Monthly Archives: November 2007

The Mighty Mo – ustache


I wrote about MOvember earlier in the month, and promised a photo of the moustache.  So, here it is, on its’ second-to-last night on my face.   DSC_0044

Just for Farts and Snickers (not quite a full-fledged Shits and Giggles)  I also let the hair on the head grow out too. This is the longest my hair has been in something close to ten years.  Now, as for the background:  It’s the convenience store in my apartment building.  I tried using a mirror to take the shot, but in the end, I asked the owner of the store to snap one off for me.  Thank you, Brian.

How does it feel to have a Mo again?  I’m not impressed with it, which is why it is leaving Saturday morning.  And the brain case will go back to suede-head length.

  

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Vancouver Taser Death


Robert Dziekanski was a non-English speaking Pole who arrived in Vancouver International Airport October 14th of this year.  After 8 to 10 hours in the Immigration hall, he was Tasered by the RCMP and died a few moments later.

The video of the incident, which is here, bears watching.  However, I will caution you, it is disturbing.  Paul Pritchard, who shot the video, took all of the incident, from Dziekanski acting agitated and tossing stuff around, to the attempts of the security guards to calm him down, then the four RCMP officers confronting him.  The video ends with Dziekanski being Tasered at least twice and being cuffed by the RCMP.  Dziekanski died moments later.

We don’t know if the Taser contributed to the death, the officer kneeling on his neck, or some other reason that contributed to his immediate death, but the end result is the same:  Robert Dziekanski is dead. 

The video has received significant comment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a demonstrated failure of the four RCMP officers to handle the situation properly.  Police in Canada are trained to use force in an appropriate manner.  There is a hierarchy of force that can be used by an officer to take control of a situation. 

At the lowest, and least deadly level, is a loud voice and firm, specific commands for someone to do something:  "Get out of the car, place your hands on the trunk and do not move." would be an example of a command attitude.  For those of us who speak English, the message is clear, concise and easy to comprehend.

In confrontations where a command attitude is not producing compliance, there are other ranges of responses:  Use of a baton, in a directional manner, or in a striking manner can resolve things.  For some of us, the mere sight of an officer taking the baton out, means things are not progressing well and are not going to end happily. 

Using a baton directionally, as in using it as a pointer, in combination with a command attitude and voice command of "Down!" or "Get over there!"  will convince many to obey, as there is an implied use of the baton to force compliance. 

Using a baton in a striking mode means discussion is over, although commands must be continued to ensure compliance.  Striking targets with a baton include the wrists, elbows, knees, thigh muscles, midsection, or to the side of the body.  If you’ve ever been hit with a baton, or been accidentally nailed with a baseball bat, or hockey stick, you know that falling over is about your only option.   

OC Spray, (Oleoresin-Capsicum) or pepper spray is higher up the spectrum of responses.  With a range of two to three meters, the hand-held dispenser can eject a stream of very debilitating fluid that burns the eyes and nasal mucosa almost instantly.  OC Spray is a stand-off weapon, meaning the officer cannot physically approach the subject for safety reasons.   

Tasers are also stand-off weapons, where the officer cannot safely approach the subject.  With a range of up to 30 feet, the electrical charge will drop almost any subject to the ground so restraint can be applied.  There is significant discussion regarding the lethality of the Taser, but generally it is considered non-lethal.

Last on the list is the firearms response, or use of deadly force.  This tends to be under the heading of "A Bad Day".  Sidearms, shotguns and other firearms are lethal weapons, even if they fire beanbags or rubber bullets.  Up close enough, moving fast enough and aimed at the head, a bag of marshmallows could kill someone if launched from a firearm.

The reason I’ve detailed this short list of responses is to remind you that police have a range of things they can do.  They are trained to escalate only as necessary, based on the situation at hand. 

Confronted with a gun-wielding subject, who is firing rounds at them, the officer will skip over the earlier steps and reach for the sidearm.  That’s perfectly sensible, but well trained officers will also continue to demand compliance with a command attitude. 

If the subject seems agitated from something other than the obvious, officers are trained to talk the subject down to determine exactly what the problem is.  A subject screaming about blue lemons and the dragons, while waving a gun is having other issues that reside inside their head.  They’re not necessarily looking to kill everyone nearby. 

A subject screaming "You’ll never take me alive!" is not someone to be taken lightly, especially if they’re firing back, with well-aimed rounds.

Confronted with a very angry subject waving a knife or other cutting weapon, less lethal methods can be used.  Establishing a four or five person perimeter to close off escape routes and commanding the subject to comply may or may not be the first step.  For that kind of circumstance, OC Spray, then physical restraint would probably be prudent.

