Archive for the ‘Stupidity’ Category

Defend yourself at your peril

December 19, 2010

The following information was sent to me regarding a case that will be going to court in Ontario. It has had no media attention to date, although the initial arson attack may have been reported in the local newspaper, although I wasn’t able to find any reference when I did a search.

A Port Colborne man was forced to flee his burning home at night this past August as three masked men threw burning Molotov Cocktails through his windows and shouted that he was dead.

He apparently has now received a Christmas present from the Welland Crown Attorney’s office in the guise of a special delivery complete with police notes and a screening sheet where the Crown indicates it wants to prosecute him to the full extent of the law and is asking for jail time.

His crime? He tried to defend himself from his attackers.

The gentleman in question has had neighbour problems and has received death threats from his neighbour, who was charged but never received any jail time.

In fear of his life the man installed, at the cost of $20,000, a video surveillance camera which did capture the Molotov Cocktail attack and him escaping his burning home as the fire bombers continued to shout they would kill him.

He was also on video allegedly shooting a pistol in an attempt to drive the attackers away.

He was charged under section 86 and was led to believe the charges would be dropped, but in a surprise move in late November another section 86 and a section 88 charge were laid. Now the official position is the Crown counsel wants to lock him away.

The man had been injured at work and is now a full time student at Brock University studying Environment Engineering.

His guns are licensed and registered, but since August they have been seized by the police leaving him at risk for another attack.

The police have not apprehended the fire bombers although believe they can charge two of them but will not do so until all three are known.

The Ontario Fire Marshal told him he was the subject of an attempted murder and he is, with good reason, still in fear of his life.

I really wonder what the police and the prosecutor expected this guy to do? Stay inside and have the house burned down around him? Go out unarmed and confront three thugs who are shouting death threats at him?

The police ‘believe’ they can charge two of the attackers but won’t until the third one is known? It would be interesting to have that explained in rational terms.

The police and the bureaucracy seem far more inclined to put the full force of the law against the victim rather than the perpetrators.

I guess the question is: What in hell has this country come to?

Maybe the answer is that we have allowed our politicians and bureaucrats to write stupid and restrictive laws that allow our justice system to find a crime in almost anything you do. The police love it and many private citizens often support these kind of laws because they think it will only be applied to the ‘bad guys’. But when they innocently run afoul of these laws they are dragged away screaming, ‘it’s not supposed to work this way’. Well yes, that’s exactly what it was meant to do.

Sure, this fellow may get into court and find an intelligent judge who recognizes the injustice and dismisses the charges. But that might be two or three years down the road and $20,000 later in legal fees. Plus the police will have had his firearms in storage for that time and even if he gets off from the charges he will have to fight some more to get the police to give them back, because they are going to want to destroy them.  And 5 will get you 10 that the guys who torched his house and threatened his life – if they have been charged at all – will have walked and will probably be laughing up their sleeves about how ‘justice’ works these days.

Read the detail (below) on Sections 86 and 88 of the criminal code to see how the weasel words allow the police and the prosecutors to proceed with charges on subjective interpretations.

*********************

Note:
Section 86.(1) Careless Use Of A Firearm – Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, uses, carries, handles, ships, transports or stores a firearm, prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition in a careless manner or without reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons.
(2) Contravention Of Storage Regulations Etc. - Every person commits an offence who contravenes a regulation made under paragraph 117(h) of the Firearms Act respecting the storage, handling, transportation, shipping, display, advertising and mailorder sales of firearms and restricted weapons.
(3) Punishment – Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (2)
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment
(1) in the case of a first offence, for a term not exceeding two years, and
(11) in the case of a second or subsequent offense, for a term not exceeding five years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Section 88.(1) Possession Of Weapon For Dangerous Purpose
– Every person commits an offence who carries or possesses a weapon, an imitation of a weapon, a prohibited device or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition for a purpose dangerous to the public peace or for the purpose of committing an offence.

(2) Punishment – Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1)
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

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What we have here is a severe lack of common sense

December 14, 2010

I don’t really know if it has always been thus, but those with some manner of authority seem to be more inclined to go for the throat rather than deal with people in a kinder and gentler manner. The thinking seems to be that if you aren’t breaking the law at the moment you most surely intend to break it at your first available opportunity.

Reading the news it sometimes appears that this philosophy is endemic, but then in all fairness we probably don’t hear about those cases that are handled with a little more sensitivity and common sense. Unfortunately there are a lot of stories that indicate the worst case situation.

A case in BC:

B.C. Mounties are warning the public about toy weapons after officers conducted a high risk take down of a man following reports of a person thought to be loading a gun in a crowded parking lot.

Onlookers on Thursday night reported seeing a man with a pistol who made motions as if he was loading it, said Vernon RCMP on Friday.

