1. Terrorism and suburbia
With reports of the planned “mass shooting” coming in, it’s important to keep On The Media’s Breaking News Handbook on hand. Read the whole thing (it’s short), but the most important point for today is #1: In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong. So, breathe deeply, relax, and take everything with a grain of salt — including this post — for a couple of days, until more reliable information comes out.
Here’s what we think we know so far. The police released this statement last night:
On Thursday morning, information came forward to police regarding a potential significant weapons-related threat. RCMP and Halifax Regional Police officers from the Criminal Investigations Division began an investigation. We want people to know we became aware, we acted quickly and intercepted a threat.
Information suggested that a 19-year-old Timberlea male and a 23-year old Geneva, Illinois female had access to firearms and it was their intention to go to a public venue in the Halifax region on February 14th with a goal of opening fire to kill citizens, and then themselves. Evidence also suggested that two other males, ages 20 and 17, of Halifax and Cole Harbour respectively, were involved. Their role is still to be determined as part of the investigation.
Last evening, investigators located the 19-year-old male suspect at a Tiger Maple Avenue residence and at approximately 1:20 a.m., the Emergency Response Team entered his residence and found him deceased. As we previously issued in media release this matter has been referred to the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team for investigation.
At approximately 2 a.m. this morning, police arrested the 20 year-old male and 23-year-old female suspects without incident at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Shortly after 11 a.m., police went on to arrest the 17-year-old male suspect without incident at a Cole Harbour residence. All three suspects remain in police custody at this time and the Integrated Criminal Investigations Division continues to investigate.
We believe we have apprehended all known individuals in this matter and eliminated the threat. We are not seeking any further suspects at this time in relation to this investigation.
Further, CBC published a transcript of a press conference with Nova Scotia RCMP Commanding Officer Brian Brennan. I think this is the relevant part:
QUESTION: Can you say if they were of a jihadist nature? Evangelical, right-winged nature?
BRENNAN: I can tell you that it’s not culturally based.
QUESTION: But you aren’t ruling out whether this is terrorism?
BRENNAN: We’re not ruling anything out until the investigation is concluded. But our investigation is not leading us down that particular avenue at this time.
The AP gives a little more context to the story:
A senior police official says police foiled a plot by two suspects who were planning on going to a mall and killing as many people as they could before killing themselves on Valentines Day in Halifax.
The official said Friday the suspects were on a chat stream and were apparently obsessed with killing and death and had many photos of mass killings.
The official said one of the two suspects, a 23-year-old American woman from Geneva, Illinois, was arrested at Halifax’s airport and confessed to the plot. The official said she tweeted a number of pronouncements to be tweeted after her death.
The official also said the 19-year-old male suspect shot himself after police surrounded his parent’s home. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Again, let’s wait for better information before coming to any definite conclusions, but at this early stage it looks like a couple of young people were caught up in a perverse attraction to each other and pointless mass murder, and all that was brought together in a plan for a Valentine’s Day massacre.
Thankfully, some as-yet-unnamed responsible person got wind of the plan and alerted police, who seem to have responded appropriately.
What I find interesting is Brennan’s statement that the police don’t consider this a terrorist plot.
A couple of people shooting up a shopping mall is undeniably terrifying. But the word “terrorism” has morphed away from simply meaning “stuff that terrifies people” and into a specific subset of terrifying stuff: scary shit that’s done by radical Islamists. Nothing else is now considered “terrorism.” The people of Moncton were clearly terrorized by Jason Bourke’s rampage, but Bourke wasn’t charged with any terrorism-related crimes. James Eagan Holmes shot up a Colorado movie theatre, killing 12 people and wounding dozens, but that wasn’t considered terrorism. Adam Lanza killed a room full of five-year-olds, but under our limited definition he was just a deranged person, not a terrorist.
Limiting the definition of “terrorism” to only “scary shit done by radical Islamists” serves a social function. Namely, it allows the scary Islamists — a foreign, impossible-to-understand “other” that has nothing to do with our society — to be used for political purpose, an excuse to restrict civil liberties in the name of vigilance and safety.
