There’s a newspiece floating around Canada today. I don’t know if it’s made its way to the US yet, but it’s been all over national news here. And it makes me sick, for a number of reasons.

The story involves a killing on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba — a long way from Ontario, where I (and a good portion of Canadians) live. It’s a graphic tale, consisting of a man getting stabbed and then decapitated in a seemingly random act of violence. And the Globe and Mail was all over it — enough so that it was the first thing listed in my e-mail inbox this morning.

The story is greusome. So much so that I’m unwilling to even link to it. To be frank, I didn’t make it all the way through the story. I closed it, and had to apologize to my girlfriend for having snapped at her a bit in so doing. It’s not often that an issue stirs me enough that I shout at her — especially when it has nothing to do with her in the first place.

If you want, search it out. It’s on the front page of the news sites I visit. And I don’t know if other places are covering it so vividly as the Globe and Mail. But I suspect they are. After all, it sells papers and attracts viewers.

And we’re not just talking responsible newscasting. The piece went into moment-by-moment details, blood and gore included. One friend commented (without having seen the story) that it’s sometimes good for the media to keep us aware about these issues. Not this one. It took place far, far away from us, in a random incident that is terribly unlikely to occur to the next person to get on a bus. The man must have been psychopathic. Apparently he was completely calm throughout the incident. I don’t need to worry about him, and it’s hard to copycat psychotic composure. And even if there’s some inconceivable reason why I did need to know about this, there was no reason for them to go into the details they did. Except for the cashflow.


Sick that this kind of thing happens.

Sick that these are more and more frequently occurring.

Sick that the media gives them the attention at all. That seems to motivate them, at least somewhat. After all, there was Mr. “Now I’ll Be Famous” last time we talked about one of these incidences.

Sick that death is glorified, and violence is loved by our culture. Sick that this is considered normal news. Sick that this is the type of thing people mindlessly absorb in the evening, and turn into water cooler conversation the next day at the office.

Sick. Sick. Sick!

Milestone, part 2

On October 1, 2005, I posted the photograph to the right. (Original post here.) I was celebrating 2,000 kms of bicycling, mostly traveling back and forth to work.
I don’t know whether this is likely to impress anyone, but I reached another milestone today. My poor odometer is beginning to look rather beaten up!

4,000 kms! We’re about half way through this (very rainy) summer, so that works out to 2,000 kms traveled in 2-1/2 years; about 800 kms of cycling per year.

We’re lucky to live in Ottawa, which has constructed an admirable network of bicycle paths:  all the blue lines in the image below. (Click for a larger image; or you can see the original version of the map here [pdf].)

I’ve used stars to mark my home (along the bottom edge, and not actually located in the middle of the Rideau River) and my workplace. The total distance between the two stars is 7.5 kms.

The beauty of it is, I get to cycle beside the Rideau Canal …

Rideau Canal, Chateau Laurier

… and the Ottawa River …

… a route that takes me most of the way to work. There is a terrific hill to climb on my way back up from the river, but the view is certainly scenic. And if the hill is a bit taxing, well — that’s at least part of the point, isn’t it!

Intractable ignorance

Large numbers of people are ignorant, even in the well-educated West. And it’s a serious problem.

Here’s an example. Chris Selley of Megapundit summarizes an Ottawa Citizen column by John Robson:

John Robson … is sick of ignorant, selfish people who demand antibiotics for non-biotic illnesses, the doctors who indulge them, and genuinely sick people who don’t follow the directions their doctors and pharmacists helpfully provide — all of which, of course, contributes to antibiotic resistance. “I don’t want to die of some wretched superbug because people were too lazy or insolent to follow simple directions on a bottle, or had a misplaced sense of entitlement that the universe owed them a cure for the common cold,” he writes. We couldn’t agree more.

I agree, too, but what’s the fix for this problem? The misuse of antibiotics, and its connection to superbugs, has been widely discussed in the media. Every doctor I’ve ever seen has emphasized the importance of taking all the antibiotics in the bottle, even if I start to feel better part way through the prescription. Ditto for the pharmacists who dispense the medicine.

The public’s ignorance is intractable. I read the other day that 25% of Americans, including many Democrat supporters, continue to believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. How far do you have to have your head up your ass to believe that, this far into the process, given how much coverage Obama’s candidacy has received? Similarly for the widespread view that Saddam Hussein actually did have weapons of mass destruction, etc., etc.

If secularism is a kind of religion, education is supposed to function as the means of salvation. This is an easy way to define and compare religions. Every religion proposes (a) a diagnosis of why there is so much misery in the world and (b) a way of salvation. For example, Christians claim that sin is the ultimate source of misery and atonement is the means to set things right. Secularists substitute ignorance for sin and education for atonement.

But (as in every other religion) the secularist’s proposed means of salvation demonstrably fails to deliver the goods. OK, more education is effective to a point. But beyond that point, the iron law of diminishing returns takes hold. There is a reservoir of profound ignorance among the public that more education won’t drain.

