There is a Rising Tide of Hysterical Over-Reaction

Manalapan, New Jersey.

We are going to stop school killings. We are going to put a stop to the violence. We are going to take the bull by the horns and put our heads together and think and think and think and we will come up with strategies and policies that will prevent students from bringing guns to school and killing their classmates and teachers.

So what did you come up with? Metal detectors? A ban on guns? A program to detect stressed-out students and counsel them before they go nuts? A plan to reduce the stress on teenagers? A plan to reduce the stress on society? Improved communications between parents, teachers, students, and police? Come on, tell us!

You are going to bust five-year-olds.

All right. I just know that your school will never have an incident of a five-year-old bringing an assault rifle to class and shooting people now. I just know it.

It was the county prosecutor’s idea, in Manalapan, New Jersey. After the shootings at other schools in California and Colorado, he decided that the only solution was “zero tolerance” for threats of violence. Not for actual acts of violence– for threats of violence.

So when an angry ten-year-old girl who wet her pants because her teacher wouldn’t let her go to the bathroom said, “I could just kill her”, she was suspended for three days. The police now have her name in their files. Watch this girl– she’s a danger to society!

There have been fifty such suspensions so far. But why are they so reticent? Are they only dealing with the most serious incidents of violent threats? Violence is also caused by greed, jealousy, lust. The next time a 12-year-old says, “I want that,” have him fingerprinted– he’ll think twice before stealing. Notice any six-year-olds guzzling Coca-Cola? An incipient coke addict– have him spend a night in the slammer so he knows what his future will be like. Notice any grade sixers holding hands with six-year-olds?  Possible future abuse. Counseling and group therapy, and maybe a prescription drug or two.

Do these thought police patrol the school yard during sports activities? Have they missed any quarterbacks or coaches shouting “hit him, hit him”? Have they checked the library? Lots of pictures to snip. Any children bringing bibles to school? Besides being unconstitutional, there are some rather lurid tales in there about incest, rape, murder. “Unduly fascinated with morbid acts”. Perhaps it is a little early for institutionalization.

If you think this is an isolated incident, think again. Check the link above. There’s more. There was a nine-year-old who was suspended for “threatening” any classmates who took the last French fries at a cafeteria lunch. He was last seen packing a howitzer. A twelve-year-old was shoved during a football match. The shover received no sanction, but the victim, who shouted something he had heard his parents and friends and television heroes say a million times– “I’m gonna kill you”– suspended. A girl suspended because she was planning to blow up a friend’s house. One hopes the police burst into her bedroom with proper warrants and authorizations and thoroughly investigated every orifice on on every Barbie doll for evidence of explosive materials.

And of course, in Kingston, Ontario, a grade 11 student was suspended after a dramatic reading of a piece of his own fiction in class describing how an alienated student bombed his own school. His classmates, who had ostracized the boy, thought it was judgment day. The student was arrested and strip-searched and incarcerated for 34 days (while two students in Quebec, who had actually set off a bomb at school, but who were popular with their classmates, were released on bail after a few hours).

Down the street, of course, for a mere $9, any student at the school could enjoy two hours of far greater mayhem, also fictional, without repercussions. (The boy’s 14-year-old brother, who is developmentally delayed, was harassed by students as a result of the incident. He made some verbal threats and was also arrested.)

I’m sorry if this offends you, but there is no other word for these people. They are idiots.

They say, Klebold and Harris (the Columbine killers) were known to have made violent statements before they came to the school with bombs and guns. Klebold and Harris were also known to have guns before they came to the school with guns and bombs. In the current climate of U.S. culture, that was not considered a warning sign.

Do you have children? Can you count how many times they have said to each other, in anger, “I’m going to kill you”? Have you ever seriously believed they were about to commit the act?

The rationale is that there is a tide of killings taking place at schools all across America. The perception is that this is a rising tide, threatening to overwhelm society with murder and mayhem. The only solution is to nip it in the bud. But of course, that is not really a solution at all. Nobody has said, “this is a solution”. Nobody has demonstrated that it works.

