, drunks and unruly suspects in line.

Hopefully the new policies voiced by the various police forces will be strictly enforced and we will see less casual use of the taser by police officers.

81st Annual Academy Awards: Boring

February 24, 2009

I have a pact with my wife that I watch the Academy Awards with her every year. Which I did this past Sunday.

It had a few good moments: Hugh Jackman was entertaining but he seemed less of a master of ceremonies than just another act. However, overall the show dragged to the point that we eventually switched over and watched an episode of Miss Marple, flicking back occasionally to the Oscars to catch the winners of the major prizes.

We did catch Bill Maher presenting for the best documentary and his whining that his own documentary wasn’t nominated.  It wasn’t too classy. Par for the course.

And Sean Penn was certainly honest when he noted that he was hard to “appreciate”. But he is one hell of an actor and deserving of an Oscar for his role in Milk.

Although Mickey Rourke was heavily touted to win the Best Actor award for his role in The Wrestler we suspected that Penn had a pretty good shot at the Oscar what with Hollywood’s sympathy for gay rights and the anger at the passing of Proposition 8 in California. Whether that was a factor or not, Penn rode home with the golden statuette.

But overall it was a pretty boring affair – although my wife told me today that Oprah said it was the best Oscar show ever. Oprah must have been watching a different version than we watched.

Miss Marple was OK though.

I keep telling you: It’s not the tools

February 20, 2009

Blunt Object states the obvious – which unfortunately is not that obvious to the CBC. Plus a little reporting inventiveness.

Oh, yes, those dreaded firearms.  I find it in particularly poor taste that the CBC keeps harping on teh ebil gunz, when their own statistics show that plenty of people have been killed by attackers using other weapons.  If someone stabs me to death with a rusty screwdriver, is my death somehow less tragic to my friends and family because I wasn’t shot?

And once again, this zomg teh gunz attitude is somewhat less than perfectly supported by what people are actually saying.  CBC’s anonymous reporter writes:

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he wants to see a co-ordinated approach by police forces to curb the increasing gun violence.

(Emphasis added.)

Gregor Robertson actually said:

“How many killings does it have to take before we deal with gangs as a metro police force?”

(Emphasis added.)

I submit that we’ll do better if we keep an eye on the human agents who’re off killing each other, rather than on the tools they happen to use to do so.

(Anyway, how could this possibly be happening here? Our gun laws are almost as strict as, um… Chicago’s.  Nevermind.)

Farewell to the firearm registry?

February 16, 2009

Canadian firearm owners are actually looking at a real possibility of getting rid of the long gun portion of the federal firearm registry.

On February 10th Saskatchewan Member of Parliament Garry Breitkreuz presented a private member’s bill, C301, that would eliminate the long gun registration for Canadian gun owners. This is a long awaited step for farmers, ranchers, hunters, collectors, sport shooters or just generally anyone that legitimately owns a rifle or shotgun in Canada.

Background information on the bill details the other aspects of the proposed legislation that will be of interest to a lot of gun owners.

  • It will streamline Authorizations to Transport (ATT) and make them part of the individual’s licence. Something that should have been done right from the beginning.
  • It will merge the Possession Only Licences (POL) and Possession & Acquisition Licences (PAL) which is something that also should have been done a long time ago.
  • It will extend a license from 5 to 10 years. A lifetime licence would have been a better, but apparently there was opposition to that option.

Of course being tabled and being passed are two different things. But this one may actually have a good chance of making the grade, especially since it looks as though the opposition parties will allow a free vote by their members and there are a good number of Liberal, NDP and even Bloc MPs that come from rural areas where the firearms registry is an issue. We can only hope.

The catch will be how strong the backlash will be from the anti-gun groups, some of which had a direct hand in writing the original bill, C-68, and who will be lobbying heavily to convince MPs to oppose the Breitkreuz bill.

It behooves every gun owner to contact their local MP and tell them how important this bill is.

Six was more than enough

February 14, 2009

The aspect of the California octuplets that bothers me the most is the selfishness of the mother in bringing eight more babies into the world in addition to the six children she already has.

