Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Nice Being Right, It's Even Nicer When the B.C. Supreme Court Says So, Too!

I posted a note on Facebook a little over a year ago. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador had enacted new drunk driving legislation. My first reaction was a facepalm. My second was express why.

Here is my original post:

New Motor Vehicle Legislation Is Bad
on Friday, 1 October 2010 at 16:10

The greatest sanctions the state can take against an individual are criminal sanctions. The state can seize property (fine you or take property you have acquired because of the crime), restrict liberty (lock you up), and give you a criminal record (make the record of the action public). In some jurisdictions, the state can even take life.

We have developed a series of rules the state must abide by when it wishes to sanction an individual in such a manner. The state MUST be subservient to these rules. That is the rule of law. It guarantees justice for everyone. It lets us know where we stand. The rules are detailed and tough because the sanctions the state can take are so great.

One of these rules, relating to evidence, is probable cause. If the state wishes to search and detain you, they must have a rational reason. This prevents such things as being detained and searched for being seen with someone who may be a known criminal. There are many other examples of fundamental rights as well. Read the constitution.

Recently, the provincial government took away the requirement of probable cause when it relates to detaining an individual for a vehicle check.

This is fine in the context of taking away someone's privilege to drive FOR A SHORT PERIOD to reduce risk to the public, eg., a seven day suspension of one's drivers licence. The power the state is exercising, here, isn't very great while the value of public safety is much greater. Also, driving isn't a guaranteed right.

The problem arises when criminal charges are laid against an individual because of knowledge gained by this detention and search.

Because driving under the influence is a criminal matter which could infringe the basic rights of the individual, I have a feeling due process will be required by the courts if the state wishes to do more then just suspend a license. The courts will make this finding simply because criminal punishments are so great.

If the police charge an individual who is found to be intoxicated AFTER search and detention WITHOUT due process, chances are, a court somewhere along the way will insist due process should have been followed and it will dismiss the matter. They will insist in due process because, again, the sanctions can be so great.

The new legislation, which removes the requirement by the police to exercise a facet of due process, may actually end up setting drunk drivers, caught without probable cause, free.

It is a cheap, lazy, and irrational approach to a major problem. The only reason that I can see for this removal of due process is to make us feel better for doing something about drunk drivers.

I hope the police are smart enough to continue to require probable cause otherwise they might start losing cases that matter.
Here is the CBC story about the B.C. legislation.

There isn't a whole lot of difference between the court's reasoning and that which I posted over a year ago. Drunk driving is a terrible problem but trying to fix it by ignoring fundamental legal processes and basic rights is not the way to go. This is a symptom of a far more common illness. People don't think rationally about hot button issues.

Hopefully this will mean a quick death for the same legislation here in Newfoundland and Labrador

Monday, November 28, 2011

There's a Conspiracy All Right. A Conspiracy Of Denial

You know, sometimes the population of a country has to come back to reality and take a bitter pill.. We did here in Canada in the '90s. Our federal budget deficit reached the point of becoming a disaster. The debt to GDP ratio was causing the same fears Europe is now facing.

It was that crisis which showed me something very interesting. We had a conservative government at the time. They would cut and chop the things they didn't agree with. They spent on the things they did agree with. The reduction of the deficit was a token. The only effect this had was really pissing of the more liberal population while completely disappointing fiscal conservatives. Needless to say, that government was defeated so severely there was talk of it being the end of the party.

Well, the Liberal party won a landslide. For two terms, we had a very interesting contradiction for a government. We had a Liberal government with an absolute majority which had no need to make political compromises. You'll never guess what happened next. They did something which was a threat to every ideology considered too sacred to suffer the indignities of good sense. They became more fiscally conservative than any conservative government had been in my lifetime.

I'll tell you another thing you may not know about Canada. We make a sport out of trying to guess what bizarre story will come from you side of the border next. It's great entertainment. It's even more entertaining than all those pricey prime time T.V. show's on your networks. Yes, we watch your networks, too. What we see generally scares us back to being Canadian.

We keep pretty quiet about it. We know a good thing when we see it.

