Where to buy your weed

Cannabis will be sold legally in NSLC stores starting at 12:01AM on Wednesday.  I never thought I’d see the day.  And I’ll give credit where it’s due: after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were elected I said marijuana legalization was probably the only thing I agreed with them about, and the Dauphin actually kept his promise.  (Supporters of electoral reform weren’t so lucky.)

Of course they won’t have a full supply ready for October 17, because government.  Private dispensaries, meanwhile, are being raided.

Tomorrow twelve NSLC stores will be selling cannabis: two in Halifax and one each in Amherst, Dartmouth, Lower Sackville, New Glasgow, Sydney River, Truro, Yarmouth, New Minas, Bridgewater and Antigonish.  Online sales through the NSLC will also be available.

According to NovaNewsNow, you the legal aid for buying and possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana in Nova Scotia will be the same as the drinking age: 19 years.  If you’re 18 or under, or if you provide the demon weed to a minor, you can still face criminal charges.   Smoke-free rules apply to marijuana just like tobacco, so bad news for Haligonians looking to toke in public.

And if you want to enter the United States, admitting your marijuana use could get you barred from the country.   Eight states and Washington, DC beat Canada to legalizing it for recreational use, but the drug war continues on a federal level.

I’m not going to encourage people to go out and smoke marijuana, but in my two decades or practicing law I haven’t seen it destroy lives the way alcohol does.  I think regulating it and taxing it makes much more sense than waging a futile war against it.

And now, some celebratory music:

Jaguar’s all-electric future

In an age where Tesla outsells Mercedes-Benz in the United States, and with Jaguar trying to differentiate itself from other luxury car brands, I think this is an intriguing idea:

According to Autocar, company product planners have laid out a yet-unapproved strategy that would see the marque shed all gas-powered vehicles within the next decade. The inspiration for this plan is rooted in anger — specifically, that of Tata, JLR’s Indian owner. Tata doesn’t like how sales are trending, especially in light of its recent investments.

Reportedly, planning is at a fairly advanced stage. The outline of the strategy would see the flagship XJ convert to a full EV in the next couple of years (a plan already well advertised), with the XE and XF sedans bowing out in 2023. Their replacement would be an electric crossover slightly larger than Audi’s E-Tron, which would show up around 2025 — the same time as the phase-out of the F-Pace and E-Pace crossovers. There’ll also be a new I-Pace EV crossover (due in the U.S. this fall) appearing at this time. A new range-topping utility vehicle, the J-Pace, will launch for 2021 and enter retirement around 2027.

As for the F-Type sports coupe and convertible, it won’t make it halfway through the coming decade. No direct replacement is planned. Just to reiterate, this plan has not received a go signal from JLR.

Were JLR to pull the trigger, execs imagine a near future where Jaguar, with four or five models available, captures a large slice of Europe’s burgeoning premium EV segment. Other markets, China being at the top, could prove receptive as well.

Might work, as long as the Prince of Darkness isn’t involved.

Literally Hitler

Der Fuehrer never had any children that we know of, but he does have some great-nephews now living in the United States.  And the oldest of them is a Never-Trumper:

Alexander Stuart-Houston, 68, is the great-nephew of Adolf Hitler. He was born in Long Island in New York State.

[…]

During the interview, Mr Stuart-Houston — whose middle name is Adolf — revealed he was a Republican voter, but that he was not a fan of the current President.

“The last person I would say I admire is Donald Trump. He is definitely not one of my favourites,” he told Bild.

“Some things that Trump says are all right … It’s his manner that annoys me. And I just don’t like liars.”

Everybody, and I mean everybody, has at some point been compared to Hitler during an online argument.  When it happens to Stuart-Houston he can respond, “you have no idea.”

(via The Daily Chrenk)

Harvard Prof: Abort the Court as a Last Resort

Me: Okay, liberals, you lost on the Kavanaugh thing.  It’s important that you keep your wits about you, regroup and not get too crazy.

Vox:

I reached out to Mark Tushnet, a law professor at Harvard University, to talk about the case for abolishing the Supreme Court.

