Archive for the ‘Law and Order’ Category

Wikileaks, Julian Assange and irony

December 24, 2010

Julian Assange released US State Department classified material on Wikileaks and he was a hero. Well to some people. To others he was a criminal, a terrorist, an all around bad person.

But Assange had no doubt about the righteousness of his actions. He defended his actions  by saying:

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

and

In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

But as is the case of so many things in life, if you’re trying to convince others of the purity of your mission, your words can all to often come back to bite you in the ass.

Which is what happened to Assange, when information was leaked to the Guardian newspaper with detailed information on the sexual assault case against him in Sweden.

Assange’s lawyers were furious.

Bjorn Hurtig, the Wikileaks founder’s lawyer in Sweden was outraged over the revelations saying the documents could hinder Mr. Assange’s right to a fair trial. In a statement to the Australian press, he said, “I do not like the idea that Julian may be forced into a trial in the media. And I feel especially concerned that he will be presented with the evidence in his own language for the first time when reading the newspaper. I do not know who has given these documents to the media, but the purpose can only be one thing – trying to make Julian look bad.”
And he wasn’t the only one upset with the information leak.
Other supporters were more open, blaming The Guardian for a ‘personal smear’ and questioned the timing of the release of the documents in Saturday’s Guardian.

Although I think lawyers are paid to not have a sense of irony.

The whole thing rather brings to the fore the problem that I have with Assange and Wikileaks: Who makes the decision, and how, about what the public should know and what it shouldn’t?

According to governments, they have the need to keep most of their discussions and decisions under the cloak of secrecy. But according to Assange, he has the right, or even the obligation, to expose that information to the public at large.

The truth is, governments, whether they are local, provincial or federal find it more convenient to only release that information that puts them in a good light and are compelled to bury any material that would point out their bad decisions, their wastage of resources and their incompetence.

But there are also areas where governments need to keep secrets, sometimes in the short term and others for the long term.

And there are many cases where personal privacy trumps the need for the public to know. Even for Julian Assange.

The question is, who makes those decisions.

 

Florida School Board Shooting and self defence

December 20, 2010

I was just looking at the recording of the recent Florida school board shooting and at some comments from a few individuals trained in self defence.

I liked one in particular:

Sheep live and die at the whim of the wolves.   Lesson:  Don’t be a sheep

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.

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

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.

Robert Latimer: Justice gone awry

December 4, 2010

After 10 years in jail for the mercy killing of his severely disabled daughter, Robert Latimer begrudgingly, but finally will receive full parole on December 6th.

Latimer applied for and was denied early parole in 2007 because, in the opinion of the members of the National Parole Board, he didn’t exhibit sufficient regret for his actions. Latimer, answering their questions honestly, said that he still thought he had done the right thing when he killed his daughter.

In 2008 the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed an appeal on Latimer’s behalf on the basis that the NPB had violated its own rules by requiring to admit to wrongdoing in order to qualify for parole and by ignoring the fact that he was a very low risk for re-offending.

In actual fact he was probably a no-risk case.

In February 2008,a review board overturned the NPB’s decision and granted Latimer day parole in Ottawa beginning that March.

The sad thing is, if the jury and the judge who heard the case had been allowed to do their job, Latimer would have been out of prison in a year’s time.

However the case became a cause celebre with various disability rights groups, some church groups and others who argued that unless Latimer was dealt with the full severity of the law others would be encouraged to rush out and kill other disabled people.

Even the Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne argued that the NPB was within its rights to deny Latimer parole because he didn’t express regret, because doing so without that requirement might encourage others to do the same.

All of which is patently nonsense.

Robert Latimer took a life and for that he had to answer to the law. But he shouldn’t have had his case effectively arbitrated by groups that have agendas that have nothing to do with justice or fairness but are meant to advance their advocacy.

