Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas Greetings To Our Readers


We’re doing Christmas a bit differently this year.  No, we haven’t gone Aztec, or decided to celebrate the Winter solstice with gory offerings to unusual deities (The Single-Malt God demands we offer a Welsh virgin!  Insert your own joke here) – instead we decided to change it up a bit.

We swap Christmas dinner with another couple and a few other folks, taking it in turns to do all the work and of course swap presents.  We’re all at that point in our lives where the things we want for Christmas are in the four-figure range, like a new kitchen, or six months in Costa Rica being hand-fed peeled grapes and rum-based drinks with paper umbrellas.  The other potential gifts would be under the heading of cute, stuff, tchotchkes or clutter, depending on your point of view.

Instead, we took the money set aside for gifts and repurposed it for others.  Plan Canada offers matched giving for charitable gifts for people who actually need our help in less developed areas of our little planet.  We’ve bought a couple of goats, some chicks, peanuts, clean water and maternity supplies, which, with funds matching has increased the actual dollar amount a few times over.  Gifts under the tree are limited by prior agreement to very few, silly and cheap.

Of course, in less than an hour, CBC will be running Alan Maitland reading The Shepherd.  We will stop all our preparations and sit quietly listening, Frederic Forsythe’s words turning from the solid to the gaseous state without passing through the liquid state, becoming magic, as they fly through the air.

No matter how you celebrate your holiday season, please do it with generosity of spirit, kindness and warmth.  Our very best wishes and a Merry Christmas to all.

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Newtown II


We’re  not a fan of stirring up stuff but with the previous post Newtown, we think we hit a nerve.  Fair enough we hit a nerve and by way of acknowledgement, we’ve published the responses as they stand.  Not agreeing is perfectly acceptable behaviour in our books as well as vociferously backing up your argument with as many facts as is reasonable.  Being able to dish it out, means being able to take it and we accept that as part of genteel discourse.

Now, is America the problem?  By our judgement, yes and here come some facts that we left out of the published version for editorial reasons and we’ll take that criticism as given.

Population adjusted per 1,000 citizens, the Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice systems during 1998 to 2000, (the most recent figures readily available) lists Murders with firearms per capita, by country thusly:

#1 South Africa – 0.719782 per 1000 people

#2 Columbia – 0.509801 per 1000 people

#3 Thailand – 0.312092 per 1000 people…

Skipping Zimbabwe, Mexico and Belarus here..

#7 Costa Rica – 0.0313745 per 1000 people

#8 United States – 0.0279271 per 1000 people

#9 Uruguay – 0.0245902 per 1000 people

Skipping a bunch more…

#19 Switzerland – 0.00596718 per 1000 people

#20 Canada – 0.050297 per 1000 people

#21 Germany – 0.00465844 per 1000 people.

Our source is here if you want to look it up and feel free to.  We don’t mind being fact-checked.  We encourage it.

Some other facts. Number of guns per capita by country, 2007

#1 United States – 88.8 per 100 residents

#2 Serbia – 58.2 per 100 residents

#3 Yemen – 54.8 per 100 residents

#4 Switzerland – 45.7 per 100 residents

#5 Cyprus – 36.4 per 100 residents…

Skipping a few here…

#13 Canada – 30.8 per 100 residents

#14 Austria – 30.4 per 100 residents

#15 Germany – 30.3 per 100 residents

Interesting how Switzerland has the 4th highest number of firearms per 100 people and yet ranks only 19th in Murders with firearms.  Switzerland has mandatory military service and citizens who serve are expected to keep their weapons and ammunition at home, ready to go on two hours’ notice, which explains why they have such a high ranking in number of guns, but not their low ranking in the number of murders with firearms.  It proves that sensible, secure, trained gun ownership is not the issue.

As for rampant stereotyping, we’ll buy some of the critique, but hear us out.  It is no more stereotypical than saying the Swiss are neat and fiscally prudent, Italians passionate, or that all Scottish cuisine is based on a drunken dare at a slaughterhouse.  We’ll partially apologize and try to do better going forward.