First, if you make a mistake down there, it is usually a really big mistake. We look at it from the perspective of airline accident investigators. We're not interested in pointing out who's bad behaviour did what and who should be strung up for it. While your politicians are accusing each other of being traitors, we use the lesson of why it happened in the first place so we don't make the same mistake.

No we aren't perfect. Some of our politicians seem to wish to make a point when all common sense says it's a bad Idea. It's no secret our current Conservative government thinks it's alright to waste money by locking up people who, without a big risk, would make money instead of costing it if they weren't in prison. In addition, extra prison guards aren't really doing anything that adds value to the economy either.  They are really just economic dead weight. The whole criminal justice system is a parasitic infestation. Cost in property loss has to be incredibly high to justify it. Guess what, it wasn't a pinko Canadian liberal's idea. Some of Texas' most conservative Republicans heard about it and pointed out it didn't do Texas one bit of good when they did it.

So America, get off your high horses. There are more important things to do than trying to say it is a threat to the Republic to say Pizza is not a vegetable. Have you forgotten? The same ridiculous need to find the most emotional excuses to fight about who the real Patriots are seems to have caused you to give up on the real problem. You are spending so much more money than you take in, your screwed. It just gets worse and worse and worse. Can you understand why we see it all as a comedy of errors?

In the mean time, you can continue to pay the best Canadian comedians enormous amounts. Do you ever wonder why Canadian comedians like Jim Carey, Howie Mandel Dan Aykroyd and so many others are so good at making you laugh? They make you see what we see. You might want to stop laughing at them long enough to figure out what you're laughing at.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"I'll Occupy" by Chloe Cornelius - The song of the OWS-movement / 18-year-old Emma Sullivan embarrasses Kansas Governor Sam Brownback - UPDATE! ~ Politicalgates

"I'll Occupy" by Chloe Cornelius - The song of the OWS-movement / 18-year-old Emma Sullivan embarrasses Kansas Governor Sam Brownback - UPDATE! ~ Politicalgates

Awesome! You go kid!

Politicalgates: Great Blog

From the Extraordinarily Dumb Diplomatic Complaints Department

Read this CBC News article.

Background: So Pakistan votes for war on its neighbour Afghanistan because Afghanistan  is ruled by and supporting terrorists who attack other countries.  In addition, Pakistan and Afghanistan have an ongoing dispute over their shared border.  Well, to no one's surprise, the vote passes at the U.N..  NATO, with others, invade Afghanistan and successfully force a regime change.  Subsequently, the most wanted terrorist, who shared responsibility for the actions leading to this war, lives for years after the invasion, supposedly unnoticed (Likely story!) for quite some time quite close to an important military compound within Pakistan.

According to the article, recently, some Afghan soldiers, near this undisputed border, come under fire from the direction of Pakistan.  As one would expect, the Afghan soldiers are not about to put up with being shot at and they call in NATO air strikes.  As it turns out, it was Pakistani soldiers or others very close by who were firing on those Afghan soldiers.  Pakistani soldiers were killed and two posts were destroyed.  As a result, Pakistan has cut of supply routes into Afghanistan, demanded that NATO leave a base in Pakistan within 15 days, and complained bitterly, through diplomatic channels, to Secretary of State Clinton and the Afghanistan foreign minister.

I mean really, what the hell did you expect, Pakistan?

How's Your Driving? I Can Show You the Video.

Occasionally, I watch a television show called Mayday.  It tells the stories of transportation disasters using the accounts of survivors and accident investigators.  Most of the episodes concern airline crashes.

In Canada and elsewhere, airline pilots are highly trained professionals.  Safety authorities investigate accidents thoroughly for the purpose of preventing them.  Placing blame is not considered a primary goal.  Airline safety has made airline travel, from what I remember hearing on numerous occasions, the safest mode of transportation on the planet.

What does this tell me?  You don't solve these problems by placing blame.  You solve problems and save lives by studying failures and looking for common threads between them.

Taking a look at the airline industry, we can draw other conclusions.  Pilot error is still a significant cause of airline accidents.  A number of times on Mayday, accident investigators have concluded that pilot error occurs far more frequently if pilots are under pressure as a result of being behind schedule.  Even these extremely well trained professionals are subject to the effects of trying to rush.

