Thursday, 31 January 2008

Female Streaker Scores Goal

A short video clip. It could not possibly be shown on US tv. If you think that the half time show at the Superbowl which gave US viewers a brief flash of nipple was outrageous, do not click on the title and stop reading now.

I do not really care very much for any sport. I do not think I have watched an entire soccer game since I was was forced to participate at school. But if they could organize events like this on a regular basis I might even consider buying a season ticket.

Lovely goal. Lovely girl. Absolutely harmless content. But a red flag to the Mrs Grundies of the fundies.

Incidentally, if God did create woman I think he can feel justifiably proud of this one.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Chicago study calls Taser's safety claims into question

What is different about this study is the length of time the electricity was used. Repeated and prolonged use of this device is what has been causing concern. The makers say that the trial with pigs is not the same as humans, and that is right. Before the tasers were used it is unlikely that the pigs were in a state of extreme stress. Or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Yet the police use tasers on people who are - very obviously - extremely distressed. And deaths have occurred when the subject was under the influence of drugs.

Of course the manufacturer will dismiss studies that are unfavourable to their products. They would, wouldn't they. Just like the makers of thalidomide dismissed studies - or of lead based petroleum additives - asbestos still gets used (but not here) and people would use CFCs if they could. And DDT.

The death of Robert Dziekanski - and these pigs - means that our police must now stop using tasers until we understand what restrictions need to be in place for their safe deployment. Obviously the police need something other than guns. Training seems to be important too. Like not putting your knee across someone's neck and then using all your weight as a restraint technique.

Our present knowledge shows that our police cannot be trusted to use these weapons. And until the doubts about their safety are resolved to the satisfaction of some independent, qualified body they should be removed from police access.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Do your job, obey the law, get fired

The Government of Canada decided to fire its nuclear safety watchdog.
Gary Lunn, the federal minister of natural resources who dismissed Keen, has already told the committee that she showed a "lack of leadership"
Except that she was not allowed to take into account any other issue than nuclear safety - by law. A problem that the Government actually recognised - because it passed special legislation to restart a nuclear reactor that would not be permitted to operate had it been built now.

Lunn should now be removed from the front bench. The Government of Canada must offer her a full and complete apology, reinstate her, and pay her a significant sum in compensation. Anything less is shameful.

Cartoon from the Richmond News

Trailer for a German movie of "Snow White"

Giuliani's worst nightmare

A Guardian report from the Republican primary that uncovers an aspect that is new to me.

Giulani has been using his image as "America's Mayor" - based largely on the spin put around 9/11. The families of first responders who died needlessly that day do not want to let him get away with that. For Giuliani's decisions before during and after 9/11 made matters much worse than thery need have been.

If like me you are not aware of these aspects of events I suggest you click on the title above and read the story. I would never vote Republican even if I could. But this to me suggests that Giuliani should face more than anger at the primaries. Some kind of investigation is called for - unless (some hopes) he admits incompetence and retires to obscurity.


He has now withdrawn from the race. Good.

Monday, 28 January 2008

'Artful Codger' spared jail over counterfeit art | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

I suppose it is because we all like to watch the Antiques Road Show - which now has at least three national variations on our tv - Canadian, US and still the original and best, UK.

An old guy in a wheelchair pops up at a museum with an object and a provenance. He is old and plausible. And he gets away with it for years - and arguably has got away with it again.

Of course fraud and forgery are wrong. But so is the ridiculous chase for unearned profits that the collector's market has become. These are people who do not buy things because they like them, or find them interesting, but hope that they have picked up something undervalued that they can flip for a huge profit. Every yard sale has people sniffing around hoping for a find they will offer a dollar or two for in the hope it will prove to be worth far more. But people caught out by their greed and cupidity do not deserve our pity.

And it is hard not to laugh at experts taken in by a clay model darkened with tea to look old.

Discredited pathologist admits he was 'profoundly ignorant'

The enquiry into a series of miscarriages of justice is currently hearing from a forensic pathologist who appeared as an "expert witness" in many child death cases.

The review, with findings made public in April 2007, focused on 45 child autopsies Smith conducted between 1991 and 2002, when he was considered a leading expert on pediatric forensics at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.
How does this kind of thing happen? What sort of system allows someone who is "largely self taught" take on these kind of responsibilities? Does not the defence have an obligation to question the expertise of "experts"?

What is really scary is that miscarriages of justice now seem to be much more common than the system has ever been ready to accept. In some cases technical advances have thrown new light on evidence. DNA testing being the most obvious. But we have also seen cases - and too many of them - where evidence unhelpful to the prosecution was simply ignored. Where the driving force appears to have been to get someone convicted rather than establish exactly what happened. Where police backed up their colleagues rather than admit to the truth.

