Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Classic VOLVO Advertising - Mocking Planned Obsolesence Didn't Defeat It

Classic VOLVO ad - Your symbol has just lost its status

This VOLVO advertisement from the 1960s is more
relevant than ever.  Our expensive products are made
redundant and valueless at a very alarming rate.

Classic VOLVO ADS - A Gallery of Greats
- Ronald J. Jack

All of us, I think, are annoyed by the constant failure of critical components in our household appliances, bathroom fixtures, consumer electronics and so much more. When they break or wear out, we are faced with disposing of the whole unit and buying a replacement. The alternative is living in a graveyard of failed technology. I recall going through eight drip coffee-makers (in every case a heating element failure) before switching to a simple French Press.  I burned through ten desktop laser printers before finding one that could  survive 24 months of light usage (a Brother DCP) and I  suffered the existence of a dozen pole lamps (all made in China, and priced from $50 to $300) fitted with extremely shoddy dial switches, before learning my lesson. Now I simply pull the plugs from the wall and NEVER reach for the damned switches.  

Today I watched a roofing crew rip off and replace my neighbours entire roof, because of a reported leak. The roof was just two years old. They quickly carted away the incriminating evidence - a truck load of new asphalt shingles and 20 sheets of new plywood sheathing. Insane waste. A "rip off" it was.

So what if the products we buy passed a C.S.A. bench test? So many gadgets are designed to fail we take it for granted that nothing we own is permanent.  Even if it was "Warranted"  most of the time it is is easier to junk the item than search for a receipt. Last week I acquired a used product that is 51 years old, cost  60 cents when new, and shows no sign of wearing out.  It is a copy of THE WASTE MAKERS, written by social critic Vance Packard. In his time, at the beginning of the Space Age, there was plenty of debate about the growing dependence of the U.S. economy on planned obsolescence, and the "ethics" of engineers who designed products that would fail on a schedule. At the time the book was published the jury was out, discussing the overwhelming evidence of industry building products that were programmed to fail. We now know the manufacturers won the case. Consumers lost and had to pay all costs. We are still paying.

Packard has chapters on the American automotive industry, and they are of course long out-of-date. Yet one constant remains - the drive to convince us that the cars we own are less desirable than new models in dealer showrooms. It is a pretty good guess that every copy-writer in the advertising industry read Packard's book, because industry counter-measures were not long in coming.

THE WASTE MAKERS - best=selling book by Vance Packard

Truth as a Counter-Measure
For a twenty year period, from about 1966 to 1986, the Swedish automobile manufacturer VOLVO,  ridiculed "planned obsolescence" in it marketing campaigns. You sometimes encounter their ads if you riffle through the pages of old magazines, and I have collected eight of them here. I hope you enjoy them.  VOLVO still employs very effective advertising, but the theme is different.

Classic VOLVO advertisement. "This is the eleven year car."
The VOLVO ad that really started it all:
"This is the eleven year car." [1966]

Classic VOLVO ad. "If you really want to impress someone..."
A companion VOLVO ad in 1966: "If you really want to
impress someone with your car, tell him it's paid for."

The point was made, but it got more interesting. "THE PAPER CAR"  With reference to BOTH  "planned obsolescence" and the reality of a new, "throw-away society"  the wasteful consumer became an accomplice of industry.

Classic VOLVO advertising 1967  - THE PAPER CAR

This VOLVO ad was the most forceful and blatant on the subject of
planned obsolescence and wasteful consumerism. [THE PAPER CAR! 1967]

Pop culture of the 1960s and 1970s was filled with
references to "The System"and social conformity.

In  1979 the campaign matured and VOLVO could literally harvest satisfied customers. Thirteen years had elapsed  and many of those 1966 sedans were still on the road.

Classic VOLVO advertising.  "13 years ago I bought this VOLVO because"
VOLVO ad 1979 - "13 Years Ago I Bought This Volvo
Because It Was Advertised As The 11 Year Car."

Note that the customer the advertisement featured was an historian. An expert on aboriginal art and culture. "13 years ago, William Stiles, an expert in American Indian history and artifacts, discover the treasure you see here: a 1966 Volvo."  How cool was that?  Yes, there really was a William Stiles, and there is a Canadian connection.  Stiles is featured on the SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION BLOG (Here).  After scoring points by showcasing an expert on well-made artifacts, the folks who ran the VOLVO ad campaign came up with another expert - a psychiatrist.

Classic VOLVO ad, 1980 "Anyone Who's Thinking of Spending $24,000"
In 1980, ad copy that is both clever and amusing:
"Anyone Who's Thinking of Spending $24,000 For A
Luxury Car Should Talk To A Psychiatrist."

In the Ad copy the psychiatrist is quoted: "In my opinion the individual buying this car would have a strong, unsuppressed need to get his or her money's worth. He or she would probably also have a strong enough self-image not to need a blatant status symbol."  Ouch!  That still hurts, 36 years later.

Classic VOLVO advertising - 1986 For Those Whose Values Haven't Changed

And then it was 1986.  VOLVO customers had worked hard and they had prospered. Another generation of buyers was prowling the car lots,  and certainly were influenced by clever advertising.  We end our gallery with this great display ad that certainly must have struck a chord with many satisfied drivers:  "The Car For People Whose Means Have Changed But Whose Values Haven't."  You are either that sort of person, or you are not.

I have never owned or even driven a VOLVO, but there are other quality vehicles on the roads. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hugh Glass Back From The Dead - THE REVENANT is Cinema Gold

Hugh Glass shoots an Indian in - THE REVENANT

A Response to a Cinematic Phenomenon
By Ronald J. Jack

After two weeks of 'gush',  is there anything left to say about THE REVENANT ?  Well, if you are Canadian like me, you might have something to throw in. We love this movie too, but perhaps for different reasons than our American cousins. We are starving for stories free of modern political ideologies, in which men and women also step away from our dependance on machine culture. Just two days before the movie opened in Canada, a Taiwan friend sent me a hot-link to a pirated Chinese edition, but I ignored him. I did not want to experience THE REVENANT through my iMac. We waited till the afternoon of January 8th to enjoy this impressive cinematic vision,  and I do attest that we got more than our money's worth.

