Archive for November, 2008

Gun Ownership and ethics

November 30, 2008

There is an excellent article written by Eric S. Raymond entitled Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun: What Bearing Weapons Teaches us about the Good Life. Written in 2006, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen it floating around the internet before now.

Raymond begins his treatise thus:

There is nothing like having your finger on the trigger of a gun to reveal who you really are. Life or death in one twitch — ultimate decision, with the ultimate price for carelessness or bad choices.

It is a kind of acid test, an initiation, to know that there is lethal force in your hand and all the complexities and ambiguities of moral choice have fined down to a single action: fire or not?

He then proceeds to list and define four essential lessons which can be learned from owning and using a gun.

I would highly recommend a complete read of the paper. In fact it wouldn’t hurt to re-read it on a regular basis.

Although the article doesn’t speak specifically to the issue of hunting, the premise that a person’s moral and ethical character is reflected in how he responds to the responsibilities inherent in the ownership and use of a firearm makes a stronger argument for the value of the hunt than those arguing as to it’s worth as a conservation tool or the traditional procurement of food.

A hunter knows the capabilities of the gun that he carries and that death is real and permanent. It is not a video game that can be re-started from a keyboard. He learns the responsibility of knowing his target and the ethics of a clean kill. And he knows that if he acts carelessly and without thought, there are consequences.

Admittedly, there are those who never learn these lessons. Either deliberately or through lack of intellect or interest they misuse their tools. In my experience they are in the minority and if known, should be avoided at all cost.

The lessons learned from handling a firearm extend as well to competitive shooting, where the intent is not to kill, but to merely punch a hole in a paper target. But it has the value of teaching discipline and self control. And even on the shooting range the person holding the gun understands the potential tragedy of a careless moment. He knows the deadly capability of the instrument he holds and he handles himself accordingly.

The responsible gun owner develops insights into his ethical and moral responsibilities that are not always apparent to those who deprive themselves of that opportunity.

Eric Raymond says it far better than I ever could.

Nothing most of us will ever do combines the moral weight of life-or-death choice with the concrete immediacy of the moment as thoroughly as the conscious handling of instruments deliberately designed to kill. As such, there are lessons both merciless and priceless to be learned from bearing arms — lessons which are not merely instructive to the intellect but transformative of one’s whole emotional, reflexive, and moral character.

Sweet Georgia Brown and tractor

November 30, 2008

This is just too cool.

Thanks to Instapundit.

Kelowna’s first snow – 2008

November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28th, 2008: Against my express wishes, we had our first snowfall today. At our level anyway, it came down wet and heavy. In town it may have been different as it was still raining there before lunch while we had snow on the west side of the lake. When it finally stopped at around 4:00 PM it also meant my first shovelling of the driveway this winter. However it is forecast to be above freezing overnight and as high as +7 C tomorrow, so it may be simply an early aberration. We can only hope.

Four hours of more snow after this picture was taken.

Four hours of more snow after this picture was taken.

Return from Vegas

November 20, 2008

Just returned from a four day trip to Las Vegas where we had tickets for Bette Midler at Caesar’s and ventriloquist Terry Fator, last year’s ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, at the Hilton.

Both great shows. Midler is a performer of the first order. Funny and still raunchy. The voice isn’t quite what it used to be, but she’s Bette Midler.

I was really looking forward to seeing Fator, and he didn’t disappoint. The theatre at the Hilton is smaller, which makes for a much more intimate venue, which works well for his act. Very funny and imaginative and the man is incredibly talented. It is hard to believe that he needed the TV win to become a star.

We didn’t spend much time on the Strip so I can’t honestly speculate on how the downturn in the U.S. economy has affected the revenue coming into the casinos. Although they didn’t look too busy from what little we did see. Lots of people on the street though, but who knows how much money they’re spending.

On the other hand, if the line-up for the $32 (taxes included) Sunday buffet at Wynn’s is any measure you wouldn’t think that there was any trouble in paradise.

The trip had its exciting moments. We almost had our rental car wiped out by an idiot who decided to suddenly change lanes in order to make a right turn. Unfortunately we were already occupying that space. Good brakes were the saviour. Then we were almost run over by a cabbie who decided to proceed forward while we were directly in front of his car. Uncomplementary words were spoken at high volume.

The weather was good – in the mid to high seventies F. A bit warmer than here at home where it was forecast to be +2 C today. But sunny and today I may have played my last game of golf for the season. Although we’ll keep our options open for next week.

Back off. We own the Arctic.