Drivers are not held to standards anywhere near that of an airline pilot.  Generally, if a driver faces an accident or loss of control it will be on the road, in a real conditions.  Airline pilots, on the other hand, have to train regularly in simulators so that they know how to react to a huge number of disaster scenarios.

Why are cars different? If an airliner crashes, we hear of hundreds of deaths.  However, if a car crashes, we hear of a just a few.  Also, because we see the car as a necessary part of our lives, we expect to use them just like we live our lives, with as few restrictions as possible. We drive our cars like they are our own personal space.  In the worst cases, drivers who feel like their personal space has been violated, act out in episodes of road rage.

How else is driving different from flying?  Far more people in this country die every year, on average, in motor vehicle accidents than in aviation disasters.  So why aren't we horrified?  I suspect it is because we feel that making this simple realization means we lose that personal space.  Well, that space was never personal in the first place.  A belief which is contrary to reality is know as a delusion.  Delusions are one of the debilitating symptoms of the worst mental illnesses.  Think about that.

There is another interesting caparison  to think about.  One criminal activity that horrifies us the most is murder.  If you look at Statistics Canada data for cause of death in Canada for 2000 to 2008, roughly eight to ten times more people are killed in motor vehicle accidents than by murder.  Again, why are we so horrified by murder and not by deadly motor vehicle accidents?  Death is death regardless of how it happens.  Families still lose loved ones.  Again, we consider driving as personal and no one wants to think that they have a real chance of killing someone.

Here is another reality check.  If you get behind the wheel, you are operating machinery that can kill if operated improperly.  If a parent were to leave a child unattended in a dangerous situation and that child died, they would likely be charged with criminal negligence causing death.   If you happen to break a traffic regulation, no matter how minor it seems, have  an accident, and kill someone, you are absolutely no different.  You're a criminal.

For the most part, we resent the expectation that we have to drive according to rules.  Well, we do.  Just like airline pilots, permission to drive is given to an individual based on qualification.  We pass a driving test and we are granted a licence, just like a pilot is granted a licence to operate a plane.  If we don't live up to our responsibility as drivers, that permission can and is taken away.  No one seems to complain when a drunk driver has his or her licence revoked.

So, when you drive down my street under license and you break the law, if I continue to become frustrated and angry about how you ignore my right to the enjoyment of my public space, just hope i haven't yet decided to protect it.  I don't drive around your cul-de-sacs at 80km/h.  After being hit on the sidewalk in sight of my front door, I now have more free time than I know what to do with.  I may just choose some of that time and use it to my benefit.  I have a wonderful camera with great video quality.  It is quite capable of accurately recording your licence place.  Also, with that camera, I can prove, with a little simple trigonometry, exactly how fast you are going.  I may choose random times to hide and record your activities in my public space so you'll never know when you can get away with it.  You had better start believing it is a public space soon, too, because the law is on MY side.  I can catch you when you cross the centre line and pass someone trying to park, as required by law, by backing into their driveway.  I can't wait to be responsible for the ticket you get for using your cell phone.  No?  I can't do that?  Just after the prohibition on cellphone use was passed, Danny Williams, himself, was spotted using his phone while driving.  Once he was reported, he was charged and, shortly after, paid the fine.  If Danny Williams, with a considerable legal knowledge, knew he was caught red handed, do you really think you have a chance?  I have a lot of other experience with poor drivers in my neighbourhood, too.  You'll never know what may piss me of and make me think of my camera.  I'll give you a hint, though; I know the rules of the road pretty well.

Update: I just found @BadDriversNL on Twitter.  Glad I'm not alone!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thailand's Royal Family, The Ignoble Nobles

Ouch.  If I was tried there for things I had said regarding my Queen, not only would I get a life sentence, Thailand being a predominantly Buddhist country might just sentence a few of my reincarnations to life terms, too.  That doesn't worry me though.  I'm bound to reincarnate to a much lesser life form that can easily sneak out between the bars.

To the Thai royal family, all I have to say is, "You suck.  Good thing you were born noble, as you certainly have no other claim to it!  Come get me.  I'll be waiting.  Something tells me you'll all be coming back as dung beetles.  I'm not going to look where I step, either."

