Thursday, November 29, 2007

SIU probes Peel police shooting: Two Peel police officers shot a man inside a Malton variety store after he swung a stick at them, the province's Special Investigations Unit says.

The incident was sparked after officers responded to a domestic violence call at a home on Delmonte Cres., in a Finch Ave.-Highway 427 neighbourhood of northeast Mississauga, around 5 p.m. Saturday.

A man had fled the home and was confronted by police outside the Varimart variety store, just around the corner on Brandon Gate Dr.

"He was standing outside the store swinging a stick," the SIU's Rose Bliss said yesterday.

"Four officers approached. They were involved in a confrontation with him outside the store, which then continued on inside the store," she said. "They made their way to the back of the store where the confrontation escalated and two officers fired their guns."

The article mentions that he Edmonson was swinging a two-by-four. I'm not sure that they had to shoot him, though that does seem to be a reasonable last resort in this situation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If I was a betting man, I would never bet that one professional football team was going to beat another by at least three touchdowns. The Patriots were favoured by something like 26 points over the Eagles last night. Even though the Patriots had won ten games by an average of 25 points including 45 and 46-point wins over comparable teams in Washington and Buffalo, and even though the Eagles' starting quarterback was out, 26 points is a lot. Anecdotally, at least, being heavily favoured to this absurd extent is seldom justified. The Patriots beat the Rams in a Super Bowl as 14-point underdogs, and the Broncos did the same to the Packers as 13-point underdogs. Even under normal conditions, a three-touchdown win is a lot to ask for. The 49ers were, for some reason, 23-point favourites against the Bengals in a 1993 game and only won 21-8.

In the event, the Eagles made the Cheaters from Close to Cape Cod earn their 11th win, doing so as many have suggested, by making the Cheaters earn it. Most teams have played the Patriots with a very soft defense that rarely challenges Tom Brady or his receivers. Granted, the Eagles have the personnel to make an aggressive defense pay off or at least they played like it, but if anyone is going to beat New England this year, they will have to knock down Tom Brady over and over.

On the other hand, at least part of the reason that a back-up quarterback was almost able to lead a so-so team to victory over the best team of this decade was that the latter, like any imperial power, had simply gone soft. New England was as much confounded by Jim Johnson's defenses as it was sloppy and half-awake, having become somewhat accustomed to five-touchdown wins.

As I wrote this, Pittsburgh is on the verge of clinching a 3-0 win over winless Miami. I cringe at reproducing this fact, but Pittsburgh hasn't lost a home game on a Monday night in 15 years. Needless to say, the Steelers were 15.5-point favourites tonight.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

If I was a betting man, my last pick to be a shooter in Malton would be a police officer. I was walking down the street tonight when I saw the strip mall two blocks from my house blocked off by about a dozen police cars and about a hundred metres of police tape.

I figured that either a drug deal had gone wrong in the parking lot or a robbery in one of the two convenience stores there. The pay phone in the corner of the parking lot attracts dealers at all hours of the day and night, long after the stores there have closed. One of the stores there locks its doors at night and allows in customers on a case-by-case basis. The police officers there were terse but exceedingly nice, which now makes sense. The complete lack of information about why they shot a man inside a convenience store in response to a domestic dispute makes me guess that the shooting was probably not justified.

I can't say I was surprised by the shooting, but I was surprised that it was the police who pulled the trigger. I've always been amazed at how safe Malton is for an area so poor and rundown. In a weird way, the initial reaction is to feel safer because this was done by the police. Along the same lines, I saw what was almost certainly a fatal crash nearby two days ago. That, for some reason, doesn't inspire the same fear in anyone. You might not want to walk past this plaza late at night lest the police shoot you, but it's fine to speed recklessly through the intersection of Derry and Goreway.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

As if to confirm this recent entry, top-ranked LSU had to go and lose today to unranked Arkansas in triple-secret overtime. I can't decide whether it's better to be a winner or a loser in the NCAA.

Elsewhere, Gregg Easterbrook points out that if college football players shared in the revenue produced by their sport in the same way as professionals, each and every Division I player would be paid $114,000.

Much, much closer to home, in yet another display of how Canada manages to do quietly what America mucks up with an astonishing proficiency, the Canadian university football championships were played tonight. The University of Manitoba Bisons (for my American readers, this is all real) beat the Saint Mary's Huskies (for my Canadian readers, I had no idea St. Mary's existed until I wrote this) 28-14 in virtual anonymity. In the CIS, conference champions play in semi-final games that culminate in a national championship. For some reason, this just won't work for American football.