In 1823 frontiersman Hugh Glass was clawed and chewed by a female grizzly, and then abandoned by his companions, who also stripped him of his prize Kentucky long-rifle and his "little fixens" (fire making tools and other essentials for survival).  Glass pulled himself from an open grave and began an epic crawl in pursuit of the thieves.  It is a much-told-tale of superhuman willpower and a man's burning determination to have his revenge.  In the movie the Glass motive for revenge is given some justification - for the murder of a half-breed son.  In addition the hate is tempered by to extreme winter conditions. In fact the weather becomes a character in THE REVENANT.  In American history, Hugh Glass was mauled in the summertime, but no matter.  No matter at all. The glory of this extraordinary film is its realism, not its devotion to reality.  No movie-goer will go home feeling cheated because Sam Peckinpah could not have delivered more violence, and Steven Spielberg could not have made the unreal more realistic.

The novel's title translated into German.


Actually when Hugh Glass was mauled in 1823, the word "revenant" did not yet exist in the English language, and it would not get any play for almost a century. In the original meaning, as coined  by French novelists in the 1820s, the word meant "one who returns after a long absence" and was even more commonly used as a synonym for "ghost".  Last summer when the trailer for THE REVENANT was web-published I looked up the meaning and it wasn't even in my dictionary. (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary - 6th Edition). It was startling to discover that the title had already been used for a zombie movie, and was fully woven into gothic fiction decades ago. But again, no matter.

LORD GRIZZLY - a novel by Frederick Manfred,  Signet paperback
The best available historical fiction detailing the life of Hugh Glass mountain man,
is LORD GRIZZLY by Frederick Manfred.  Trust me, I've researched all the novels!

The immediate and obvious comparison to Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of Hugh Glass in THE REVENANT, must be the Richard Harris performance in MAN IN THE WILDERNESS (1971).  "They couldn't find the time to bury him. They should have." (Poster below)  Mr. Harris made several Westerns including MAJOR DUNDEE for Peckinpah, and the sado-masochistic A MAN CALLED HORSE, (based on a short story) that  seemed the acme of Western  hyper-realism.  MAN IN THE WILDERNESS was shot in temperate Spain, without the chill intrusion of frost or flakes.  Leonardo DiCaprio has shown a willingness to endure misery and physical pain that Richard Harris would not have contracted to simulate. 

The 1971 Richard Harris movie made a film prop, a Missouri River flat-boat
an extra character.  In THE REVENANT the weather is definitely a character.


The original screenplay of THE REVENANT, was actually written rather close to the real-life telling of the Hugh Glass story.  The Movie Director is the ultimate creative voice and it was Alejandro Inarritu who made up supporting characters in the shooting script, a pretty aboriginal wife and a wilful son.  He was quite right in deciding that a 21st Century movie audience (and politicized film critics) would reject the actual motive of Hugh Glass in 1823, to hunt down the bastards who stole his prized flint-lock rifle.  

The first attempt by a professional writer to convey the Hugh Glass story into  prose,  was made by James E. Hall in 1825, and published by his brothers in Philadelphia.  "The Missouri Trapper" was first published in THE PORT FOLIO, in the March 1825 edition, and by the summer of that year it migrated into the pages of several newspapers in the U.S., British North America, and our shared Western Frontier. The provenance is rather interesting I think.  A literary stylist, Hall made Hugh Glass a romantic hero figure,  comparing his survival skills to those of Robinson Crusoe.  His essay was re-published intact by news sellers, and one Canadian newspaper gave it prominence. THE BRITISH COLONIST of Stanstead, Lower Canada (now the Province of Quebec) regularly culled news from American papers.  The July 21, 1825 edition of the Loyalist paper not only reprinted "The Missouri Trapper"  but supported it with two other stories lifted from THE MISSOURI ADVOCATE, the St. Louis newspaper that Hugh Glass himself would have read, before using it to wipe his ass. 

A knowledgeable Canadian reading "The Fur Trade" extracted from the St. Louis, must be amused to read the complaints about "the British" stealing American pelts from "our own territories".  Though we had lost the WAR OF 1812 most of the productive fur-yielding lands were then still our territory, but of course the Americans ultimately wrested it from us.  As well the St. Louis paper included the age-old commercial moan about government interference - "The British have the advantages of introducing their goods without payment of duties."  That same paper demanded that Washington  establish a fortress at the mouth of the Columbia River to interdict the flow ("smuggling") of furs by British ships loading there for China.  Hugh Glass was a Pennsylvanian, and would have Hurrahed such expansionist jingoism.

THE BRITISH COLONIST was a Loyalist newspaper published
on the Canada-U.S. border.  In 1825 it published the Hugh Glass story as news,
accompanied by anti-British commentary lifted from the MISSOURI ADVOCATE.

After watching a particularly good film, my inclination is always to do a little research.  I anticipate some fabulous extras on the DVD, but as an historian myself, I could not sit still for three whole months waiting for the Movie DVD to be published. I craved knowing more.  There are many factual books available on Hugh Glass and the larger-than-life  figures of the American fur-trading era, and an equal number of novels.  THE REVENANT is a "revenge" story, and given the American obsession with guns, it was interesting to learn that the modern novelist Michael Punke knows so little about them. Hugh Glass himself knew plenty about firearms. He had been a boy apprentice to a Pennsylvania gunsmith and he was an armed man his entire life.  Glass valued no horse or woman as highly as his rifle.

Map of British Fur Trading outposts in 1821 - THE REVENANT
The men of the North West Company were encouraged by their employers to marry
native women and put down roots among the tribes. The Hudson's Bay Company officially
discouraged employees from marrying natives. After the business merger "mixing" continued.


