Archive for October, 2008

Airports are not my natural habitat

October 31, 2008

Having twice flown in to and out of the Vancouver airport this week I am reminded that I hate airports with an even greater passion than I did in another life.

The Vancouver airport is under another stage of construction which once again has destroyed any iota of familiarity that I have built up with the facility. At this stage in the downward curve of my mental and physical being, I am easily confused and easily annoyed. If it’s possible, more the latter than the former.

To compound the assault on my weary traveler’s senses, the Tim Hortons has disappeared from the Gate C area, where I am normally deposited. Starbucks is still on location, but after the 2nd or 3rd visit to their counter you are in need of contacting your credit card supplier for an increase in your lending limits.

In additional to the aforementioned annoyances, my wait between my flight in and my flight home is arguably long enough to get married and raise a new family. Although that would necessitate committing bigamy which is frowned upon outside of certain communities.

Admittedly, there was a temptation to bribe the pilot flying the plane from Victoria to Vancouver to just bypass Vancouver and reroute the flight to my home base. But these days the airline companies are so damned touchy about those kind of negotiations with their personnel, I thought it was best to just suffer through the ordeal.

I could put all of this behind me if I thought that it was the last flight I would ever book. Alas, I see the future clearly and see more security lineups, more stumbling through construction areas and more waiting in uncomfortable seats for the promised next flight.

If the was a God, He (or She) would have given us wings of our own.

Looking at the stats on Canadian homicides for 2007

October 28, 2008

Statistics Canada has released its 2007 report on homicide in Canada and there are some interesting figures therein.

Homicides have decreased from 2006 in total, albeit marginally, at 594, down by 12.

Stabbings account for one third of the 2007 homicides and firearms for another third. This has been the trend, according to Stats Canada, for the past 20 years.

For all of the political rhetoric we hear about violent crime in Canada the homicide rate has been declining since the mid-70s and continued that decline in 2007.

For firearms owners the one statistic of concern is that while overall firearm-related homicides have been decreasing over the past 30-odd years, the portion committed with handguns has been rising. Again, according to the Stats Canada report, twenty years ago they accounted for one-quarter of firearm homicides. In 2007 that figure had risen to two-thirds. This will play right into the hands of politicians such as Toronto Mayor David Miller whose shtick has been to demonize legitimate handgun owners every time Toronto sees another gang killing.

But there are two further pieces of information in the report that put a different spin on those figures.

One is that 81% of handgun related homicides are committed in Canada’s bigger cities. Tied directly to that statistic is that gang-related homicides are a major contributor.

Gang related homicides in Canada have been increasing since 1991 when Stats Canada first began to collect this data. More startling is that they now account for one in every five homicides reported to police and (not surprisingly) that two-thirds of those were committed with a firearm. That compares to 20% of the homicides not involving gangs.

Although there was a drop in the number of youth involved in homicides, about one-third of those were also gang-related. That figure is for the number who were accused and not the number who may have actually murdered someone. You have to get caught to be accused.

It would seem obvious that the high homicide rates recorded in the larger cities have a direct correlation to gang activity.

The city of Toronto overall had the most homicides (111), which was to be expected given its population numbers, of which 54 were committed with a firearm and of those, 23 were considered to be gang-related.

In other cities the effect of gangs on homicide statistics was even more apparent.

Winnipeg: Firearm related homicides – 5. Gang-related homicides – 5.

Edmonton: Firearm related homicides – 13. Gang-related homicides – 16.

Hamilton: Firearm related homicides – 2. Gang-related homicides – 3.

Calgary: Firearm related homicides – 7. Gang-related homicides – 4.

Vancouver: Firearm related homicides – 24. Gang-related homicides – 19.

Montreal: Firearm related homicides – 22. Gang-related homicides – 20.

Does anyone really think that you could stop these gang killing by banning anything?

Regardless, the fact is that homicides in Canada are decreasing; firearm-related homicides as well. That there are now more homicides committed with handguns than with long guns is irrelevant. If by waving a magic wand you could make all the handguns in the country disappear the gangs would switch to long guns and if the long guns disappeared they would bomb each other and if necessary club each other to death.