Tushnet, taking a position I’m absolutely sure he held before Justice Kavanaugh was sworn in, seriously argues against the very idea of judicial review:

…as a matter of basic democratic principle, the people ought to be able to consider policies and then vote on them without having the courts step in and say “no.” So from a democratic point of view, it’s hard to justify allowing the courts to single-handedly overrule popular will whenever they choose.

Here in Canada that’s why we have section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, aka the “notwithstanding clause.”  And in Quebec it’s working out just great for vulnerable, marginalized groups.

I can’t say I’m happy with American politics at the moment.  But please, Democrats, spare me your whining about rules you were perfectly okay with when you were winning.

UPDATE: you will not be remotely surprised to know Tushnet felt differently when he thought Hillary was going to win.

When Sears sold houses

As the once-mighty Sears retail empire faces bankruptcy, the 99% Invisible podcast features the houses Sears once sold through its mail-order catalog.  Yes, houses.

built-by-customers

From 1908 to 1940, the Sears Modern Homes Program offered complete mail-order houses to the would-be homeowner — what would come to be called “kit homes.” Customers could select from dozens of different models in Sears Modern Homes Catalog, order blueprints, send in a check, and a few weeks later everything they needed would arrive in a train car, its door secured with a small red wax seal (just like the seal on the back of a letter).

This seal was to be broken on arrival by the new owner, who would open up their boxcar to find over 10,000 pieces of framing lumber, 20,000 cedar shakes and almost everything else needed to build the home — all the doors, even the doorknobs.

The lumber came precut, kind of like a giant Ikea set, along with an instruction booklet. Sears promised that, working without a carpenter and only rudimentary skills, a person could finish their Sears mail order home in less than 90 days.

[…]

Then, in 1911, Sears began offering mortgages to their customers. Like everything else, they made these easy — maybe too easy. The Sears home mortgage program started out as one of their keys to success. In lowering the barrier to entry, it had allowed Sears to sell far more kit homes far faster than any of its competitors. But when the Great depression Hit, things got ugly fast. The company ended up foreclosing on tens of thousands of its very own customers. It was a public relations disaster.

After years of declining sales, Sears would finally close its Modern Homes department in 1940. A few other kit home manufactures — ones that hadn’t sold mortgages — survived, but the Sears kit home boom was over. Then came World War II, and with it, the next modern housing boom, featuring the rise of the suburbs and the prefab home — the kinds of homes we know today.

Once largely forgotten by history, historians and architecture enthusiasts are tracking down Sears homes that are still standing all over America – many of whose owners have no idea their houses came from a catalog.  There’s an outside chance some of them may have had Allstate compact cars, also sold by Sears, in their driveways.

Sears didn’t come to Canada until long after it closed down its mail-order house program, but a company called Aladdin Homes filled the void.

Life imitates ‘Calvin and Hobbes’

Then:

academia-billwatterson

Now:

The three academics call themselves “left-leaning liberals.” Yet they’re dismayed by what they describe as a “grievance studies” takeover of academia, especially its encroachment into the sciences. “I think that certain aspects of knowledge production in the United States have been corrupted,” Mr. Boghossian says. Anyone who questions research on identity, privilege and oppression risks accusations of bigotry.

Beginning in August 2017, the trio wrote 20 hoax papers, submitting them to peer-reviewed journals under a variety of pseudonyms, as well as the name of their friend Richard Baldwin, a professor emeritus at Florida’s Gulf Coast State College. Mr. Baldwin confirms he gave them permission use his name. Journals accepted seven hoax papers. Four have been published.

[…]

Affilia, a peer-reviewed journal of women and social work, formally accepted the trio’s hoax paper, “Our Struggle Is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism.” The second portion of the paper is a rewrite of a chapter from “Mein Kampf.” Affilia’s editors declined to comment.

[…]

One hoax paper, submitted to Hypatia, proposed a teaching method centered on “experiential reparations.” It suggested that professors rate students’ levels of oppression based on race, gender, class and other identity categories. Students deemed “privileged” would be kept from commenting in class, interrupted when they did speak, and “invited” to “sit on the floor” or “to wear (light) chains around their shoulders, wrists or ankles for the duration of the course.” Students who complained would be told that this “educational tool” helps them confront “privileged fragility.”