November 12, 2008

Everyone wants to own the Arctic, for various reasons, but mostly to do with the potential offshore oil deposits. But Canada may actually have data that proves its legal right to the area.

The federal scientist heading Canada’s bid to claim thousands of square kilometres of Arctic Ocean seabed under a UN convention says a joint United States-Canada mapping mission to the Beaufort Sea this fall yielded “very promising” results that could vastly extend this country’s territory in one of the polar region’s richest target zones for offshore oil and gas.

“The quality of the data is astonishing,” Halifax-based geoscientist Jacob Verhoef says. “We haven’t analysed it all, but what we found is that the entire Beaufort Sea — all the way up to the north — is covered with significant amounts of sediments, which makes our case look very promising.”

Under rules laid out in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Canada’s claims for extended undersea jurisdiction in the Western Arctic hinge on the thickness of sediments deposited on the ocean bottom over tens of thousands of years by the Mackenzie River, which discharges millions of tonnes of silt annually into the Beaufort near the Northwest Territories-Yukon border.

Plus I knew that global warming had its advantages.

Taking advantage of an unprecedented melt of sea ice in the region this summer, which combined with favourable winds to create the greatest extent of ice-free waters in the Beaufort in recorded history, the researchers gathered geological measurements much further north than originally planned.

Further effects of US election initiatives

November 12, 2008

While gays in California vent their anger about the initiative that will stop same sex marriages, Massachusetts has initiative problems as well – only theirs has to do with dogs. Or more specifically, dog racing.

It’s a gray, dismal day outside Raynham Park, matching the mood inside the grandstand of the greyhound racetrack.

“It’s been very somber here,” said Gary Temple, general manager of the track that’s been in operation for almost 80 years.

In the wake of last week’s statewide referendum vote to ban greyhound racing, the track will have to shut down by Jan. 1, 2010, unless the law is changed.

“How do you tell people that you did nothing wrong but you don’t have a job anymore?” he asked. “People misunderstood an issue and you’re unemployed.”

He’s trying to explain that to his 653 full- and part-time employees, many of whom have worked there for decades.


Last year, Raynham Park handled $135 million in wagers. About one-sixth of that — almost $25 million — was bet on the live greyhound racing. The rest was wagered on simulcast races at other greyhound and horse tracks across the country.

From those wagers, the track gave $2.6 million to the state and $400,000 to the host town of Raynham. Those payments don’t account for property, payroll or meals taxes, nor for the $5 million in lottery tickets purchased at the track in 2007. When Raynham Park closes, all that money goes away.

“The last thing this state budget needs is the loss of revenue and the loss of more jobs,” said state Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, whose district includes Raynham.

“We’re talking about losing 1,000 jobs (at both Raynham and Wonderland in Revere, the state’s only other greyhound racetrack), but because they’re at greyhound parks, there wasn’t too much discussion,” Pacheco said. “If we were talking about losing 1,000 jobs at an industrial park there would be an uproar.

The summary of the initiative stated:

This proposed law would prohibit any dog racing or racing meeting in Massachusetts where any form of betting or wagering on the speed or ability of dogs occurs. The State Racing Commission would be prohibited from accepting or approving any application or request for racing dates for dog racing. Any person violating the proposed law could be required to pay a civil penalty of not less than $20,000 to the Commission. All existing parts of the chapter of the state’s General Laws concerning dog and horse racing meetings would be interpreted as if they did not refer to dogs. These changes would take effect January 1, 2010.

The initiative passed by a vote of 56% to 44%. Amongst the supporters of the initiative was the large and rich animal rights organization, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) .

The opponents of the initiative, who were for the most part the two race tracks that would be shut down if it passed, based their argument mainly on economic concerns, while the supporters went for the emotional argument.

Arguments in favor of the initiative that have been made by its supporters include:

  • In late 2003 and early 2004, a greyhound at Wonderland Greyhound Park tested positive for cocaine.
  • The claim that thousands of dogs suffer inhumane conditions at Wonderland Greyhound Park and Raynham Park, Massachusetts’ two racetracks, by being kept confined for 20 hours every day in small cages barely large enough for the animals to stand up or turn around in.
  • The claim that over 800 dogs have suffered serious injuries while competing at Massachusetts racetracks, including broken bones, head injuries, and paralysis.
  • The dog racing industry has experienced a “catastrophic economic decline” in the past two decades, which has led to some racetracks seeking assistance from politicians, including direct subsidies, tax breaks, special trust funds, and expanded gambling rights.
  • It requires over 1000 dogs to operate a Massachusetts race track

Arguments that have been made against the initiative include:

  • That supporters of the initiative use photographs of hurt and emaciated greyhounds from other states to make its case and that Massachusetts dogs were healthy and well treated.
  • If the initiative passes, it will lead to the loss of jobs that support the Massachusetts economy.