Thailand’s 20-year Sentence for Text Message ‘Repressive,’ Says Amnesty International | Amnesty International USA

Update: The UAE is no better: UAE: End ‘travesty of justice’ for five convicted over President insults

Will Our Graffiti Last To Tell Our Stories?

Amazing, these haunting pictures of Hashima Island, Japan. Timber littered
streets and crumbling concrete worse than a Montreal overpass. Abandoned in
the '70s, it is in far worse shape than many ancient stone monuments. We sure
don't build to last, these days. How much of what we create will become
unidentifiable dust before the works of the ancients lose just a hair's width?

Just like buildings, our ideas may disappear, too. From writing with stone and
ceramic tablets, sometimes on plates of lasting metal, then papyrus and
vellum, through cloth and wood fibre paper, our methods of recording our
knowledge have become incredibly less durable over time.

Now we are in the digital age. Our writing appears on screens and it's stored,
mostly, on chips which count on the presence of tiny electrons and tape or
disks with microscopically thin layers of magnetic material. Only slightly
more durable are the invisibly small holes burned into CDs and DVDs.  A solar
storm can pop electrons from our precious flash drives.  A bad concentric
scratch can render huge portions of a CD or DVD unreadable.  The magnetism
used by hard disk drives and backup tapes may vanish simply because of the
passage of time.

These wonderful social media sites, such as the one I'm writing this on, are
the graffiti of our times.  They can enable ordinary people to topple tyranny.
They can give a new parent advice.  They can bring geographically distant
people, who share interests, together.  We are in the midst of one of the
biggest changes in human history.  This is the beginning of a new paradigm.
Everyone on this little blue planet may soon matter equally.

Everyone has always wanted to matter.  Read the letters in lead written by
soldiers at Hadrian's Wall or the graffiti left by ordinary people on the
walls at Pompeii.

Our graffiti, however, may not last.  All these wonderful changes we are
experiencing are historic.  Our ideas, whether personal or otherwise, are
coming faster and more ferociously then at any other point in history.
Unfortunately, there is a real possibility of, as named by others, a
technological dark age.  We may disappear simply because we store our ideas
using methods that are designed to have an expected lifetime of x hours.  Yes,
HOURS!  If you doubt me, read the specifications of a hard drive for its MTBF
(mean time before failure).

We design for the present thus we risk disappearing only shortly thereafter.
For that reason, I think I'll print this.  See you in history.  Oh, and to my
descendants, "Stephen Harper is a moron."  With any luck, he'll have a
paperless office.

P.S.  My first attempt in writing this was partly disappeared by the social
media site I used, when I clicked the submit button.  I guess I was a little
too wordy for the comment form.  Ideas can disappear very quickly, indeed.

P.P.S.  The draft I printed is going to go in the black garbage bag.  Sorry
recyclers!  My thoughts have a far better chance in a land fill; most of them
are really only mental trash, anyhow.  I'm going to enclose it in a couple of
sealed plastic bags, too. Plastic seems to be one of the few modern marvels
having a chance to last.  Don't tell the Prime Minister.  I like my version of
history far better!

Avoiding hypocrisy...

Well, I will start in the middle.  In the near future, I'll be adding some material I have written previously.  So, in the spirit of starting in the middle, I'll start with some writings from the start of the last half of my life.  With any luck, I will have a lifespan which makes this scenario true!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Canadian Libertarian Manifesto

There is nothing more important than true freedom.
I am free to make bad decisions.
I am free to disregard advice I disagree with.
I am free to repeat the mistakes of others.
I am free to create arguments with little base in fact.
I am free to limit debate in case my bad decisions become obvious.
I am free to muzzle others who disagree with me.
I am free to believe what I want and make you believe it, too.
I am free to stand my ground so as not to lose face.
I am free to say you should have more choice then ignore the choice you make.
I am free to deny the government useful information about me since I must be 
free to argue without the restraint of fact.
I am free to outlaw you for unlocking your own property.
I am free to deny freedom to you instead of helping you make better choices.
I am free to tie up helicopters which should be saving your lives.
I am free to send the persecuted back to persecution for arbitrary reasons.
I am free to spend your money frivolously on summits that host others like me.
I am free to spy on you at your own expense and send what I learn to private companies.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Killing More of Us Each Year, It's Time To End the Bad Driver Epidemic

I just finished listening to a CBC, St. John's, interview with a flag person from the town of Paradise, Newfoundland, Canada. Sadly, I'm not surprised when hearing yet more concerns about bad drivers.