Exceptions don’t prove the rule and the millions of sensible, safe, concerned and sane gun owners are not all ready to run amok at the slightest provocation.  If you’re interpreting our remarks that way, give you head a shake and go read our post again.     

Crazies exist, which is why we noted Anders Brevik from Norway, as a crazy, who in possibly the best, most progressive health care system in the world, was not identified beforehand as a loon.  Health care can’t do that job, no matter where.  If we tripled American mental health spending tomorrow, we still can’t identify individuals who are likely to flip out and kill people.  Health care is not the issue.  

It was and is American media that stuffed a microphone in the face of the kids who survived the shooting and had the unadulterated gall to ask a child what they felt and heard during the shooting, parental permission or not.  This link from twitchy.com lists several of the comments from others regarding the media vultures who have wrapped themselves around this story.  Read some of the links and be embarrassed for your country rewarding that kind of corporate media behaviour.  Bloodthirsty and sensationalistic are the terms that come to mind. 

This doesn’t mean the UK, or Canadian media are any less culpable in our own back yards, or somehow ‘better’:  It means the US media as a whole needs to stop and think a moment or two and ask the hard question:  Is this the right thing to do, now, or can it wait?  We’d love to hear their argument as why they didn’t and we bet it comes down to Freedom of the Press as the reason and a Competitive Marketplace as the excuse. 

Using that same logic we expect to soon see Bill O’Reilly violating a giraffe, live, because Piers Morgan molested a mule and pulled a 12 share last night that beat Fox with a measly 4 share with O’Reilly talking to a vending machine about foreign policy.  “Dammit Bill, we need that 12 share to make our numbers for the quarter!”

To close the loop, as others have noted, it is the need for a discussion about National US Firearms laws to end the knobby melange of contradictory laws and standards that have mutated across the US, pushed and pulled by lobby groups and think tanks with more disparate agendas that Carter has little pills.

We’ve stood on the firearm platform before.  We’ve got no issue with firearm weapons more than 18 inches long, with a mag that holds no more than 8 rounds (or so) and can fire semi-auto.  Anything else you want, apply, wait for the background check and probably the firm, but polite ‘no’ from the authorities.  We are in favour of extensive, mandatory training of anyone who wants to have a firearm weapon so they can operate them in a prudent, safe and responsible manner.  Military re-enactors?  Apply, your reason is good enough (to us anyways) assuming you pass the background check and you have passed a firearms safety course.  Do expect to be audited once in a while, but not onerously so.   

We’ve also promulgated a societal and legal change using something called a “Double Double” meaning. committing a crime with a firearm weapon doubles the sentence.  Discharging the firearm doubles it again. No time off for good behaviour or parole.  You serve the full sentence.  The concept being to discourage the criminal use of firearm weapons as harshly as possible.  It will take a generation to get that to sink in, much like it has taken a generation to curtail cigarette smoking, drinking and driving, having a martini to cure morning sickness or using seatbelts in your car.  It is time consuming and is not an instant fix.

Which is what all the nattering is really about.  Everyone wants an instant fix to prevent a copycat, or another loon from going off and finding the readily available tools, cheap-jack rationale and attendant media coverage to slaughter innocent people.  Most have glommed onto “Gun Control” as the Instant Fix, but that’s not the whole story or even half of the fix. 

Where the blame lies is in the inability of America to have a peaceable, dignified, sane, learned, fact-based discussion about how they want the citizens of their country to behave with each other.  There is too much sensationalism, knee-jerk reactions and political axe-grinding in the media to have anything but sensationalism, knee-jerk reactions and political axe-grinding by their citizens.  It has to stop and you have to fix it.