Officers responded with a high-risk take down of the man in his Chevy Blazer and discovered he was playing with an air soft pistol, similar in appearance to a police service weapon.“Police want to warn the public to please use common sense when taking these guns in public. The citizens of any community get very concerned when they see someone with a gun on our streets and at a glance you cannot tell it is not real,” said police in a release. “Police are concerned it is only a matter of time before someone who thinks it is fun to point or show this type of gun on the streets are going to get hurt or possibly worse because of the actions they took.”

The 22-year-old man was given a warning, and the toy gun was seized for destruction.

The police didn’t charge him because he hadn’t done anything wrong in the first place. They seized his property and destroyed it when they had no legal authority to do so. Except that they probably threatened the guy, that if he didn’t give up his air soft pistol for destruction that they would charge him with mischief or some other generic crime that he would eventually be found not guilty of but in the meantime the legal costs he incurred would be more than the cost of  a trunk full of air softs. All the guy was guilty of was either naivety or stupidity in letting the gun be seen in public.

Cynical? Maybe, but I have heard of too many cases that fit this scenario to think that it didn’t happen here.

Or this one from Ottawa.

A teenage boy carrying what looked like a rifle in the streets surrounding his high school in Papineauville, Que., has been charged with careless use of a firearm.

As it turns out, the 16-year-old wasn’t carrying a rifle Tuesday afternoon near Louis-Joseph Papineau high school — it was a BB gun. And Sûreté du Québéc police said the teen hadn’t been using it to any malicious end, but had simply taken it there from home to show to a friend who wanted to buy it.

Quebec provincial police got the call at about 1 p.m. Upon their arrival, officers controlled the scene, locked down the high school and began a search of the area. A nearby elementary school continued normal operations, police said.

Just under an hour later police apprehended the 16-year-old in the streets around the school, and he was no longer carrying the BB gun, police said. No one was injured, no one was threatened and the BB gun was never used on school property, police said.

The teen was taken in for questioning and his BB gun was seized. He was later released from custody, with release conditions, on a promise to appear in court.

If the news story is correct in its facts, the kid did nothing wrong. If it was a BB gun it isn’t even classified as a firearm. When the police ran him to ground he didn’t even have the item with him. Then they seized it and graciously released him from custody on the understanding that he would appear in court. On what charge? I suppose mischief or creating a public disturbance or inciting a riot for all I know. But wouldn’t it have made more sense to say, “Kid, you didn’t break any law with what you did, but for chrissakes next time put the damned thing in a sack if you are going to take it somewhere”.

Tijssen uses his farming and butchering skills to opt out of the commercial food supply. For years, he has inspected his own meat while still on the hoof, slaughtered it himself and packaged it for later use. In November 2009 he and a friend bought a pig, intending to share it.

But for unknown reasons, a neighbour reported to the Ontario government that Tijssen was running an unlicensed slaughterhouse on his property.

It’s perfectly legal to butcher your own pig and serve it to your immediate family in your own home. What’s not legal, as a result of new Food Safety and Quality Act regulations that quietly took effect in 2005, is letting someone else take home-butchered meat off the property.

It fell to conservation officer Graham Ridley of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to deal with Tijssen’s neighbour’s complaint.

Ridley could have phoned or visited Tijssen to make sure he knew about the 130-page regulation and warned him against violating it. A responsible person like a Canadian Forces major would surely have wanted to avoid getting into trouble with the law if he knew about it.

But instead, Ridley staked out Tijssen’s home for five full days in November 2009, watching from a tree-house on the neighbour’s property, waiting to see whether anyone would leave Tijssen’s property with meat. How gratifying it must have been when he finally saw the co-owner of the pig leaving with a box of pork. At last, a charge could be laid!

Ridley sprang into action, following the friend down the road and confiscating the pork.

Tijssen, on learning from his friend what had happened, telephoned Ridley the next day and acknowledged having butchered the pig. But faced with this golden opportunity of explaining the 2005 regulations to Tijssen, Ridley once again declined.

Instead, the following evening, after dark, Ridley raided Tijssen’s property accompanied by four police cars and two MNR trucks, lights flashing. Armed police officers searched the property painstakingly and carried off 14 articles of butchering equipment — evidence of Tijssen’s heinous offence — even though Tijssen had already acknowledged in the previous day’s phone call that he had killed the pig.

Tijssen now stands charged with four offences and theoretically faces penalties of up to $100,000. The MNR lawyers quickly offered him the chance to settle for a fine of only $8,000. They then reduced their demand to $2,000 and eventually to a paltry $1,000–not nearly enough to pay for officer Ridley’s five-day surveillance and the multi-officer raid, let alone their lawyers’ services.

I think that the lawyers are of the opinion that their charges aren’t going to stick once it comes in front of a judge as per their pre-trial bargaining to try and get Tijssen to plead guilty for a lesser fine.

