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Not a substitute for a seatbelt

Russian model Irene Ferrari—owner of Russia’s largest breast implants, according to Pravda—involuntarily used one of her assets as a shock absorber during a flight from Moscow to Zurich while traveling with an unnamed Swiss air carrier.

Turbulence is normally of the convective, vertical variety, so it’s not a massive deceleration that would cause 29-year-old Ms. Ferrari to meet the seatback in front of her.  It seems rather more likely that her abnormally high center of gravity renders her inherently unstable.  When subjected to rapid vertical or lateral movements, she would (in nautical parlance) be more prone to rolling or capsizing than a vessel whose CoG was closer to (or below) the waterline.  Her onboard gyroscopes and inertial reference systems might not be able to compensate quickly enough to avoid a regrettable buckling along the Y-axis, causing face or torso to meet seatback.  A not entirely sympathetic judge might decide this is something of a self-inflicted condition.

…During a Moscow-Zurich flight the plane experienced some strong turbulence and the model hit the back of the chair in front of her with her breast.

The silicon breast worked like airbags. Doctors said that if it was not them, Irene would be spending some time in a hospital with broken ribs. She only got some bruises and strong pain in her left breast. When in Moscow, the model felt so sick she had to go see a doctor.

— “Proud owner of Russia’s largest silicon breasts sues airline.”  Pravda, 08 June 2010.

Remember now, airbags are only a supplemental restraint system.

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Peter Principle

Minister of State (Status of Women) Helena Guergis arrives to appear as a witness at a at commons status of women committee meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday March 15, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

So, the Hon. Helena Guergis, PC, MP is rude and has clownish would-be puppeteers on her staff.

Dump her, please.

You could always dual-hat someone else with a small portfolio.  Oda, Ablonczy or Yelich, for example.

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Passengers behaving badly: Hon. Helena Guergis, PC, MP

Helen Guergis (right), Minister of state for Status of Women, stands beside Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources, as they take part in a Walk For The Cure event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 17, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

On February 19th, junior minister Helena Guergis lost her cool after she arrived late for her flight, and was directed through the usual gamut of security screenings.  She proceeded to throw a tantrum, treating security screeners and airline personnel in an abrasive manner that would have had her barred from the flight, if she were anything other than a Minister of the Crown.  The details were unveiled in an anonymous fax sent to Prince Edward Island MP Wayne Easter (Liberal-Malpeque).

(I apologise in advance for quoting its entirety, but the letter ought to be read to be fully grasped.  No media account I have seen thus far manages to convey all of the details as soberly as the original author does.)

On February 19th at the Charlottetown Airport, Air Canada Jazz staff was informed via telephone that a certain “V.I.P.” would be late arriving for Air Canada Flight #7677 to Montreal.  The flight was scheduled to be in the air at 1725hrs with a flight load of thirty two passengers.

At 1720 hrs thirty of the thirty two passengers had already boarded the plane.  The two remaining passengers, Conservative MP and Minister of State for the Status of Women Hon. Helena Guergis and her aide Emily Goucher were at the Air Canada counter being so difficult and rude to Air Canada representative Alan Bagley that he almost refused to allow them to board to spite their “V.I.P.” status.  They berated him loudly and treated him in a most condescending manner after he told them some of their excessive bags were too large to be carry-on and should be checked.  At one point the Hon. Helena Guergis told Mr. Bagley that she “….knew Ron McKinley”. Apparently she wasn’t aware that as Minister of Transportation Mr. McKinley was not in charge of carry-on baggage, more’s the pity.

At 1720 hrs. inside the preboard screening area, five minutes before the time when the flight was scheduled to be in the air, Air Canada representative Sonja MacMillan paged both Hon. Helena Guergis and Ms. Goucher over the P.A. and after having waited considerably for them already, proceeded to the aircraft with her paperwork.

At 1725 hrs., flight time, Hon. Helena Guergis and Ms. Goucher started into the preboard area to be screened by the security staff.  When asked to remove her overcoat she compiled, but refused to remove her blazer, and when informed that her footwear might set off the walk through metal detector, she refused to remove them as well.  After proceeding through the metal detector, she alarmed it and was screened by Screening Officer Melissa Murnaghan.  She was asked to sit down and remove her footwear at this point due to the fact that they had caused the alarm.  At this point the Hon. Helena Guergis took a seat and huffily started to remove her footwear, upon their removal she slammed her boots into the bin provided by Ms. Murnaghan and then the Minister of State for the Status of Women said to Ms. Murnaghan, a single mother working to support herself and her son, “Happy Fucking Birthday to me!  I guess I’m stuck on this hell hole!”  Ms. Murnaghan, in a credit to her professionalism, did not reply to this comment, nor did the other screening staff on duty; Donald Wood, John Birt, Andrew MacEwan, Wanda Chinery, or Andrew Williams.  Ms. Murnaghan then put the footwear through the X-ray machine.

