Archive for January, 2010

Your everyday home defence flashlight

January 26, 2010

This is incredible. Just spotted it over at Dave Petzal’s Gun Nut blog.

They would ban that one in Canada before you had time to turn the flashlight on.

Me and my racist truck

January 23, 2010

Politics anywhere can be nasty, but the US style seems to be exceptionally intolerant these days.

Scott Brown, the newly elected Republican Senator from Massachusetts, was recently called a racist by MSNBC commentator, Keith Olbermann, although I’m not sure why. I think it was just a given because he was a Republican and had the audacity to win Teddy Kennedy’s old seat.

However Howard Fineman, a senior editor with Newsweek, came up with the definitive way to spot a racist.

….. Mr. Fineman, a frequent MSNBC political analyst, said Mr. Brown’s truck could have been part of a racist code to Massachusetts voters.

Mr. Olbermann proposed Mr. Brown’s win was part of racist backlash against the black President Obama on his Tuesday evening program. Gamely, Mr. Fineman offered some supporting evidence.

“In some places, there are codes, there are images,” he told Mr. Olbermann. “You know, there are pickup trucks, you could say there was a racial aspect to it one way or another.”

Does this mean I have to sell my truck?

Maybe there was something to that “Pact With the Devil” stuff?

January 20, 2010

I  made some disparaging remarks about Pat Robertson and his public comments on the disaster in Haiti, but Colby Cosh notes in his MacLean’s column:

…. I suppose one might point out that even the wicked Pat Robertson is entitled to just treatment at the hands of his critics. In talking about the “curse” he believes Haiti lies under, Robertson was referring to a genuine event in the annals of that country’s revolutionary struggle—the 1791 Voodoo prayer for liberty in the Bois Caïman. As some liberal and perhaps even “secularist” observers have pointed out, this aspect of Haitian history is something of a legitimate problem for traditional Haitian Christians. It might even be a problem for a sincere Catholic who took the trouble to inquire into it!

So there is a historical perspective to Robertson’s comments.

Although it doesn’t make the remarks any less stupid – unless of course you are someone who literally believes in a devil that signs compacts with people. Personally,  I’d need to see the paperwork.

Haiti disaster and the ugly side of free speech

January 19, 2010

It would be reasonable to think that with the horrific tragedy that the recent earthquake has imposed on Haiti, the destruction of the infrastructure and the incredible death toll, that personal agendas and partisan politics would be put aside – at least temporarily. That apparently is too much to ask.

First we have the incredibly – what’s the word? Stupid!. The incredibly stupid man of the cloth Pat Robertson talking about how the earthquake in Haiti is part of the evil that has been bestowed upon them because they made a pact with the devil to rid the country of the French away back in 1804.

If they made a pact, it was poorly written, as the French came back and extorted 150 million francs out of the country in order to recognize the country’s independence and be repaid for the loss of profits from the slave trade.

A pact with the devil? Didn’t Haiti’s slave population take the matter in their own hands and revolt? What in hell did the devil do? (in or out of hell).

What particularly bothers me about Robertson’s comments is that he obviously has a following that will listen and nod and say, ‘amen to that brother’.

Then Rush Limbaugh weighs in.

It’s all so petty and mean.

I have always enjoyed listening to Limbaugh when I am traveling in the U.S. I have found his commentary interesting and a lot of it amusing, although you had to keep in mind where where he stood on the political landscape. (Although it seems nowadays on radio or TV that you have to check out everyone’s personal biases and agendas before you settle in to listen).

But Limbaugh’s rants over Haiti and the U.S. aid to the country are just small and mean. I recognize that he personally has deep doubts and fears about Obama and his policies, but the U.S. would be sending help to Haiti whether it was Bush or any other president who has sat in the Oval Office. That’s what you do when your neighbour suffers a catastrophe.

I suppose, the same as for Pat Robertson, there are those who eat this crap up, but I suspect hope there are many Limbaugh supporters who are wincing when they hear this drivel.

Surely Limbaugh can find some real issues on which to vent rather than punching holes in his credibility by ranting on about some deep and dark motive he believes is driving his country’s aid program to the poor and damaged country of Haiti.

Are the Olympics over yet?

January 15, 2010

The other day, one of the media news stories was how some residents of Vancouver actually live on “Olympic” Street (or Avenue). Must have been a very, very, slow news day.

Let’s rev up the excitement!

Airport regulations, gun bans and dog bans

January 14, 2010

I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s new book, What the Dog Saw, and a chapter titled Troublemakers (What Pit Bulls Can Teach Us About Crime) resonated with some of my thoughts in previous postings.

Gladwell writes about troublemakers and how the powers-that-be deal with perceived threats to the public.