Karen Selick, the author of the article, lays out the real problem.

The maxim “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” made sense back in the days when the only kind of acts that were illegal were genuine crimes that caused palpable harm to innocent victims: murder, rape, theft, etc.

But with the growth of the regulatory state, every individual is now subject to thousands of pages of densely written federal, provincial and municipal statutes and regulations. The law is also embodied in innumerable judicial decisions. And it’s all in continual flux: Regulations are passed without parliamentary debate, and courts release new judgments daily.

There is probably not a single law professor, judge or legislator in Canada who has even a passing familiarity with, let alone full comprehension of, all the laws we are required to obey. The average joe doesn’t stand a chance. We are all potential offenders every day, no matter how law-abiding we might wish to be.

Unfortunately the law enforcement people work on the principle that ‘the law is the law’. Actually they take that a step further in too many cases and manufacture their own interpretation of the law and bully confused and frightened citizens into giving up their legal rights.
Just one more recent situation, this time from our neighbours south of the 49th parallel.

A Columbia Falls High School student was suspended last week after inadvertently bringing a hunting rifle to school.

Demari DeReu, a 16-year-old junior, was suspended Dec. 1 and likely faces expulsion after telling school officials about the gun she had forgotten to remove from the trunk of her car.

She had gone hunting over Thanksgiving weekend with family friends.

They had taken a friend’s pickup truck, and when they returned, the friend had put DeReu’s unloaded rifle in the trunk of her car and the rest of her hunting gear up front. She forgot about the gun when she unloaded her gear at home.

The following Wednesday, the school announced during first period that contraband-sniffing dogs were at school. Only then did DeReu remember the rifle in her car, which was parked in the school parking lot.

“I was glad I don’t have to worry about that. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs,” she recalled thinking to herself. Then she thought, “Did I get my rifle out of my trunk?”

She said she remembers a teacher — she can’t remember who — telling her that in some cases, the school would allow students to move their cars off school grounds if they took an absence. It seemed better than getting in trouble should the dog find the gun, so DeReu asked her teacher if she could move her car.

He said no, so instead she asked to call Alan Robbins, the high school principal, to explain the situation.

“I couldn’t get ahold of Mr. Robbins — he was checking lockers — so I told the secretary my hunting rifle was in the car, not loaded and with no ammunition, and wanted to see if I can move my car,” DeReu said. “She said she’d get the message to him right away.”

The next thing DeReu knew, Assistant Principal Scott Gaiser was escorting her from the classroom.

She said he told her she was suspended as of that moment and was facing expulsion for a minimum of 21 days after an expulsion hearing, …..

The story goes on to talk about how this could affect her college applications, etc.

What really throws me is that this happened in Montana where hunting is pretty much a way of life. No understanding of the situation from the staff?

Of course a large part of the problem is the stupidity of the US federal law that even allows this to happen.

Superintendent Michael Nicosia would not discuss the specifics of DeReu’s case but talked about the policy, which is based on state policy crafted by the Montana School Boards Association.

That policy says the school board “will expel any student who uses, possess, controls or transfers a firearm or any object that can reasonably be considered a firearm at any setting that is under control and supervision of the District.”

The policy also says students in those circumstances will be expelled for at least one calendar year, although trustees may modify the term of the expulsion on a case-by-case basis, Nicosia said.

The district doesn’t see any way around the expulsion clause, which is based on the federal Gun-Free Schools Act, he added.

The 1994 law says each state that receives federal funding must have a law requiring schools to expel for at least one year students who have brought or possessed a firearm at school.

To prevent a worst case scenario a bunch of bone-headed legislators passed a blanket law that inflicts severe penalties on students that are of no danger to their system and like most dumb, knee-jerk laws does little to no good to prevent anyone who seriously means harm.

A book could be written detailing similar incidents (and may well have already been done), but in the meantime no one in a position of authority seems aware of these abuses, or if they are, apparently are unwilling to address the problem.

It is almost impossible to go through a week (maybe a day) without breaking a law of some sort. It would seem that your best plan to stay out of trouble would be to just stay at home and avoid being noticed.

Michael Ignatieff: Offense taken

December 8, 2010

Michael Ignatieff seems a little delicate for the rough and tumble battle of federal politics. His latest cry for attention came from a remark made by newly elected conservative MP, Julian Fantino.

In the interview, Mr. Fantino – the former Toronto police chief and Ontario Provincial Police commissioner – expressed his frustration with charges by the Liberals that he had run a “peek-a-boo” campaign, avoiding public debates and afraid to address tricky issues.

He told The Globe that was simply not the case, believing the Liberals had made the allegation out of desperation. “I think they intended to hurt my campaign,” Mr. Fantino said. “The things they said … a lot of them were absolute lies. They keep repeating [them]. I call it the Hitler theory. You tell a lie often enough you hope that some people will believe it.”

