Archive for June, 2008

Annika goes out in style

June 29, 2008

Just watching the US Women’s Open and Annika Sorenstam, playing in possibly her last Open and having a terrible final round, holes her 3rd shot into the par 5 18th for an eagle. Didn’t make a damned bit of difference to the outcome, but what an emotional and dramatic TV moment. It’s a golf shot that will be shown on TV sports clips for years to come.


Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint against MacLeans dismissed

June 27, 2008

Macleans Magazine has issued a press release regarding the Canadian Human Rights Commision‘s dismissal of the complaint brought against it by the Canadian Islamic Congress.

The complaint was based on the accusation that MacLeans Magazine had published a number of Islamophobic articles most notably an excerpt from Mark Steyn‘s book America Alone.

A complaint was originally filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission which ruled that it did not have jurisdiction. However in doing so they summarily convicted MacLeans with their comments.

While freedom of expression must be recognized as a cornerstone of a functioning democracy, the Commission has serious concerns about the content of a number of articles concerning Muslims that have been published by Maclean’s magazine and other media outlets. This type of media coverage has been identified as contributing to Islamophobia and promoting societal intolerance towards Muslim, Arab and South Asian Canadians. The Commission recognizes and understands the serious harm that such writings cause, both to the targeted communities and society as a whole. And, while we all recognize and promote the inherent value of freedom of expression, it should also be possible to challenge any institution that contributes to the dissemination of destructive, xenophobic opinions.

A complaint was also filed with the BC Human Rights Tribunal which heard the case over a 5 day period beginning on June 2nd, 2008, which was live-blogged by columnist Andrew Coyne here, here, here, here, here and here.

A decision has yet to be rendered on this one.

I wonder if the Canadian HRC’s dismissal of the case is based on the realization that they may have bitten off more than they can chew. This case has drawn a great deal of unwanted publicity as to how arbitrary and one-sided their process is and they may rightfully be afraid that the government may be moved to reduce their power.

Which is exactly what the provincial and federal governments should do. Any government organization with the power to impact people’s lives to the extent that the HRCs can do, with the mantra that ‘truth is not a defence’, need to be severely curtailed.

Interestingly enough, I cannot find any reference on the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s website that refers to their dismissing the case against MacLeans. I’ll keep looking.

U.S. Supreme Court confirms individual right to own firearms

June 27, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court issued their decision in the District of Columbia v Heller and in a 5 to 4 decision came down in favour of the individual right to own a firearm.

An article on Yahoo News reported:

In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Second Amendment protected an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

However, the reporter couldn’t resist putting a bit of negativity into the article, nothing which had any relevance to the decision.

The ruling came the day after a worker at a plastics plant in Henderson, Kentucky, used a handgun to shoot and kill five people inside the factory before killing himself, the latest in a series of deadly shooting sprees across the country.

The United States is estimated to have the world’s highest civilian gun ownership rate. Gun deaths average 80 a day in the United States, 34 of them homicides, according to Centers for Disease Control data.

But then it was ever thus.

Some cautions were noted over at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Although Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Heller firmly establishes the Court’s recognition of an individual right to bear arms, it also lists a large number of “presumptively valid” firearms regulations, including “longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” The opinion also recognizes the validity of “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “‘dangerous and unusual weapons.'” Many of these exceptions to the right to bear arms could potentially be used to swallow up the rule. Most obviously, “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” could easily be drafted in ways that make the purchase of firearms prohibitively difficult or expensive for most ordinary citizens. For example, Justice Scalia emphasizes that the right to bear arms is historically rooted in the right to self-defense. State and local governments could potentially enact laws requiring would-be gun purchasers to provide extensive and specific evidence that they really do need a firearm for self-defense before allowing them to purchase guns.

Actually, there is a lot of commentary on the Heller Decision over at the Volokh Conspiracy that is worth the read.

Dave Kopel has initial comments here.

You can bet your boots that lawyers working for anti-gun administrations are already burning the midnight oil looking for ways to subvert this decision.

On the positive side U.S. gun owners have received a powerful statement of their rights of ownership, but they haven’t seen the end to the battle. The courts will be busy in years to come.

Armed and beautiful

June 24, 2008

I don’t know why this amused me, but it just did:

She’s a daddy’s girl.