And now it seems Mr Harper is seriously thinking about reintroducing the death penalty. He has already stopped objections to the deportations of Canadians to US states where they may face the death penalty - a very significant policy shift nowhere debated or voted upon by anyone. Locking up someone for many years who has done nothing wrong is bad enough. But there is no apology or recompense when you have taken someone's life - and then discover that it was a mistake.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Photography is not a crime

Useful story on a web site with backup resources. The police cannot tell you to stop taking pictures. Though be warned in Canada they have been taking people's digital memory cards - most famously in Vancouver from a member of the media ( a tv camera man who arrived on the scene after the crime had been committed!) and that famous video of an innocent Polish immigrant being killed by RCMP at Vancouver airport.

US network faces $1m nudity fine

A network gets fined for showing what everybody has - buttocks. In this case female and not covered. Before 10pm. Of course before 10 pm they can and will show murder and mayhem, real and imaginary, with impunity. A naked bum you see is obscene. Except after 10pm. But violence, sometimes graphic, always shocking - "if it bleeds, it leads" - and detailed forensic reconstructions of bullets passing through flesh, knives stuck in crania, that's fine. The kids are quite free to watch that. And the shootings in the schools. Crimes described in graphic detail so they can be copied and spread across the land. That is alright. Not obscene you see. Does not have anything remotely connected to reproduction. Or people being nice to each other. Or looking at something that might be deemed beautiful.

No doubt the footage will be on Youtube if you missed it.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

German railways admits complicity in Holocaust

And about time too.

The defence that so many Germans used in the aftermath of the war was that "we didn't know". This is now well understood to be untrue not least due to the work of historians like Daniel Goldhagen.

As one passenger on one of these trains notes
The farmers in the fields laughed at us when we asked them where it was and symbolically sliced their hands across their throats."
Ordinary Germans knew what was intended as part of the policy of a Jew free Reich. It is not as if the leaders of the Nazi party were exactly reticent about it.

What depresses me more than the holocaust deniers - who no doubt will pop up once again to spread their deceits - is the fact that genocides have not stopped. There are still people who think that treating some ethnic group as though they were disposable is somehow justifiable. And news of new "ethnic cleansing" operations seems to reach us regularly. And religious leaders continue to foment hatred of infidels, and counsel killing as a way of dealing with those who have a different faith.

When will we ever learn?

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Shirley Valentine

I notice that this play is being put on at the Gateway (Jan 31 - Feb 16)

Nothing very remarkable about that. But is is "copresented by Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad". I cannot for the life of me think why. This is a safe commercial venture. One woman shows are, after all, cheap. Not only that but a nice safe comedy, been around for years, but not done here in recent memory. So will appeal to the baby boomers as a nice bit of nostalgia.

Aren't "cultural olympiads" supposed to be a bit more adventurous than that? Shouldn't it feature a new work with some local reference - or maybe broaden our world view with insights into other cultures not normally seen on the commercial stage?

There's nothing wrong with the play - or the performer so far as I know. Indeed, I might even be tempted to go. But what I want to know is what the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad thinks it is for.

Friday, 18 January 2008


I was most disappointed that Santa did not bring me a Swiss Army knife, so I went and bought one at House of Knives since they had a sale on. It is not a weapon, it is a collection of tools, and most useful it has been already. But they also gave me a coupon for free knife sharpening, so I took in my Chicago chef's knife (carefully wrapped because it sure looks like a weapon). It has not been sharpened since I got it over 20 years ago, but is has been honed on a steel regularly. I always say that sharp knives are a lot safer than a dull knife, because you can predict where it is going and you need much less pressure on it to use it effectively. I had some left over steak in the fridge which I wanted to slice at an angle to make a sandwich and this is now the perfect tool for the job. It almost looked like beef sushi "slice it thin, pile it high!"

I have no financial links to Victorinox, Chicago cutlery or House of Knives. But I recommend their products and services to you.

Liberals announce "30-50 Plan"

A flyer in my mail box informs me that

- 3.4 million Canadians live in poverty
- 242,000 seniors live in poverty
- more than 788,000 of our children live in poverty
- most adults below the low income cut-off are working

It goes on to state that the Conservatives have abandoned low-income families.

Well I suppose since the prodigal has returned, we should cheer. At last the Liberals have seen the error of their ways. After all they were in power for a long time, and they came into power chiding Brian Mulroney for promising to eliminate child poverty to the UN and then doing absolutely nothing about it. And then did nothing themselves.

I do not think there is anything new or surprising about this data - except perhaps the way that it leaves out how poverty is concentrated into geographic and ethnic pockets - First Nations facing some of the worst problems. Also something the Liberals could have tackled during the Chretien years, but didn't. St├ęphane Dion does need to show that he is different - and this is certainly a step away from the past. Although I see no sense of apology or recognition of the impact of previous Liberal policies.

My reaction to it is a bit like the one I have to the BC government's transit announcement. It is late and not enough and unlikely to change things any time soon, but at least they recognise that they were wrong before.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Want to be a Canadian?

This article in Salon is aimed at Americans. It is also old - 2004 - which is why I am surprised it popped up in my stumbling.