In a memo circulated by the Liberals they seemed to get a bit hysterical.

“Barely four days after squeaking into office, Julian Fantino crossed the line by using an offensive analogy that compared a democratic political party in Canada to the Nazi regime,”

And on and on.

No, he didn’t compare the Liberal party to the Nazis, he equated their tactics to the ‘big lie’ theory that has been associated with Adolph Hitler.

But Hitler apparently didn’t make the statement as a matter of his personal policy.

The Big Lie (German: Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, for a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Hitler believed the technique was used by Jews to unfairly blame Germany’s loss in World War I on German Army officer Erich Ludendorff.

And then down the ranks.

Later, Joseph Goebbels put forth a slightly different theory which has come to be more commonly associated with the expression “big lie.” Goebbels wrote the following paragraph in an article dated 12 January 1941, 16 years after Hitler’s first use of the phrase “big lie,” titled “Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik” and translated “From Churchill‘s Lie Factory.” It was published in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel.

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

Anyway it appears that Mr Fantino hurt Mr Ignatieff’s feelings. It’s a tough world out there for sensitive people.

The firearms registry and the desperate Liberals

September 5, 2010

As the time gets closer to the vote to get rid of the long-gun registry, the Liberal Party tries its best to confuse the issue in an apparently desperate attempt to convince people – and probably some of their own MPs – that the registry is no different than all of the other little licensing and registries that are imposed upon us.

The latest is a release which is “From the Leader of the Opposition” and titled Just the Facts: Things you have to register.

In part it reads:

Just consider how silly some of the Conservative and NDP arguments against registering firearms sound when you replace firearms with commons sense items that Canadians are used to registering:

  • Criminals won’t register their dogs anyway, so what’s the point?
  • The government wants you to get a fishing license so they can seize all of your fishing poles!
  • The car registration scheme in this country costs millions a year and does nothing to prevent road accidents!
  • You already have to pass a driver’s test to be able to drive a car, so what’s the point of having to register your car?
  • There was a boating accident last week, and the boating registration scheme did nothing to prevent that from happening!

To help you keep track, here’s a list of things you have to register, if you want to own, do, or receive the following:

Owning livestock, including James Bezan’s horse “Woody”
Driving Stephen Harper’s “I make the rules” All-Terrain-Vehicle
Owning dogs and cats
Owning and driving motor vehicles
Getting married
Having a baby
Going fishing
Going boating
Owning a corporation
Owning land
Being a lobbyist
Providing professional services:
–    Lawyers
–   Doctors
–    Engineers
–    Architects
–    Accountants
Owning copyright and intellectual property
Being a member of the Conservative Party of Canada
Having a healthcare card
Voting
Qualifying for Old Age Security
Qualifying for the Canada Pension Plan
Qualifying for the Canada Child Tax Credit and Universal Child Care Benefit
Having a Registered Retirement Savings Plan
Having a Registered Education Savings Plan
Having a Tax Free Savings Account
Getting a Permanent Resident Card
Qualifying for Employment Insurance

Now I don’t know the intelligence quotient of the person or persons who wrote this tripe, but whatever they were paid to write this up for The Leader of the Opposition (AKA The Honourable Michael Ignatieff) was akin to robbery. But then again the Liberals, in all seriousness, sent it out as an official release. Read into that what you may.

To begin with, the clever Liberals forgot to mention that none of the above examples come with a criminal record if you don’t comply and many of their examples are not compulsory either.

But for a start.

Criminals won’t register their dogs anyway, so what’s the point?

Exactly. As well, probably the vast number of dog owners never bother to register or to use a better term, licence their dogs anyway.

The government wants you to get a fishing license so they can seize all of your fishing poles!

This is a really stupid one. Fishing and hunting license fees are set to generate funds for the ongoing operations of the various provincial governments’ Fish & Wildlife branches. Although a lot of that revenue may be sucked off into the black hole of general revenue. If you don’t hunt or fish you don’t pay the licence fees. And as far as fishing goes, they haven’t started a fishing pole registry yet.

The car registration scheme in this country costs millions a year and does nothing to prevent road accidents!

No it certainly doesn’t. Car registration started in most places as far back as 1904 when governments saw that there were going to be a lot of them using roads that would have to be built and considerable cost. So the registration of cars was a tax initiative and has grown, as most bureaucracies do, to what it is today.

We all pay our water bills but it doesn’t stop bathtub fatalities. About the same level of stupidity as the car registration argument.

You already have to pass a driver’s test to be able to drive a car, so what’s the point of having to register your car?

Whoa. You stepped right into that one Mr. Ignatieff.

I already have to pass a test and obtain a licence to buy a firearm, so what’s the point of having to register my guns? Good question! We’ve been saying that all along. Let me know when you come up with an answer.

