03
Sep
08

Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 15

It should come as no surprise that a former head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is a hoplophobe:

For those of you just tuning in, here’s the problem: Canadians are in a bit of a tizzy about the way our cops — particularly the RCMP — are using Tasers.  A few people have died subsequent to being Tased (which Firefox recognizes as an honest-to-balls verb), the Horsie Cops heavily censored a report they released on Taser use, and We The People (oops, wrong country) are just generally annoyed about the whole thing.  Zaccardelli sees Tasers as the root of the publicity problem:

Zaccardelli said he supported the use of stun guns, commonly known as Tasers, during his seven-year reign as commissioner because they were simply another tool for policing.

But given the recent controversy surrounding police force’s use of Tasers in Canada, the former commissioner has reconsidered his position, he said.

“And you know, after all that I’ve thought about it, I’ve come more and more to the conclusion that I’m not sure that having Tasers is worth the negative impact that it has on police forces in terms of public perception,” he told the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge.

“I think we should stop using it.”

Now, I’ve written about this before.  Tasers are, like many other things made out of plastic and metal, tools.  They aren’t haunted; they don’t have minds of their own; they don’t have an evil influence that turns fine upstanding peace officers into abusive power-mad jackbooted thugs.  However, thanks to a penchant for wild symbolism which probably made sense ten thousand years ago but just fucks things up in modern society, we tend to see Tasers as symbols of excessive force, and identify them with the excessive force itself.

Tasers aren’t the problem.  This is the problem:

The electric shock weapons — which unleash 50,000 volts of electricity and are designed to incapacitate a person — have come under intense international scrutiny since Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, died shortly after RCMP officers shocked him with a Taser and pinned him down at the Vancouver airport in October 2007. He was unarmed.

An analysis of 563 incidents by the Canadian Press last year found that three in four suspects shot with a Taser by the RCMP between 2002 and 2005 were unarmed.

Emphasis added, since H. Sapiens sapiens seem to have reading-comprehension problems where weapons are involved.  Cops using weapons on unarmed suspects is the problem.  If this problem is endemic in the RCMP — and it sure looks likely — then taking away Tasers won’t fix it.  Rather than giving unarmed suspects a ride on the Voltage Express, the same horsie cops are going to use other weapons — batons, for example, or handguns.

But it’s much easier to blame something well-publicized and easily-identified like a Taser.

——

My non-Canadian readers may be familiar with the RCMP through the Maher Arar cataclysmic fuckup, in which the Mounties fabricated evidence that got a Syrian-born Canadian telco engineer arrested whilst flying through the States, deported back to Syria, tortured for a year, and eventually repatriated.  To their credit, the Mounties swiftly admitted their wrongdoing and embarked on a radical campaign of internal changes to prevent — oh, shit, I can’t even type that with a straight face.

The Mounties steadfastly refuse to admit fault.  While Arar was being tortured (and for some time afterward), “someone” spread rumours about Arar’s reputed terrorist contacts in order to save government face.  I say “someone” — scare quotes and everything — because the Mounties have been thoroughly investigated by the RCMP, and that investigation has proven that they did nothing wrong and has now been dropped.

The RCMP has closed its long-running investigation into damaging leaks about Maher Arar – who was falsely accused of terrorist ties – without laying charges, The Canadian Press has learned.

[…]

A federal commission of inquiry led by Justice Dennis O’Connor concluded that faulty information the RCMP passed to the United States very likely led to the Ottawa telecommunication engineer’s year-long ordeal.

Judge O’Connor also found Canadian officials leaked inaccurate details about Mr. Arar to news media to damage his reputation and protect themselves.

Before and after Mr. Arar’s October, 2003, release from prison, anonymous sources quoted in media reports claimed he was an Islamic extremist.

Cpl. Cox said the Mounties, who quietly shut down their investigation in May, could not pinpoint those responsible.

“There were many agencies that had access to the information that was leaked. The RCMP was just one of them. And the investigation was inconclusive with respect to where the leak originated,” he said.

“The RCMP takes the security of classified information very seriously. In this particular case, the information that was leaked was also very damaging to the reputation of Mr. Arar.”

Well, I’m glad we cleared that up.

