Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 5

Since I’m attending the 2008 AI/GI/CRV/IS/LMNOP conference this week, your regularly-scheduled mid-week misanthropy is travelling through time: written on Monday, posted when I get around to it. (Just kidding. If time travel were that easy, I’d already have my doctorate… and it’d probably be in physics.)

We begin, appropriately enough, at Vancouver international airport, where everyone freaked way the fuck out over a ten-centimetre pocket knife.

Security staff spotted the knife on an X-ray machine around 10 a.m. but not until the passenger had already collected the bag and walked into the secure area of the domestic terminal. At least 10 domestic flights were grounded for the next hour and a half while staff searched for the passenger and the knife.

Any mildly interested individual could spot a dozen makeshift weapons more effective than a 10cm pocket knife available for easy purchase on the “secure” side of security… within ten minutes. This is equal parts fear-mongering and security theatre, as you’re all probably tired of hearing by now (but I’m not going to shut up until conditions improve).

Furthermore, I’m persuaded that it’s nearly impossible to hijack an airplane these days. Post 2001-Sept-11, enough passengers are going to assume that they’re headed for a gruesome, fiery death anyway to retake control of the plane a la Flight 93. In short, it no longer matters whether hijackers carry box cutters or submachine guns: passengers who think they have nothing to lose will do whatever it takes to take the hijackers with them (if you’re going to Valhalla, you might as well have an honour guard). Certainly there’s no reason to fuck with thousands of people over someone’s Swiss Army Knife.

Speaking of presumptuous twats fucking with thousands of people over the illusion of security, we see further evidence this week that “health and safety experts” in what was once Great Britain have gone mad with power (or, perhaps, have simply gone mad):

Apparently, some conifers have pointy leaves. Who knew?

For 150 years, it has stood in splendid serenity on the village green, harming no one and pleasing many. Over the decades, the monkey puzzle tree at West Cross, near Swansea, became a much-loved local landmark. But now it is facing the chop … because, in modern Britain, the needle-like points of its leaves are deemed a danger to health and safety.

But what use is a little thing like 150 years of data when it comes to saving the poor pwecious chiwdwen?

One expert likened the effect of the needles to being pricked by a hypodermic syringe. ‘Every effort is made in this day and age to prevent children playing with discarded syringe needles,’ a report stated. ‘Every effort must be made to prevent children coming into contact with these potentially, equally sharp needles.’

It bothers me that people who reason thus are permitted to graduate from high school. Yes, discarded syringes are dangerous. Yes, we try to stop kids from playing with them because they are dangerous. However, dirty needles are dangerous because they’ve been contaminated with the blood of addicts, not because they’re pointy. You fail at syllogism, sir: get your arse back to class.

Let’s stay with the Daily Mail and the nanny state for another rant.

For nearly a quarter of a century, Lourdes Maxwell has celebrated the arrival of summer by putting a paddling pool in the garden. […] Miss Maxwell’s local council has decided that the pool – which is only 2ft deep – needs a lifeguard.


After her MP intervened, the local authority softened its stance, saying Miss Maxwell could have a pool if she paid for insurance and ensured supervisors were on constant watch.

There’s nothing I can say about this bullshit that isn’t blindingly obvious. Still, what would you expect from a government so enamoured with its own power that it sends cops after five-year-olds who dare play hopscotch on a public sidewalk?

Let’s return to the purportedly free side of the Atlantic. You know, the one with the guns. And the hippies. And the gun-toting hippies.

Wait, what?

Seems someone interrupted a drum circle with a handgun, and — much to their credit — four people kicked that someone’s ass and held him down ’til police arrived.

This is, by and large, a fairy-tale ending. I’m including it in this week’s misanthropy for two reasons. One is to disparage this statement:

The gun fired at least once, witnesses said, the shot striking the woman in the thigh and the same shot apparently hitting the second victim’s hand.

Guns don’t “fire” by themselves. Guns “are fired” by “people”. Contrary to popular opinion, guns aren’t haunted devices, possessed by malicious demons which make otherwise decent people commit heinous murders: they are, rather, inanimate and inert chunks of metal (and usually wood and/or plastic) which only fire when some individual puts s/h/its booger-hook on the bang switch.

Second, I can’t help but laugh my fool ass off every time I read this:

One man got into the suspect’s face, screaming, “This is a peaceful event!”

It’s not every day that you encounter such a starkly defined self-parody.

And finally:

Right-wing nutjob of the week: Geraldine Ferraro

Yeah, you read that right. Ms. Ferraro wins this week’s RWNJotW award for attempting to stereotype Democrats as racist, sexist, or both. Even Rush Limbaugh shies away from that gambit:

Geraldine Ferraro, the only woman to run on a major party presidential ticket and a supporter of Hillary Clinton, has accused Barack Obama of conducting a “terribly sexist” campaign. Miss Ferraro, the losing Democratic candidate for vice-president in 1984, said that she might abandon her lifelong party loyalties and vote for the Republican John McCain if Mr Obama is confirmed as the nominee.

There has surely been a great deal of sexism in this campaign. It’s the nature of the beast: the Democrats have done their level best to destroy their own party with a conflict of equally compelling identities (“first woman president” vs. “first black president”). Tensions are high, and when tensions get that high people reach for the easiest insults available (witness the “bros before hoes” t-shirt and the Obama ’08 monkey t-shirt, for example). When dismally unimaginative people feel the need to attack Senator Clinton, they seize upon her sex.

Of course, when dismally unimaginative people feel the need to attack Senator Obama, they seize upon his race. (See, for example, the West Virginia and Kentucky primaries.) This includes Senator Clinton’s campaign staff, who’ve circulated photos showing Obama in what they called “his native dress” and fired up the inevitable rumours that Obama’s a Muslim (“his middle name’s Hussein, for gawd’s sake, and his last name sounds an awful lot like Osama“).

At best, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle… uh, that got uncomfortable quickly.

Go, identity politics, go! (And don’t come back!)

1 Response to “Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 5”

  1. 1 chris
    June 1, 2008 at 11:41

    I haven’t laughed this hard in ages.

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