Justice is never even handed and I don’t think was ever meant to be. Every case has its own story and its own specific set of facts. But when you look at Latimer’s sentencing and his treatment by the National Parole Board knowing that this man was caught up in his own moral dilemma but also knowing full well that he was absolutely no risk to the community, and then again look at other cases and how the sentencing came down, I think there is reason to wonder.

Cases in point:.

Regina teen gets 3 1/2 years for fatal May long weekend shooting

Jodie Lynn Bryant was enjoying a campfire in a Regina backyard on the May long weekend when a stranger in a passing car smiled, lifted a stolen rifle and took the 21-year-old’s life with a single pull of the trigger.

Asked by his friend what he was doing, the 16-year-old murderer replied, “Oh, just having fun.”

On Friday, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a youth facility on top of the six months he’s already served since his arrest, followed by three years in the community under a conditional supervision order.

“That’s a dangerous man. In three years Regina, be scared,” Bryant’s aunt Elaine Severight told the Leader-Post.

A killer, admittedly 16 years old, callously kills a girl in her own backyard in a drive-by shooting, “just having fun”. He gets 3 1/2 years in prison and then they throw him back into the community under ‘supervision’.

And among various mercy killings in Canada, a few examples.

Doctor gave potassium chloride to a dying patient who was suffering intractable pain.

1990 – Unidentified city in Quebec, possibly Quebec City – Unidentified doctor gave potassium chloride injection to dying patient who was suffering intractable pain
Charge: None (president of Quebec College of Physicians defended doctor’s action and Quebec Minister of Justice decided against laying charges)
Reference:
“Euthanasia: Quebec considering charges for MD’s role in AIDS death”
Ottawa Citizen, June 20 1992, Page A3

The case of Dr. de la Roche

In Timmins, Ontario the forty-nine-year-old chief of surgery at St. Mary’s General Hospital, Dr. Alberto de la Rocha, administered an injection of morphine and potassium chloride to his seventy-year-old patient in 1991. Mrs Mary Graham was suffering from terminal cancer of the cheek, mouth and lung. It was clear that during much of her remaining time she would have to endure great agony. As Nicholas Ionides reported in the Globe and Mail of April 5, 1993, her forty-six-year-old son, George, testified at the trial of his mother’s doctor that he and his brothers regarded his mother’s death as being “very peaceful, very dignified, and very humane,” and that it was “a beautiful experience.”

The doctor’s motives were clear — to save his patient the pain, suffering and humiliation of protracted illness. His community recognized this when they rallied to his support, as did many of the hospital staff and de la Rocha’s other patients. Initially, the doctor was charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was later reduced and he pleaded guilty to a much lesser charge, of administering a noxious substance. He received a three-year suspended sentence and was not banned from practising medicine.

Cheryl Myers and Michael Power

1993 – Halifax, Nova Scotia – Cheryl Myers and Michael Power  euthanized Myers’ father who was dying badly
Charge: Second-degree murder, reduced to manslaughter
Result: Suspended sentence

It would appear that a (brief) case  study would indicate that the only certain thing about mercy killings is that if the victim is old and in pain it is ok to put them down. It seems to me that the organizations looking out for the welfare of the aged should be very concerned.

What I do think is that in the end, between advocacy groups howling for his head on a plate, a prosecutor that seemed strongly motivated to extract the severest sentence possible and his trial being turned into a media event, Robert Latimer never had a chance of finding any compassion from the courts.

There are many who still think that Latimer deserved no compassion.

I think his 10 years spent incarcerated was wrong and a waste of a decent man’s life.

California votes against legal pot:Too bad

November 7, 2010

If you can imagine such a scenario, California voters defeated Proposition 19, which would have made marijuana use legal in the State.

Of course there was a concerted campaign against the measure with the federal government and local police being front and center against legalization.

Certainly that was to be expected, as the police have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo on this issue.

A cynical view?

Possibly, but police forces get their money by convincing politicians (and the public) that crime is running rampant and the more they can make their case in that regard the better their budgets are likely to be.