The Internet is now peppered with commentary about Mr. DiCaprio's new movie, much of it neither helpful nor informed. Typical of the remarks you will encounter are those of Rebecca Onion, who is to be found on SLATE, an online magazine.  Ms. Onion is "Slate's history writer" no less, who "also runs the site's history blog".   She promises her readers "Here's what we know about the historical Glass." offering a scantier and more dubious description than the average UFO sighting.  That is an apt analogy because Ms. Onion's piece is scoffing of the Glass story altogether. I am tempted to label her a plagiarist but that would be generous. She's basically a garden variety scrape and paste artist, who injures herself by poachng from even snarkier content than her own. A good example is her repeating the standard put-down of James Hall, author of the earliest published source material on Hugh Glass - "The Missouri Trapper".  Says Ms. Onion,  "That circus started with James Hall, a lawyer and aspiring writer who moved to Illinois to harvest stories of the American west."  Ah yes, Hall the hack.   This was a man who, when war came, left his study of the Law and joined the U.S. Army. He served at the Battle of Lundy's Lane and the Siege of Fort Erie. He was later assigned officer on a U.S. warship and sailed with Decatur in the 2nd Barbary War. After completing his studies his set up a law practice in Illinois and was later made a Judge. He wrote more than a dozen books, mostly American history and biography.  In fact James Hall would be eminently qualified to serve as SLATE'S history writer and Blog compiler, had he only lived to be 220 years old.

The point is folks, Hugh Glass was an extraordinary man and THE REVENANT is an amazing movie. As written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the much discussed grizzly bear attack is a composite of two incidents.  Hugh Glass and Jim Bridger were both mauled by bears.  If you haven't the patience to read a good book on Mountain Men,  (try Stanley Vestal  or John Myers Myers) just buy the DiCaprio movie. It is an education in itself.

Ron Luckenbill built THE REVENANT gun used by actor Leonardo De Caprio
Ron Luckenbill built two authentic  1820s flintlocks for THE REVENANT production 
company.  The project was profiled by his local newspaper. [photo by Amanda Jones]

One truly fascinating story associated with the production of the movie, was the recreation of the weapon carried by Hugh Glass, and stolen from him by Fitzgerald.  The website of The American Rifleman (Journal of NRA members) has an interesting article on the movie that mentions how a gunsmith was chosen to build a functioning replica arm.  Ron Luckenbill is an NRA member, a retired policeman and an accomplished gunsmith. He was contracted to build two flintlocks (the signature arm plus a spare) and ship them to the producers in British Columbia, Canada.  Our border agency created so much fuss over the first shipment, delaying its delivery to the film set with needless objections and red tape, that the production company had the second Luckenbill weapon hand-carried across the border to Vancouver.  While the first firearm was still being manufactured Luckenbill was requested to cut the barrel down ten full inches. (Maybe the Director felt it made DiCaprio appear too short in stature??) Luckenbill refused to do so, but clearly the Canadian armourer employed on the production was not so squeamish.  Both Hugh Glass weapons were cut down, and DiCaprio is shown in his scenes carrying a shortened flintlock.  Below is a screen capture that illustrates what I refer to.

THE REVENANT - the gun used by De Caprio to portray Hugh Glass
The fur traders retreat to the flat-boat.  This movie still illustrates the point about 
the band-crafted flintlocks Ron Luckenbill made for THE REVENANT. After delivery
to the movie makers, the flintlock barrel-length was reduced by about ten inches.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Weaponize your Hate - MR. AND MRS. MASSACRE terrorize San Bernardino


"Weaponize your Hate!" - a Heavy Metal lyric 

The NEW YORK TIMES has described them as "one of the most perplexing pairs in the recent history of mass homicide".

"They were living the American Dream." So claimed an acquaintance of the Muslim couple, quickly identified as Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Really?  He was born in California, but clearly was not coping. She was a new arrival, and never intended to assimilate. But before I go any further, let's be very clear about the U.S.A. in 2015. There is no longer an "American Dream".  Since 9/11 that comforting myth has morphed into an American Nightmare, and there is no evidence that the dreamers will ever awake.  I have written before in this Blog, and I confidently repeat, "Americans are Crazy".  Some will find that remark offensive, but it is an obvious conclusion.

Syed Farook - his university ID card with photo
Syed Rizwan Farook -  Mr. Massacre.
His California State University  ID card.

TELEVISED MAYHEM - Audio recording on the periphery of the kill zone - a Medical Centre in San Bernardino:  "Oh, that is scary!"  ... "They're all geared up! Rifles and everything!"

 On December 2, 2015 the news channels locked into the most recent American "mass shooting" and the video stream began hypnotizing millions of television viewers. I watched about ten minutes of Live Coverage on Al Jazeera, caught the gist of the story, and turned off the noise. I have observed "saturation" event coverage hundreds of times, with events stretching back to the 1970s, and I have learned to ignore the first day of the cycle. (The exception was 9/11 itself. Those images and that pain simply had to be shared and endured.) 

I could write the script on a typical A.M.S. (American Mass Shooting) and hand out pages to the participants.  I don't have to because there are already hundreds of thousands of copy writers worldwide who perform that function. The morning after, I woke refreshed and learned that the American news media (and the Obama White House) had classified this one as a Non-Terrorist massacre.  President Obama was hopeful the event was just a typical A.M.S. He said:
"It is possible that this was terrorist related, but we don't know. It is also possible that this was workplace related."
Now Barack Obama is no body's fool. He was just talking lawyer trash, stalling for time.

For three days the news media cooperated with the White House, downplaying the attack to a garden variety "Mass Shooting". The Americans have a definition for it... I kid you not.  A mass shooting is "any shooting of four or more people at one time".  The F.B.I. is a little fussier with their definition. It's still four or more, but the F.B.I. doesn't include mass killings by ghetto thugs or biker gangs. Those folks are outlaws, and their slaughter is just a little extra-judicial house cleaning.

Semantics also come into play when  deciding when a gunman gets to be labelled a "Terrorist".  When is it safe for the media to label an A.M.S.  a "Terrorist Attack"?   A) When the killers are proven members or self-confessed affiliates of a Terrorist Organizations on the U.S. State Department's Official List.  or B) When the shooter is identified as a "Right Wing, Christian Fundamentalist, Gun Lovin' whack job".  Those losers don't have to have an ideological affiliation. They are assumed to be Republican, and at large.   Big Government and its handmaiden Big Media, are the official arbiters of the Terror Lexicon.

Tashfeen Malik - Pakistani wife of Sayed Farook
Tashfeen Malik  - Mrs. Massacre.
One of her Pakistani ID cards.