It’s like the argument the anti-gunners make about gun-related suicides being down since the gun control laws came into effect, as though that is a major victory even though overall suicide rates haven’t gone down. In their fanatical little minds they somehow find it more comforting that the same number of people are dying because they’re killing themselves by some method other than a firearm.

Pretty hard to have a conversation with that mindset.

The dignity of plants

October 25, 2008

I posted on Switzerland’s all encompassing animal/plants rights legislation back in May, but a more recent article gives an indication of how all this came about and some of the initial impacts.

A law protecting the dignity of plants?  Laugh if you will.  I’m down on my knees in respect and awe.  At last the Western World is realizing the dire importance of taking other species into account.

Recently, the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to determine the meaning of dignity when it pertains to plants.

Lo and Behold, the team published a treatise on “the moral consideration of plants for their own sake.” The treatise established that vegetation has innate value and that it is morally wrong to partake in activities such as the “decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason.”

Over a decade ago, an amendment was added to the Swiss constitution in order to defend the dignity of all creatures — including vegetation — against unwanted repercussions of genetic engineering. The amendment was turned into law and is known as the Gene Technology Act. However the law itself didn’t say anything specific about plants, until recently, when the law was amended to include them.

I presume that a “rational reason” for “decapitating” a flower might be the process of mowing a roadside area or something similar. But are you guilty of a crime against plants if you murder some dandelions because you don’t want them in your lawn?  Or if you clear a grove of trees in order to plant a field of corn? I can see the argument for an environmental issue, but one of morality?

I would be interested in seeing how the legislation presumes to enforce any perceived infractions. Or who decides in their infinite wisdom exactly what is an infraction. I suspect that like too many laws that are drafted by the bureaucracy the answers to specific questions are not addressed. Instead they write the laws and then wait for the courts to sort out the details.

Amazingly the author of the article professes to agree with the legislation, but then wonders just where it all ends.

And even though I think it’s a great law, where does it stop?  How humiliated is a boiled potato?  A peeled carrot?  Corn turned into a lowly, tortilla chip meant for dipping?

A damned fine question. Where is the dignity in turning a fine cob of corn into a processed tortilla chip?

The dubious conclusions drawn by this confusion of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians seems comparative to the ancient philosophers debating the serious question of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Concern over the “dignity” of wheat? This is stupidity on so many levels.

Fred Thompson: Still my man

October 24, 2008

Here’s the guy that should have been the GOP presidential nominee. Along with everything else he sounds damned good.

The world is full of idiots

October 24, 2008

There was a story earlier this month where a B.C. man was attacked by a black bear and saved himself by killing the bear by hitting it with a (big) stick. In the process he was badly mauled.

Jim West, 45, was out walking last Saturday morning with his two dogs near 70 Mile House, about halfway between Kamloops and Williams Lake, when he came face to face with an angry mother bear.

“I turned [when] I heard a grunt. All I saw was eyes full of hatred … I had no option … So I stuck my foot up and tried to kick her in the face,” he said.

The bear then attacked him, knocking him to the ground, and West soon found himself on the losing side of an ill-matched fight.

“I rolled onto my stomach and clasped my hands at the back of my neck. She tore into my skull at the back of my head, moved over and bit me on the left side of my body, on my ribs and left arm,” said West.

Knowing he would likely soon be dead unless he fought back, the injured West managed to get to his feet and picked up a stick about as thick as his arm.

You would think that would be the end of the story. Man is attacked by bear and successfully defends himself. Good human interest story. Too bad for the bear, especially as there were two cubs that had to be put down by Conservation Officers after the fact. But what are you going to do? Let the bear kill you? I think not.

As a matter of fact, that is apparently what some people think he should have done.

A B.C. man who clubbed a bear to death in self-defence is now defending himself from a smear campaign.

Jim West of 70 Mile House says angry animal-rights crusaders have been harassing him at home and impersonating him in e-mails to media outlets.

“I figure this is someone from PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] because I’ve had some people tracking me down and giving me the gears,” said Mr. West, 45.