There is strong evidence that the same approach to marijuana has had no effect at all on the use of hard drugs. There is over-whelming evidence that “zero-tolerance” applied to the drug problem has been a colossal failure.

There is further irony in the fact that many of the actual violent acts at schools, including killings, have been committed by students who were… suspended. So the very policy that is supposed to save us all has been demonstrated to fail, just as the zero-tolerance policy towards marijuana has demonstrably failed.

The truth is that there is no “rising” tide of violence in our schools. There are a number of small, isolated incidents. There has never not been a number of small isolated incidents. The statistics– those annoying facts– do not show anything like what people tell you they think is happening. When people go, “What is happening to our society”, they are simply reacting thoughtlessly and without information.

What is really happening to our society is that the profusion of law suits for civil liability has indeed reached epic proportions creating an atmosphere in which the hysterical attitudes of paranoid idiots prevail, because nobody wants to be the one who said he didn’t do everything possible to prevent this week’s catastrophe of the month.

Missing Children

You worry. You have children– you worry. You worry that some evil person will come and take your child away and do terrible things to him or her. That’s a legitimate worry. Welcome to parenthood.

We want to be good parents but we also want to live in a livable world. So we deal with our fears and support reasonable measures to protect our children and ourselves from evil. And what seems reasonable to us often depends on our perception of how dangerous it really is out there.

A headline in the local papers recently proclaimed, “Missing Kids Case Numbers Soar: Report”. A subhead insists that the RCMP statistics show that more children than ever before are missing.

Last year, in this country of 30 million people, about 65,000 children went missing. Does that mean there were 65,000 abductions? No. This is the breakdown:

Other: 1,900
Parental Abduction: 416
Runaway: 50,450
Accident: 35
Wandered Off: 597
Unknown: 10,000

Okay– some numbers are missing. How many, of the 65,000, do you think were kidnapped by strangers– our worst nightmare about the fate of a missing child? More or less than “Wandered off”?

The answer is, 42.

Yes, forty-two. 42. Less than 50. In all of Canada, less than 50 children were abducted by strangers last year.

I suppose you could argue that some of the 10,000 “unknown” must have been kidnapped by strangers. You don’t think a parent would report an abducted child, if that was a real possibility?

Is the number going up as the headline implies?

No. No. No.

In 1987, there were 93 stranger abductions. The number is going down.

So, while we spend all our time worrying about stranger abductions, and while a lot of people use examples of stranger abductions to justify repressive government measures against pornography and increased prison terms for all crimes, the truth is that we would be much, much better served if we would simply try to be better parents. Our kids are far more likely to run away than they are to be abducted. They are more likely to wander off by themselves than be abducted. They are more likely to die in a car accident than to be abducted.

Even one abduction is too many. But there are a lot of politicians, police, and social critics who advocate unreasonable solutions for a problem that does not exist to the degree they would have you believe it exists.


You are going to hear this word a lot in the next few years.

I hope..

Biodiversity is good. We know that if there is biodiversity in a certain geographical region, that the region is generally healthy. There is a balance of interests that allows all species to thrive and propagate within the same habitat.

However, if one species gains advantages as the result of human intervention or mishap, the entire ecosystem can become polluted or barren. Some species, for example, will consume all the grass and leaves, because of a reduction in the population of the carnivores that prey on them. The entire habitat can become a disaster zone.  (See Yellowstone Park and wolves.)

Information technologies are the same way. If our environment is balanced with news and information from a diversity of sources– labour, management, government, academia, women’s groups, men’s groups, capitalists, socialists, environmentalists, even conservatives– we will have a healthy habitat that represents a balance of all the competing interests.

But what happens if the wolves take over all of the information technologies and begin to control the message. That is what is happening in the news and entertainment industries. Big corporations like Time-Warner are taking over more and more other media companies, including AOL and CNN.