I don’t have a better alternative to propose. But if the question is, Will the informed, rational people of the world one day be destroyed by events set in motion by other people’s ignorance?, the answer is You betcha!

I don’t think there’s much point even writing about it. I’m sorry I wasted your time with this blog post. Blame it on Robson and Selley, who sent me off on this snipe hunt.

[A]+[Be] Critics: The Dark Knight

Rating: A cautionary *****

The newest installment in the Batman saga is everything it was cracked up to be. It has action sequences that outshine Iron Man and Hulk. It has characterization that is frighteningly acute. But mostly, it is dark, bringing the series full-circle since the days of Tim Burton’s cartoonish portrayal of the Joker. And because of this last fact, it is necessary to qualify the high rating that this movie deserves. Because, despite the fact that The Dark Knight was indeed the most intense ride of this summer, it is not a super-hero movie. It is a thriller. And the mis-packaging of this film may lead one to make the terrible mistake of taking the movie lightly and, God forbid, even taking one’s kids to see it.


Obama in Europe reax

Josh Marshall, TalkingPointsMemo:

Obama’s trip through the Middle East was not only error-free but wildly successful (because of Maliki’s gambit). …

I don’t think watching Obama walk on water in Europe (or in whatever lakes or rivers they have available) will goose his poll numbers. It may even have a bit of the reverse effect. The key was banking a solid trip abroad, an audition for the head of state/commander-in-chief role, that he’ll be able to refer back to (mostly implicitly, sometimes explicitly) during the tough weeks ahead in the fall.

Obama and 200,000 Berliners(photo by Callie Shell, Time)

200,000 people attended Obama’s speech in Berlin. Karen Tumulty, Time:

Berliners lined up to hear the speech more than five hours before it began. All day long, hundreds waited on the streets to catch a glimpse of the motorcade that shuttled Obama among meetings with German officials.

Gerald Baker, Times of London, having a little fun with the Obama-as-Messiah meme:

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness. …

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth — for the first time — to bring the light unto all the world. …

He went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it. …

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet. …

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

(Note re Carla Bruni:  i.e., the fashion model, latterly the mistress then wife of France’s President Sarkozy. Not tempted? — now that’s messianic!)

Finally, Judith Bonesky, Bild, upon encountering Obama in a gym, is overcome by said messianic fervor:

He curled 32 kilo dumbbells next to me. … I put my arm around his hip … wow, he didn’t even sweat! WHAT A MAN!

Temper, temper

Quote of the day:

Two colleagues say that when Mr. Schmidt gets really angry, his nose bleeds, though Mr. Schmidt denies it.

Mr. (Steve) Schmidt is McCain’s newest, key strategist. The quote is from the Wall Street Journal via Andrew Sullivan.

(another) Taser Victim

The Globe and Mail is reporting that there wass another taser-related death in Western Canada yesterday:

A man was killed in a confrontation with Winnipeg police yesterday after being hit with a taser stun gun, the first such incident in the city’s history.

The incident began just before 4 p.m. when police officers confronted a man in a back alley adjacent to the grounds of the national microbiology laboratory in the city’s downtown core.

They had been called to the area by a member of the public asking for help in a criminal matter, said police spokeswoman Constable Jacqueline Chaput.

“I’m not privy to the information surrounding that encounter, however it did result in the deployment of an electronic control device used by one of our officers against the male,” Constable Chaput said. “It is yet to be determined by the investigation whether the electronic control device had a hand in the fatality.”

It’s worth noting that the link between the taser and the death is not certain yet, for prudence’s sake. But I don’t think most people would object to such an assumption. After all, it has happened altogether too often that tasers killed instead of stunning.

The last major coverage an incident got in Canada was out west as well, marking the death of a Polish man in B.C.. That was over six months ago, although there have been other minor issues involving tasers since, both in Canada and the United States. But is a six-month gap really enough to pass by? Can we stand to have another half dozen people killed before the government is willing to consider the ramifications of taser usage?

This is a sticky issue. As I argued last time, there’s a fine line between appropriate violence and abuse. Tasers are theoretically supposed to help eliminate that line. As far as I can tell, the ideal technology would permit policemen to restrict a criminal with minimal physical violence, which tasers are designed to do.

But they don’t. There can be no denying that electrocuting someone to death is a pretty good example of “violence”. It’s convenient, yes, but the fact remains that tasers are clearly toeing the line of abuse — and in many cases, are well over it.

My plight isn’t a new one. And it won’t be the last time it’s heard. But it needs to be made public that these weapons are causing excessive harm, and this type of a situation demands that the public cry out against the use of tasers. Until the technology can be perfected to absolutely minimize the number of unjustified deaths, a ban needs to be put on them in the short-term.

Either that, or policemen who use the taser hastily need to be punished. Heavily. And not just those who kill someone, either. Any instance where quick use could have resulted in damage should be determined hazardous. It’s not a game to pull the trigger, and the ones in charge of doing so need to realize that sooner than later.

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