December 29, 2007

Bhutto assassination: thoughts

A couple thoughts on the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and the theories of her death.

The government moved quickly in this case to attribute the death to a significant injury on the right side of Bhutto's head, at the same time releasing video showing an assailant shooting a handgun from the left rear side of her vehicle. The thesis, unclearly expressed in some quarters, was that the explosive force of the subsequent suicide explosion led to the victim's head colliding with the car.

The idea of an explosive blast leading to a person's head striking the side of a sunroof opening is hardly implausible. Accident experts for years have said the real danger in an auto accident is the "second collision" of the human body with the inside of the passenger compartment, and this is similar. An explosive blast in close proximity to the car could plausibly lead to an exposed person's head colliding with the car frame. Many of the serious injuries military armoured crewmen receive are similar, with sudden stops or jerks leading to their face colliding with the sides of their cupolas or hatches.

The reason for offering the early explanation has to have been to forestall speculation by the public based on the right-side location of the most prominent injury that possibly another shooter was firing from the other direction. Shades of the JFK conspiracy stuff. But since Bhutto was apparently facing front, the only ways you can get a massive and potentially fatal right-side head injury in the single-shooter scenario that the released video supports is either a) a bullet exit wound, or b) an interior collision.

As to the government's responsibility, the video shows the practical limits on what Bhutto was prepared to accept herself in this regard in terms of protection... not much, in other words. Submitting to a full government security cordon would have inevitably put significant limitations on Bhutto's ability to move freely around the country, and generate crowds with advance notice of her appearances, let alone giving up the personal interactions with supporters she seemed to enjoy so much. At the October assassination attempt, Bhutto had dozens of her own security personnel guarding her; 50 of whom reportedly died in that explosion. One suspects private security staff will form a large part of this week's fatality count, as well.

UPDATE: This video tends to support that Bhutto was struck by a bullet.

Posted by BruceR at 02:40 PM

December 21, 2007

Fun for the last day of work: "A piece of pie" sketch

This is still one of the funniest things ever produced within the geographical limits of this nation.

Posted by BruceR at 12:30 PM

December 20, 2007

Catching up on old computer games

At least two years too late, because I just finished a game last night and started a new one, are two BruceR computer game reviews. You might enjoy these better if you imagine them being read out by Yahtzee Croshaw, as I did.

Gun (Activision, 2005)

Paid $5 for this, and worth every penny. Most of the boss battles are stupidly overdone, the last one worst of all, largely because the whole concept of a "boss battle" may work fine in a Half-Life/Doom/Fantasy RPG scenario, or anything involving demons, but makes absolutely no sense in an American western. The final boss makes himself invulnerable to bullets, but not high explosive, by putting on a steel breastplate, for instance. Riiight.

Other than that, a very pleasant little game, of a finishable length, with a non-hackneyed story, good voice acting and several interesting tactical challenges and plot twists. The horse riding is fun, as is the poker-playing, the bullet time is well-executed (although giving you unlimited ammo in a slow-motion environment is just silly), the gun choices are... weird, and there's some definite issues with area-loading that lag you right out at times. My advice would be to play it through while being choosy with the side quests, and then cheat through the final boss battle so you can get on with your life. Or in my case...

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (Ubisoft, 2005)

Still working through it, but it's sublime so far. The first really intelligent friendly AI in a World War 2-themed shooter and determined devotion to period detail makes this a keeper. Looking forward to the second and third installments in this series.

Posted by BruceR at 02:13 PM

Jerk of the month: Yves Ducharme

Globe and Mail:

Each week, more than 600,000 containers of liquids or gels - one for each passenger passing through the airport - are confiscated, said Yves Ducharme, director of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.

In August of 2006, the transport authority restricted passengers to carrying liquids and gels in a one-litre bag in containers of no more than 100 millilitres after an alleged plot to detonate liquid explosives on planes departing from London's Heathrow airport.

"This tells us passengers have become complacent about their own security," he said.

Mr. Ducharme said each confiscated item leads to a delay of about five minutes.