It’s pretty obvious who’s going to win that one, but it would also seem that the State and the town of Raynham didn’t get involved in the fight, although the vote in the areas near the race track went overwhelmingly against shutting the race tracks down.

But in Raynham and nearby communities, “the places where people knew the operation and knew what the economic conditions were and could feel the consequences, the measure was defeated overwhelmingly,” Pacheco said.

Indeed, on a vote of 5,409 to 1,406, Raynham opposed the question — as did voters in all nearby communities. For those across the rest of the state, “it was an animal-rights issue, not an economic issue,” Pacheco said.

There may be issues where initiatives make some sense, but increasingly they have been used by activist groups to drive a narrow agenda.

The last word?

Asked why dog racing was targeted but not horse racing, Temple said, “People don’t have a horse that sleeps at the foot of their beds.”

Gas prices: What goes up (apparently) must come down

November 12, 2008

Big shock this morning – gas prices at $0.969 per litre in Kelowna. Yesterday it was $1.019 and in very recent memory it was as high as $1.499. I’m still in a state of shock that gas prices have plunged under the $1.00 mark so quickly.

Apparently not as cheap as gas in the U.S. but we’ll take what we get.

California referendum on gay marriage: Lots of cryin’ goin’ on

November 9, 2008

There is major upset in California over the passing of the referendum banning same-sex marriages in the State. A lot of ugliness as well, with gay activists attacking the Mormon church because of their support and aggressive funding of the referendum and black voters because a majority of them, according to exit polls, apparently voted ‘yes’ on the referendum.

Tough shit people. That’s what happens when you try to run the system through referendums.

In case you haven’t noticed, this has been going on for years. Some group with an agenda puts an anti-something or pro-something referendum into the works and organizations with deep pockets move in to spend whatever amount of money is needed to get the referendum passed. The public doesn’t really know the facts surrounding issue, but when it comes time to vote they do remember all of the flash and dash they have seen in the newspapers and on TV and so they give it the nod.

Hunters have seen it where they have completely closed down cougar hunting in California and hunting with dogs in Washington, while in other States the attack has been against trapping. On these type of issues the animal rights crowd takes to the stage and ultra-rich organizations such as the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) sink whatever amount of money is needed in order to pass the referendum and further their agenda. And the odds are that the big money wins.

In these particular cases involving wildlife management issues, scientific wildlife management was thrown out of the window and replaced with management by emotion, much to the frustration of Fish & Wildlife Managers and conservationists.

So excuse me if I find it difficult to muster up a great deal of sympathy for the California gay community because they just got run over by the referendum train.

In the U.S., initiative and referendum processes were considered by the Founding Fathers to be a necessary check and balance against government abuse and have been part of many State constitutions beginning as far back as 1600.

That may have worked back in the distant past, but more recently, critics of referendums and initiatives have complained that the process has been taken over by wealthy individuals and organizations that have the power to drive the process for their own agendas. And that instead of being a public forum to discuss issues of common concern, the referendum process is driven by groups and individuals with narrow agendas with lots of disposable cash. In the end, the outcome is decided by a public, influenced by clever and expensive advertising campaigns, but generally unfamiliar with the facts and the history of the issue.

Although the idea of initiatives and referendums has been a popular one with the public, I think that its merits as a legislative tool have become questionable. In the end it has a tendency to become the tool of special interest groups, unable to convince elected representatives on their particular point of view, who use it to bypass the normal legislative process.

As the California situation has clearly demonstrated, it can be fairly argued that referendums and initiatives pose more risk by being a vehicle to attack minority rights than an enhancement of the democratic process.

California’s gay community needs to quit whining over the fact that they got sandbagged on the same-sex marriage issue and take a serious look at why they took the hit. Don’t blame the Mormon church. They were just using the system that they were given – just as any other group would do, given the issue, the opportunity and the money to pull it off. And to attack the black community is even more stupid. They and the others who supported the referendum were simply voting their beliefs or possibly what they were told their beliefs should be. That’s how the process works.

What needs to be discussed is whether the initiative and referendum process is relevant to the political process at this particular time in history. With what I have seen over the past decade or two, I would suggest that it exhibits more problems than benefits.

The Post-Election Blame Game: It’s all Sarah Palin’s fault!