The morning after - a screen grab documents the confusion 
and the deception. "Could be Terrorism"  Obama says.
"Attack Doesn't Fit Our Familiar Scripts". Whose scripts?

Mr. and Mrs. Massacre - Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were killed in a shootout with SWAT before they could upload their political manifesto or any of their attack video. (Like the recent Muslim monsters in Paris,  the San Bernardino terrorists were wearing GoPro video cameras.  This is standard ISIS methodology. Record and upload your gore to the Internet because only Coroner's juries will get to see images of the carnage left in the kill zone.  Video of an assault on the American "Homeland" would be a gift to Muslim fanatics worldwide, and their attack would be celebrated.  In fact it's not another San Bernardino-style attack the White House fears, it's the video of that next attack being enjoyed by millions of Muslim fanatics.

The really shocking fact about the carnage in California was that many in San Bernardino were not that terrorized.  Most bystanders were trying to be citizen reporters for a day, recording the action. Many of those evacuees who filed off buses were not hysterical or even reaching out to be hugged. I don't say they all took events in their stride, but this wasn't Columbine. In fact most of them were prepared for an attack.  Everyone in America who assembles each day in a large public building to work or study is being trained to respond, like Israelis, to sudden attacks.  Just as the American Public was trained to "Duck and Cover" during the first two decades of the Cold War, modern Americans are trained to "Shelter in Place", or if licensed to carry a weapon, to defend themselves.

As the concussion of rifle fire shook the walls of the INLAND REGIONAL CENTER, many of the trapped were taking cellphone videos. One nurse who recorded video, and shared it, pointed out that staff "have active shooter drills every month or so".  How nuts is that? A medical outreach facility holding anti-terror drills every other month!  Not to be outdone a College just up the street from the massacre site had its own "Active Shooter Drill" less than a week before (Nov. 30th). Hundreds of college students lay down and pretended to be be shooting victims, while SWAT teams moved about the simulated carnage and rooted out fake shooters. Jesus Christ, how insane is that?  Students play-acting their own deaths, doctors and nurses learning to "shelter in place", and then as if on cue, the neighbourhood terror cell springs from cover and gives them all a damned good workout. In fact the San Bernardino SWAT were running a training exercise nearby - suited up, fully armed and mobile - when the terrorists stormed a Christmas party at the Center.  Mr. Massacre, possibly having participated in "Active Shooter Drills", new better than to hole up, and so he and Mrs. Massacre got out so fast that SWAT missed them.

How crazy are Americans?  You can't judge an entire nation by their leading actors - politicians, the pantheon of celebrities and the editorial writers who hog the stage of public performance, but there is much hard evidence to ponder. A case in point: Remember those "Black Friday" feeding frenzies the Network News made so much of?  It turns out that Black Friday set an all-time record for gun sales in a single day.  The F.B.I. processed 185,345 gun sale background checks on that single day! [ref. TIME magazine website] Even nuttier, the Bureau processed  2,243,030 gun buyer records checks in the month of November 2015. Here is the kicker.  There are now several million assault rifles in private hands in the U.S.A.  - each and every one of them of sufficient lethality to produce its own "mass shooting". Now that's a statistic to scare the hell out of anyone down there who is still sane!

You can't make this shit up.  In America brutal gun violence is so routine that it doesn't really scare the hell out of anyone. Terrorism just pisses them and makes them buy more guns.  "Terrorism" is actually any act of extreme violence that satisfies the need of the TWO political factions to score points on each other. When the President responds each month to the "latest massacre" he has to measure his words very carefully, because bleeding bodies at the curb is not the issue.  The issue is whether that "latest massacre" hurts the chances of his party winning the upcoming election.  And the Republicans are no better. If they win the election they will let Homeland Security put mini-guns in every Precinct House in America.  Welcome to their Nightmare!

Hillary Clinton - San Bernardino Massacre Dec 2015
Hillary Clinton - She plans to become the Head Keeper of the American Bedlam

When news of Mr. and Mrs. Massacre hit Social Media, the Presidential hopefuls on each side of the American Divide took a deep breath, and chose their words with care. Hillary Clinton tweeted "I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now."  Well Hillary, as Queen of National Dysfunction must know that "Mass Shootings" are now a staple of American middle-class political expression.  (Assault weapons, ammo and tactical gear cost thousands of dollars.)  They are certainly the new norm.  Obama know it, because one of his very first actions when elected, was to draft and pass a law requiring the Secret Service to protect his wife and their children for the rest of their lives. His family is the only American Family, protected by Federal Agents, forever.  Even the Clinton's don't have that.  If the Democrats grab guns, the Democrats lose power. He'll tinker and toy, but he won't confiscate.  Hillary, if victorious, will only further militarize American cities, and double the Orwellian surveillance.   None of the totalitarian surveillance and domestic firepower stopped Mr. Farook and Ms. Malik, nor could it have.


Tashfeen Malik arriving in the U.S., July 27, 2014  (US  Official Photo)
This photo is priceless!  It shows Muslim Terrorist Tashfeen Malik
arriving in the U.S. from Saudi Arabia on July 27, 2014.  (Saudi Arabia 
was also the origin of almost all of the "radicalized"  9/11 Terrorists.)
She is entering the MOST heavily defended and most surveilled nation
on earth, and she has already defeated her enemy. Cool as a cucumber!

THE SAN BERNARDINO MASSACRE VICTIMS HAD PRACTICED AN "ACTIVE SHOOTER DRILL" in the very room they were all murdered. It's astounding! 

We now know why Mr. and Mrs. Massacre chose as their terror target a center for the developmentally disabled.  THE ROOM was the target, NOT the health facility.  The room in Building Three was the venue for their "annual training and Christmas potluck party".   What training?  Well last year it included an "Active Shooter Drill".  So picture this... one year ago Farook attends an Active Shooter Drill. He goes home and the couple discusses what he learned.  They look at each other and share a laugh. "They think they can protect themselves from the justice of Allah! Hah, those American fools."  They begin stockpiling weapons in earnest, and we now know, a week before their attack they went twice to a nearby gun range to practice shooting weapons.  On December 2nd Mr. Farook was the first to arrive at the "party", and when the conference room was full he left to collect his wife. She was waiting. They had already given their baby into the care of the grandmother.  Every planning detail was already covered - the black SUV,  the black clothing and black masks, the pipe bombs, and their arsenal.  The only thing missing was a black I.S.I.S. flag. 