Oh, spare me. The war-against-liquids rules are entirely pointless, and people know that: that's why they're ignoring them. The more inconvenience airline traveler's passive disobedience causes Mr. Ducharme and his minions, the better, most Canadians would agree. Since the indignity of shoe removal, belt removal, etc. etc. is universal anyway, why wouldn't a person (not that I've ever done this, mind you) enjoy playing hide and seek for the slightly-over-100ml tube of toothpaste in their carryon that they were going to throw out later anyway with an underpaid team of security checkers who know the whole exercise is as pointless as you? Got to do something to kill the time until your flight, after all.

Posted by BruceR at 01:13 PM

December 12, 2007

Quote of the day

"In the wrong hands, samurai swords are dangerous weapons.
--British Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker

Posted by BruceR at 01:20 PM

December 11, 2007

Reservist job protection: kudos

I do think praise is more than in order for the current Ontario government of Premier Dalton McGuinty, which last Monday with all-party agreement signed and enacted in a single day the Fairness for Military Families Act. The act gives strong job protection to any military reservists from this province (with some exceptions like federal employees and police) who are selected for overseas military service or employed in a domestic emergency situation.

It's really the best of all possible worlds for part-time soldiers, who in Canada at least have never really been enamoured of the kind of forced-participation provisions that attach to Reserve or National Guard service in the States. (Not only can reserve call-ups be onerous, but the potential of them has been shown to limit the civilian job prospects of reserve members in that country... if the government can suck you back at any time for an unspecified period of service, you can risk losing in selection for jobs or promotions to an equally qualified applicant who is not a reservist. This should in theory at least be less of an issue so long as overseas service callups themselves remain entirely voluntary, as they are now.)

Basically, in a province where legislation of this sort applies, a citizen-soldier still has full choice whether to participate in an overseas mission, but if they volunteer and they are selected they can be confident that unpaid leave without job loss will be granted them. Ontario becomes the fifth Canadian province to give military reservists some level of legislative support like this.

There really is no downside... in the current Afghan-style deployment environment, at most only a couple hundred employees and their supervisors across the whole province would ever be affected at the same time by this. And in a domestic emergency, this legislation could lead to hundreds of additional military relief workers being available sooner and for longer periods than they could easily be previously.

Praise should also go to Gerry Martiniuk, Conservative MPP for Cambridge, who managed to get a similar private members' bill through first reading in the last assembly, and can now take some satisfaction that the new government took up his personal cause as one of its first acts after the Legislature resumed sitting.

Posted by BruceR at 12:32 PM

December 03, 2007

Shock Troops update: Foer stops digging

The New Republic disavows Scott Beauchamp, apparently after repeated failures by Beauchamp to release copies of the statements he made to the military on the "Shock Troops" article:

"In retrospect, we never should have put Beauchamp in this situation. He was a young soldier in a war zone, an untried writer without journalistic training. We published his accounts of sensitive events while granting him the shield of anonymity--which, in the wrong hands, can become license to exaggerate, if not fabricate."

Exactly right, and basically this blog's line all along. Hey, better late than never.

One quibble. TNR Franklin Foer: "The Army later confirmed to us that it had, indeed, prevented Beauchamp from speaking." It would be interesting to read the substantiation on this. The army's line at the time was, "We are not preventing [Beauchamp] from speaking to TNR or anyone. He has full access to the [public] phones."

As John Tabin writes correctly today, the army's "prevent[ing] Beauchamp from speaking" really seems to equate to their not actively forcing Beauchamp to return TNR's repeated messages from Iraq. I'm really not sure that's the army's job.

Andrew Sullivan has it about right, I think, too. The people shouting "treason" at TNR this whole time were clearly idiots. Never ascribe something to treason when a bout of incompetence and cavalierism will do just fine. TNR is still a good read; its editors are undoubtedly loyal citizens. From top to bottom, their staff involved in this story just simply didn't have either the experience or discipline to perform up to established standards of practice this one time, a professional failure for which they're paying the price now. That's all this ever was, no matter how much people might have wanted it to be something more.

Posted by BruceR at 10:54 AM