But don’t think this year’s Miss Tennessee is a pushover.

Ellen Carrington, 21, who was crowned Miss Tennessee on Saturday night, has a concealed weapons permit.

“I have a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber,” Carrington told reporters on Sunday, “(with a) silver top and black body.”

A Jackson native and senior at Union University, Carrington decided to get the permit because she was spending a lot of time traveling to and from Nashville at night. She said spending time at shooting ranges with her father, Pat, helped create an even deeper bond between the two.

Kind of made me think of the movie Miss Congeniality.

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

It’s all about politics, stupid.

June 23, 2008

Lorrie Goldstein has written an excellent series of articles on global warming dissenters, which unfortunately no longer have links but his latest article lays out the politics of the issue.

First, Canadians care about this issue, passionately. I’ve never had as strong a response from readers as I’ve had to these columns in more than 20 years of column-writing.

Second, most politicians, regardless of party, don’t know what they’re talking about.

They don’t understand the theory of anthropogenic global warming, or what is known with confidence and what isn’t.

They don’t know the difference between the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

They don’t realize the economic dislocation involved in moving from a carbon-based to a carbon-free economy.

Most care about the issue only in so far as it can help them get elected, which, given the implications and what’s at stake for ordinary citizens, is recklessly irresponsible.

Most politicians don’t know what the Kyoto accord says.

Read it all.

The Tiger was badly wounded

June 18, 2008

News today that Tiger Woods is going in for more surgery on his knee which ends his season for 2008. He also has a double stress fracture to his left tibia,

Things were much more serious than spectators and commentators realized during the U.S. Open, although Tiger was obviously in real pain. All of which makes his win at the 2008 U.S. Open all the more remarkable.

Woods has competed in 7 events this year has won 5 of those tournaments. However reports are that it is unlikely that he will be back in action before 2009.

Hopefully he will make a complete recovery and be able to return to top form.

Beware the wounded Tiger (Woods)

June 18, 2008

It was an amazing U.S. Open this past weekend, with Tiger Woods making a putt on the final hole on Sunday to put himself into an 18 hole playoff on Monday with Rocco Mediate.

But it was the story that made the tournament.

Mediate, a 45 year old veteran who hasn’t won on the PGA tour since 2002 took Woods to the wire on the Monday playoff where the world’s number one again came back from a one stoke deficit to take the game into sudden death. Woods then won his 14th major on the 19th hole.

If Mediate had won he would have been the oldest player to ever win the U.S. Open and the person to break Tiger’s streak of never losing a tournament when he enjoyed a 54 hole lead.

The other side of the equation was that Woods was in obvious discomfort playing with a post-surgery knee that was giving him considerable pain.

Wood’s performance showed that his winning ways come as much or more from the muscles in his mind. Fighting an errant driver, he simply toughed it out, making his patented brilliant recovery shots from the wild country and making the clutch putts when he needed them to survive.

Mediate had his opportunities to win but wasn’t able to take advantage of his opportunities and you can only give Woods so many second chances before he closes the gate.

I found it tough to root for either player against the other.

A win for Mediate would have been an amazing cap to a 23 years career, especially one that has seen him battle serious back problems to the detriment of his game. He would have made a great champion – outgoing and friendly. One of my favourite pictures was Mediate walking down the fairway chatting with one of the officials with his arm around the guy’s shoulder. The total opposite of the intense and focused Woods.

On the other hand, watching Tiger play through injury and pain was truly inspirational. He is an amazing athlete. He literally willed himself to win the U.S. Open on a very tough course. You can never count him out. There was nothing ho-hum in his reaction when he dropped the winning putt either. The win was emotionally important to him and to his caddy Steve Williams.

It was a great tournament and put the lie to the statement that golf is a boring game to watch.

The only unfortunate part of the outcome is that it is rarely remembered who came in second and Mediate’s performance deserves better than that.

Gophers, Prairie Dogs and Poison

June 16, 2008

I have never liked the use of poison to control unpopular animal populations, even as a youngster on our farm in Southern Saskatchewan. I hated to see our neighbour across the road out dropping poison into gopher holes (some of it on our property) and I never liked the cyanide guns that government agents used to decimate coyote populations in those days.