“I really hate that. I hate confrontations of any kind. I try to be as polite as possible. I’m sorry, but it was simply a life-or-death situation,” he said yesterday.

PETA spokesman Martin Mersereau denied any involvement in the smear campaign.

***

Since then, e-mails have been sent to The Province in Mr. West’s name, attempting to debunk his story.

In the e-mails, someone impersonating Mr. West says the dogs started the confrontation by chasing the bears up a tree. The e-mails go on to say that Mr. West stood below the tree, waiting to attack the bear when it came down.

But Mr. West is sticking to his story.

“I’m sorry that the cubs had to be put down. I’m sorry I had to kill that bear, but she wouldn’t be sorry if she had killed me,” he said.

Mr. West says he’s also been receiving phone calls.

“One woman asked me why I killed the bear and why I didn’t run away. Well, you can’t outrun a mother bear,” said Mr. West who is recovering from the 60 stitches to his skull, upper lip and left arm he received in the attack.

“It was a matter of survival and I’m sorry people are upset about it, but it was live or die.”

There are those who believe that man’s natural habitat is highrise apartments, paved parking lots and fast food restaurants. They believe that we should never venture into the backcountry and anyone who wanders into the bears “world” deserves what ever happens. In this scenario Mr. West was at fault for the bear’s attack simply because he was there. If he had stayed at home the bears would be alive and the world would be at one with itself.

Anyone who believes this is seriously out of touch with reality.

I feel sorry for those who never experience the world beyond the confines of paved roads and man made fences. There is always an element of risk when you step into natural country.  As the saying goes, when you step into the backcountry you need to be aware that you are at the bottom end of the food chain.

Jim West elevated himself just a little bit above that line when he went tooth and nail against a determined and aggressive bear. He certainly has my respect.

Bullshit baffles brains

October 21, 2008

The Volokh Conspiracy has an interesting piece on Glibness v Intelligence as it pertains to the players in the US presidential election.

The meme that has arisen that Sarah Palin isn’t smart enough to be Vice-President (and potentially President) strikes me as quite implausible. Focusing on the big picture: she has been an extraordinarily successful governor with substantial policy accomplishments in a short time, she has an 85% approval rating, and she knocked off an incumbent and former governor to be elected. And, as I’ve previously discussed, based on my experience working with and in government, being governor of a state is an extremely difficult job, much more difficult than being a Senator (for instance).

***

Some thoughtful people simply have a tendency to confuse intelligence with the ability to be glib, or more precisely, to bs. And I think that is much of what it comes down to–if Palin doesn’t know the answer to a question, she just isn’t that good at making something up. Biden, by contrast, is a master bs’er, as his debate performance exhibited. As a general rule, the less informed he was about the answer to a question, the more assertive he was in answering it, such as his extraordinary answer about the legislative role of the Vice-President. It is clear that he had not the slightest idea what he was talking about, yet he just plowed ahead throwing out assertions with rhetorical flair. Classic bs.

That doesn’t just apply to the current US election. It fits a lot of successful politicians – regardless of where they hang their hat – who have raised to an art form the ability to talk interminably around a question without ever coming close to an answer. I recall John Chretien, when he was Prime Minister, lauding one of his cabinet ministers for her ability to do just that.

Over the years I have received letters from politicians answering a query that did pretty much the same, although it is more obvious when you see it in black and white under their letterhead. It can be frustrating or funny depending on your current state of cynicism when you read the damned thing.

It was ever thus. As a politician you don’t want to give a clear answer today because you may have to change your position tomorrow.

Lawsuit against God denied

October 17, 2008

I don’t know if the judge in question had a sense of humour or if he was playing it straight, but a lawsuit against God by a Nebraska Senator was thrown out because of lack of evidence that the defendant had ever been served. Apparently God’s address is unknown.

Judge Marlon Polk threw out Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers’ lawsuit against the Almighty, saying there was no evidence that the defendant had been served. What’s more, Polk found “there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant.”

Chambers had sued God in September 2007, seeking a permanent injunction to prevent God from committing acts of violence such as earthquakes and tornadoes.

The senator said today that he is considering an appeal of Polk’s ruling.