So if marijuana was suddenly, with a stroke of a politician’s pen, made legal a great deal of ‘crime’ as now defined would be off the table.

It would also reduce the number of people being convicted and spending time, at taxpayers’ expense , in our jails.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have never used marijuana nor have I ever had the inclination to do so. I quit smoking regular cigarettes over 50 years ago and have never felt the need to suck smoke into my lungs since that time.

But that doesn’t change the fact that our laws regarding the weed need to be changed and California had a chance to do so and muffed it – although the dissenting vote came at just under 54%, which is not a ringing rejection of the idea.

What it come down to is that successive governments have made the same mistakes with marijuana that the US government made with prohibition.

They have spent decades putting people in jail and destroying lives for an activity that harmed no-one – possibly with the exception of themselves and that is debatable.

In the process they have also facilitated the growth of a criminal element that feeds richly off the illegal drug trade. A trade so lucrative that in places like Mexico they effectively maintain their own armies and hold the government to ransom.

And for what?

To try and prevent the use of a drug that is widely used by a large percentage of the population, while allowing and profiting from the use of alcohol which by all accounts causes much more disruption to the social fabric.

None of it makes much sense to me. It seems to be another case of stupid, outdated laws making criminals out of citizens for doing something that society as a whole increasingly finds to be – if not completely accepted – at least not a criminal act.

California had the opportunity on November 2nd to embark on a bold experiment, but unfortunately came up short.

All that being said, there were marijuana users in California that were opposed to Proposition 19 as well. They believed that the wording of the proposition was such that if passed it would be used to make their lives much more complicated.

In part:

For instance, Prop 19 supporters are excited about the ’5 foot by 5 foot’ cultivation area they think they would be allowed i.e., one space per residence, no matter how many occupants. But most don’t realize that police will continue to arrest people who can’t show written documentation from a landlord or property-owner giving them permission, which is impossible to get for most. But unlike now, localities will also be able to impose huge monetary fines on such individuals, in addition to the criminal charges.

Cities would also decide how close to minors growing will be allowed.  Undoubtedly many will rule that in the same apartment-complex is too close. Prop 19 creates new felony charges for anyone crossing those limits. So it can be asked: how does Prop 19 make us marijuana-users more ‘free’?

In addition, unlike now, localities will be allowed to enact steep fines for any person caught without a permit for 5 foot  x 5 foot cultivation area – that can be 1 plant. For property-owners the fines can be added on to your property-taxes, so you have to pay. For renters caught without a growing permit, a fine and jail time.

Prop 19 gives localities the power to collect as much money as they want through these fines & fees (wonder how much that’ll be?). Rancho Cordova’s ordinance will charge homeowners $600 per square foot of garden, or $15,000 per year for your 5 foot x 5 foot cultivation plot. And charge homeowners caught exceeding that area $1000 a day for the ‘nuisance’. The same charges and fines also appliers to renters.

All of this is aimed at the same purpose as Prop 19 itself: to discourage people from growing pot themselves and funnel all consumption through high-priced dispensaries (the more they charge, the more tax the locality gets), and at the same time give police clearer criteria of their powers that they can use to bust people.

Going on the above, it’s clear that under Prop 19, pot smokers would be better off buying a doctor’s recommendation.

In short, the objections of pot-smokers to Prop 19: They now live in a climate where anyone in California can get a doctor’s recommendation for less than $100, and with it possess and cultivate amounts 10 times that of Prop 19. Anybody else already has the right to possess 1 ounce.

Prop 19 introduces a plethora of fines and fees for governments to cash in on and making many basic acts which are legal now, illegal, such as smoking in the same home as a minor, or handing a joint to someone who hasn’t turned 21 yet.  Legally defining what amount ‘personal use’ is.  Not even to mention the loss of an entire, thriving cottage-industry — to large corporations. And the negative tax and economic consequences of that.