November 8, 2008

With the U.S. election over and a Democratic President-elect, the recriminations from the McCain campaign have begun. And – surprise, surprise – it’s all VP nominee Sarah Palin’s fault.

Well of course. It couldn’t have been anything that those running the campaign did or didn’t do. They are in the ass-covering mode. They have reputations to protect and future Republican campaigns to lend their expertise to. God forbid that it should be on their resume that they made mistakes on McCain’s run for the presidency. Ergo – it must be Palin’s fault. That will at least take the media scrutiny away from them and focus it elsewhere.

Politics is a nasty game. Not necessarily at the candidate level but down the ranks. These are the people who, if their man or woman gets elected, will be looking for rewards. Jobs, appointments or whatever. If their candidate loses, they are out in the cold. No nice cushy, well-paying job. No recognition. Just the smell of failure that may follow them into the future. Especially if their campaign – as McCain’s reportedly was – was not well run. Who wants to hire someone to work on their campaign when they screwed up the last one?

As for Palin being a drag on the Republican’s plans to put their man in the White House, I don’t think that logic holds up.

To begin with, bringing her on to the ticket initially brought a badly needed surge to McCain’s campaign. But it did more than that. It energized a lot of the traditional Republican base. McCain had lost the vote of the religious right but Palin brought many of them back on side. Gun owners as a group saw nothing in McCain to inspire their support, but Palin gave them hope for the ticket and many – albeit reluctantly – came back on side. The fact that McCain never recognized the value of that support or even tried to use it, is possibly evidence that gun owners were correct in their original assessment of of his candidacy. Obviously, in the end there was nothing that could stem the Obama tide. The call for some kind of nebulous change from a charismatic leader can be seductive.

I wonder if part of the problem within the McCain campaign was that Palin was too popular out on the campaign trail. When the back-up band outshines the headliner, it can generate a lot of negativity. And Palin drew big crowds, larger than McCains, which was noted regularly in the media.

Possibly the organizers thought that the trashing of Palin by the MSM and the comedy shows were detrimental to McCains campaign. To the contrary, I thought from the beginning that the very public attack on Palin came because the Obama campaign and the MSM (which pretty much functioned as part of that campaign) saw her as a very real threat to a Democratic victory. If she was going to get a lot of air time, they were going to make sure that they controlled what that message was going to be. And it wasn’t going to be positive.

I think Chevy is spot on. But in this election it wasn’t just the comedy shows, the game was played right across the media spectrum. And it would appear that it will continue after the election.

Personally, I think this one has it right. (Thanks to Small Dead Animals)

Drag Queen

Drag Queen

President-elect Obama: The truth will unfold

November 5, 2008

I think that I will stay with the flavour of the day and speak to the now (finally) completed and historic U.S. election of Barack Obama as President of our neighbour to the south.

I am happy that the ordeal is over as I am saturated with partisan rhetoric and numbing pre-election analysis. We are now (immediate transition) into post-election analysis. Having said that, it was an interesting process, beginning way back in the primaries. Actually, the primaries may have been more interesting than the actual election campaign.

The fascination now will be in finding out just who Barack H. Obama actually is, or more importantly, who he intends to be. One thing for sure, we would know a great deal less about the man right now if it hadn’t been for internet researchers and commentators. We certainly would not have learned much from the MSM which often seemed like another wing of the Obama campaign machine.

The man is a fine orator and a money raising machine. His campaign was run brilliantly, but then again if you have that much money to spend you don’t have much of an excuse for poor performance.

I can’t say that I envy the man as he transitions into the presidency. Many of his supporters appear to have impossibly high expectations on what his presidency will accomplish. The “messiah” tag that he has been labeled with doesn’t seem too far fetched when you listen to some of the reactions from people in the Obama crowds. Hopefully the hard light of reality will blunt some of those expectations although there is little doubt there will be those who will be sadly disillusioned.

It will be interesting to see if Obama can operate as his own man in the White House or whether he will be controlled by the Democratic majorities in the House and in the Senate. Obama’s voting history has been to the left of centre. As president will he lead to the left or will he strategically move closer to the centre?

For all of the vague promises of “change” that drove the campaign and the “yes we can” chants, the fact is that Obama really doesn’t have a lot of relevant experience. Does he really have a philosophy and a plan on what that change should be and if so, does he have the skill and the ability to make major changes in the system? More importantly, if and when he articulates his vision of change, will the American people be as enthusiastic with the reality as they appear to be with the idea.

It seems to me that in the aftermath of this election there are more questions out there than there are answers. The next four years should at least be interesting as we watch for those answers to unfold.