Hypatia’s two unnamed peer reviewers did not object that the proposed teaching method was abusive. “I like this project very much,” one commented. One wondered how to make privileged students “feel genuinely uncomfortable in ways that are humbling and productive,” but not “so uncomfortable (shame) that they resist with renewed vigor.” Hypatia didn’t accept the paper but said it would consider a revised version. In July it formally accepted another hoax paper, “When the Joke Is on You: A Feminist Perspective on How Positionality Influences Satire”—an argument that humor, satire and hoaxes should only be used in service of social justice, not against it.

A hopelessly tainted nomination

Usually, when a person accuses someone else of misbehavior, the accuser bears the burden of proof.  That’s one of the fundamental principles of the justice system, and one that supporters of American Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have raised to defend him from allegations of sexual misconduct.

However, Benjamin Wittes, writing for The Atlantic, says it is the accused who bears the burden of proof this time:

… in this endeavor, Kavanaugh himself bears the burden of proof. This sounds like unjust ground to stake out in a society in which the accused is innocent until proven guilty. But in practical terms, Kavanaugh is the one who has to persuade the marginal senator to vote for him. He is the one who has to give Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski enough confidence in him that they can vote to confirm believing they can defend their actions to a legion of angry voters. It is he, not Ford, who needs to count to 50.

The injustice, in fact, is largely optical. The question before us, after all, is not whether to punish Kavanaugh or whether to assign liability to him. It’s whether to bestow on him an immense honor that comes with great power. Kavanaugh is applying for a much-coveted job. And the burden of convincing in such situations always lies with the applicant. The standard for elevation to the nation’s highest court is not that the nominee established a “reasonable doubt” that the serious allegations against him were true.

[…]

It is, I know, a hard thing to ask of a nominee not to take a win, to go forward with the nomination only if he can prevail with no asterisks. But the last thing the court needs right now is asterisks. It’s bad enough that party caucuses in the political branches generate ideologically distinctive camps on the Court across contested political issues. It’s bad enough that Americans fight over courts in terms that don’t even pretend to honor the idea of law as a discipline independent of politics. Do we really want justices forced into office on party-line votes with pending questions of misconduct in the run-up to elections? That’s a question for Collins, yes, but it is also a question for Kavanaugh whether he wants to be such a justice. I think it reasonable to ask Kavanaugh to consider the circumstances of his confirmation, and the long shadow it might cast over his service.

Even if Kavanaugh is innocent, the damage is already done.  There is a cloud over his nomination that will never be dispersed to everyone’s satisfaction, and the Supreme Court of the United States – already viewed as a heavily partisan institution with “Republican” and “Democratic” wings – may lose whatever legitimacy it has left, especially when the opportunity arises to deal with abortion or other women’s-rights issues.  If you think things are tense now, imagine Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas joining the majority in a 5-4 decision reversing Roe vs. Wade.

As an aside, none of this likely would have come out had Kavanaugh not accepted President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court.  He would continue to serve on an appellate court with his personal reputation intact.

Has anyone ever made a deal with Donald Trump and come out better off?

 

Don’t panic (yet) about 3D-printed guns

“Ready or not: U.S. unleashing 3D-printed ‘ghost guns’ for the entire internet,” bellows a typical headline on the Global News website, in response to the U.S. Department of Justice settling a case against anarcho-libertarian firearms activist Cody Wilson:

The era of the untraceable, undetectable, 3D-printed gun is almost upon us, and it’s not going to respect international borders.

That’s the concern critics are raising ahead of Aug. 1, when the U.S. will allow plans for the “Liberator” plastic pistol to be posted online for anyone to download. The previously banned weapon can be made using a nail, a bullet, and a 3D printer, and is said to be untraceable and invisible to metal detectors.

These so-called “ghost guns” are a potential nightmare for law enforcement, especially for countries outside the U.S. where the release is coming as a surprise.

Plans for the American-designed gun were originally posted online in 2013, but the U.S. State Department ordered them to be taken down on the grounds that they might be used to make weapons outside the United States.