I don’t really care about the legality of it or the Doctor’s ethics. What bothers me is the mind numbing selfishness; the total lack of comprehension of the mother regarding the stupidity of her actions.

There are parents who could have a family of fourteen and who would never be criticized for their decision because they are prepared and capable to take care of their brood. But that is not the case in this instance.

Here is a woman who has reportedly dumped the responsibility of taking care of her first six children on her parents and who – according to her mother – makes no contribution to their support. Which might even be acceptable if the grandparents were financially stable, which again is apparently not the case.

Now she adds another eight children to the pool and from the sound of her interviews with the media she intends to go back to school and work on her master’s degree which indicates that she expects someone else to continue to take care of the babies.

When asked how she intends to take care of the brood she says, “God will provide in his own way.” That is not conventional financial  planning.

She also said that when the babies are ready to be released from the hospital she will buy a larger house. How she intends to do this with reportedly $50,000 in student loans and no job is a moot point. The money certainly won’t come from her parents who have already declared bankruptcy once.

She has opened a website asking for money so she obviously hopes that public largess or possibly some corporate sponsor will finance her future life.

The thought process of this woman is totally beyond my comprehension. She lives in some kind of fantasy land.

But what is most disturbing is what is in store for those 14 kids. Unless outside dollars roll in from individuals or corporations it seems inevitable that they will spend their lives on the welfare rolls.

Too many children already live in poverty and with limited opportunities. It is unconscionable for someone to make the deliberate choice, for whatever personal reasons, to  commit eight more children to that lifestyle.

How you know when times are tough

February 9, 2009

It turns out that not even gangsters are recession proof. The economy in the west has become so iffy that eastern hoods are migrating back home – in this case, Ottawa.

Ottawa street gang members who had moved out West to chase a dream of dealing drugs and getting rich are heading home, police say, forced back by tough times in their cutthroat trade.

There had been a steady flow of these street-level entrepreneurs, from Ottawa and elsewhere, who left their hometowns to deal drugs in Alberta when the economy there was red-hot.

But as the overall economy has worsened, so, too, have gang members’ fortunes: Now there is less money to be made and increased competition for the business that remains.

You know that times must be tough when drug dealers and their like are feeling the economic pain. Hard to ramp up any sympathy.

Some Canadian Homicide Demographics

February 9, 2009

Thanks to Blunt Object, I stand corrected regarding the availability of information, at least for some Canadian cities, regarding homicide demographics.

Calgary:         2009 2008
Toronto:        2009 2008 2007

For comparison: Baltimore demographics for 2009.

And just for further interest a map of taser related deaths in Canada.

Where the trouble lies

February 9, 2009

All of our major cities in North America are experiencing gang related violence, most of it with drug dealers shooting at each other. When one of these shootings takes place the media is more than likely to make it seem that you are risking your life if you even stick your nose outside your front door.

What the media rarely tells you – in the name of political correctness – is that much of this violence occurs in specific areas. Which is good for most of the residents in the city but not so good for those who must live in those areas.

But the politicians with the help of the media avoid pointing this out and in effect keep the general populace in a state of anxiety because (I think):

  1. They can use it to push through a political agenda.
  2. It would be politically incorrect to point out the fact that these localized areas within the confines of the city generate most of the gang violence.

Gunlaws.com has some similar thoughts on this matter.

Homicide in America has demographic, geographic, social and economic factors which, if acknowledged and openly discussed, would tranform the debate, and place blame where it really belongs: on the causes and people that fuel the violence we hear about (but rarely actually see for ourselves, except on TV “news”) .

The real blame is hidden, because the truth is so painful. Crime is not spread across the streets of America. Crime, and crime using guns, happens in isolated areas for well known reasons the media and politicans hide from you.

The site also shows some demographics that the Baltimore Sun published which shows visually where the violence in that city occurs. I’m sure the result was an eye opener for the Sun’s readers and probably not too popular with the city fathers.

There is no question that Toronto would show similar demographics and it would be interesting to see it applied to other Canadian cities.

I suspect it is not likely that we will see that information any time in the near future.


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