Confronted with an unarmed, but agitated subject, a command attitude and using the baton directionally would probably be enough to ensure compliance then, physical restraint to ensure officer safety.  In the even the subject becomes violent, the baton could be used as a striking weapon to ensure compliance.

In any of the cases, the first step is a command attitude:  Evaluate the reasons for the activity and take control of the situation through verbal commands and body language.

Where this all falls to pieces is a subject who does not speak English.  Robert Dziekanski seemed to recognize that the officers were the Police and appeared to be heading towards compliance, but the officers couldn’t understand what he was saying.

There was little or no attempt at communication with the subject.

There was no attempt to establish a perimeter to control the subject’s movement. 

There was no attempt to get the subject to sit down on the floor, or go prone. 

There was no pause to get a supervisor, or an interpreter to command Robert Dziekanski in a language he understood. 

There was no attempt to physically restrain the unarmed subject by all four officers acting in concert.  Dziekanski wasn’t a small man, but he wasn’t 280 lbs of hard muscle either. 

There was no use of the baton.

There was no use of OC Spray.

The officers, based on what I have seen on the video tape, walked up to the unarmed subject, figured out they couldn’t communicate with him, and shot him with the Taser, then used significant physical force to put him in restraints.

The training that the officers received teaches them exactly how to act and react.  The training was not followed.  Robert Dziekanski is dead.

There will be investigations, inquests and commissions to find out all the facts, but the first look, assuming Robert Dziekanski had no pre-existing medical conditions, indicated that the RCMP skipped over a number of steps and used excessive physical force, in association with the Taser to put him in restraints.

For this, we should be very, very angry.  And very, very ashamed.  The RCMP is better than that.

November 11th


The reasons soldiers go to war are a varied as the soldiers themselves.  Some were called to the great adventure by their friends, some were escaping economic stagnation.  Others felt is was their duty to defend their land.  Many were invited and didn’t get to decline the invitation by the governments involved. 

Each person then became part of a greater organization, through training, repetition, discipline and shared experience, both good and bad.  No matter how they got there and why they got there, they did their duty when commanded.  You don’t have to agree with the reasons they were there, as wars are always a question of sides, but you have to respect the dedication of the individuals involved.

That dedication is what we remember on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Leave the politics aside.  Remember the dedication of those who served and the sacrifice so many made. 

MOvember


No, it isn’t a typo, but heaven’s knows there’s enough of those in here.  MOvember is a little something that started in Australia a few years ago.  A "Mo" is a moustache in Australian slang.  I started November clean shaven as usual, and stopped shaving the upper lip. 

Today, the 10th, I have something that looks not unlike a yak with mange residing under my nose.  The reason I’m growing a Mo is not laziness or lack of personal grooming, but for a higher reason, which I am inserting here:

During Movember (the month formerly known as November) I’ll be growing a Mo (slang for Moustache).

That’s right I’m bringing the Mo back because I’m passionate about men’s health and the fight against prostate cancer. Why…

  • Every year, around 22,300 Canadian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 4,300 die of the disease, making it the number one cancer threat to Canadian men.
  • Men are far less healthy than women. The average life expectancy of males is 5 years less than females.

To sponsor my Mo please go to http://www.movember.com/ca/donate, enter my registration number which is 174981 and your credit card details.

Or you can sponsor me by cheque made payable to the "Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada" clearly marking the donation as being for my Registration Number: 174981. Please mail cheques to: Movember, 145 Front Street East, Suite 306, Toronto, ON M5A 1E3 Canada. All donations over $20 are automatically issued with a tax deductible receipt.

All donations are made directly to the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada who will use the funds to create awareness and fund research for those men who suffer from prostate cancer.

If I find some courage, I might even post a picture of the Mighty Mo.  Donate if you can, as the Prostrate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada has a legit Revenue Canada Taxable Donation Number, so you know it’s for real.  A couple of legit companies are involved.  Gillette for one, Playboy for another and Wahl Canada (who make hair clippers and facial fur trimmers) are the main sponsors. 

Oh, and I suppose my upper lip also counts as a very, very, distant associate sponsor.

O'Hare Security Breach


In an Associated Press article, nearly two dozen illegal immigrants were arrested on Wednesday at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, with fake airside security passes.  On the face of it, one would think it is just another story of illegals being used to cut corners.  Digging a little deeper, the story actually illustrates just how messed up the whole Homeland Security system is.

