Mr. Day’s Response

Stockwell Day — a rather unusual Canadian political figure for his persistence — has responded to the complaints of citizens about the death of Robert Dziekanski after the fury of British Columbia and broader Canadian citizens:

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said in a statement last night that he has asked Paul Kennedy, the Commissioner for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, to review the police force’s policies for using the devices – and assess whether its members live up to those standards.

The independent review is yet another added to a growing list of inquiries and reviews sparked by the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who spent 10 hours at the Vancouver airport before being tasered by police. There is already an internal RCMP review under way.

With the public outcry growing, rather than abating, the provincial government in British Columbia announced its own inquiry this week and accused federal agencies including the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency of failing to provide answers. In the Commons, Mr. Day has faced repeated demands for the federal government to provide answers.

Mr. Day’s decision to ask Mr. Kennedy to review the RCMP’s taser use will effectively expand a probe that the arm’s-length ombudsman launched Nov. 8 into the RCMP’s actions in the Dziekanski case.

Mr. Kennedy had already said that he would assess the force’s policies for using tasers, or conducted energy devices, and whether the four officers involved in the incident with Mr. Dziekanski complied with those protocols. But Mr. Day’s request means he has now been asked to add an RCMP-wide assessment of whether the force is complying with its protocols.

Though it’s good to see the Public Safety Minister responding to the issue, it’s kind of a pity that it has to first come to a situation where the government has no choice but to respond. This kind of incident clearly isn’t good for the public… waiting for them to respond with rage is a weak way of putting off the issue, and — if successful — would obviously cause more harm than good.

It’ll be a fine day when we see our governments jumping to confront internal issues as quickly as they confront external risks.

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ONN Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving for those American bloggers out there! One thing I’m thankful for (even though I’m Canadian): The Onion News Network!!!

Another phony “expert” witness for the prosecution

About a month ago, I told you about a pathologist in Ontario who may be responsible for convicting several innocent people.

Charles Smith testified in dozens of cases in which a child had been murdered. It now appears that he was overly zealous to get a conviction. In at least eight cases, it appears likely that an innocent person spent time under investigation or in prison because of Smith. His testimony was very impressive but also inaccurate.

A similar story is now emerging in Maryland. Former Baltimore police sergeant James Kulbicki has spent twelve years in prison for a murder that he may not have committed.

Firearms “expert” Joseph Kopera testified that Kulbicki’s off-duty revolver was the murder weapon. Kopera has now been exposed as a phony by Kulbicki’s lawyer.

The Washington Post reports that Kopera lied about his professional credentials.

Kopera testified at the 1995 trial that he had an engineering degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Maryland. Drouet [Kulbicki’s lawyer] contacted both schools, whose registrars said that Kopera never attended their programs. A University of Maryland transcript that Kopera had submitted after he was questioned to substantiate his credentials was deemed a forgery by the school’s registrar, court records show.

Confronted with the evidence, Kopera, 61, abruptly retired Feb. 28 and committed suicide a day later. His three decades of work in scores of other cases statewide is now under scrutiny by the state police.

Lying about his credentials is bad enough. But Kopera also gave testimony against Kulbicki which is contradicted by his own lab notes:

Kopera had testified that the bullet fragment recovered from the victim’s head and the one found in Kulbicki’s truck were of a “large” caliber, at least a .38 or .40. That would make them consistent with bullets fired from Kulbicki’s .38-caliber revolver.

But Kopera’s examination notes told a different story. For the bullet fragment recovered from the victim’s brain, Kopera declared the caliber “medium.” For a second fragment recovered in the truck, he put a slash mark in the caliber field of his notes to indicate that it could not be determined.

Kopera also testified that Kulbicki’s weapon was in a “cleaned condition,” allowing prosecutors to suggest to jurors that the defendant had sanitized the weapon to remove any blood or gunpowder residue and to hide the fact that it had been recently fired. …

Once again, Kopera’s notes told a different story.

“Residue in barrel: Yes. Bore condition: Dirty,” his notes stated, suggesting that the gun had not been cleaned.

There is some evidence against the former police sergeant. On the other hand, the defense brought forward several witnesses who testified that Kulbicki was a half hour away at the time of the murder. Perhaps it was Kopera’s testimony that tipped the scales and led to Kulbicki’s conviction.