At the time it was more of a gut reaction although maybe even then I understood how indiscriminate the results of the poisoning was. The cyanide guns killed a lot of farm dogs along with the coyotes they targeted. The gopher poison killed a lot of other unintended birds and animals.

For a long time now poison has not been allowed in most jurisdictions as a method to control these populations. But the out-of-control growth of gophers in SW Saskatchewan and Prairie Dogs in the U.S. West has changed that dynamic. This year, in answer to local demands, the federal government authorized the use of strychnine by Saskatchewan and Alberta landowners to help solve their problem.

I find it hard to fault the ranchers and farmers who have been impacted by these animals for calling for more drastic measures to reduce their populations. There has been a huge economic cost for them, with crop damage and even equipment damage due to the rodent’s burrowing holes, exacerbated by the influx of badgers making even bigger holes in the process of digging out their gopher prey.

The ranchers/farmers in SW Saskatchewan have been very good about welcoming shooters onto their land in an attempt to reduce the populations in that manner. And although there have been a large number of shooters that have come into the area and killed a lot of gophers their efforts apparently did not make a serious dent in the populations.

One of the concerns with poison is the incidental kills and I noted that there were Burrowing Owls in the area, which would be particularly vulnerable to the poison regime.

I asked one of the ranchers in SW Saskatchewan about that and he said that he had seen nothing in that regard so far. Mind you this particular fellow seemed to be pretty careful about the placement of his poison, making sure it was placed well down the hole and getting rid of any poison-killed gophers that he found. I’m not sure that everyone placing their poison will be that conscientious.

An indication of how effective poison control can be comes from a conversation I had with a fellow in Weyburn who has gone down to North Dakota for the past few years to shoot Prairie Dogs. When they were leaving the ranch they shot on last year the rancher told them he had a crew coming in to apply poison on his lands. In the past week the rancher advised that it was pointless to come down this spring, as the poison applied appears to have killed off 90-95 percent of the dogs on his property.

It remains to be seen if the control program is as successful for the farmers and ranchers in Saskatchewan .

On a cynical note, a couple of years ago when the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation put together a shooting derby to help in reducing the gopher numbers there was a great amount of hoopla in the media, instigated by animal rights groups, decrying how inhumane it all was. However there doesn’t appear to be much caterwauling and hand wringing over the fact that strychnine is now being used to kill off large numbers of the animals. So obviously the concern wasn’t for the gophers per se; it was all about an agenda against guns, shooting and hunting.

Gopher hunting in SW Saskatchewan

June 14, 2008

Just in the process of making a quick trip back to Saskatchewan to visit family and took to opportunity to do a little gopher shooting in the South-west near Hazenmore.

For the past few years I have been reading about the gopher infestation in the area and have been curious to see how bad it was. Then this year the federal government approved the use of strychnine in Saskatchewan by the local farmers and ranchers to reduce the gopher population so I figured it was now or never.

The poisoning work had already begun and local farmers I talked to said that the numbers were certainly reduced, but there were still a lot of gophers around. What was amazing was the visibility everywhere of their digs. Just driving along Highway 13 you could see the evidence in the fields alongside the road. On the rural roads it was impossible to avoid running over animals. They were spread through pastureland, cultivated land and even burrowed into creek banks like muskrats.

The local farmer whose land I shot on has had shooters come in from all over the country: As far away as Ontario to the East and Northern B.C to the West, and he was happy to see them.

The shooting wasn’t fast and furious, but it was steady. Every time you thought things had come to a halt some more gophers would show up. And it wasn’t ideal weather either. Not overly warm nor was it sunny. There had been a lot of rain in the area in recent days and I had originally thought the day might be a washout – no pun intended.

I probably shot upwards of 70 gophers from about 3:00 PM to 8:30 PM, all using .22 rimfires. In the interest of avoiding psychological trauma to urban gopher aficionados I took no pictures of the mayhem I participated in. Anyway, who wants to look at pictures of dead gophers.

In the end the landowner was happy that I had contributed to the reduction of his gopher herd and I had spent an afternoon reliving the shooting days of my youth. I would have liked to have gone back another day, but rain moved back in to Southern Saskatchewan, which made gopher shooting impossible and the locals so happy that I couldn’t see fit to complain about the weather affecting my personal agenda.