"They considered Farook a friend."  When he and his wife stormed the room, the party goers did exactly as they had been trained to do in the Active Shooter Drill.  They scattered and sheltered behind overturned trestle tables and other upended furniture. Some feigned death, pretending they had already been shot. But there was insufficient cover for so many people.  The survivors recognized their co-worker and his wife, and using cellphones they immediately began calling in precise details to local law enforcement. Mr. and Mrs. Massacre fled the scene and the chase was on. SWAT wa already deployed.


Even if...if, the Americans ever won the "War on Terror",  they now have a worse problem on their doorstep.  A frightened political class protecting itself with "Homeland Security"  and a suspicious civil population arming itself against oppressive government. There is no possibility of this turning out well.

UPDATE: Bitter Humour Department
Dec. 12, 2015 - there is this from the N.Y. TIMES this morning:

The Americans record everything on the Internet. EVERYTHING. But they don't read it.
Look at that face.  She makes me think of think of Kipling...

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Beauty and the Beasts - the Tragic Murder of a Young Russian Politician

Crime Scene in Novosibirsk - Russian M.P. murdered Nov. 2015
The crime scene - Novosibirsk, Siberia, Nov. 26, 2015.

Imagine having your face punched in by thumb-sized hand grenade fragments. The air outside was a frigid  -6 Celsius, but you were bathed in the flow of heat forced through the dashboard louvres. You were also being carelessly intimate with your husband, just a few steps from the entrance to a massive apartment block.  Now you are dead. In the seven seconds it took for the ugly little weapon to detonate, did you even know it threatened to your life?

Within minutes police filled the parking lot, their heavy boots crunching on the hard-packed snow. They huddle in thick coats and fur caps, hands thrust into deep pockets. They pull your body, and that of your husband from the Toyota sedan, and do a careful search for additional explosives.  In minutes your husband's body is bagged and whisked away. Later a flat-bed truck arrives and loads your white RAV- 4, and then it too is trundled out of sight.  All the while you lay there on the packed snow, naked and needlessly exposed to dozens of pairs of greedy eyes.  All of them have made you their trophy, taking countless photos of the kill, and at least to full-length videos.  For over an hour you are humiliated, until finally someone throws a cloth over your smashed head. Just your head. They continue to leave your   trim torso and your sexuality on display. You have never been photographed naked before. This is your screen debut.  Within hours one video is uploaded to the Internet, and the foreign press begins to crow.  Caw, caw. Haw, haw.

She was Oksana Bobrovskaya, a neophyte Russian politician. Young and beautiful, she was in love with life and doted on her  4yr. old daughter. The pretty child was a fixture of the proud mother's social media pages.  Though she was an M.P.in Putin's government (I know all the current connotations) there was no stain on her public record. In fact Mrs. Bobrovskaya had committed no crime, and she was certainly deserving of respect and a little common decency.  Her death was a vicious atrocity, but the world's reaction was uglier.

Grenade used to kill  Oksana Bobrovskaya, Russian M.P.

An Ugly, Disturbing Trend in "Journalism"
Old-style journalism is dead.  Investigative reporting is now very rare, because the consuming public has no patience with in-depth coverage of a story that has already completed its "cycle".  Most newspapers don't even employ photographers any more, because they can easily strip all the visuals  they need from Social Media, or harvest the flood of "leaked" imagery that always accompanies any notorious event. In fact Social Media "channels" are now leading news coverage,  and we all know it.  As the news media struggles to survive, it adopts the sloppy habits of our instant culture, and in the process is virtually shredding its credibility and reputation.   Consider this:

Within hours of the recent Paris Terror Attacks, a group of suspects was cornered and all were killed in the shootout and explosions.  It was immediately claimed that one Muslim female had detonated a suicide vest (she was blown into large chunks by one powerful blast) and she was dubbed "Europe's first female suicide bomber".   The London DAILY MAIL purchased a set of private photographs of that woman and published the "scoop" above the banner "BOMBER IN THE BATH", coyly blacking out her exposed nipple.  Within hours most major news organizations were featuring the photos, and several used the nude in the bathtub image as a lead graphic.  The New York Post dubbed the lady "THUG IN A TUB", and the general public, taking their cue from the news media, called her worse names. Much, much worse.

BOMBER IN THE BATH - The Daily Mail, November 2015

Of course the whole point of the photo-splash was to develop an aggressive narrative widely shared in news circles.  The way to interdict the steady flow to the Islamic State of "radicalized" Muslim youth, is to discredit individuals. Relishing a "gotcha" moment, they pounced on the Paris woman, describing her as a "party animal" who drank and smoked and used make up.  More she was photographed in an American cowboy hat, and posed nude in a bathtub.  She was not only a "fake" Muslim, but a "scuzz" and as such, she was poster-girl for a bastardized brand of Islam and richly deserving of our collective contempt. (I emphasize CONTEMPT.)  Left unsaid of course, was that the woman in all the photos was behaving exactly the way a majority of young women now conduct themselves.  Better zipper up some of that contempt Mr. Journalist, Sir.  

New York Post - Thug in a Tub, November 2015

It wasn't long before we found out that there was no female suicide bomber on November 17th. The woman shredded in Paris was not wearing a suicide vest after all. That was hasty reporting.  In the seconds before death, she actually cried out that she wasn't a militant. ... All over the world news staff began deleting headlines and whole articles, to cover their journalistic tracks.  Winston Smith couldn't have orchestrated a more thorough sweep.   And then it got worse.  It has since been revealed that all of the salacious photos the DAILY MAIL had peddled were not even of the dead "terrorist".   The Lady in the bathtub still lives, and she has taken the matter of her stolen privacy to court.  And of course the many, many News sites that published the story and pictures engaged in the same Orwellian cover-up - they deleted all evidence, or at least the digital caches.  You can't recall and burn a printed edition.