There was a boating accident last week, and the boating registration scheme did nothing to prevent that from happening!

You’re absolutely right again. What is the point of the boating registration ‘scheme’. Taxation? I think that’s probably the first thing that comes to mind. The old government axiom: If they own it. Tax it.

The rest of the list? Registering as an accountant, lawyer etc.? Those are professional associations that have obtained the rights and authority from government to control and self-police their members and keep their membership exclusive. You might have a law degree and be a brilliant lawyer, but if you aren’t a member of the Law Society you won’t be practicing law.You don’t have to join. Only if you want to work.

Why go on. The rest of the examples are just as nonsensical.

The only frightening thing is that someone might read this garbage and actually think, “Duh, them Liberals have got a point there”.

Nah – nobody could really be that dumb.

Federal boating licencing regulations to be toughened up

August 30, 2010

I know that I have complained on various occasions here about stupid laws and the knee jerk reactions to tragedies that lead to more stupid laws. The problem is, they just keep coming or at least expanding.

In 1999 the Canadian government decided – in their infinite wisdom – to make it compulsory for everyone running a powerboat in Canada to be licensed (notably the Northwest Territories and Nunavut being excluded from the licensing rules). This could be accomplished by paying a fee (of course) and passing a test.The rationale, as it always seems to be, was public safety. In the bureaucratic mind, every boat owner/operator being licensed would somehow reduce boating accidents and the inevitable fatalities.

Like so many other bureaucratic  endeavours they were of course wrong. With their previous failures in licensing (cue the firearms licensing and registration laws) why they would think that taking a test would improve safety on the water is beyond comprehension.  But then it makes it look as though they and their political masters have provided a solution to a perceived problem and no doubts it ensures some more taxpayer funded government jobs.

Now, true to form, there are plans to make obtaining an operating license more difficult because there are still accidents happening on the waterways.

Ottawa will change course on the way it licenses recreational boat operators, toughening up a testing program long criticized as ineffective and easy to cheat.

But the new standards will not take effect until September, after the height of the summer boating season, Transport Canada confirms. And some marine-safety experts suggest that even the proposed changes to the online Pleasure Craft Operator Card testing regime will still leave too many people operating boats without sufficient knowledge, training or oversight.

Calls for tougher rules on the water have grown following a horrific accident on Shuswap Lake in B.C. last weekend in which 53-year-old Ken Brown was killed when a speedboat rammed into his houseboat. Police investigating the accident have said speed, alcohol and the lack of running lights could have been factors in the crash.

James Kusie, of federal Transport Minister John Baird’s office, said the government is altering the licensing program with the goal of improving boating safety from coast to coast.

Unfortunately, all of the licensing in the world will not change the fact that most of the boating fatalities are caused by carelessness and stupidity – much of it alcohol induced. There have been a number of fatalities in BC this summer that would have been avoided had the boaters simply been wearing their life jackets.

The stats are not in from 2010, of course, but in 2009 there were 66 water related fatalities in British Columbia of which 11 were attributed to powerboating,, 1 to a houseboat and 2 to personal watercraft. .

Bathtubs accounted for 2 and hot tubs for another 1 fatalities. Neither of which have, to date, generated calls for bathing or soaking licenses.

I leave the last word to Macleans columnist Andrew Coyne.

In the name of reducing government intrusion in people’s lives, the Conservative government is proposing to abolish the mandatory long-form census (it would become voluntary), a vitally important source of data that only applies to one-fifth of the population, once every five years.

At the very same time, the same Conservative government is proposing to tighten the requirement that every one of Canada’s 7-million or so boaters obtain an operator’s licence and carry it with them every time they get in a boat, on pain of a $250 fine — an utterly needless piece of bureaucratic busywork whose sole defence is that it is ludicrously unenforceable.

Sigh. Could we make up our minds, please? Doctrinaire libertarianism, nanny-state paternalism, whatever. But both at once is just too much to bear.

I’ll take the libertarian approach, thank you.
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Water safety and another dumb law

July 10, 2010

On numerous occasions I have lamented about the stupid laws that get passed by elected officials (here and here are just a couple of instances). Which is why I was pleased (and amused) to see Chris Seeley’s column in the National Post ripping apart the federal government’s attempt to make the waters of Canada safe through its pleasure craft operator’s licencing system.

If the gun registry does die, where will government-haters direct their ire? Easy. I submit that the federal government’s Pleasure Craft Operator Licence has now usurped the long-gun registry as the worst, most insulting, do-nothing undertaking currently being inflicted on law-abiding Canadians. And the Conservative government is foursquare behind it. Their only possible defence is that it cost less — so far — than the gun registry.

A brief history: Once upon a time, the news was full of people, most of them inebriated, who were driving powerboats into docks, other people, other boats, channel markers, islands and anything else not made of water. Folks were dying. The government needed to be seen doing something. So they decided to license boaters — but not in the way governments license drivers. For some reason, that would have been overkill.