Some people wonder why I’m so cynical about government — it’s mostly because I can read.  I generally wonder why some apparently literate people aren’t.

——

I toss around phrases like “jackbooted thugs” a lot, but it’s important to keep some perspective.  Canada, the United States, and even Britain are — for all their creeping Statist encroachment — pretty small fucking potatoes when it comes to historical abuse of government power.  Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Mao, and Stalin set the bar really goddamn high in the modern age of industrialized oppression.

Of course, some people would say that those kulaks had it coming….

Fifty-five years after the Soviet dictator died, the latest guide for teachers to promote patriotism among the Russian young said he did what he did to ensure the country’s modernisation.

The manual, titled A History of Russia, 1900-1945, will form the basis of a new state-approved text book for use in schools next year.

It seems to follow an attempt backed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to re-evaluate Stalin’s record in a more positive light.

(Emphasis again added.)

Yeah.  The guy who backed Trofim Lysenko‘s purge of the Soviet scientific body on the grounds that Mendelian inheritance was incompatible with Marxism-Leninism somehow ensured his country’s modernisation.  Because, y’know, all the modern countries have massive agricultural failures leading to millions of deaths by starvation.  (Hey, it worked for the People’s Republic of China!)

——

With that perspective firmly established, let’s head back to Britain, where Following Policy is imperative and actually doing your job is of secondary importance:

(In other news, “jobcentre” is apparently a common noun these days.)

Samantha Corbridge, 24, was thrown out of the Jobcentre Plus office after being told she was breaking the ‘food and drink policy’ by giving her daughter a bottle of milk.

[…]

She had gone to the office to search for information on an apprenticeship in childcare, but as she searched through files her daughter began to cry.

Miss Corbridge said: “I could tell it was frustrating some of the workers so I decided to give her a bottle because she was hungry.

“The next thing I knew a woman was marching over to me saying I was breaching their food and drink policy and that no one is allowed to drink inside the Jobcentre.

So, let’s be clear about this: Miss Corbridge gave her kid a bottle because the kid’s crying was annoying other workers, impeding them from doing their jobs — and was therefore ejected for Breaking The Rules.

That sends rather the wrong message.

——

Generally speaking, when someone refers to the French as “surrender monkeys” or cracks jokes about their military pusillanimity, it’s because that someone is an ignorant jingoistic defective with a thoroughly inadequate grasp of history.  Rather than rant about it myself, I’ll defer to the War Nerd:

[T]he notion that the French are cowards is total bullshit, and anybody who knows anything about European military history knows damn well that over the past thousand years, the French have the most glorious military history in Europe, maybe the world.

I told you that because it makes this all the more amusing:

Some background is perhaps in order.  The Académie française was established in 1635 as an official authority upon and protector of the French language.  In the realm of my experience, the Académie’s role has been pissing me off.

I took French for ten years in school, taught by a succession of francophones who were all very excited about words like “logicel” (software — hey, it was the Eighties, it was an exciting word back then) and “baladeur” (walkman — Eighties, again) and very industrious about wiping out the insidious influence of English upon our growing French vocabularies.  It was made very clear that the Académie Knew Best, and that inserting English loan words — even when they made more sense — was morally reprehensible.

Then I got the chance to actually visit France, where the locals mocked my stiff, uptight command of their language.  It took me about thirty seconds to swap the loan words back into my sentences, but I’ll never get those years of useless linguistic indoctrination back.  Yeah, I’m ever so glad to have been taught to the Académie standard.

So when I come across stuff like this:

France’s education minister yesterday admitted for the first time that the secret to success is speaking better English.

Xavier Darcos claimed poor English is now a ‘handicap’ because all international business is conducted in the language, and said French schools would offer extra lessons during the holidays.

[…]

The Academy has hit out at the increasing usage of  ‘Franglais’ words such as  ‘le weekend’ and ‘le parking’, as well as towards the unhealthy influence of Hollywood  films on Gallic culture.

it makes me very happy indeed.

(Incidentally, in my experience the French tend to speak better English than the Spanish, but Belgians tend to speak better English than Brits, Yanks, Aussies, or Canucks.  Of course, I spent most of my time in Belgium getting lucking foaded on Trappist beer… if that’s representative, it may excuse the relative performance of native English-speakers.)


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