"Suicide Blonde" - ISIS attack on Paris - horrid journalism
"Suicide Blonde" British tabloid journalism at its worst.
The wrong woman and,  an insult to half of the female population.

It might seem unfair to single out the DAILY MAIL, but they earned my contempt with their "Bomber in the Bath" nonsense.  Consider this:
"Glamorous Russian M.P. is blown up while having sex with her husband in the back of their car 'after he detonated explosives in a fit of jealousy' "  That's rather a mouthful, and given that the Daily Mail has a reporter in Siberia, how do they manage to put a story together?   And why bother?  After all, a Russian woman totally unknown to MAIL readers, was having sex with her husband in their own car, when he (allegedly) committed an act of murder-suicide.  The powerful motive (journalistic motive, not the husband's) is delivered in a sub-headline: "Oksana Bobrovskaya, 30,  was in Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party".  Once again we see a coherent strategy at play, and one that is shared by papers throughout Europe and North America.  Denigrating an individual who exists within a group you despise, is a guaranteed method to diminish the group itself.  Putin is despised by every squishy Liberal from Paris to Pittsburgh, and in fact we are collectively waging undeclared economic and political warfare against the Russian Federation.  Our media will pounce on any figure or story that could discredit the Mr. Putin's "regime". If there is sex in the story, all the better. The Prols will drool over it.

Glamourous Russian M.P. Blown Up - DAILY  MAIL
"Glamorous"?  Really? Mrs. Bobrovskaya had two photo-packages
taken by a Novosibirsk studio that specializes in family
portraits. One set to promote her candidacy, and the other set
Christmas portraits.  She looks great, but not "glamorous".  Most of
the shots were scraped by media  from her  Instagram account.

Oksana Bobrovskaya - the murdered Russian M.P.
A beautiful, caring mother.  Keep this charming image in mind
when you remember her - not the beastly ugliness that follows.

Novosibirsk is Russia's third largest city. Mrs. Bobrovskaya's political party, United Russia, has not faired well of late. In 2014 they lost the mayoralty, and Moscow had sent in "political technologists" to train and support local candidates. Bobrovskaya was a federal M.P., representing United Russia and had not been associated with scandal. Her husband, a former member of the Security Services, was reported to be unemployed and brooding. If you believe the husband's alleged motive for killing her, the lady was having an affair with her boss at DISCUS, a major construction company, a man who is also Deputy of the Novosibirsk City Council. The businessman is said to have been her political mentor, and the supplier of the RAV-4 she had been driving since March. The husband, lurid news report insist, was insanely jealous and decided to have one last go at his wife, and detonate a grenade while they were in the throws of passion. Their bodies were found in the back seat of the Toyota, naked from the waist down.

The crime scene was the parking area of a five-storey apartment building located handy to the DISCUS Construction Company. Try to believe this story line... because I cannot.   The husband, who has guns at home, has decided to kill her and himself in the bargain, with a fragmentation grenade.  And he will do it in a public setting.  In sub-zero temperatures she has consented to sex, so they pull into a decidedly unromantic setting - a residential complex. Though it is night, the lot is well illuminated, and they don't even bother to park the car.  The leave the engine to idle, and with headlights on they feed each others passion. Now I drive a Toyota RAV-4  and I can tell you that about the only possibility up front  is mutual masturbation, as a console divides the two seats. Near the building entrance, and overlooked by dozens of apartment windows, they would have had to get out and re-enter the RAV by the passenger doors - a suspicious act in itself. You cannot climb over the seats.   Now remember that the lady is a sitting member of the Russian Parliament and has everything to lose if bystanders recognize her and take photos. (Since she was found naked we know she was acting recklessly.) We already know the two local TV stations will broadcast ANYTHING sordid, because we have ample evidence.

Now remember that she stands accused of having an affair, and if her husband was angry enough to kill her, he would not easily have concealed his suspicions.  With his military training he was capable of killing her with his bare hands, but we are told, he chose to mutilate the woman he loved.  If I were that young man, I would be fragging the boss, and not my wife, but perhaps I do not understand Russian men.  If he did murder her, and this was not a professional frame-up, he might also have tipped off the local news media.  They were on site and filming even before the crime scene was secured.

Murder of Russian woman M.P. in Siberia, Nov 24, 2015

Closeup pictures of the couple show that he was disembowelled by the blast and she had her face caved in.  About what you might expect from a hand grenade.  No attempt was made to conceal the gore from the media or from the tenants of the apartment block. In fact the crime scene was left entirely open, and the display of her body was so obvious, as to constitute a crime in itself.

Oksana Bobrovskaya - her car taken awa

I have watched two lengthy videos made at the crime scene, as well as edited footage broadcast in Russia, and I can come to only one conclusion. Mrs. Bobrovskaya's body was callously left on display for news media and passers by to photograph with impunity. Nobody cared enough about her to intervene or even cover her up.  The husband mutilated her, the media denigrated her, and the police humiliated her.  A very thorough job. 

The final act was to share Novosibirsk's disgrace with the wide world.

The final indignity to the victim was recorded by LIFE NEWS, which broadcast the removal of Mrs. Bobrovskaya with her body pixelated.  At first the morgue attendant crossed her ankles, the very first man to acknowledge that this was a woman he was grabbing hold of. Then with a shrug, he spread her legs and had a good look.  CHANNEL 8 had the footage and someone from the station uploaded it to the Internet. These images are graphic of course, but I have spared you the worst of it.

Body of murdered Russian M.P. removed from crime scene

I invite you now to go back to the scraped article from the London DAILY MAIL, and understand that hundreds of newspapers and websites (including Canadian) published the same smarmy account of what happened to her.  More important, be on guard for more stories like this one - moments in which a woman's sexuality is used to humiliate her, and where her dignity is far less important than the opportunity for news writers or propagandists to score cheap political points.  Beauty and the Beasts.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

EVERY GUN TELLS A STORY - Even Mr. Zehah-Bibeau's Model 1894 Winchester

Ronald J. Jack

The Gun - that killed J.F.K. - Bantam, 1976
THE GUN (that killed J.F.K.) by Henry Bloomgarden - was a
Bantam paperback, 1976.  An example of pre-Internet gun prose.