So when you watch your newscaster and read your paper and think that you are getting information from honest people who have drawn their own conclusions about various events and are relating them to you– think again.

When Adbusters tried to show a documentary on deforestation in British Columbia on TV– even offering to buy the air time– they were turned down flat. No television station would broadcast their documentary. Why not? You can buy air time to sell cars and panty hose and diamond rings and even tampons. You can even buy air time to show ads for pharmaceuticals that provide relief for non-existent illnesses.  Why can’t you buy air time to tell people about an ecological disaster in the making?

Because these media companies are not objective or neutral when it comes to interpreting events for you, the consumer. They want to decide what you should or should not see and they serve the interests of the moneyed class.

In practice, their standards seem pretty broad. They are always excited about showing you something that is “cutting edge”. But there are some things that they will never show you. And that is anything that challenges the idea that personal fulfillment and happiness can only be found in the purchase of more and more branded products and services.

Go to Bed Crying for Scott Twaddle: He will be Your Inspiration

The United States Navy likes to take civilians on joy-rides on their submarines.

You can’t wait for your turn? You’ll have a long wait, unless you’re rich or famous, or well-connected. No, no, these rides are not for the people who pay for the submarines. These thrilling excursions are for people who, at a time of a threatening peace, are in a position to promote massive expenditures of your money on more, bigger, faster, deadlier submarines.

You see, there are a whole raft of deadly submarines out there, just waiting to whack us one with a big nuclear missile. These submarines come from our deadly foes, like… well, Britain might get mad at us someday. The Russians still aren’t fond of us, really. China? Someday they might well have a sub that comes back up after it submerges. And North Korea– rumour has it that they are plotting our final destruction at this very moment. So, yes, by all means, more $2 billion submersibles, please.

That’s why there are the joy rides. You see, Congress is not always as forthcoming with the money for these toys weapons deterrents as they should be. So they must be promoted. So if you are a Congressman and you and your famous or rich loved one would like a thrilling ride in a giant steel cigar, the navy will oblige.

But there are some limitations, my friends. If you and your significant other– one can’t imagine a submarine hosting Elton John and “friend”– go joy-riding together and the excursion happens to last more than a day, you are not allowed to bunk down together. Oh no, no, no! You must sleep in separate bunks. And the rules are spelled out in case you still don’t get it: no sex. We can’t have love on a submarine!

When the nuclear-powered attack submarine Greeneville hit a Japanese trawler, it was not out on a training mission as first reported. No, the training mission had been cancelled. But important visitors had been promised a ride so, at an operating cost of $25,000 a day, the navy obliged. The Greeneville was out on a joy ride. The Ehime Maru, the Japanese Trawler whose name barely rates a mention in the follow-up news stories, was out on a genuine training mission, teaching young people how to fish. They were out in the middle of a very big ocean. Then a nuclear-powered submarine on a joy ride bashed into their hull and sank them, and twelve people died.

The New York Times has published a lengthy article about the grief and despair experienced by the crew of the Greeneville! I may have missed a similar article on the families of the dead fishermen. I must have missed it. If I didn’t miss it, this weird apologia is a pathetic joke in extremely bad taste.

But if they ever published an article about the families of the dead fishermen, it is not listed in the links to this article. I’m afraid the suffering of these families did not rate the New York Times.

This article is interesting in a perverse way. I wouldn’t normally argue that the grief of the submariners or their wives should be completely over-looked or ignored. There is a place for genuine sympathy for crew members who didn’t make the mistake but worry about public perception that they were responsible for needless death.

We only honor them, after all, when they are responsible for needful death. We give them medals.

But this article attacks a perception that does not exist. Who out there, in his right mind, thinks that the working crew were responsible for this disaster? No one. We all know that it was the Navy brass that made the decision to go joy-riding, and the Navy brass that wanted visitors to experience the thrill and excitement of riding a death machine, and the commander of the sub who did not take adequate measures– measures that are normally required as a matter of policy– to ensure that no vessels were above them when they pulled their stunt.