Instead they went with something cheaper that still looked useful to the untrained eye — something perfectly in keeping with the quintessentially Canadian notion that stupid behaviour like, say, drunken wakeboarding, can be prevented by telling people that drunken wakeboarding is stupid behaviour: A stringent written test.

[snip]

Not so shockingly, people are still dying on the water. In a particularly gruesome incident on Shuswap Lake in British Columbia last weekend, a power boat launched itself into a houseboat, killing the occupant of the latter. Police are suggesting alcohol, excessive speed and lack of running lights may have been factors — which means, obviously, that people need to be told that driving too fast, drunk and without lights in the dark is a bad idea. One more time ought to do it.

So Transport Minister John Baird is promising tweaks to Canada’s farcical boating licence: “new standards … to improve Internet testing,” a spokesman told The Globe and Mail; a requirement to demonstrate that boaters have read the study guide (I can see it now: “Click here to affirm you have read the study guide”); and, my personal favourite, more questions.

The Pleasure Craft Operator Licence has been with us for a few years now and has been pretty much considered a joke since its inception. But even at this late date it is enjoyable to see it get the recognition it deserves.

But the problem – as with all legislation – whether it is bad, stupid, useless or all three is that the chances of it ever being rescinded are zero or worse. Once on the books, dumb legislation tends to haunt us forever.

Soccer, an anti-competition mentality and entitlement

June 20, 2010

I started writing this blog a few weeks ago but got sidetracked. However the story seems to have legs so I will continue with my 2 cents worth.

The story is simple.  A children’s soccer league in Ottawa has a rule saying that any team that  wins a game by more than 5 points, automatically loses the game by default. (Although as I now understand it , with all of the unfavourable publicity they have now modified that rule).

In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default.

The Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league’s newly implemented edict is intended to dissuade a runaway game in favour of sportsmanship. The rule replaces its five-point mercy regulation, whereby any points scored beyond a five-point differential would not be registered.

Although this story seems to have caught the eye of the media – for a brief instant, at least – it’ is just a further extension of the philosophy that competition is damaging to the psyche of children.

We have seen this philosophy at work in schools over the years, where  no one should fail and students get promoted up through the grades even though they have not completed the curriculum.

I have a hard time believing that we are doing children any favours by removing the competitive element. Not everyone can be a top class athlete and not everyone is going to be a brilliant academic. But does this mean that to soothe those fragile egos, those high achievers must be held back? The only way you hone your skills is by competing with others. And by that I mean real, honest competition.

It seems to me that those who rail against the competetive instinct – the teachers, the adminstrators, the parents and the social activists – are doing nothing but promoting mediocrity.

One of the ongoing complaints that I hear about today’s youth is that they expect to get rewards without showing any inclination to deliver on performance. It is the mentality of entitlement.

I wonder if, in part, that that feeling of entitlement has been driven by the attitude that it is enough if you just show up.

There is a much more rigorous analysis of the situation at Zomblog who takes it way further than a mere soccer league ruling.

Now I’m really depressed.

Why we get stupid laws and regulations

April 16, 2010

On numerous occasions I have belaboured the point that we get laws on the books that really make no sense from a practical point of view and those laws have just ended up there because lawmakers need to look as though they are “doing something” to solve a perceived problem.

Not necessarily always a real problem, but something that the public or the government perceives to be a problem. Or even worse, a non-existent problem that is manufactured to serve someone’s personal agenda.

Case in point: The Nova Scotia government’s stated intention to place a bounty on coyotes in the province.

But first, some background:

Back in October 2009 a 19 year old girl – Taylor Mitchell, a folk singer from Toronto – was attacked and killed by coyotes while hiking in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highland National Park.

That certainly put the spotlight on to the coyote population in the province and complaints came in that coyotes were getting much bolder around humans.

In January 2010, there was a complaint from a man who felt threatened by a pair of coyotes that approached aggressively.

All of this apparently has spooked the provincial government in to believing that they now need to do something to show that they have the situation under control. Their solution – at least their stated solution – is to bring in a bounty on coyotes in the province.

Five months after a young woman was mauled to death by coyotes on a Cape Breton trail, the Nova Scotia government is poised to offer trappers a bounty for the animals to ease fears they are becoming more aggressive.

John MacDonell, the province’s natural resources minister, said Wednesday he has to act because of three additional reports of close encounters with coyotes within the past week. A final decision is expected Friday.

“It’s better to be pro-active and assume that it would help a little rather than do nothing and worry about somebody possibly being hurt by these animals,” he said in an interview.

Which would be fine and dandy if there was any proof that a bounty system would solve the problem. A lot of people think it’s hokum.

But the head of the province’s Federation of Anglers and Hunters said a bounty would be a waste of taxpayers’ money, motivated by politics rather than science.