The reason Homeland Security was put forward by President Jo Jo the Idiot Boy was to combine all the forces available into one manageable organization to protect the US from terrorists.  Post 9-11, this seemed like a sensible idea:  A super-agency designed to protect everyone by protecting, vetting and investigating all the things that come into the country or exist in the country that are very important, like water supplies, the power grid and items of National Importance. 

To help the Department of Homeland Paranoia, very powerful laws were passed, not the least of which was the Patriot Act, which violates most of the US Constitution.  Several billion dollars in budget were set aside to help Homeland Paranoia ramp up the technology to protect the US. 

Tom Ridge, the original head of Homeland Paranoia, was the one who helped create the Terror Threat scale.  Remember that colour-coded Paranoia Pez dispenser?  CNN used to run it on the bottom of the screen, almost always pinned on Yellow, occasionally bubbling into Orange, but never into Green.  Tom was also the guy who said you should and could defend yourself against terrorist bioweapons with duct tape and plastic sheeting.  He meant well. 

There were all kinds of stories about fabulous technology that would sniff bombs in baggage and imaging technology that would show the screeners if the person in the booth waxed their Secret Garden, or let it grow wild.  Naturally, taking off your shoes became the norm to get on a plane, especially post- Richard Reid, the loon (and lone) shoe bomber.

Never mind that freight and passenger trains were never protected.  Intercity busses were never screened and drivers in private cars were never stopped, unless at the border and then only to make sure they didn’t have sausages, citrus fruit, or too many people in the trunk. 

As for shipping?  Homeland Paranoia and the Transportation Security Agency will only admit that a percentage of containers are checked.  Needless to say illegal immigrants kept coming to the US, usually in containers, or over the fence, neither of which are protected, checked or patrolled.

With Hurricane Katrina, we got proof that Homeland Paranoia couldn’t organize a bowel movement, let alone respond to a legitimate emergency:  They were too busy matching pants to shirts, making us take off our belts at the airport, X-raying Aunt Hazel’s walker and forcing women to chug breast milk to prove it wasn’t explosive. 

The O’Hare story merely underlines how broken things have become.  People were walking around airside with secure passes that had nothing to do with the actual person carrying it.  Nobody checked.  Nobody held the pass up next to the face of the burly, bearded, bearer and said:  "You’re not a 22 year old woman named Marlene.  Who are you and why are you near an airplane?"

The fix is so simple that it barely bears repeating:  Technology will not and cannot replace vigilant human beings. 

For all the expensive UAV’s flying circles over a reservoir or wiretapped emails, linking someone to someone else, nothing stops security breaches like a human.  Face recognition doesn’t work, nor do fingerprint scanners, implanted RFID chips, or the laughable "Trusted Shipper" program. 

All it takes is one grumpy, suspicious, security guard to stop random workers and match up the faces to pictures on the passes.

Or one grumpy, suspicious border guard to say "Bullshit.  Open the truck up." 

Or one grumpy, suspicious cop guarding a nuclear reactor saying "You’ve been parked here for four hours, staring at the building and the building hasn’t moved.  Let’s see some ID, now."

That’s all it takes.  Nothing more than humans.

Mulroney Dives for the Deck


It seems that a previous Prime Minister of Canada took a dive and is now wriggling around on the canvas of scandal, again.

Brian Mulroney, our PM from 1984 to 1993 was involved in the decision of Air Canada to buy a large fleet of aircraft from Airbus Industrie.  Legally, Mulroney sued and won a decision for unfair prosecution after he left office, so legally, he didn’t peddle influence as PM. 

Except now, Mulroney, in a roundabout way, admits he received $300,000.  Was it from someone, who was acting as a friend of a friend, to get Air Canada to buy a few billion worth of Airbus jets?  We don’t know and Mulroney isn’t talking.

(Personal Disclosure:  I’ve met Mulroney more than once, written speeches for him, and directed his 50th birthday video for the Party.  It was in a previous career, unrelated to what I do now. I am not a member of any political party and frankly, would never join any political party that wants me as a member)

Brian Mulroney’s history as Prime Minister of Canada is regarded as "mixed", meaning people either thought he did many good things while in office, or was a "lying scumbag who destroyed our country".  There really is no middle ground opinion about The Right Honourable Martin Brian Mulroney, PC, CC, GOQ.

In any event, with the $300,000 finally showing up, the media is starting to swarm.  It would seem that the $300,000 arrived over a year and a half, in cash.  Not cheques, or bank drafts, or gift certificates, just plain old bundles of cash in bags and suitcases. 

Most people tend not to walk around with bricks of bucks in the pocket or purse.  There are trades where it is normal to have a cabbage:  High stakes gambling comes to mind, as well as street corner drug wholesale distribution. 