When I was a junior-high school student I shared the enthusiasms of Canadian boys my own age. Many of us developed an interest in the history of weaponry and warfare, and we could rattle off the names and specifications of almost any model that could fire a projectile.  I couldn't afford to buy a gun of my own, but we had a shop teacher who was also a gunsmith. If we brought scrap lead to class he would let us melt it down in a crucible and pour the molten metal into bullet moulds for .45 and .38 slugs. He also let us watch as he cut down the barrels of .12 Gauge and .410 Gauge shotguns and re-bedded them with pistol grips, sans any butt-stock.  He was breaking the law, but we didn't know any better. He was our teacher.

THE WAR BUSINESS - George Thayer, 1970 - book cover

At about that time I read a book that opened my eyes to much bigger issues.  George Thayer's, THE WAR BUSINESS: The International Trade in Armaments (AVON 1970) alerted me to the fact that Canadians companies also sold weapons illicitly, and they didn't particularly care if they were enabling foreign dictators or mercenary armies.  More interesting were a few pages on the importation of cheap war surplus firearms, typified by the Italian carbine (a Mannlicher-Carcano Serial No. C2766) that Lee Harvey Oswald used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.  A few years later, Henry S. Bloomgarden had an original idea, or so I thought at the time. Why not write a biography of the rifle used to kill Kennedy?  Bantam Books published  THE GUN in 1976 and I pounced on a copy. The story satisfied because the  book described not only the life story of the infamous rifle, but something of of Terni, the company town that produced it, and the lives of the Italian craftsmen who designed and built firearms. More, Bloomgarden detailed the U.S. laws and the lawmakers who aided the importation of surplus weaponry.  

During high school I became aware of the fact that many thousands of collectors were researching the 'biographiies' of individual firearms, and I read many fascinating articles in the gun press which were in effect 'dual biographies' of interesting weapons and the men who once owned them. Some firearms historians spare no effort or expense when sleuthing out the life story of a gun, and many maintain private reference libraries that have cost tens of thousands of dollars to assemble.  With the advent of the Internet came the added ability to swap data with collector-researchers worldwide, and for modest fees acquire personal records that were once impossible to acquire.  I haven't fired a weapon since completing my service in the Canadian Militia in 1981 (Military Police and Infantry) but I have maintained a research/writing interest in modern warfare and weapons design.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - Ottawa.
He killed a sentry, but fired few shots. The Winchester Model 1894
holds only a few cartridges in its spring-loaded tube magazine.

"Dead End" on tracing  Zehaf-Bibeau's Winchester

And so when I read reporter Jim Bronskill's  claim (November 10, 2015) of a "Dead End" in the Michael Zehaf-Bibeau investigation, I could smell the fish rotting.  Zehaf-Bibeau, most will recall, was the disturbed man who terrorized Parliament Hill in 2014,  brandishing a very old Winchester lever-action rifle, and fatally shooting a reservist in the back at the National War Memorial.  Under intense pressure, the R.C.M.P. released a photo of the damaged weapon, but not a single detail about its history.  Had they shared even basic information with the public, I feel certain that gun historians would have done their part, and in combination with investigative journalists who could canvass appropriate neighbourhoods and gun enthusiasts, would have done the R.C.M.P.s job for it.  And that, the federal troopers will never allow.

RCMP fail to trace Zehaf-Bibeau rifle -  Canadian Press report

Mr. Bronskill, of the Canadian Press news agency, is one of our most reliable journalists specializing in matters of National Defence, Canada's Intelligence gathering agencies, and Official Secrecy.  He wrote that an inside source had tipped him of the R.C.M.P.s inability to solve the mystery of how and where the gunman acquired his Winchester .30-.30.  "The RCMP devoted more than 130 full-time investigators and staff to the case, interviewing several hundred people across the country."

Just as interesting was a CBC News report, on the same day, that described an internal dispute among the current and former members of the House of Commons security detail.  "RCMP accused of rewriting history of Parliament Hill attack" Only days after the attack on Canada's Parliament, the House of Commons security force was disbanded (without ceremony) and the R.C.M.P. immediately took over the assignment. In order to keep the Ottawa media out of the government's laundry basket, Kevin Vickers was declared a 'Hero' (or National distraction) for his firing a 9 mm. bullet into the back of the gunman's head, and quickly shipped off to an Ambassadorship in Ireland.  (Refer to my previous Runagates Club article.)  Clearly the whole matter has become completely politicized, and the biography of the Zehaf-Bibeau Winchester 94, is not a book that anyone in Ottawa ever plans to write. Inquiring minds just don't want to know.

In truth, Federal authorities would have known quite quickly the genesis or "birth date" of the rifle and when it was shipped into Canada.  The early records of the factory are in the custody of the Cody Firearms Museum in Wyoming, which has (like Colt) made millions of dollars selling authentication letters to Winchester collectors over the years. I have R.L. Wilson's history of Winchester, but there are a host of expensive "collector-grade" reference works, including one just on the Model 1894 rifle. Basic information on serial numbers (never released by the RCMP) are available all over the Internet, as are archived discussions between serious collectors.  Even pamphlets distributed by Winchester (below) give basic historical information, just to whet the appetite for owning a piece of firearms history. Collectors maintain files of vintage Canadian sales catalogs and advertising for individual communities, and it is often possible to determine which retailer (usually a hardware store) was stocking particular makes in a given community.  