Looking at the whole picture, it becomes clear what Prop 19′s true purpose is: to empty the wallet of the marijuana user for the benefit of dispensaries, big business and governments. All while the voters embrace it with a big stoned smile.

As they say, ‘the devil is in the details’, and they may very well be right in believing that Proposition 19 left openings for serious abuse.It wouldn’t be the first (nor the last) time that groups got sandbagged by the lawmakers. But legalization something that will eventually come and when it does the people who will be affected need to be very involved in the process.

Bill C-391: The aftermath

October 18, 2010

As anyone interested in the subject knows, Bill C-391, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner’s private members bill to scrap the long gun registry, went down in flames on September 22nd to a 153 to 151 vote. Although it had passed at 1st and 2nd readings, it never even got a chance to go to 3rd reading as the vote to scuttle the bill came from a motion tabled by Liberal MP Mark Holland.

The scene was set for the failure of Bill C-391 when Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff set a precedent by whipping his caucus’ vote rather than allowing the traditional free vote for private members’ bills.

That brought into line all of the Liberal MPs who had previously voted in favour of scrapping the long gun registry through its 1st and 2nd readings.

NDP leader Jack Layton chose not to whip his caucus’ vote and had his MPs who had supported the bill on the previous votes stayed true to their principles we would have seen an end to the registry.

But having made the choice to let his MP’s supposedly vote their beliefs, Layton then applied serious moral suasion to coerce them to change their vote this time around.

I assume that it will never be known what promises were given, what threats were made or what pressure was applied, but in the end 6 of the 12 New Democrats who swore that they opposed the registry flip-flopped on their vote when the crunch came.

Probably the most egregious turnabout was made by NDP MP Peter Stoffer who had almost to the end stated his unwavering opposition to the long gun registry and promised that he would continue to vote for its demise.

Then the rumours started to fly that Stoffer was about to switch and two days before the vote Stoffer confirmed that the rumour was true.

This was a stunning turnaround in the eyes of many, as Mr. Stoffer was on record in the House of Commons as telling the House that…

“All I ever asked for in my 12 1/2 years was bring a bill that was very clear; end the long gun registry and I will personally stand up and support that.”

Well, his opportunity came to the floor of the House in the form Candice Hoeppner’s private member’s bill, C-391, and Peter Stoffer, for whatever reasons, folded like a cheap suit.

If you ever needed a moment to contemplate on how cynical and sleazy politics can be, this was one to remember.

Unfortunately, all of the blame for the defeat of Bill C-391 doesn’t lie with the Liberal’s undemocratic whipping of their vote, nor with the desertion from their publicly stated values by the NDP MPs.

The Conservatives, instead of quietly encouraging those opposition members who opposed the registry and working with them beneath the radar chose instead to use the moment as an opportunity to make political points, taking out attack ads even in the ridings of those MPs who had initially voted in favour of C-391.

This lost them considerable amounts of goodwill and was used by a number of those who switched their vote as part of their rationale for why they had changed their minds.

In the end, the real losers were all of the firearm owners across Canada: The hunters, ranchers, farmers, recreational shooters, collectors, etc.

Will we get another chance to rid ourselves of the registry?

Sure as hell not if we see the Liberal party back in power. Ignatieff, true to his ilk, while saying he wants to ‘fix’ the registry has already spoken of a ban on all handguns in the country. As has NDP leader Jack Layton.

So Mr. Ignatieff’s concept of a ‘fix’ is to make the firearm ownership laws more restrictive  and confiscate what we already legally own.

Aren’t we regularly accused of being totally paranoid when we speak of the fact that registration precedes confiscation? How did the media miss this?

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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Quiting your job the JetBlue way

August 22, 2010

The big hype on the JetBlue flight attendant, who cursed out an  unruly passenger and then grabbed a couple of beers and slid down the emergency chute to fame, possibly fortune and a chance at jail time, has subsided in the media.