Goddammit, you’re Americans, you know better, you’re smarter than most and you have the will to take back your own media from the cretins.  Open a dialogue, in all directions, come to a consensus, make the decisions and get on with life where you aren’t being manipulated every 12 seconds by the circus you call a media telling you what you think and how to react.  Ignore the political manipulations from the Right and the Left and make up your own minds. 

Get this fixed.  You deserve better.

Newtown


Unless you’ve been on a four-day Jack Daniels’ bender you have heard and seen the horror of the the Newtown, CT. killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

After the first four hours, the various media outlets shifted into their accustomed role of speculation, as there were no hard, actual facts to report.  The usual commentators were dragged up, psychologists, security specialists, gun control advocates, PTSD counsellors and of course, loose cannons, sandwich-short-of-a-picnic social commentators and the monomaniacal who won’t change their mind and won’t change the subject.  I think I recall some halfwit on Fox blaming the Palestinians for the shooting, and it was Obama’s fault because he wouldn’t let Israel build a 40 foot wall around the Arab homelands.  That’s when I turned off the TV. 

Facts, those slippery things, are slowly coming out, as they should with some care for the accuracy.  We’re going to add a few of our own facts to the hopper, leavened with rational opinion.

Gun Laws as they currently stand had very little to do with the incident.  The weapons were legal as of today and the ammunition was also legal.  The killer wasn’t using anything full-auto or cut down to hide it.  Connecticut has some of the stronger gun licensing laws in the US. 

Health Care or ObamaCare has nothing whatsoever to do with the shootings.  Norway, with a very good cradle to grave healthcare system produced Anders Brevik, who calmly executed 77 people in July 2011.  Norway’s health system didn’t spot the looney.  No health care system, however funded, can spot the looney, unless we revert to a Stasi-era system of everyone being secret informers for the government.

Government Funding of Education:  Please, go away, your stupidity is making my eyes hurt.  The same for those who believe that the Fiscal Cliff debate, Obama’s re-election, Two-party politics, or stalemates in the Congress and Senate have anything to do with this.  Go away, shut the F up and go back to sucking your thumb until you join the real world, you pseudo-intellectual orifices. 

Here’s where the problem lies.  You ready?  It will hurt.

Instant access of firearm weapons of all types, legal, illegal, auto, semi-auto and the willingness to use them on a moments’ notice to settle disputes. 

There’s the real points, the real points that are not being talked about.

The issue is the American societal fixation on having firearm weapons readily to hand to “defend” themselves.  It is ingrained by decades of media rationalizations and societal conditioning that the ONLY way to settle a problem is to kill the other party. 

Even after the Aurora, Colorado theatre shooting, some commentators very directly defended the right to bear arms (and by extension, concealed carry) as a way to have stopped James Eagan Holmes from killing 12 people at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.  If only the other people in the theatre had responded with a volley…

Using that logic, if the staff at every school in America were issued or allowed to carry firearm weapons, then incidents like this would never happen again. 

A second factoid, making the rounds of Facebook. 

Last year handguns killed:  48 people in Japan, 8 in the UK, 34 in Switzerland, 52 in Canada, 58 in Israel, 21 in Sweden, 42 in Germany,

and 10,728 in the US.

The problem is not guns, laws, health care, politics, fiscal cliffs, unemployment, drugs or bad parenting. 

The problem is America.

  

Joseph Arthur Lonley


Indulge me dear readers.  On a wall at the house is a B.Sc. from 1929, University of Toronto, for someone called Joseph Arthur Lonley that I had collected back in the 80s from a garage sale.  The importance of this will become clearer.

Come the mid-90s we adopted two animals from the Humane Society.  One, a collie-hound cross was known as Rusty by the Humane Society.  The other was a brown tabby that was picked up as a stray.  All they could tell us was that he was maybe as old as four, had a split in one ear, was now neutered and had obviously been on the street for a while, as he was quite thin. 