The New York Times quotes a submariner’s spouse: ”

In 16 years here I’ve never faced that kind of crisis. It makes you get more loyal, more defensive. I’ve gone to bed crying for Scott Waddle. And his crew — it’s going to affect them for the rest of their lives.

One hopes she shed a tear or two for the families of the dead fishermen.

Why does the New York Times publish this drivel? Remember, we’re talking here about the poor submariners who got to sail back into port alive. Are you supposed to forget all about the Japanese fishermen and go, “oh, those poor submariners…”?

Well, we know why. Somebody got to the New York Times. I don’t mean in a sinister way. I mean that someone high-ranking in the Navy or government called an editor or the publisher at the New York Times and gave them a big lecture about how they were ignoring the sufferings of the poor crew and how they were needlessly damaging the reputation of the brave and courageous men of the armed forces. God help us, they might even have accused the New York Times of undermining NATIONAL SECURITY by giving needless focus to the families of the dead.

Like a rotting fish.

10 Years Later (2011)

How about that! Here it is about ten years later and all those people lamenting the fate of Commander Scott Twaddle… well, he’s now a motivational speaker. Here he is on Youtube.

Yes, people are paying a lot of money to hear Scott Twaddle twaddle about his astonishing courage in dealing with his own astonishing incompetence.  I hope part of his speech is about how people are so stupid that you can actually make a lot of money bragging about your biggest mistake.

Is this where Donald Trump got the idea of running for president?

You couldn’t make this shit up.

Sometimes I am truly flabbergasted by the turn of events… And other times, I am silenced by the unspeakable, incomprehensible absurdity of human behavior.

Eula Boola!

A woman, Brenda Avery, in rural New Brunswick, was charged by the police with piracy after Microsoft spies claimed to have found pirated disks of their applications in her computer store.

The RCMP entered her home and arrested her and her husband even though he had no involvement in the computer store. Brenda Avery defended herself in court and won. The article in the Canadian Press does not describe her defense. Was the software not pirated after all, or was she unaware of the illegitimate source of the disk? It doesn’t say.

But the Crown urged her to plead guilty. Why?

Because it’s more efficient that way. The RCMP charged her in the first place at the request of Microsoft. What I want to know is, if I charge Microsoft with marketing defective products and, through their negligence and incompetence, costing me hours and hours and hours of work, and possible job promotions, and money– can I get the RCMP to burst into Microsoft headquarters and seize the relevant documents and arrest Belinda Gates?

Well, maybe if I wear a suit and wave around some documents.

Why is it that the police didn’t investigate the issue? They didn’t– obviously. They simply took Microsoft’s word for it. That’s outrageous.

In any case, I took note of the case because I have said here before that the standard End User License Agreement that we all pretend to assent to when we install software is worthless and unenforceable and this looked, at first, as if it might prove me wrong. It didn’t. First of all, the charges were laid against a store, not an “End User”.

Secondly, the charges failed.


Do you know what the music companies want to offer you as an alternative to Napster?

They want you to pay them $10 a month for a subscription which allows you to listen to 75 songs on your computer without actually being able to download the file. You will only be able to access these files by being on the Internet. My guess is that they will also probably demand your credit card number and hit you up with advertising constantly while you are connected to their site. They will probably collect information about what you listened to and sell it to other companies to hit you with spam.

So they’re adding insult to injury by making you pay to be advertised to and exploited. Furthermore, it looks right now like the music companies will not cooperate and offer each others’ catalogue at a single centralized site, so if you have any kind of diversity to your musical taste, you will have to subscribe to multiple services at $10 or more a pop. That still excludes independent labels and most of the back catalogue.

It sucks. I don’t think people will buy it. In fact, it has prompted me to seek out alternatives to Napster. Right now, I’m trying Bear Share.

As you probably know, the music industry will not be able to shut down the alternatives to Napster because they rely on peer-to-peer networking instead of centralized catalogues.

They will deserve what they get.