Tony Rodgers, the federation’s executive director, said MacDonell should think twice about the controversial move.

“It cannot be based on emotion,” Rodgers said. “This is part of the problem we’ve experienced in past years when politicians started making biological decisions. They haven’t got it right yet.”

He said killing more coyotes won’t make them more afraid of humans.

“No message will be sent back to the rest of the pack,” he said, adding the money for the bounty should instead be used to educate Nova Scotians on how to reduce confrontations with wild animals.

And:

….. Rodgers said it’s a mistake to think the province’s 8,000 coyotes are getting more aggressive.

He said the real problem is that one of the coyote’s main sources of food, the snowshoe hare, is at the bottom of a seven-year population cycle and hungry coyotes are simply looking for food.

As well, biologists within MacDonell’s own department have confirmed bounties are ineffective. A provincial bounty introduced in 1982 was removed four years later when it became clear it had no impact on coyote populations.

“It totally flies in the face of what his department has been saying for years,” said Rodgers.

R.A. Lautenschlager, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, said targeting individual animals that pose a threat to humans, rather than all coyotes, is a better approach.

“That’s one of the problems with bounties – there’s not necessarily any selection,” he said from his office in Sackville, N.B.

But here’s the rub -

MacDonell confirmed he is planning to offer a bounty worth about $20 to members of Trappers’ Association of Nova Scotia, whose members caught 1,900 coyotes last year without a bounty.

While he conceded that a bounty would have little impact on the coyote population, he stressed that he felt compelled to do something. (emphasis added)

“I have a concern over who might be attacked or hurt or mauled,” he said. “I know (residents) are not going to call the head of the anglers and hunters if that happens – I’m going to get that call. It’s my responsibility to be more pro-active.”

He said he hopes a bounty will change the coyotes behaviour.

So the Minister actually believes that the bounty will have little effect on coyote behaviour.

But to cover his ass for future indiscretions on the part of their little provincial predator he is willing to use taxpayers dollars to put in place a job enhancement program for the benefit of local trappers.

Knowing how governments seem to work everywhere, that will probably be the full extent of the program.

There is never money available to analyse and assess whether the program is effective and it is unlikely that the trappers would be able to operate in a National Park where the initial tragedy took place anyway.

As well, these laws are rarely set up with end dates, so the bounty program would no doubt carry on long past any reasonable time frame.

In the end it would be a cash cow for the trapping fraternity, who would be guaranteed an extra $20 for every coyote they trapped on top of the fur value. Which certainly would help keep their personal wolves away from the door.

BUT – The politicians will have DONE SOMETHING.

And that’s how we get dumb and useless laws on the books.

Being legislated by fools

April 13, 2010

I read about Ruby Dhalla’s proposed legislation before I left for Arizona in February, and then it dropped beneath my radar. But now Peter Worthington has written a column commenting on it – and with good reason – ripping it apart.

Periodically, a private member’s bill is introduced in Parliament that is so foolish and illogical it has no chance, yet because it’s so asinine rational folk fear it might pass.

Such a bill is C-428, proposed by Ruby Dhalla (of alleged harassed nannies fame), Liberal MP for Brampton. She would reduce from 10 years to three the time an elderly immigrant would have to wait to claim Old Age Security (OAS) or Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

Dhalla’s audacious bill can be justified in that she represents a riding replete with many of East Indian origin who’d love to bring aging kinfolk to Canada to reap old age benefits after three years.

Distressing to some is that Bob Rae seconded Ruby’s outrageous bill and gave it instant credibility it didn’t deserve. The ever-preppy turncoat NDP provincial premier now has his eye on being federal Liberal leader and springboarding to the prime ministership.

Rae’s ambitions never fade. He’s the one most likely to inherit Michael Ignatieff’s job, should Iggy get bored with Liberals, or the Liberal Party gets fed up with him. Rae may yet get a chance to do to Canada what he did to Ontario as its premier.

In any event, Dhalla’s bill to reduce the eligibility wait for OAS entitlement from 10 to three years will escalate costs and reduce the amount pensioners should receive. Already, the system is hard-pressed to prevent old gaffers from actually losing ground as the economy struggles and baby boomers grow older.

This just brings to the forefront the fact that we have too many elected idiots in Ottawa who are only concerned with pandering to their electorate in order to get re-elected and who appear to be totally oblivious to the ramifications of their self-centered actions.

That appears to be one of the major problems with our system: In good faith you elect people to parliament with the hope that they will contribute to running the country in an intelligent manner and then they spend the next four years playing games in the hope that they will get re-elected.

Then again maybe I am giving Dhalla too much credit in believing that she is a clever but cynical politician  who is simply taking care of her own business. Maybe she is really dumb enough that she actually thinks that her proposed bill has merit.