On the drive home from the Humane Society, Rusty decided to change his name, by vomiting, vibrantly and gloriously all over the interior of the car as well as us.  Consequently, his name became Ralph in the 30 minute drive home.  The cat however, provided no clues; we were not sure what to name him, until we noticed his dignified demeanour.  Then we remembered the B.Sc. on the wall, so in keeping with his gentlemanly aspect, he became Joseph Arthur Lonley.  He seemed to appreciate being named after someone with an important degree circa 1929.

Over the years he shared many moments of joy and love with both of us.  He was leash-trained by Marylou’s mom Eleanor, at the cottage at Victoria Beach and liked nothing better than to go for a walk with Ralph to the park, taking the air, enjoying his surroundings.  Like all cats, he could sit in a window in the sun for hours, staring off into middle-distance, mentally calculating pi to thousands of decimal places.  But unlike most cats he would come when called and adored sitting on your lap for hours. 

One story of Joseph will suffice.  Marylou was home sick from work and decided to watch the movie “Fargo” on the (at the time) VCR.  Joey hopped up on her lap and stared intently at the screen for the whole 98 minutes.  When the credits came up at the end, he hopped off and went to do whatever cats do, having fulfilled his task of keeping Mom company and enjoying the antics of Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy and Frances McDormand.  He didn’t like Hitchcock but did like the HBO series “Band of Brothers”. 

He had stopped eating and drinking, his body running down with nothing more than old age.  He hadn’t the strength to keep his head up and wouldn’t or couldn’t cry out any more, his dignity starting to desert him, being carried to the litter box.  This morning it was his time, as we made the compassionate decision, the right decision to take him to the vet one last time.

As is our tradition, we read Psalm 23 over him as the vet injected him with the sedative, then the final shot.  He died peacefully in Marylou’s arms this morning.  Still dignified, still loving, still loved.

If you have a moment over the next couple of days, would you mind putting in a word with your particular deity for the spirit of Joseph Arthur Lonley.  The World’s Most Fabulous Cat.  

Bread, Circuses, Current Events


We’re catching up with the panoply of events current.

Kim Jong-un is the the hottest of hottiest, at least according to North Korea, having been given the title Sexiest Man Alive by no less an august source as The Onion.  Needless to say the national press in North Korea has agreed, pointing to the exceptional taste exhibited by the decadent Western Capitalist media hordes. 

Naturally, the Korean Central News Agency has also found and reconfirmed the lair of the mythical unicorn  ridden by King Tongmyong before 668 AD.  Not 200 metres from the lair was a rock, carved with the words “Unicorn Lair” and an arrow.  And we make such a fuss about investigative journalism.

KC Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher lost the thread last week, murdered his spouse, then went to the stadium and killed himself in front of the coach.  A heart-wrenching tragedy to be sure, but so many of the mawkish tributes are conveniently leaving out that initial act of ‘shot his wife…’.  They are also leaving out Belcher’s string of concussions and substance issues that seem to be inconvenient around such a nice guy.

It’s much like the mandatory neighbour interview of someone who goes nuts and murders fourteen student nurses;  ‘He was just a great guy, kept to himself and wouldn’t hurt a fly, until we saw  the body parts coming out of the tree chipper and he was wearing a blue cocktail frock.  It was a bit of a surprise to the wife and me when we saw the SWAT show up with the Coroner.’

Prince William and his spousal unit, Kate have finally admitted that she’s pregnant, having been hospitalized with industrial strength morning sickness besmirching her perfect wardrobe  and demeanor. 

The headline, of course, is very wrong.  It  should be the more newsworthy:  “Happily married, heterosexual, white couple are having a child they deliberately want to have, likely through conventional means.” 

We’re looking to get some wagering action that the name will not be Beep, Bing or Nobby Windsor.  The current line is 6-1 that the offspring will be a ginger, at least according to the bookies in the UK who will accept wagers on anything.

The NHL strike is still going on.  That means the jock-sniffer component of society is starting to drool in withdrawal.  They might have to break down and actually talk to wife sometime between now and June 2013.  Sucks to be them, don’t it?