But truly terrorizing acts are committed far more by people in our own communities who look like us than by scary Islamists, and this has always been the case. The biggest school massacre in North America was committed in 1927, when Andrew Philip Kehoe, upset about high taxes going into education, blew up a school in Bath, Michigan, killing 44 people, mostly children. The iconic terrorizing moment when I was growing up in the US was Charles Whitman’s random shootings from the Tower at the University of Texas in 1966, where he killed 16 people.
School shootings, mall mayhem, and other mass murder events at the hands of our fellow citizens have been with us for decades, if not centuries, and yet we’ve not allowed them to cloud our judgment. We’ve recognized them for what they are: horrible events, yes, terrorizing events, yes, but exceptions to our common day-to-day experience, not something that should stand in the way of a free and open society, a democratic society that values privacy and even unpopular dissent.
When Brennan said the plan to shoot up a Halifax mall wasn’t terrorism, and that the plan was “not culturally based,” I’m guessing he meant that the plot wasn’t the work of scary Islamists, but rather just some fucked up kids from the suburbs. It mostly seems to be kids from the suburbs that do this stuff — Geneva is the most saccharine suburb of Chicago, and Timberlea is a wide spot on the St. Margaret’s Bay Road, where middle-class parents can live within an easy commute of downtown and yet their kids can still ride ATVs out in the woods. By all appearances, the kids in these suburbs are “just like us,” and incapable of the narrow definition of “terrorism.”
By that narrow definition of terrorism, Brennan’s right. And even by a broader definition that includes kids from the suburbs doing fucked up shit, as terrorizing as it can be, we shouldn’t lose our heads. Bad stuff happens. We should be aware of it and, like the unnamed responsible intervenor in this case, step in when we can, but let’s not use terrorizing events as an excuse to turn back the free and open society we’ve built.
2. Sunday hunting
It’s illegal to hunt on Sundays in Nova Scotia, but that may change:
The Department of Natural Resources is considering lifting the ban that prohibits Sunday hunting. Currently, the Nova Scotia Wildlife Act states that, for the most part, no one is allowed to go hunting on Sundays. The exceptions are fur harvesting, bear snaring (both allow the use of firearms to dispatch animals in traps/snares), snowshoe hare snaring, and falconry. In addition, the Mi’kmaq have the right to hunt on any day.
Lifting the ban would mean that anyone with a license could hunt on Sundays
At first glance this seems like an antiquated blue law restricting people’s activities on Sunday so, they can give proper observance to the sky god. But the Sunday hunting ban has a very definite upside: people can hike in the woods without fear of getting shot down by yahoos.
The vast majority of hunters are responsible, but there are still far too many who go out in the woods, get trashed on Budweiser and shoot at anything that moves. I’ve heard hunters talk about “brush shots” —when they hear something rustling around in the brush and shoot at it, and they can find out later what they killed. The Sunday ban at least provides a bit of peace for non-hunters wanting to enjoy the woods.
I was hoping the public consultations on overturning the Sunday hunting ban would involve a bunch of shotgun-wielding, plaid-jacketed woodsmen sitting in small groups and scribbling on sticky notes, with a “facilitator” using rhyming couplets and woo-woo music so as to make sure the woodsmen were properly sedated and not, you know, blasting the hell out of a conference room. But, alas, the consultation is entirely online.
Halifax Regional Police is requesting the public’s assistance finding the owner of a large sum of money found in Dartmouth earlier this week.
On February 9, officers responded to a Dartmouth thrift store [Value Village] after an employee located several thousands of dollars hidden inside a bundle of folded drapes. The money was contained within several sealed envelopes and the information inside indicates that the money would have been withdrawn in 2006 from a Guysborough County bank. Officers followed up with the bank, but given the time since the withdrawal, it was not possible to obtain more information on the owner. It is believed that the drapes were donated sometime in January 2015 in Nova Scotia but it is impossible to determine where the donation was made as the store buys donated material in bulk.
The owner or anyone with information regarding the owner is asked to contact Halifax Regional Police at 902-490-5016. In order to claim the money, the person must be able to specify the amount of money and in what denominations, and the bank or bank account number.