Cars are a huge part of our lives. They make life easy. They get us to work. They carry our kids to school. They even take us on short holidays giving us a break from the usual grind. Behind a house, a car is often the next most expensive purchase we make. Some people even see their cars as part of their identity. We get excited about cars; just listen to the interview by the former Opal owner, later in the same broadcast.

On the other hand, some still drink and drive. Many use cell phones and text. Just about all of us don't give a second thought about hitting the gas a little more than we should if we're running late. If you want to see just how bad inattentiveness and lack of care can get, just watch Canada's Worst Driver.

Taking our vehicles for granted has a huge downside.

My home is on a busy street that is used by many as a through-fare in the St. John's area. It is an old and narrow street and would never be built this way using current standards. What's more, some years ago, the posted speed limit was actually raised.

I can think of many accidents on this dangerous road. A driver once left the road, cut through a utility pole, went through my parent's front yard, and came to a rest in their neighbour's. My parents live just up the street from me. Across the street from that, in another incident, a car left the road and damaged a stone wall next to the entrance of an elementary school. A few hundred meters down the road, a vehicle left the road and damaged another neighbour's stone wall. If we keep going down the street, to my own home, a driver, going too fast for the accumulated snow, sideswiped the utility pole between my home and my neighbour's home rather then hit the oncoming city bus. The impact was hard enough to dislodge a transformer fuse, cutting the power to myself and a number of my neighbours.

The incident which left the biggest impression on me, both literally and figuratively, happened just over two years ago. A driver who was legally intoxicated by prescription medication was coming up my street. I had just left my own home to walk to my parents house just up the street. I was on the sidewalk. Somewhere behind me, the driver became disoriented and possibly unconscious as a result of the medication. The SUV drifted into the oncoming lane. When the driver snapped out of it and tried to correct, the SUV fishtailed, hopped the curb, and hit me.

I heard the tires scream behind me. I had just enough time to pivot on one foot and look over my shoulder. My last clear memory was seeing the windshield of the SUV shatter from impacting my head and shoulder; I thought it looked like a spider's web. That memory is as vivid now as it was then. Later, the accident investigator told me it took hours to pick my hair out of the windshield.

Within 48 hours, I underwent two emergency surgeries. My leg was crushed below the knee. Before the surgeon could place a pin from my knee to my ankle, he had to make incisions on each side of my lower leg from just below to just above my calf. This was left open, bandaged, for roughly 24 hours because the muscle damage caused so much swelling, my foot would have died from lack of circulation.

In addition, my collar bone was broken at its joint to the shoulder blade and the ligament at the joint completely separated. This required another two surgeries. I can no longer do many things I wished to do before the accident because of my shoulder. The fifth and I hope the last surgery removed the pin which was placed in my leg after the accident.

Finally, the impact my head sustained has caused my ears to ring permanently and my balance is a problem if I close my eyes or it's dark. This has gotten worse as time goes on.

I required strong pain medication for about a year. During that time, I decided not to drive at all. Sure that was a nuisance, however, I know for a fact that I'm not responsible for doing to someone what was done to me.

The pain medication, as normally happens with opiates, caused me physical dependance. Luckily, within days after my fourth surgery, I decided to get off them. If you are under the impression that addiction can only happen to others, think again. It took at least two months before I started to feel myself again. The first month is summed up by saying I felt like I was living in Hell on Earth. After that surgery my pain was at a moderate level. Within a day or two of giving up my pain medication, pain became excruciating. My joints, skin, and bones hurt with indescribable pain. This was not pain in the areas of my injuries. I had terrible diarrhoea. I became depressed and anxious. My world was turned upside down all over again. A few days in, I took some pain medication because I just couldn't stand it any longer. I thought about that lapse, realized this would never end if I kept it up, and made my final decision not to take any more.