There are urban-fable stories of drywall contractors ambling into the Jaguar dealership, just off the job site, covered in mud, sweat and dust, then whipping out a wad of cash to buy their car, cash, now, on the spot.  For the rest of us mere mortals, we cut a certified cheque for that kind of expenditure.

Which makes the $300,000 in cash from Karlheinz Schreiber even more suspect.  Cash has the benefit of not being traceable: It simply appears in the bank account, bumping the numbers upwards. 

Mulroney’s 1997 settlement of the lawsuit against the Government of Canada, regarding unfair prosecution, was $2,100,000.  I suspect the Government of Canada didn’t hand over bricks of cash to Mulroney’s lawyers.  In all likelihood they used a certified cheque.  A traceable, auditable, cheque. 

The most damming evidence regarding the $300,000 is that Mulroney’s tax folks went back to Revenue Canada and amended his income for 1993 and 1994, to reflect extra income of some sort and to pay the tax on it.  This makes one think that Revenue Canada was intensely investigating Mulroney and the amended returns were a way to keep the tax man at bay.  One would also suspect that Revenue Canada had evidence of the payments, possibly from his bank records.

To quote Ronco ads on TV:  "But wait, that’s not all!"  Her Majesty’s Official Opposition is demanding our current PM, Stephen "Steve" Harper open an official investigation of the settlement with Mulroney.  Harper is stonewalling so hard, he’s getting calluses on his hands from piling up the concrete blocks.   

Which begs the question, Why?  Yes, Brian Mulroney is a former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister, but the Progressive part of the party was taken out and shot four years ago. 

There are no Progressives left, except in one place:  The back rooms of the Conservative Party.  Those people who were willing to grease up and work with the brownshirts of the Reform Party when the two parties amalgamated in the Night of the Long Knives, October 16th, 2003.  There you will find those who owe much to Mulroney and will protect Mulroney until death or dementia set in. 

They’ve got Harper onside, either by dragging Harper face-first across the PMO carpet and giving him wool sock static shocks to the nostrils, or reminding Harper that the only reason he is PM, is the backroom brokers who put the money and brains together to make it happen.  If Stevie doesn’t play along, all the organization and fund raising skills at the Conservative Party War Room will suddenly disappear.  Ergo, our current PM is piling up the stones for the wall.        

Mulroney did some good things in office and did some things that were terrible.  I used to be of the ‘mixed’ feelings camp, but now?  We need some clarification from the man himself. 

We won’t get it, but we need it.

Pakistan Shuts Down


General Pervez Musharraf has shut Pakistan down in the last couple of days.  The media is closed, the phone lines are down and Martial Law has been declared.  For those of you, like me who were educated in public schools by overworked teachers, you’re reasonably sure Pakistan is near India and that’s about it.

Short Factoids:  161 Million people, stuck in the top left-hand corner of India between Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  It is the sixth-largest population in the world.  Pakistan declared independence from England in 1947 and became an Islamic republic in 1956.  The history goes back to dawn of time, Pakistan being part of the general region of the cradle of civilization around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. 

There was also an East Pakistan at one time, on the other side of India.  In 1971, East Pakistan rebranded as Bangladesh.  As India is mostly Hindi, Pakistan is mostly Muslim, which explains why the two have never been the best of friends.

Military governments have been the norm, essentially from 1956, with the occasional lurch into democracy.  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Benazir Bhutto’s dad) was prime minister under the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the 70’s, but was executed in 1979  under the directives of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.  At the same time India and Pakistan were fighting over Kashmir and Bangladesh was trying to separate. 

In short, Pakistan has a very difficult, turbulent and violent political history, with everyone involved at one time or another, behaving badly.  None of the various groups in power have been especially virtuous, each determined to hold on to power at all costs.

However, there is another problem:  Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons.  India and Pakistan both have missiles that can potentially throw their nuclear weapons a goodly distance.  Which is why political unrest in that corner of the world is fraught.  India could be nervous about loons gaining control over Pakistan and hurling some bad news over the border. 

Conceptually, India could invade or nuke Pakistan to preclude a first-strike.  Conceptually, if a fundamentalist group takes control over the Pakistan government, they’ll have their fingers on the trigger.  If democracy takes hold again, the Pakistan military might not like the direction an elected parliament is heading, and set off another military coup, using a battle with India as the pretext for a coup.  Or Iran on the border, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or al-Qaeda cement-heads.     

How many potential moves are there in that chess game?  Even Deep Blue, the IBM chess playing computer that took on Gary Kasparov, would gag a processor trying to figure that out.