Working in a third brand of football in an already crowded entry, the Grey Cup will be played in my city on Sunday, where Winnipeg will have a chance to win its second national title in 48 hours. The Grey Cup, though it predates the Super Bowl by about 60 years, is notable only as a novelty. There are myriad reasons why Canadians have virtually no interest in a Canadian championship, at least part of which is playing the game in arguably the most sterile stadium in all of North America. It is somewhat unfortunate when thought about, though I would otherwise have no interest myself in seeing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers play the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Dave Perkins makes a case for CIS and CFL football over the NCAA and NFL variants, though I personally don't buy it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

As Somali Crisis Swells, Experts See a Void in Aid: “The situation in Somalia is the worst on the continent,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the top United Nations official for Somalia.

That situation has included floods, droughts, locusts, suicide bombers, roadside bombs and near-daily assassinations.

United Nations officials said the recent round of plagues, natural and man-made, coupled with the residual chaos that has consumed Somalia for more than a decade, have put the country on the brink of famine. In the worst-hit areas, like Afgooye, recent surveys indicate the malnutrition rate is 19 percent, compared with about 13 percent in Darfur; 15 percent is considered the emergency threshold.

Somalia is one of the strangest, most fascinating places on the planet. It has been without a government now for almost two decades and really exists as a state in name only. I recall reading an article in the New York Times grudgingly admiring the anarcho-capitalism that prevailed in Mogadishu, which has to be something of a fantasy for many hardcore capitalists within the US and elsewhere.

All fascination aside, Somalia is an explosive, perpetual tragedy. More coverage might result in more aid, but the heart of the problem in Somalia is as bafflingly simple as it is intractable: why can't people get along?
It might be an "an irresponsible misuse" of data, it might be that "crime experts across the country routinely denouncing the findings", and it might be that "the rankings 'do groundless harm to many communities'", but who cares?

Detroit Declared Most Dangerous US City

It's time to celebrate.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Watching NCAA football these days is a bit like watching the fabled 100 metre dash for people scared of breaking tape. Anyone who knows anything about track and field would know that they stopped using tape to judge sprints a long time ago, but I digress. Every time a team winds up in first place this season, they go and find a way to lose. Michigan got it started by losing to the mighty Appalachian State Mountaineers, plunging the Wolverines from 5th-ranked to unranked and prompting me to inquire about the state of App State's grad apps, perhaps.

It came quickly from there: never-ranked South Florida beat 5th-ranked West Virginia, unranked Colorado beat 3rd-ranked Oklahoma, the Fighting Illini of Illinois knocked off 5th-ranked Wisconsin, unranked Auburn beat 4th-ranked Florida, Stanford beat #2 USC, Kentucky beat top-ranked LSU in triple-secret overtime and #2 Cal lost to unranked Oregon State on the same day.

The result of all this is that we had Ohio State and Boston College ranked 1-2, turning college football into as much of a sport as movie reviewing. Fortunately, Florida State finally beat Boston College and then Ohio State lost to the Fighting Illini, which left LSU and Oregon 1-2 at the start of this week. Oregon, of course, went and lost to unranked Arizona on Thursday. LSU plays 3-7 Ole Miss this afternoon, so it's safe to say that Mississippi will win this one.

Now part of this reflects the absurdity of a sport that decides who wins and who loses championships by getting people to vote. Democracy, whatever its merits elsewhere, clearly doesn't work as a method of awarding championships. An unranked team is an unpopular team as much as it is a bad team, just like a top-ranked team is a popular team as much as it is a good one. Ohio State and Boston College rose to the top of the rankings on the strength of being undefeated, but 10-0 Kansas is ranked just 4th, 10-0 Hawaii 13th.

Finally, for all those who don't really know what I'm talking about, the futility of college football is articulated here. It's worth noting that, despite this year's wins, the US military hasn't had a victory over a ranked opponent since a pair of 1945 wins over second-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked Japan. Worse still, the US hasn't won a intra-conference game since 1865.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Man, 18, Is Fatally Shot by Police in Brooklyn: A young man was fatally shot last night in a hail of 20 bullets fired by five police officers who responded to his mother’s 911 call for help in a domestic dispute in Brooklyn, the authorities said.

The police said they believed that the man, Khiel Coppin, 18, had a gun. But when the gunfire stopped, it turned out that he had been holding a hairbrush.

What is it about American police officers that leads them to make such absurd judgments? You would think that the first five or six shots which were not responded to by the hair brush would prompt officers to reconsider their course of action. Twenty shots betrays an alarming lack of restraint, much like the unfortunate case of Amadou Diallo, who was shot forty-one times by New York police who mistook his wallet for a gun. The reckless use of a taser, which remain something of an unknown quantity, by the RCMP in Vancouver is still more evidence against the belief that police officers are more trained to handle dangerous situations than you and I.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's probably not easy being a teacher in Rexdale, one of Toronto's poorest, roughest areas. I saw a teacher with his volleyball team at the bus stop: it's never easy traveling with a dozen kids to begin with, but I'm sure it's much harder to travel with them on the TTC. And sometimes things just don't go your way. I heard the teacher-coach note that Kenya "wasn't really" in East Africa, but was "more in the central part of Africa". I almost blurted out that Kenya bordered the Indian Ocean, which makes it hard to be any further east in Africa, but I didn't. I was rewarded soon enough anyway.