As the footwear cleared the X-ray conveyor, Hon. Helena Guergis then shouted at her aide Ms. Goucher to “Get those for me! I’m not walking around here in sock feet!.”

Having then cleared mandatory security screening without further incident, and having been handed her boots by her personal servant Ms. Goucher, Hon. Helena Guergis then attempted to force open the locked door that separates the preboard seating area from the apron, upon which Air Canada flight #7677 continued to wait.  Screening Officer MacEwan, closest to her, informed her that the door was indeed locked and that she would have to wait for the Air Canada representative (Sonja MacMillan) to return.  Hon. Helena Guergis then shouted across preboard to Mr. MacEwan “Well, can’t you call her or something!?”  Mr. MacEwan replied that no, he had no way of contacting the Air Canada representative while she was airside and that she would have to wait.  He also told her that passengers were normally requested to be at the airport at least two hours before flight time.  The Hon. Helena Guergis then shouted back across preboard to Mr. MacEwan “I don’t need to be lectured about flight time by you! I’ve been down here working my ass off for you people.”  Taken aback by this unnecessarily venomous response, Mr. MacEwan decided to end the conversation on his part.

Hon. Helena Guergis and her aide Ms. Goucher then decided that the best course of action would be to go to the eastern end of the preboard screening area and attempt to get Ms. MacMillan’s attention by screaming and hammering on the sound proof tinted glass that separates preboard from airside.

At this point, Sonja MacMillan returned from the plane, and being unaware of the commotion caused by the Hon. Helena Guergis and her aide Ms. Goucher, she processed them without further incident and allowed them to board Air Canada Flight #7677 to Montreal.  As they were being processed and allowed to board, Air Canada representative Alan Bagley entered preboard to see what the yelling he had heard way out at the counter was about.  Screening Officer Andrew Williams, during a security sweep of preboard, discovered two passports and tickets belonging to Ms. Goucher and Hon. Helena Guergis and gave them to Mr. Bagley who then returned them to Ms. Goucher and the Hon. Helena Guergis as they were finally headed towards their flight.

It is most unlikely anyone involved in this incident will be able to give statements or interviews “on the record”.

Due to the likely termination of current employment; Anonymous

— Anonymous letter to MP Wayne Easter.  Attached to report by O’Malley, Kady. “Helena Guergis’s Adventures on Prince Edward Island.” CBC News, 25 February 2010.

Mrs. Guergis has since realised what poison this is for her reputation, and apologised to Air Canada staff in particular and the people of PEI in general.  Take note that in her apology and public statements, she has not contested the details of the account.  Opposition MPs and assorted outraged citizens are calling upon Mrs. Guergis to resign, while the Prime Minister has said that he is satisfied with her apology, and that ends the matter.  Knowing the Prime Minister, however, I am sure the matter is not ended; he remembers it when people fail spectacularly—hello, Maxime Bernier!  No doubt the PM will recall this incident at the next Cabinet shuffle, and out will go Mrs. Guergis.

I’m not particularly upset over her behaviour unbecoming a minister, as it is a role with almost no substance whatsoever.  Before being granted the “Minister” nomenclature, it was known as Secretary of State (Status of Women), and the office-holder was in essence a glorified Parliamentary Secretary—neither sitting in Cabinet nor being a member of the Cabinet’s real centre of gravity, the far more influential Treasury Board.  This so-called “junior minister” portfolio carries with it the whopping bureaucracy of three staff, and no executive authority beyond that of a normal MP.  And as we have seen, it doesn’t even exempt one from having to go through the same meaningless security theatre as the plebs.

I understand that people will lose their cool every now and then; this is human nature.  But neither do I condone an absence of consequences.  If the Hon. Helena Guergis were an ordinary citizen, she would have been bounced from her flight, possibly detained by airport security, and (if they had any sense at all) informed by Air Canada that her business was no longer welcome, and they would be refusing any subsequent bookings by her.  Alas, the time for the first has passed, although there may still be time to file petty charges and have the airline declare her persona non grata.

If I were the Prime Minister, however, I would make it clear that Mrs. Guergis would indeed keep her job, but since she could not be relied upon to conduct herself appropriately at an airport, she must be relieved of the burden of going through airport security screening.  For the remainder of the government’s term of office, therefore, she would be placed on Transport Canada’s Specified Persons List and prohibited from setting foot aboard any kind of aircraft, civil or military.  In order to travel to her engagements, Mrs. Guergis could enjoy the leisurely pace of the railroad or—to go where the rails do not—Greyhound bus.

I’m sure my approval rating would skyrocket overnight.

But alas, I cannot think of any Prime Minister of the Dominion who would ever have the guts to do it.