I think this just proves an earlier point I made, that Harper’s proroguing of parliament was a good thing. If they’re not in the House, they’re limited to how much they can screw up the country.

Tiger Woods: Everyone is an expert

March 30, 2010

I have almost reached the point of feeling sympathy for Woods over his personal problems. I say ‘almost’, as his problems were all caused by his own arrogance and lack of personal discipline and quite frankly – stupidity. Not that those are failings exclusive to Mr. Woods.

Contemplate briefly Bill ClintonJohn Edwards, Kobe Bryant, Jesse James, Mark Sanford, and sundry other high profile philanderers. All of them, with much to lose, and who seemed to think that they could act out their sexual fantasies free and clear of any media intrusion.

What were they thinking – if they were thinking at all?

But back to the Tiger.

What has begun to generate some sympathy, at least on my part, is the schizophrenic commentary that has become the norm when writing about the trials and travails of golf’s number one player.

If you read any amount of the tripe that has been written it becomes apparent that no matter what decision that Woods might make regarding his return to golf it will be wrong in someone’s eyes.

It was the opinion of some that the timing of his press conference during the Accenture golf tournament was  obviously to punish Accenture for dropping him as a client.  Some punishment. Accenture got more publicity in the MSM than they ever could have hoped for from the sponsorship of the golf tournament.

Of course there has been the ongoing debate of when Tiger would come back and when he should come back. There were those that argued that he should stay away from the game for an extended period until he had somehow been purified. I got the feeling that some thought that he should retire from the game permanently as being proven unworthy of treading the fairways alongside of rest of the tour players who no doubt had been vetted and approved as his moral superiors.

They were further offended when Woods showed up practicing at Ilseworth as if that showed a further flaw in his character.

After all of the debate as to when he would return and the various speculations about which venue he would choose, he announced that he would return to play the 2010 Masters at Augusta.

Whoops! Wrong decision again. Making his debut at the Masters would be too disrespectful to the event with all of the media hype that would be involved. Ignoring of course the massive television coverage the tournament would generate.

But then it was felt that he should have shown some loyalty to Arnold Palmer and played in Palmer’s Bay Hill tournament prior to the Masters. Of course if he had, the criticisms would have been the same as for his decision to open with the Masters.

For the most part, the personal opinions emanating from professional golf writers has been bad enough, but the Tiger soap opera has morphed into such a major event (no pun intended there) that everyone with a computer has turned into a sports writer. Most of them not knowing a wedge from a wedgie.

An example of the previously mentioned schizophrenia is brilliantly manifested in an interview with Peter Arliss the British golf commentator (the pointer thanks to Geoff Shackleford, who, since the beginning of the Tiger debacle has bounced between being a golf journalist and a gossip  columnist).

Arliss can’t seem to make up his mind where he stands with Tiger.

“I’m surprised, in a way, they are letting him play there,” Alliss said. “It either shows they have a desire to be helpful or a weakness. It would have been rather grand — but would have perpetuated the stupidity of it — if they had said, ‘Sorry, we don’t want your sort here.’

Although -

… Alliss dismisses the notion that it is disrespectful to the other players for Woods to bring his circus to town in Masters week.

But -

…. he was withering in his condemnation of the 14-times major champion for choosing the middle of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February to make his first public statement since November, that cringing mea culpa. “Ernie Els was right when he used the word ‘selfish,’ ” Alliss said. “It was thoughtless and I didn’t like it.

Then again -

“But we’ve all done stupid things. If you are a red-blooded male and you’re chatted up by a decent-looking bird, it’s very hard to not say yes. It was a lot easier in my day. I remember some very famous golfers who used to book into hotels as Mr and Mrs.”

Does this mean that what Tiger did was not really wrong? Just bad timing?

And -

If anything sticks in Alliss’s craw it is doing daft things in your own backyard. He recalls an old-timer telling him never to “get tiddly” at a golf club. Little wonder, therefore, that he remains unimpressed with the behaviour of two of Great Britain’s finest golfers.

“My lasting memory is seeing Ian Woosnam come out of the front door at Augusta p***ed with Sam Torrance,” he said. “Both of them fell in the bushes and it wasn’t a very good sight. I thought, ‘Boys, boys. Get a couple of bottles and go home. Don’t get p***ed here.’

OK, so if Tiger has taken his adventures out of the country???

And on it goes.

As far as I’m concerned Tiger’s tragedy is in his own hands. If he doesn’t want to bare his soul to the ravening press then more power to him. All he really needs to provide us with is the opportunity to watch him play his spectacular game of golf.

I hope he come back strong to the game of golf and I hope he dominates the sport again. In fact I hope he wins the Masters in April.

But what I would really like to see is a swelling of applause for Woods the golfer as he steps onto the first tee.

Wouldn’t that make the naysayers choke on their morning toast.


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