The most remarkable thing about this story is that the undoubtedly poorly paid Value Village employee turned the money in.
4. Free lice
Katy Hines wants to turn the Sullivan Pond area into a scarf giveaway Sunday, reports CBC:
“If we can have a scarf tied around the tree then the people who are cold can come and grab one whether it’s because you don’t have a scarf or have no access to warm clothing — or even if you’re late for the bus, it’s for everybody.”
Hines was inspired by similar events happening in Charlottetown, Winnipeg and Regina.
I know these sort of playful urban exercises are all the rage nowadays, and I know I’ll catch grief from readers for saying this, but I find them tedious. That’s not to single Hines out; there are a whole range of these games, from the red swings to the etch-a-sketch dealy on Barrington Street to putting completely useless umbrellas around town to painting intersections and so forth. I mean, sure, whatever, have fun, but can’t we have a grown-up city and a decent urban fabric without infantilizing the citizenry?
Also, too, wash those scarves in hot, hot water. This is prime lice season.
Next winter I’m going somewhere warm.
1. Fire hydrants
Social media yesterday had great fun with Halifax Water’s refusal to make public a map of fire hydrants. Such a map would help people find hydrants buried under snowbanks so that public service-minded citizens could dig them out, but Halifax Water says making that info public would assist terrorists. Because we have to be afraid of everything, you know.
But of course anyone with a pair of eyes, or even one eye, can simply see the hydrants. And after Andrew Bourke started a google map of hydrants in Halifax, lots of people joined in on the crowd-sourced effort. So far it looks like this:
Readers can add to the map, if they wish. I added a couple of hydrants, using Google Street View to find them, and tweeted out screen shots of the Street View photos of hydrants in front of Province House, the police station, City Hall, and other public buildings, jokingly saying I was assisting the terrorists.
And then Stephen Archibald, who notices everything, noticed that some of the hydrants I was tweeting about are in the exact same spot as hydrants he’s seen in 19th century photographs. Take for example this Google Street View photo of the hydrant outside Province House:
And compare it to an 1871 photo of the same street corner:
“I don’t know much about hydrants or the city water system but it is perhaps not surprising that locations would remain the same over time,” writes Archibald. “It is appropriate to acknowledge these little pieces of our infrastructure that we ignore until our house catches fire.”
As for Halifax Water’s secrecy, the prevailing Twitter wisdom, first articulated by Peter Ziobrowski, is that the reluctance to publish a map of hydrants probably doesn’t have much to do with the laughable terrorist concerns the utility cited, but rather a worry that a map would reveal inadequacies in the system. That’s just speculation, but a citizen-produced crowd-sourced map might allow us to test the theory.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Let me start by stating that I do not know Martin Turpel and I am not related to him by blood or marriage. However, I have driven trucks, and still do, for over 56 years.
I lived for a time in Toronto and a much longer time in Ottawa where they passed the same bylaw, but at least Ottawa grandfathered it for the drivers that had been taking their trucks home for years. If Truro is trying to emulate the big cities it would be so ludicrous as to be hilarious.
Yes, in the past all trucks were quite noisy; some extremely so. I would start up my truck to warm it up and could hear it through the wall of my house. Not anymore! The truck I have been driving is a newer model and I cannot hear the idle sitting by the window next to my driveway. Exhaust emissions have also been greatly reduced in the past 10 years.
May I respectfully suggest that council look into this if they do not have the age-old perception that truck drivers are mostly uneducated, ignorant, foul smelling, disheveled, bar room brawling orangutans. Maybe a couple should take a drive in one of these newer model trucks to see for themselves if they would like to be perceived as being fair. Some, no doubt, would not want to be confused by facts.
You are allowing someone, who I suspect has a personal issue with Turpel, to have you do his/her dirty work. How come it has taken some 10 years to enforce this bylaw and since he has been the only one charged, is this not discrimination? This bylaw should be amended exempting vehicles less than five years old and Turpel should be grandfathered.
Gary Schofield, Brookfield
Not noticing anything today.
In the harbour
NYK Meteor, container ship, to Fairview Cove
Have a good weekend.