Monday, June 14, 2010

Oil leak disaster exposes hole in conspiracy-theorist consistency

I don't know about this Gulf of Mexico oil spill, dear reader. The fact that it's eclipsed the Exxon Valdez spill in magnitude is all-too-clear. Part of me is cheering the President on; I'm glad Obama's angry. But, I question, why is he angry—are there extenuating circumstances behind the obvious reason that someone is behind this disaster and deserves an ass-kicking?
Some people think that Obama's response to the crisis was as laconic as Bush's regarding Hurricane Katrina. Others say that the President's executive order shutting down domestic oil-drilling operations is a case of too much and too late. I wouldn't necessarily argue with either.
It's obvious to me that Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, cares a lot more about profit than the environmental impact of his company's big-time screw-up. His insensitive, moronically flippant comments in defense of his company bear testimony to that.
It's also apparent that the Prez is endangering the "special relationship" between the U.S. and U.K. by focusing a little too much on the "British" in British Petroleum. It's as if the British themselves are suddenly of two minds: Well, yes, we did root for him, but blimey, he's a bit of an ingrate, isn't he? You could see the amazement, and even hurt, on the anchormen's faces on the evening news when they reported that Obama wished to know "whose ass to kick," knowing full well that it likely meant limey ass. BP pension holders are certainly rethinking their affection for the Messiah.
Is this the whole story though? Of course not. We have to see how this continues to play out. I would, however, like to present you with a hypothetical situation, dear reader.
It's midterm election time, right? Obama is nowhere near as popular as he was on the domestic front when he first got elected. Incumbents all over the country are facing defeat due to anti-establishment sentiment, and Obama himself no longer seems above the establishment but part of it.
So imagine a secret White House call going through to BP headquarters, instructing them to cook up an oil leak in the Gulf. Imagine BP willing to do this without fear of serious reprisal because they know they'll be protected. Indulge yourself the thought that Mr. Obama told Mr. Hayward, "Hey, I'm gonna have to pretend to be very angry with you, but don't sweat it. Thanks for your help, Tony."
Sound implausbile? Sound insane? Of course it does.
But, if you could believe that Dubya Bush could order more than 3,000 deaths to bolster support for an aggressive foreign policy—something he campaigned against in 2000—I suppose you could be hare-brained enough to believe Obama engineered the BP Gulf disaster.
After all, where's your conspiratorial outrage now, you crunchy granola types? Moreover, where's your consistency?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Cumbria gun massacre is no excuse for knee-jerk legislation

Well, dear reader, last week there was a gun massacre which claimed the lives of twelve people. This did not happen in the U.S., however. This carnage took place in Cumbria, a quiet and picturesque district in northwest England.
Derrick Bird, a previously popular and well-liked 52-year-old, was a gun permit holder for twenty years prior to last week's rampage. Details on why Bird flipped out are still sketchy, but it had something to do with a family squabble. Bird was disputing his mother's will, and frustratingly told a group of associates the night before the shooting spree, "there's going to be a rampage in this town tomorrow and it's going to start with my mother." No-one took him seriously.
Bird was as good as his word, and the result was the worst gun massacre in Britain since the 1996 Dunblane school shooting in Scotland.
Yes, it's a terrible tragedy. And, yes, it's absolutely natural to think, if not for that rifle, twelve people would not have died from bullets lodged in their bodies.
But Prime Minister David Cameron was absolutely correct in resisting knee-jerk reactions to the massacre. Mr. Cameron said that gun control laws in Britain were already among the toughest in the world and that he would see to it that tragedies such as the one in Cumbria "cannot happen again."
The Prime Minister stated, "You can't legislate to stop a switch flicking in someone's head and this sort of dreadful action taking place." My thoughts exactly.
Britain has a serious knife culture at the moment. And while legislation exists to severely punish those caught carrying a knife, we haven't banned knives. We realize that knives are tools first, weapons second. Same thing with guns. We cannot ban guns on the premise that somebody will suddenly lose his mind and abuse that tool.
Compare the PM's level-headed assertion with that of MP John Pugh who questioned how a "simple taxi driver could possibly justify the apparently lawful possession of such a formidable and devastating arsenal." Excuse me, but how exactly does a shotgun and a .22 rifle constitute a "devastating" arsenal? Hyperbole, much?
Inner-city gangs may possess an arsenal, but the demented Mr. Bird certainly didn't. Britain's gun control laws are fairly strict. Futhermore, strict gun control laws in Finland didn't prevent two massacres in that country last year.
Mr. Cameron is correct. You cannot legislate against what people will do without crushing certain civil liberties in the process. As unfortunate as it is, you can only review existing laws, close loopholes where they may exist, punish killers with the death penalty (assuming they haven't already killed themselves), and help pick up the pieces after the fact.
People's reasons for owning a gun are not always nefarious. Lots of gun owners don't hunt nor look for people to pick off when they're pissed off. Guns, like furniture, can be a family artifact. Some people enjoy target shooting; in fact, the social activity inherent in shooting clays or "cowboy action" shooting can be very enjoyable. Some people like having a collection; they enjoy their guns' historical value and they're an investment. And, though I realize this assertion opens up a veritable Pandora's box of arguments, guns are kept for self-defence, something I fervently believe in.
And as much as I abhore hunting, let's face it: Hunting is never going to be declared illegal in any country, so, given that fact, how can you deny gun permits for it? The flannel-shirted redneck who likes nothing better than to stalk deer in the woods isn't going to be armed with a scythe, is he?
That doesn't make me a slavish devotee of the NRA or their "I shoot anything that moves on four feet" defenders. I am liberal enough to feel a palpable measure of disgust at just how much Republican/conservative politics are controlled by this militant lobby. I also have no problem with reasonable gun control laws. I don't think anyone can walk into a Walmart, pick up a rifle and proceed through check-out with it along with their groceries, sofa cushions and six-pack of beer. That's too insane for words.
Yet I remain conservative enough to recognize the fallacy of the "let's ban guns" argument. A nation that bans guns or makes them just short of impossible to attain is every bit as loopy and short-sighted as one that has very lax gun control legislation. There has got to be a balance.
What happened in Cumbria last week was an outrage. However, the killer was Derrick Bird, not his guns. I know that sounds clichéd. But it's true.