Specifically he relates an incident in Ottawa, where three uncontrolled pit bulls attacked a young child and in the following media uproar, the provincial legislature chose as their solution to prevent further attacks, a ban on the ownership of the pit bull breed.

But Gladwell  points out that the danger of dog attacks isn’t confined to one breed and that at different times other breeds have been considered and demonized as ‘dangerous’ dogs. Notably German shepherds and Dobermans, but also Rottweilers and others.

He also notes that a dog’s behaviour is directly related to how it is raised and how it is treated.

Where once German shepherds and Dobermans were valued as guard dogs and socialized as such, now it is pit bulls that fill that position. They have increasingly been associated with the ownership by outlaw bikers, marijuana grow operators and various other misfits and anti-social individuals.

But what really interested me was Gladwell’s analysis of the Ottawa attack, the dog owner’s previous history and the eventual political solution.

Jayden Clairoux was attacked by Jada, a pit-bull terrier, and her two pit-bull–bullmastiff puppies, Agua and Akasha. The dogs were owned by a twenty-one-year-old man named Shridev Café, who worked in construction and did odd jobs. Five weeks before the Clairoux attack, Café’s three dogs got loose and attacked a sixteen-year-old boy and his four-year-old half brother while they were ice skating. The boys beat back the animals with a snow shovel and escaped into a neighbor’s house. Café was fined, and he moved the dogs to his seventeen-year-old girlfriend’s house. This was not the first time that he ran into trouble last year; a few months later, he was charged with domestic assault, and, in another incident, involving a street brawl, with aggravated assault. “Shridev has personal issues,” Cheryl Smith, a canine-behavior specialist who consulted on the case, says. “He’s certainly not a very mature person.” Agua and Akasha were now about seven months old. The court order in the wake of the first attack required that they be muzzled when they were outside the home and kept in an enclosed yard. But Café did not muzzle them, because, he said later, he couldn’t afford muzzles, and apparently no one from the city ever came by to force him to comply. A few times, he talked about taking his dogs to obedience classes, but never did. The subject of neutering them also came up—particularly Agua, the male—but neutering cost a hundred dollars, which he evidently thought was too much money, and when the city temporarily confiscated his animals after the first attack it did not neuter them, either, because Ottawa does not have a policy of preëmptively neutering dogs that bite people.

On the day of the second attack, according to some accounts, a visitor came by the house of Café’s girlfriend, and the dogs got wound up. They were put outside, where the snowbanks were high enough so that the back-yard fence could be readily jumped. Jayden Clairoux stopped and stared at the dogs, saying, “Puppies, puppies.” His mother called out to his father. His father came running, which is the kind of thing that will rile up an aggressive dog. The dogs jumped the fence, and Agua took Jayden’s head in his mouth and started to shake. It was a textbook dog-biting case: unneutered, ill-trained, charged-up dogs, with a history of aggression and an irresponsible owner, somehow get loose, and set upon a small child. The dogs had already passed through the animal bureaucracy of Ottawa, and the city could easily have prevented the second attack with the right kind of generalization—a generalization based not on breed but on the known and meaningful connection between dangerous dogs and negligent owners. But that would have required someone to track down Shridev Café, and check to see whether he had bought muzzles, and someone to send the dogs to be neutered after the first attack, and an animal-control law that insured that those whose dogs attack small children forfeit their right to have a dog. It would have required, that is, a more exacting set of generalizations to be more exactingly applied. It’s always easier just to ban the breed.

Which is exactly what the Ontario provincial government did: banned the breed.

So while I rant on about the stupidity of the ongoing airport security upgrades, which do nothing to improve security, but everything to inconvenience the traveling public, and Canada’s vindictive firearms legislation that does nothing to address crime and/or violence, but seems to be all about restricting and penalizing the law-abiding, it appears that the problem is the inability of those who run our lives to address the real issues with real solutions.

Christie Clark, who is an ex-provincial politician in British Columbia and who currently has a radio talk show out of Vancouver, made an on-air remark recently, saying that politicians don’t need to actually do something, but they need to look as though they are doing something.

That has been a long-time belief of mine, but it was surprising to hear an ex-politician make the statement.

Of course, anyone who has dealt with the upper levels of the bureaucracy in any level of government eventually comes to terms with the realization that their function is to arrange meetings and then more meetings, but never actually come to a final conclusion, unless it fits their own agenda or comes down the chain of command from their particular political minister. Who also  makes few decisions unless they are approved or initiated from a higher power – nominally the Prime Minister’s office federally, or the Premier’s office provincially.

All of which would make it a fair statement to say that most individuals or groups that are looking for serious input on issues are spinning their wheels if they are spending most of their time trying to convince bureaucrats or even a minister – most of whom are more concerned with photo-ops, rather than issues – of the value of their position.

In any event, Gladwell’s analysis (read the whole article) explains much of the reason for many of the stupid laws we have on the books.