Winchester Model 1894 Serial numbers - by year date

SADDLE GUN :"Since the world was powered by horse flesh at the 
time of its introduction, the 1894 just begs to be slipped into a horse 
scabbard with a string of rawhide or braided suede tied around the 
saddle ring to hold her in place on a rough ride."  -  Kevin Gibson

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's rifle appears to be of pre-WW1 manufacture, with an octagonal barrel and a crescent shaped steel butt-plate. It was officially an "antique" (100+ years) when he used it to murder a sentry in Ottawa. Such weapons are noticed, and valued. One identical to it, and with no history, sold recently at auction for $ U.S. 1,175. If you owned one, or had one stolen from you, it would matter. Zehaf-Bibeau did not transport it from British Columbia back to Ontario or Quebec. He acquired it there, and quite possibly it came to him through the family. They deny it, and this is Canada, so there will be no nail-pulling. Of course the R.C.M.P. are only interested in establishing if there is another person tied to the rifle, who is chargeable with a crime. Should you think that the registration of rifles and shotguns is a very modern phenomenon in Canada, think again. Handgun registration started very early, but in 1940 our government decreed that all rifles and shotguns had to be registered. (See the clipping below.) Of course many rural Canadians ignored the law, but that is beside the point. The salient point is that taxpayers have forked over more than a Billion Dollars for the funding of a registration system for so-called "long arms", ostensibly in an attempt to eliminate gun crime, and the very moment in our history that a nut dashes onto Parliament Hill with a hunting rifle, the entire program is shown to be a mirage. A year has passed and we are told "the probe has come to a dead end". My gawd! Even more exasperating, very few newspapers bothered to print Bronskill's story, and NONE have attempted a followup.

Registration of ALL firearms in Canada - WW2 law
In 1940 War Measures allowed the government 
to require that all rifles and shotguns be registered. 
Handguns were already tightly controlled in Canada.

So how could this happen? The Canadian Firearms Registry cost Canadian taxpayers somewhere between $1 Billion - $2 Billion dollars. The exact dollar figure is lost in the fog of political warfare. The project was a Chretien-Liberal boondoggle and was cancelled in 2012, although federal law enforcement still requires individual gun owners be licensed.
The first mass-registration of ALL guns in Canada took place during World War II, and might then have picked up the Winchester Model 94. But it didn't. Surely the Chretien Era registration, with its dire threats of jail time for non-compliance, would have detected it? Well, NO. According to the Bronskill report, the Mounties are at a "Dead End". So gun registration was one of the more costly job creation schemes run by Ottawa, but it didn't make a bit of difference in preventing gun crimes like the Zehaf-Bibeau shooting.

Canadian - U.S. Cooperation on Tracing Guns
We Canadians are very aware of the American obsession with the right to own unlimited numbers of guns, and the resulting carnage that ensues. For a look at how the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms handles illicit gun tracing, I turned to YOUTUBE. The ATF National Tracing Center is located in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and it employs approximately 400 full-time staff. The video is only a few minutes long, and I provide a hot link below.

published on YOUTUBE,  in early February 2013.

Despite claims of overwork by staff and the complaint of somehow being handicapped by U.S. Federal privacy laws (somewhat of a hollow joke from an employee of the world's leading surveillance-state) the vaunted A.T.F. racks up an impressive success rate. So is it fair to make a direct comparison between American and Canadian capabilities? It would be IF we Canadians had a little more to go on. With respect to current operations and programs, the level of information control in Ottawa is now so routine and pervasive, that it is virtually equivalent to wartime conditions. I daresay, for example, that Canadians during World War II were able to follow the campaigns in Europe more easily than we were able to do with units deployed to Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, or currently bombing Syria. Could you even secure a list of the names of R.C.M.P. officers serving in your community, much less specific details on why investigators were skunked by Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau? Not a chance.  It's interesting to note that when the Windsor Star did a five-part investigative series (2013) on smuggled guns and Canadian victims, they consulted staff at the ATF in West Virginia, and not our own specialists.

Eight Bandido bikers murdered in Shedden, Ontario in 2006
with one Hi-Point .380 pistol. The ATF traced its biography.

Did you know that Canada has a "Commissioner of Firearms"?  Did you know that each year the Canadian Firearms Program  (CFP) publishes a glossy report summarizing annual achievements?  The CFP is "Canada's Authority on Firearms", and so the Commissioner's next report may include a paragraph or two on the Zehaf-Bibeau case - arguably the most important attempt to trace a firearm that the CFP have yet attempted.  It depends on your P.O.V., I guess.  It seems to me that the program has too many chiefs, and not enough Indians.  

Commissioner of Firearms - 2013 Report, Ottawa

If you read the most recent annual report, you will find a "Program Overview". (Provided below)  You will see listed:
- the Chief Firearms Officer Operations and Firearms Safety Training Directorate
- the Firearms Service Delivery Directorate
- the Firearms investigative and Enforcement Services Directorate
- the Firearms Management and Strategic Services Directorate
- the Information Technology Integration and Business Improvement Section

And these CFP  "Directorates" have "components," and are further supported by Department of Justice lawyers in regional offices.

And if that were not enough, consider this recent refinement in Canada's federal gun tracing efforts:

"The Canadian Integrated Ballistics Information Network - CIBIN"
Based in Ottawa this program seeks to instantly link criminal occurrences anywhere in Canada (and by extension the U.S.) by matching digital records of fired bullets, marks left on cartridge casings, etc. The really sneaky component of the service to "frontline" law enforcement is the "Suspicious Firearms Index" which is a growing compilation of evidence taken from "firearms of interest not known to be associated with a criminal charge but that may generate intelligence for investigators". In other words, the goal is to surreptitiously collect firearms evidence from citizens you don't trust, and hold it for a future match when the weapon is illegally used.

"It's 2015"
On the R.C.M.P.s wish list is "Pursuit of the establishment of a live connection between NIBIN and CIBIN".   NIBIN  is the U.S.A.'s  National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.

And yet none of this technology and bureaucracy would have stopped an attack like that perpetrated in Ottawa by one angry and disturbed man who had access to an antique Winchester found somewhere in a closet. What it does do,  is employ a large number R.C.M.P. officers at six-figure salaries, who are counting on pension cycles guaranteed to far exceed their actual years of service.  And bureaucratic waste is a whole different category of crime best left for another time.  Ironically, many American crime labs are abandoning the technology the RCMP are boasting of acquiring.  The consensus among lab staff is that massive centralized databases are not resulting in local arrests and prosecutions, so they don't feel particularly obligated to waste precious hours feeding information to the insatiable Intelligence dragon. ...But I digress.  The killer was himself killed, so if the R.C.M.P. would just share what they do know about the Model 1894 in discussion, then citizen sleuths might get to work and contribute something helpful to the investigation.