Unintended Consequences

June 8, 2008

Toronto’s Mayor wants to ban handguns across Canada. He also wants to close down shooting ranges in his city. At least he did, but when the public commentary went sour on him his council backed away.

Mayor David Miller’s powerful executive committee has reversed course on part of a proposed anti-firearms policy after getting an earful from the gun lobby.

A city report on measures to address gun violence in Toronto called for several steps, the most controversial being to terminate leases with two gun clubs that run shooting ranges on city property at Union Station and a Scarborough community centre.

The committee instead asked staff to draft a report on options for the clubs to move out of what Miller called “inappropriate” locations and re-establish themselves on private property, an idea crafted by Councillor Norm Kelly.

Existing gun ranges on private property in Toronto are being grandfathered in under the staff proposal, so penalizing the two clubs operating on city property was deemed unfair.

The Mayor says that he is not backing down but because they can’t close private ranges it is a matter of “respect” to the two ranges on city property to allow them to move to a private facility. So now it isn’t that the shooting ranges are of great danger to the public, it’s just that it is “inappropriate” that they are housed on city property. Can we say “political spin”?

But now the Toronto police are complaining that as they crack down on illegal gun ownership in the city the thugs are turning to knives to solve their personal vendettas. What a surprise!

In Toronto and its suburbs, the ease with which you can purchase a knife attracts scant attention. Instead, the city is so consumed with combatting gun crime that Mayor David Miller and City Council will vote this month on the extraordinary step of evicting legal gun clubs from publicly owned locations such as Union Station, where a gun club has been housed since 1921.

While homicide detectives and policy-makers say firearms are still the biggest scourge on Toronto’s streets, the attention, time and money dedicated in the past few years to cracking down on gun crime has made it tougher for aspiring criminals to obtain their weapon of choice.

That means they are unsheathing their weapons of second choice – kitchen knives, jackknives, hunting knives and, if they can get them, illegal switchblades and butterfly knives. “All those things we’re doing to decrease firearm weapons is cutting down the availability of these guns,” says Staff Inspector Brian Raybould, the head of the Toronto police homicide squad. “At the same time, criminals who choose to arm themselves have to find some way to do it. If firearms aren’t available, what’s the next best thing? Knives, sharp-edged weapons.”

Heightened security at Canada-U.S. border crossings and programs such as the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS), started in 2005 to curb street violence by increasing the police presence in high-crime neighbourhoods, have helped to drive down the frequency of gunpoint retail and bank heists. Robbers are turning to knives instead, Staff Insp. Raybould says.

Over all, police and paramedics in the Greater Toronto Area attended more stabbing calls from January to April this year (April is the last month of 2008 for which statistics are available) than they did in the same period last year.

Toronto police responded to 167 stabbings up to the end of April, 2008 – in 73 of those cases, the victims were taken to hospital in serious condition. That’s up from 58 by April last year.

Still, overall homicide rates – by any method – for Toronto and its suburbs are roughly the same so far this year as they were last year.

This mirrors what is happening in Britain where firearms ownership is virtually banned.

Knife crime among young people has sparked a widespread debate in recent weeks in Britain, where police say they have seen “a worrying trend” toward more severe knife attacks involving younger attackers and victims.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday announced a crackdown on teenagers carrying knives, saying that those as young as 16 will be prosecuted for knife possession on the first offense. Previously, anyone younger than 18 generally received only a warning.

“Young people need to understand that carrying knives doesn’t protect you, it does the opposite — it increases the danger for all of us, destroys young lives and ruins families,” Brown said after meeting with top police and government officials at his 10 Downing Street office. “Recent tragic events have reminded us of that.”

In a country where almost all guns are illegal, police say knives are the most popular weapons carried by youths in major cities from London to Glasgow. A police stop-and-search campaign in London last month found that about 5 percent of the 4,200 youths randomly checked were carrying knives.

It seems that if individuals are inclined to violence they will use whatever weapons they have on hand and if they can find a way to ban knives the thugs will be using baseball bats to solve their disputes. Or worse.

All of this is akin to covering up the spots to cure measles.