Remember: It’s not what you do, it’s what you look like you’re doing.

Damn, we’re in good hands.

Proroguing Parliament

January 7, 2010

The media seems to have its collective shirttail in a knot over PM Steven Harper proroguing parliament until after the Olympics. Parliament will reconvene with a Throne Speech on March 3rd.

From some of the commentators’ bleating, you would think that democracy has been destroyed and the world as we know it has come to an end.

The Globe and Mail calls it a clever travesty. But can a travesty be clever? If it is a travesty, wouldn’t it be damaging? Apparently not: It is a clever travesty. This needs to be further  puzzled upon.

My take is that it is a good move, for two reasons.

1. All kinds of groups are going to use the Olympic time period as a venue to get their individual causes recognized in the international media and will do their best to try and embarrass both the B.C. provincial and the federal governments. It will be far better if parliament is not in house at the time to assist in the feeding frenzy.

2. Then there is the thought that if the politicians aren’t in Ottawa it limits the amount of damage they can do. Keep them at home where their constituents can keep an eye on them.

I’m just saying….

Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down

January 7, 2010

I always liked the faux latin translation of illegitimi non carborundum.

I seem to recollect that the first time I saw the phrase was in an article I read about Soapy Smith,. Smith was a con-man, and crook who began his criminal career in Texas and eventually worked his way up to the goldfields in Skagway, Alaska where his luck eventually ran out. As I recall, the article said that Smith used the term during his time in Alaska. That was a disgustingly long time ago (when I read the article) and my memory may be shaky on that, but the fact that the Whitehorse Daily Star and The Nome Nugget use the phrase on their masthead makes me think there may be some historical basis there.

All of which is totally irrelevant to anything.

Wikepedia notes that in real latin the phrase would read as “operor retineo non forensis liberi attero vos” which would literally translate as “do not let the not legal children erode you.”

It doesn’t have quite the same ring.


Interesting stats on US crime and guns

January 4, 2010

Two statistical surveys came out at the end of 2009. One being the FBI’s Semiannual Uniform Crime Report and the other the figures for gun sales in the US.

Surprisingly (to some), gun sales in the U.S. were up and crime was down.

Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported a decrease of 4.4 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention for the first six months of 2009 when compared with figures reported for the same time in 2008. The violent crime category includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

This is not what the gun-banners like to hear.

On the other side of the fence many of the pro-gun commentators took it to mean that the combination of the two proved the argument of ‘more guns, less crime’. That in fact having more law-abiding individuals owning firearms had a direct result in a decreasing crime rate.

This is something that John Lott did studies on, with reference to States that had ‘shall issue’ gun laws. Lott came to the following conclusion:

States with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest drops in violent crimes. Thirty-one states now have such laws—called “shall-issue” laws. These laws allow adults the right to carry concealed handguns if they do not have a criminal record or a history of significant mental illness.

Of course, there those that assailed his work as being flawed. but even by reworking Lott’s figures other statisticians couldn’t come up with any correlation between more guns and increased violent crime. At worst they could only adjust the figures to show that there was essentially no impact.

I am certainly not qualified to debate statisticians, so whether increased gun ownership in the community causes crime to go down or whether the decrease in crime is due to some other arguable factor is beyond my pay scale. But regardless, the facts would appear plain; increased gun ownership is not the monster in the closet that the anti-gunners would have the public believe.

But then again, when you take a look at the British experience, there may be a strong practical example that Lott is dead on the money. In a country that made firearm ownership almost impossible for its honest citizens, things have gone to hell in a hand-basket (actually in more ways than just gun violence, but that’s a different rant).

Gun crime has almost doubled since Labour came to power as a culture of extreme gang violence has taken hold.

The latest Government figures show that the total number of firearm offences in England and Wales has increased from 5,209 in 1998/99 to 9,865 last year  –  a rise of 89 per cent.

In some parts of the country, the number of offences has increased more than five-fold.

In eighteen police areas, gun crime at least doubled.

The statistic will fuel fears that the police are struggling to contain gang-related violence, in which the carrying of a firearm has become increasingly common place.

Last week, police in London revealed they had begun carrying out armed patrols on some streets.

The move means officers armed with sub-machine guns are engaged in routine policing for the first time.

By god, I think Lott may be on to something there!

Happy New Year

January 2, 2010

All the best in 2010 to everyone that has passed this way in the recently departed year. Hell, all the best to those who don’t even know this site exists.

Hopefully the world will become a more rational place in the days and months to come. OK, that’s verging on fantasy.

So just hang in there, buckle up, go along for the ride and hope for the best!

Aren’t we only supposed to have only two more years before the world ends anyway? How much more damage can they really do in that time span?

There, a good start to the year with two stupid questions.