The kids then saw a bus coming, but the teacher replied "no, our bus comes from over there," pointing south. Just then, the bus pulled up and it was the right one. It actually can't come from the north like it did, because we were standing at the end of the route. I think that means he was wrong on both counts, seemingly right but actually wrong the first time and probably right but actually wrong the second. He also missed their stop later on. At least it wasn't raining.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I know a thing or two about having a chance to succeed despite a string of monumental failures. Maybe I get it from the football teams I cheer for. Consider the Denver Broncos, who were 3-5 before yesterday's game and had lost their last game by 37 points to the Detroit Lions. Still, they actually had a chance to end the day in first place, albeit tied with two other teams. The team had received some bad news: quarterback Jay Cutler's leg was merely bruised, not broken, and he would start. Nevertheless, Cutler and mysterious rookie running back Selvin Young led the Broncos to a 27-11 win.

So far, so good: now the Indianapolis Colts, still smarting from being outsmarted by New England last week, just had to beat the 4-4 San Diego Chargers. The Colts, who some once said were the best team in the league, played a bizarre game, doing their best to hand San Diego the game. San Diego returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and also returned a punt for a touchdown late in the first quarter. In that same first quarter, Peyton Manning threw four interceptions against eight completions.

San Diego was eventually staked to a 23-0 lead and, despite the Colts' best efforts to let the game become a blowout, they nevertheless stayed competitive. Indianapolis was down by 16 late in the third quarter before cutting the lead to 23-15, and then Philip Rivers was so kind as to fumble the ball in the end zone, allowing the Colts to cut the lead to 23-21. Manning drove down the field yet again, making it inside the Chargers' 10. An apparent first-and-goal became a fourth-and-short play, and then it become a fourth-and-five after a penalty.

The radio announcer made a point to describe the coming kick in detail, including the name, age and cholesterol levels of the long-snapper. In a play reminiscent of a playoff game last season decided on a missed 21-yard field goal, Adam Vinatieri, who was signed especially for his ability to make high-pressure field goals, missd the field goal. And that's how the Colts displayed a steely resolve to lose last night, and why the Broncos aren't in first place.

By the way, at the risk of sounding like a blowhard, is anyone noticing the season that Antonio Cromartie is having? Two weeks ago, he had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. Last week, he returned a missed field goal for a touchdown from about a mile away without being touched. Last night, he had three interceptions, which means he caught as many balls as anyone else on his team.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A town on death row: A community based on cod was left reeling by the federal moratorium on the fishery. Its population has plunged by 95 per cent and residents now fear that the place is dying before their eyes. Those who remain look old beyond their years, eking out an existence foreign to most Canadians. is so scarce that many people use “honey buckets” instead of installing septic systems and empty their waste at the town dump or in the harbour.

The island has no water distribution system and the treatment plant is several kilometres from town. There are also no trees, so residents must travel 50 to 80 kilometres to fetch firewood. There is no fixed link to the mainland and the coastal ferry can't run year-round.

It's too expensive to “eat from the shops,” so people fish and hunt for food, although nerves become frayed when the stores run out of cigarettes.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

In news sure to please gazetteer enthusiasts everywhere, the state of Georgia declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, following in the footsteps of Georgia, the state, which has also declared a state of emergency.
R.L. Stine Reveals Slappy From Night Of The Living Dummy Was Gay: NEW YORK—Children's author R.L. Stine broke his long-held media silence Monday to announce that Slappy, the evil ventriloquist's dummy from the Goosebumps Night Of The Living Dummy trilogy, was a homosexual.

Finally, there's some asinine news about an asinine children's book that I've actually read.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The madness continues in Detroit. Now, teams have capably squandered strong starts before, such as last year's Broncos, who deftly turned a 7-2 start into a humiliating 9-7 finish. Still, the Lions, cringe-inducing team song and all, continue to march down the field and gain a Laaaa-yun vic-ta-reeee! This past Sunday, they demolished Denver 44-7 to move to 6-2. The schedule is tough over the second half of the season with games against the Giants, Cowboys, Chargers and two against the Packers. Still, the Lions might stumble into the playoffs for the first time in eight years. It's a safe bet, however, that their 16-year playoff win drought will continue.