And since Salon does not allow for posting of comments below its articles, and no one had responded - in four years! - I thought I had better.

First of all be warned that Canadian bureaucracy is just as painful as US bureaucracy. Only ours is also bilingual. Which means that there is a very good chance the bureaucrat you have to deal with got the job simply because they speak French. Which gives us the odd experience of being run by people from a "nation" that wants to leave Canada - Quebec. Now in general this does not cause too many problems, but if M'sier or Madame Officier is feeling a bit ticked, your lack of fluency in joual (the name used for the antiquated, rural French spoken in Quebec) may not help you. It is much more likely that someone whose first language is French is bilingual than the other way around. That just tells you something about the relative strength of English in the world as a whole, and also that French is not widely spoken outside of Quebec except in New Brunswick - which is the only bilingual province. In many cities other languages are now more widely spoken - here in Richmond it is Cantonese, but Manadarin and Punjabi are also significant. Canada is the only place in the world where my schoolboy French is unacceptable: elsewhere, it is met by smiles - at least I am trying. In Canada it means something else.

That three year residency rule about citizenship is strictly interpreted. Pop back over the border to fill up with gas, and you will have a day added to your requirement. This also applies if your Canadian employer sends you abroad to bring back revenue to Canada - residency means just that. Take a holiday abroad, same thing.

The best thing is that you will get "free at the point of delivery" health care. BUT you will have to pay for it through higher taxes and a compulsory "medical services premium" (though some employers will pay that for you). You will still need private health insurance to cover medications, dental and eye care. The employed tend to get most of that paid for through group health - which is relatively cheap. If you do have to pay for prescriptions they will be cheaper here. And the downside of public health is waiting - and sometimes that can be a really significant issue.

Despite anti-Americanism being a cheap way of winning over Canadians used by people like radio show hosts, most Canadians are indeed polite and friendly, if a little less demonstrative. While Canada has lower crime rates than much of the US, there is still a need to be wary. Possession of small amounts of pot will get you a ticket rather than a long jail sentence, but it is still a crime. So is drinking in public places. We got rid of prohibition before you guys even started but the traditions of the Scots Presbyterians still linger in our liquor laws. US immigrants have always been very important to Canada - for one thing they tend to have a higher propensity for activism. Not a few of our political and intellectual leaders came from the US to avoid the Vietnam war.

The bad news is that at present we have a minority Conservative government which is dominated by rural, western, born again Christians. It is not as extreme as the Republican party but it admires them. It recently delivered a prisoner back to the US who stands a good chance of being executed - something Canada does not do and up until now, has not supported in the US either. Generally speaking Canadians are more "liberal" than Americans, but there are plenty of rednecks here too. They are just a bit quieter, that's all.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

This isn't crying

This is supposed to be the moment that changed the dynamic of the New Hampshire Democratic primary. Even Hilary herself says so.

What it does is allow voters to see beyond the "dragon lady" that is painted by the mainstream media which is hugely and unfairly Republican in spirit. The polls did get it wrong - but maybe that is because they asked the questions too early.

But what it also shows is that the media is far too quick to call the election over before it has even begun. Iowa caucuses tell you something about the sort of people who take part in caucuses in Iowa - that is all. They do not represent American voters. And this is about a deeply flawed process to select candidates for the two party horse race at the end of the year which is actually nearly all that matters. I say "nearly" because of the electoral college and the Republicans willingness to cheat when they think they can get away with it.

A couple of day to let the dust settle and here is the Guardian's analysis of how she won

Stuff - and storage

I wrote about getting storage space back in August. This video is of course an ad for a storage company but I feel obliged to repeat the advice my storage company gave to me. Look carefully at that stuff. Do you really need to keep it? I must admit that my locker is now so full I actually avoid going there as the idea of trying to find what I need and having to shift stuff around is very off putting.

Stuff expands to fill the space available. One side effect of rising property prices is "downsizing" - and when you do that just renting space does not really solve any issues. But the storage companies do well.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Women's ski jumping deserves better

I cannot believe this. How on earth did this become to be an issue in 2008?

I really have very little interest in sports in general and the Olympics in particular. So I was quite unaware until a few moments ago that sex discrimination is alive and well and living at the IOC. There is a case wending its way slowly through the process, of course, but it is obvious that the Canadian and BC governments cannot spend public money on events that discriminate.
The IOC, insisting that the women's side of the sport is not developed enough and doesn't meet the criteria for inclusion, voted 14 months ago not to add it to the 2010 schedule.
Could it be that the people who voted against come from countries that do not have a women's ski jumping team? Or have antediluvian attitudes to women competing in sports? It does not matter. They are coming here and, for now at least, we are a sovereign country that likes to think itself civilized. If the IOC wants to prevent women from competing they had better take their games somewhere else.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Philip Glass music from Seasame Street

I am too old to remember this from the program - we didn't have a tv back then - and I doubt any of my kids will remember it either. There is speculation that early exposure to Glass's music is why so many people like it now. But that doesn't explain why I do.