These are disturbing stories. When you are accused of a crime, you are at the mercy of the state.

Smith and Kopera were supposed to be experts in their field, and there was no reason to suspect them of lying. But in both cases it appears they would say whatever it took to get a conviction.

What a nightmare scenario.

Eight-year-old boy moment

Pretty blond teenaged Girl gets onto the bus. Lanky baseball-capped teenaged Boy sticks out his foot, causing Girl to stumble. Girl very nearly does a face plant on the floor of the bus.

Girl’s head spins in the direction of Boy. Boy grins. Girl grins back. They know each other, of course.

Girl sits down next to Boy. They begin chattering happily to one another.

There’s a stereotype about eight-year-old boys:  that they don’t know how to relate to girls except by doing stupid stuff to them.

The thing is, it persists into the teenaged years.

You could attract a girl’s attention just by saying “Hi” to her, but where’s the panache in that? Better to trip her, or punch her on the shoulder, or crush her against the lockers in the hallway of the school. I’m willing to bet that some of Scott Stevens’s best checks were thrown at girls.

Isn’t sex strange?

Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a Boy with a Girl.

(Prov. 30:18-19. I may have paraphrased the text a little, there at the end)

Blonde Moment

Take a moment and contemplate the picture above. Now answer for me a relatively simple question:

What is it?

If you answered “a cat”, you’re right.

Now look at this picture.

Okay, that’s enough looking. You can stop. Hello? Yes, this means you, bald guy in the corner. Stop looking, and come back to the point. Oh… what is the point? Well, first look at another picture:

And one last time: What is it?

If you answered more hesitantly, it’s not because of the reason you think. No, you did not answer “a caaat” more slowly because of curiosity, annoyance, or lust (yeah, not even you Mr. Bald Letch.) You did it because your cognitive skills were reduced significantly by looking at the blonde in the previous picture. Your natural bias against blondes was coming into play.

Aha! So that‘s why… I wondered when I did it (I thought I was annoyed at myself!), but the Times Online was kind enough offer me insight on my false assumption:

Researchers discovered what might be called the “bimbo delusion” by studying men’s ability to complete general knowledge tests after exposure to different women. The academics found that men’s scores fell after they were shown pictures of blondes.

Further analysis convinced the team that, rather than simply being distracted by the flaxen hair, those who performed poorly had been unconsciously driven by social stereotypes to “think blonde”.

“This proves that people confronted with stereotypes generally behave in line with them,” said Thierry Meyer, joint author of the study and professor of social psychology at the University of Paris X-Nanterre. “In this case blondes have the potential to make people act in a dumber way, because they mimic the unconscious stereotype of the dumb blonde.”

The research adds to a body of evidence that people’s behaviour is powerfully influenced by stereotypes. Previously scientists have found that people walk and talk more slowly in front of the elderly, while other studies have revealed that unconscious racial assumptions and prejudices emerge in written tests.

What more need be said? Those babbling bufoons were stymied by their own carnal instincts and didn’t even realize that that dumbness coursing through them was the result of years of stereotyping experience!

However, there’s an even more terrifying bias contained within this article which the author fails to notice. This, above all else, has led me to the conclusion that there is a scourge raging through our streets today:

Psychologists have suggested that because white babies are often born blond, there is a primal association between blondness and childhood, encouraging people to admire and fawn over the pale-haired.

Aha! The root of all of our troubles with blondes: Babies! And not just babies, but the underlying stereotypes surrounding them!

Clearly this author has no qualms with this argument. While he doesn’t side with any one of the theories as to why men would act stupidly around women, he presents this Baby Theory in neutral light, demonstrating the true depth of his inight! Had he been a real reporter, he would have picked up on the fact that these scientists clearly believe that babies are stupid!!!

These “researchers” need to do some further digging! After all, even Hollywood managed to stumble across the fact that Babies are Geniuses. If filmmakers can get to the heart of the issue, why can’t highly-funded scientists?

Kudos to the scientists for looking beyond the immediate possibility. The horniness factor should be ignored, since the underlying issue of stereotyping is so blatantly present. Why would men behave stupidly when an attractive blonde shows up, when it would be so much simpler to subconsciously alter one’s mannerisms to behave just like the person they are mentally degrading? But those of you looking to overcome your basest instincts, don’t just stop talking slowly to the elderly and writing texts containing racial assumptions, stop assuming babies are stupid.