The Trump administration reversed that decision last month, in an unexpected settlement allowing designer Cody Wilson to publish the plans on his company’s website.

However, it remains to be seen what that “age” will look like, especially since the settlement does not restrict Wilson from sharing the plans with non-Americans on the internet.

First of all, we’ve been living in “the era of the untraceable, undetectable, 3D-printed gun” for years already.  It’s not even August 1, 2018 as I write this, but it took me literally one Google search to find plans for Wilson’s “Liberator” gun, easily available for download.  (Now I’m probably on a list or something, but I do it for you, readers.)

More importantly, when you get further into the Global News story, you come to realize that the “Liberator” is more of a threat to its potential users than anyone in its sights:

…the current design is fairly brittle and inefficient.

The Liberator only fires one bullet before it needs to be reloaded, making it a poor choice for a potential mass shooting. The plastic components are also known to melt after firing the first few bullets.

“It’s not a good gun,” said Dr. ginger coons, who worked on the U of T project as a PhD student in 2013. Coons, who does not capitalize her name, is now a design researcher based in the Netherlands.

She says Wilson, a self-professed libertarian, was trying to test the Second Amendment with the original design.

“It’s more of a thought experiment than a gun,” coons told Global News.

She added that the weapon must be made with a high-end printer and special plastic to function properly, and that printing a Liberator with a low-end printer would be dangerous.

She suggests it would be cheaper to build a gun from scratch using materials from the hardware store.

Canadian 3D-printing expert Kerry Stevenson says hobbyists have been tinkering with plastic gun designs for years, but most tend to be costly and fragile.

“You can make a shot or two,” Stevenson, editor of the Fabbaloo enthusiast blog, told Global News reporter Abigail Bimman. “It’s just not a practical weapon.”

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives posted a test video of Wilson’s Liberator design in 2013, in which the gun can be seen disintegrating into pieces after the first shot.

Wilson, for his part, intends to release the plans for a 3D-printed AR-15.  You’re on notice, Darwin Awards.

That doesn’t mean something more usable and deadly won’t come along as the technology improves.  But as gun enthusiast Stephen Gutowski notes on Twitter, the American firearms landscape really won’t change much at all tomorrow.  I leave it to you to determine whether that’s a good thing.

NPR’s excellent Planet Money podcast profiled Cody Wilson earlier this year.  He comes across pretty much exactly how you’d think.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/577744111/577796164

Good lawyering, bad PR

“MGM resorts sues victims of Las Vegas massacre”: the headlines sound downright dystopian, and the social media reaction is pretty much what you would expect.

But in context, the company’s move makes sense.

MGM, owners of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino, are being sued for their alleged negligence in inadvertently providing a shooter’s nest for Stephen Paddock, who massacred dozens of people at a country music festival last October.   The company’s response is to seek a declaration in federal court that anti-terrorism legislation shields them from liability:

The company cites a 2002 federal act that extends liability protection to any company that uses “anti-terrorism” technology or services that can “help prevent and respond to mass violence.”

In this case, the company argues, the security vendor MGM hired for Route 91, Contemporary Services Corp., was protected from liability because its services had been certified by the Department of Homeland Security for “protecting against and responding to acts of mass injury and destruction.”

The lawsuits argue that this protection also extends to MGM, since MGM hired the security company.

They do not seek money from the victims but do ask that a judge decide if the 2002 act is applicable, and if so, determine that future civil lawsuits against the company are not viable.

Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for MGM Resorts, released a statement about the litigation Monday.

According to the statement, “The Federal Court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution. Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing.”

Is the company correct?  Beats me.  That’s for a U.S. Federal Court to decide.   But just because a company – even a company involved in the morally dubious business of gambling – is facing lawsuits from sympathetic defendants doesn’t meant they’re legally in the wrong.

It’s understandable if many Americans, who can’t seem to make any headway in fighting the gun lobby and curtailing their country’s firearms culture, want someone to be punished.  And maybe MGM does indeed bear some liability.  But they are entitled to press their case to the greatest extent allowed by law.