The person who hit me had just received a dose of methadone for an opiate addiction. The thought of continuing that chain of addiction was probably what gave me the will to suffer more pain and give them up myself. I have no hatred or anger for the person that hit me. That person was trying to fight a monster that I now understand vividly. From what the accident investigator has told me, neither the driver's doctor nor pharmacy gave adequate warning of the side effects.

I hope my graphic descriptions do upset people. If you are upset by what you have read though, don't use it as an excuse to finger a group, individual, or social problem. There are many causes for the accident which I have described. There are even more causes for the accidents I mentioned briefly leading up to the one which has effected me so greatly.

Think about this instead: Cars are not an absolute right. The most basic law we have in Canada, The Constitution, tells us what rights we give ourselves. Real rights include the right to life and security of person. I was lucky I didn't lose my life and my security of person was certainly denied me. Cars are a privilege. Each time we get behind the wheel of a car, we are taking responsibility for others. What's more, what chance does a bicycle or pedestrian have against a many thousand pound vehicle travelling at speed? By forgetting about others when we get behind the wheel, we are gambling with the lives of others. It could be your spouse, your child, or your parent. Remember this when you're in a hurry.

We do have a myriad of legislation meant to insure the safe operation of motor vehicles. It's great stuff in theory. Practice, though, seems to be another matter. Things have to change.

Politicians have to think. Why would anyone, in their right mind, raise the speed limit on a section of road which is over capacity? Are you afraid that you are going to inconvenience people who are in a hurry? Time for a cliche: two wrongs don't make a right. Stop thinking your political image is more important than safety.

Drivers have to change. Pay at least as much attention when driving, in general, as you would backing into your own driveway. Value other lives as much as you value your own property. Don't let yourself fall into the trap of hurrying. You will get there eventually and so will everyone else. If you want to show you're smarter than most, plan your time better. Finally, if these reasons aren't good enough, think about the cash you'll have in you pocket from lower insurance rates.

Enforcement has to change. It doesn't have to cost a lot or be unpopular, politically, either. I felt safer walking in Ottawa then I do here. That seems counter intuitive since Ottawa is a much larger city with far more traffic. Perhaps, we haven't yet realized we are a bigger and busier place than we used to be. Ottawa also has methods of enforcement like red light cameras. So lets try out things like video recorders at construction sights, intersection cameras, and speed trap cameras. We don't need many. We just need plenty of signs reminding us that we will be held accountable. The technology can be moved from location to location thus preventing the ability to ignore it. What's more, the technology is no where near as costly as paying for more police in patrol cars. Finally, if you introduce the new systems gradually, very few are going to deny the supporting politicians a vote. Start new systems with a period of warning notices, not fines, perhaps, followed by a period of fines much lower than normal. It is just as easy or easier to print and deliver warnings than fines. With an approach like this, people will learn that the laws we have on paper are in practice, too. Perhaps we will all become a little more responsible.

How long will it be before I can stop worrying if I walk out my front door?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is our government hoping we're stupid?

Funny, I don't feel threatened by Islam, in Canada. All the Muslim immigrants I know came here because the countries they left aren't free or are economic disasters. They are often the smart and affluent demographic of their former countries. That sounds like a rational group to me. Sure, some don't seem to realize they have to obey Canadian law. I doubt the alleged Canal Killers are going to have much of a life here, in the near future, however.

I feel more threatened by the seeming loss of rationality our current government seems to be suffering from. This government seems to use the libertarian cry as a method to gain votes from scared and angry people. They are bent on wasting our national resources for projects such as new prisons and an increased prison population. This increases the number of Canadians who will have liberty denied.  Also, greater restrictions on refugees only reduces the number of productive people, available to Canada, who understand better then most, exactly what freedom and democracy really means.

A fiscally conservative government should be trying to use intelligence to reduce spending. There is an abundance of evidence, including comments from the right in Texas, saying, we tried it, it doesn't work. Prisoners aren't productive. The prison guards who guard them aren't either. Their talent is much better used in adding to GDP rather then costing it.

Finally, actions like meddling with the long form census and gagging research within the civil service makes it easier for a government to convince a population that its ideology is correct. Those of us responsible for voting for them can no longer make rational decisions. We will have a better likelihood of believing unsubstantiated claims like, "Crime rates are down because more crime is unreported." I am beginning to think our government is relying on us being stupid.