Only then will blondes truly be free!

ONN on Darfur Rallies

A quick video on the Onion News Network.

One could get into all of the semantics behind the Darfur conundrum, but I’d rather focus on the premise overlying that. As a university student, I have felt the pressure to go out rallying for specific causes. I have been out once. Other than that, I have avoided participating in such movements.

Why? For some, protesting is one of those things that is past its day. I don’t really think it is. It’s a key way of gaining support within a democracy, and looking back on some of the issues confronted through rallies by universities of the past (read: Berkely), I think that there’s real potential to do something about issues that voting simply doesn’t impact because of time contraints. So for me, protesting has a mythic feel to it, and I would love to be more active in these rallies.

But so very often, if and when they get organized, they are completely self-serving, and the victims of their own movement. I think it’s safe to say that what the ONN is poking fun at in this video is the notion that Darfurians are being helped by protests. Initially, that was certainly true. But the ongoing mumble that is support for Darfur may just be stalling because of those people organizing the protest.

The same can be said of the rallies I have been asked to participate in. The best example I can give is the fight against tuition fees. In Ontario, that’s a huge issue. Other provinces in Canada have managed to come up with ways of lowering or freezing tuition costs for post-secondary schools. In Ontario, the cost is far above inflation would have it, and that angers many Ontarians. But this is an issue that is on its last leg, thanks in large part due to the amount of attention it has been given through rallies. What once was a pressing issue not getting enough press is now stale even to the students affected by the situation.

The reason? Protests are designed to attract attention to a specific need. Period. Beyond that, some other course of action must be taken. Demanding that the government lower tuition fees without organizing anything beyond a little picket on Parliament Hill is going to deafen the ears of the nation. More than ten years after the initial jump in fees, and Ontario pays it less heed than it did before it became a problem, I’m sure!

Darfur, hopefully, is not just another casualty of protesting. Thinking beyond the rally is necessary if a cause is to be won!

Mensa Invitational contest results

There’s a bit of a mystery attached to this post. I received it in an email from a colleague, labeled “Ottawa Citizen Mensa Invitational”. In fact, it doesn’t appear to originate with the Ottawa Citizen, but it’s still entertaining.

It’s a word game. The rules are:  take any word from the dictionary; alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter; and supply a new definition.

For example, graffiti becomes giraffiti:  Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

My favourites:

  • Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
  • Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
  • Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
  • Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
  • Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
  • Glibido: All talk and no action.
  • Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
  • Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
  • Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person
    who doesn’t get it.

And my personal favourite:

  • Karmageddon: It’s when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, and then the Earth explodes, and it’s a serious bummer.

What’s the mystery? Via this blog, I learned that the contest is usually attributed to the Washington Post instead of the Ottawa Citizen.

And the Post never hosted a “Mensa Invitational”, though it did host a similar contest in 1998:

With mystifying regularity, we continue to receive … unsolicited entries to what’s sometimes called the “Mensa Invitational,” and most recently “Change a Letter, Change a Lot”: The results of Week 271 [the 1998 contest] have continued to orbit in cyberspace for almost 10 years, picking up forwarders’ own efforts along the way.

The Post supplies more worthy entries, even though contestants were limited to words beginning with E, F, G, or H:

  • Epigramp: A maxim that brands the speaker as an old codger: “If God had wanted women to wear pants . . .” (Brendan Beary)
  • Eruditz: A philosophy professor who can’t figure out how to work the copying machine. (John Kupiec, Fairfax) (Perhaps that should be, theology professor)
  • FAQu: The response to frequently asked stupid questions. (Ira Allen, Bethesda)
  • Flimflame: To commit arson for the insurance money. (Howard Walderman, Columbia)
  • Hasta la visa, baby: Gov. Schwarzenegger’s immigration reform slogan. (Cheryl Davis, Arlington)
  • Hiltoon: A girl who has become a caricature of herself. (Tom Witte)
  • Randiose: Given to excessive embellishment of one’s sexual appetite and conquests. (Tom Witte)
  • Testiculate: To conspicuously readjust one’s package. (Tom Greening)
  • Whomicide: Murdering the King’s English. (Chris Doyle, sent from Bangkok)

There are a lot of clever people out there!

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