As for the rest of the league, I will eschew an elegaic opprobrium in the wake of Indianapolis' 24-20 loss at home to the New England Patriots. It's just not worth it. My therapist Gregg Easterbrook observes that "Indianapolis' blown late lead seems to prove the maxim, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."" I'm inclined to agree. A missed field goal early on, along with two made field goals that should have been touchdowns, are hardly the cologne of perfection. Standing idly by on defense late in the game as Tom Brady made perfect throw after perfect throw here seems enough for the entire Colts defense to be indicted under the Good Samaritan Act.

More heartening was Pittsburgh's 38-7 victory over Baltimore, in which a certain brash quarterback threw five first-half touchdowns before injuring himself on a deep throw with a 31-point lead. I considered the Steelers Super Bowl contenders at the start of the season for the way in which they devoured the Browns like so much hot fudge, and after a couple of blips, it's fair to do so again. I now live again for the Steelers-Patriots game on December 9.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Continuing with the theme of fantastical ruin, this ranking of failed states places my homeland, the Islamic Bizzaroworld of Pakistan, in an alarming 12th position. That made Pakistan, a nuclear-armed, tyrannosaurus-shaped country of 170 million a greater failure than North Korea, Sierra Leone (at least one of my readers ought to be dead if born in Sierra Leone, where the life expectancy is 40 years), and East Timor (established one year before this blog). All this, of course, was before the current state of emergency, which just rolled into its 61st hour, as breathlessly announced by the Dubai-based Geo TV. Judges, opposing politicians, activists and generally anyone with a clue has been clubbed, drubbed and dragged into prison. All private television stations have been shut down and phone service has been cut in parts of the capital Islamabad, where barbed wire barricades have been erected. Altogether, thousands of people have been arrested, including prominent human rights activist Asma Jahangir.

The news isn't all bad for the country that gave the world 7-Eleven employees and taxi drivers. After all, politicians haven't been much better at managing or mismanaging Pakistan. I'm inclined to adopt my dad's bemused response to the situation: after two wars, the secession of what is now Bangladesh, three mostly continuous decades of dictatorship, and the repeated threat of nuclear war, how much worse can it really get? All conspiracy theories of American designs on Pakistani oil, rugs or soccer balls (that Pakistan manufactured sporting goods was a genuine source of national pride as a child) aside, not much substantial change is likely in Pakistan's short-term future.

Democracy in Pakistan would be nice, and it may come yet as Pervez Musharraf continues to embarrass himself and those who consider a dictator a suitable guest on a comedy talk show. However, at least right now, free elections would be a shuffling of Titanic deck chairs. The country's civilian political leadership mainly consists in two seasoned politicians who have considerable experience in bungling the country's affairs.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Fantastical ruin is the result of fantastical thinking. Pierre Berton wrote in Klondike that at the start of the twentieth century, some velo-optimists were so bold as to think that the wars of the future would be fought on bicycles. The fantastical thinking of the early twentieth century, now absurdly comical, can provide a wonderful insight into how the world in which we live might have been. The military industrial complex, for example, might have developed fighter bicycles instead of fighter jets.

Consider, as another example, Michigan Central Station in Detroit. It is an extravagant, ornate, 18-storey building that cost $15 million in 1913 (roughly $300 million today). By way of comparison, consider that the great baseball stadiums of that era, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, cost less than a million dollars combined. Tiger Stadium, just a few blocks away, cost $250,000.

It is not at all unreasonable to ask just why anyone anywhere would construct an 18-storey train station. Such, however, was the grandeur of Michigan Central Station. Louis Van Winkle writes: "The top five floors never had the interiors completed. The reasons for [having a] building so large are unclear." The space was only ever used by Michigan Central Railroad.

Reality might have been compromised in the construction of Michigan Central, which in retrospect was dependent on three factors, none of which materialized. Beauty, however, was not. The interior of the train station has "76-foot high ceilings, huge arches, carved plaster decoration and marble columns." The viability of the train station depended on: the prevalence of train travel over the automobile, a spread of prosperity westwards as Michigan Central was not downtown, of course, the use of the tower for any meaningful purpose. In the event, Detroit became as dominated by the automobile as any city in the world while Michigan Central did not even have a parking lot, no westward expansion ever happened and the city eventually crumbled and, of course, the tower was barely used.

Today, Michigan Central stands as an ominous hulk over the rest of Detroit, far from the other decrepit towers downtown. It is arguably the first sight greeting visitors to the United States from the Ambassador Bridge. There may be no more appropriate ambassador for Detroit: every single one of its windows seems to be gone and Michigan Central stands in a mournful, filthy beauty as a monument to the folly of the past.

Photos, courtesy of Metropolis Magazine:

Pillars and graffiti, once the ticketing area
The barren lobby
There technically is some glass left