It appears that he is still facing charges for reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Although I would be curious to know just what that means. By exiting the plane in a somewhat unconventional manner he probably ran afoul of some federal law pertaining to airport safety or U.S. terrorism laws or whatever. There seem to be enough laws on the books these days to cover every possible situation. I read earlier that he was also being charged with theft – I presume for the two beers that absconded with – but that may or may not be the case. However police have been known to pile on the charges initially on a ‘just in case’ scenario or possibly to simply intimidate the miscreant.

As to the fame and fortune he now has a publicist.

Quitting your job usually leads to bookmarking Monster.com on your laptop and watching M*A*S*H DVDs in your underwear, not fame and fortune. Of course, if for your final act at said job you lay down an expletive-laced tirade over an intercom system and exit via an emergency escape tube, the way former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater reportedly did, the standard rules may not apply. After a week of his story saturating a strangely obsessed media, on Sunday Slater procured the services of top publicist Howard Bragman to help deal with media relations and manage the numerous offers said to be coming his way.

Can a book and a movie be far behind?

But then again Slater might not be the pure folk hero that the media initially made him out to be.

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater may have been drinking long before he grabbed a beer and made a dramatic exit from a jetliner by opening an emergency slide to the tarmac at New York’s Kennedy Airport, police said today.

Witnesses have also told police that it was Slater who was rude to passengers, and the cut on his forehead came at the beginning of the flight, not during an altercation with a surly passenger after the plane landed as Slater has claimed.

Nor does it appear that he actually quit his job when he made his dramatic exit. So it wasn’t really a glorious ‘take this job and shove it’ moment.

A flight attendant accused of cursing out a passenger on an airplane passenger-address system, grabbing some beer from the galley and exiting on an emergency slide was suspended Tuesday. The attendant’s lawyer said a rule-breaking passenger provoked him.

There is more often than not a lot more to a story than initially gets on the front page.

Why dumb and useless laws get passed

August 8, 2010

I have written on occasion about stupid laws, many most of which are written to show that something is being done to solve some perceived problem, regardless of effectiveness or even common sense.

Now an article by Joseph Brean in the National Post does some analysis as to why this happens.

If a skeptic was to wonder why Canadian authorities seem to respond to every tragedy by proposing intrusive new rules that can have impacts far beyond the problems they purport to be addressing, Frank Furedi has the answer: Canada has a cultural “addiction to rule-making.”

It is a world leader in the “intrusification” of everyday life, says Mr. Furedi, a sociologist who likens the impulse to using rules like religion to bring solace from grief and fear. “Every time a child dies, somebody will say — either the police or the coroner or a lawyer — that the lessons must be learned,” said Mr. Furedi, a professor at the University of Kent and author of The Politics of Fear. “We cannot just accept that this was a death. We’ve got to give that death meaning, and the way to give it meaning is to pass a law.”

The article then goes on to detail a number of examples, the latest being Ontario’s new legislation to instate a zero tolerance rule for alcohol in the system which will apply to any drivers under the age of 22. (My initial thought on this one was that it would be unconstitutional when applied to a specific group within society. There has already been a suit filed in that respect, although the provincial government feels that they are on solid footing.)

The article doesn’t even get to the federal gun legislation that was shoved down Canadian’s throats directly due to the murders at Ecole Polythechnique murders of 14 female engineering students in 1989.

Mr. Furedi makes a few other pointed comments:

Modern safety regulations, like witchcraft or divine retribution, are based on a faulty premise about who is responsible for stuff happening, and what can be done about it. Like religion, they are an effort to bring meaning to a cruel and random universe.

and
“They think their job is to save people from themselves,” he said of politicians who promote rules designed to send social messages, and that this reveals their “contempt” for “people who cannot be relied on to manage their everyday existence.”
Now if only our politicians, both provincial and federal, would take it to heart.

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