“It is a thoughtful, well-written opinion,” Chambers said. “However, like any prudent litigator, I want to study it in detail before I determine what my next course of action will be.”

Polk dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, which means it can’t be refiled. But his ruling can be appealed.

Funny, but also a bit weird and a total waste of the court’s time.

From the Left with hate

October 17, 2008

It is almost frightening the level of hate that comes from the Left when they see conservative values being supported. It is like a religious fervor where those who disbelieve must be exorcised. There is no debate or rational thought, just emotion and lots of venom.  Lots and lots of venom.

Election 2008 gives Canada another Conservative minority

October 16, 2008

The Canadian election came to its conclusion last night without (my) the hoped for results. Instead of a majority government, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives slid back in with another minority government, albeit up 16 seats for a total of 143 MPs elected.

Stephane Dion’s Liberals, still the official opposition with 76 seats won, will be missing 19 MLAs when the House sits again. Not an encouraging situation for Dion’s ongoing career as leader of the party.

Jack Layton’s NPD party improved its position slightly with 37 seats and the Green Party came out with zilch. The election of a couple of Independents closed out the count.

The Conservatives ended up with no seats in Newfoundland, no doubt due to Danny William’s strident campaign against Stephen Harper’s government. But overall they did pick up seats in the Maritimes.

The deal breaker was the Bloc Quebecois which by taking 50 of the seats in Quebec dashed the Conservative’s hopes of crossing the finishing line with a majority government.

The election apparently had a record low turnout. I wonder if a lot of traditionally Liberal supporters weren’t excited about voting for Dion’s policies but wouldn’t vote for any of the alternate parties either so simply stayed home and sat on their hands.

A lovely post election moment featuring Stephane Dion with a lot of subsequent ass kissing and making excuses for Mr Dion by the CTV commentators rather summed up the tone of the past few weeks.

The Conservatives put a brave face on the results, saying that they had come through with a stronger minority position. Certainly better than a decreased or static position, but unfortunately still a minority government.

There are, I think, some positives for the Stephen Harper.

The Conservatives have improved their position for the last three elections which has to make the other parties somewhat nervous. To the point that any time that the Harper government puts legislation before the House the opposition parties will have to think long and hard about voting it down and potentially triggering another election.

It would be worth the price of admission to see the government go forward with their pledge to get rid of the long gun registration once and for all and see if the opposition, after the prerequisite yelling and screaming, finally swallows hard and lets the registry pass into oblivion.

With the Liberal party in disarray and a very heavy cloud hanging over Stephane Dion’s continued leadership, the election has given the Conservatives moving room to implement their legislative plan and to deal effectively with the current financial crisis as it applies to Canada. It could have been better, but it’s not all bad.

We’ll see where it goes from here.

Crowd behaviour at live concerts

October 14, 2008

A few weeks back we went in to Vancouver to take in the Neil Diamond tour. It was held in GM Stadium and the seats were very good, but it is a big venue. Not the intimate setting you would like but if you couldn’t fill a stadium for these events they would never happen.

What fascinates me about concerts today is the crowd behaviour. It seems to me that years ago the events that I attended were relatively quiet affairs. The patrons came to see the performer, listened and enjoyed, applauding where appropriate, absorbed the music and basically let themselves be entertained.

That doesn’t seem to be the case any more. Today it seems that the audience wants to be part of event. They stand and wave and whistle and cheer. Some dance and rows of people wave their arms back and forth in some semblance of rhythm. In some cases segments of the audience are as entertaining as the professionals up on the stage.

No doubt some of this at least is fueled by the sale of alcohol on site. A fellow in front of us at the Diamond concert could hardly stand up by the end of the show and I am sure he wasn’t the only one who had enjoyed himself up to a state of incomprehension. Let the good times roll.

At least with a ballad singer like Diamond the crowd quiets down pretty much during the actual song. During a rock concert I doubt that they hear a word. They just vibrate with the wall of sound.

One thing for sure, the performers love the reaction from the crowd. There could be no question in Neil Diamond’s mind that the crowd loved and appreciated his talent.


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