Bras are deceptive and violate Islam

Once again Islamist hardliners prove that their religion is less focused on personal asceticism and rather more concerned with opportunities to live out improbable scenarios from Penthouse Forum:

A hardline Islamist group in Somalia has begun publicly whipping women for wearing bras that they claim violate Islam as they are ‘deceptive’.

The insurgent group Al Shabaab has sent gunmen into the streets of Mogadishu to round up any women who appear to have a firm bust, residents claimed yesterday.

The women are then inspected to see if the firmness is natural, or if it is the result of wearing a bra.

If they are found wearing a bra, they are ordered to remove it and shake their breasts, residents said.

…’Al Shabaab forced us to wear their type of full veil and now they order us to shake our breasts,’ a resident, Halima, told Reuters, adding that her daughters had been whipped on Thursday.

‘They  are now saying that breasts should be firm naturally, or just flat.’

Abdullahi Hussein, a student in north Mogadishu, said his elder brother was thrown behind bars when he fought back a man who humiliated their sister by asking her to remove her bra.

‘My brother was jailed after he wrestled with a man that had beaten my sister and forced her to remove her bra. He could not stand it,’ Hussein said.

— Mail Foreign Service.  “Whipped for wearing a ‘deceptive’ bra: Hardline Islamists in Somalia publicly flog women in Sharia crackdown.”  Daily Mail, 16 October 2009.

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Suaad Hagi Mohamud botched interviews

The Canadian woman who was stranded in Kenya for several months (previously talked about here and here) had problems identifying a local landmark, the full name of our local transit system, and the full name of her place of employment, despite living in this city for ten years.  Not to mention the birth date of her only son and the date of her first marriage.

That is rather profoundly incurious or scatterbrained.  My mother would die of embarassment if she found she couldn’t give my birth date and time, the name of the hospital, and other anecdotal details.  That level of stupidity or forgetfulness would be enormous, but in my experience wouldn’t necessarily exceed the average one can encounter in native-born Torontonians.

The point of interest—to me—is that no one in officialdom is claiming that the person in her photo ID documents (drive’s license, health card, passport) isn’t the person that showed up at the airport to board the plane.  That was the basis of her detainment by Kenyan security officials, after all.

So what we learn from these new details is that Suaad Hagi Mohamud is an ignoramus who can’t handle high-pressure situations.  And that once the High Commission started interviewing her, they didn’t focus on any sort of biometric discrepancies but rather her knowledge of local geography and day-to-day activities.

All of this suggests one thing to potential travellers:  If you can’t identify your only offspring’s date and circumstances of birth, the full name of the place you work, and the full name of your local transit system, leaving the country and going to places where members of your former nationality are routinely shaken down by airport workers seems to be a stupendously bad idea.

UPDATE: The Vancouver Sun has more details:

Paul Jamieson, the Canadian immigration officer who conducted the interviews, said despite having lived in Toronto for 10 years, Mohamud was unable to name any of the transit stops she would have used frequently, described the Toronto Transit Commission as the TTS and said it stood for Toronto Transportation.

She was unable to describe in any detail how she obtained her Ontario driver’s licence, could not name Lake Ontario or the current or previous prime ministers of Canada, the court documents allege.

Mohamud also provided the wrong birth date for her son and lacked details on the circumstances or place of his birth, Jamieson said. She also did not recognize a person listed as a reference on her passport application and had a different signature compared to her passport and immigration application.

She could not explain what she did for her employer, ATS, nor did she know the acronym stood for Andlauer Transportation Services, according to the affidavit.

The court documents also note a six- or seven-centimetre difference in height between the woman interviewed in Nairobi and the height indicated on the Ontario driver’s licence of Mohamud.

Toward the end of the second interview, the consular official said he “had begun to suspect” the woman he was speaking with was a slightly younger sister of Mohamud.

Jamieson said he reviewed the photo taken of Mohamud when she entered Kenya and was of the opinion her face was “considerably fuller” than the woman he interviewed.

While some previous media reports have suggested that questions about her passport photo was the main reason she was detained, the consular official said he could not reach a “conclusive assessment” on the photo alone.

“I was certainly not satisfied that the two women were the same, but I was also not satisfied that the differences could not be explained by factors such as aging or weight loss. In making my final assessment of identity, I therefore chose to afford the greatest weight to the results of the two interviews I had conducted with the person concerned,” Jamieson’s affidavit states. “In light of the subject’s numerous contradictions and admissions of ignorance, and her hesitant and evasive demeanour throughout the interview, I was satisfied the person in front of me was not the rightful holder of the passport.”

— Huber, Jordana.  “Stranded Canadian couldn’t name date, place of son’s birth, PM.” Canwest News Service, 29 September 2009.  [Emphasis mine]

Being generous and assuming that no sister switcheroo was being attempted, how do you not know how you got your driver’s licence?  Really?  And not knowing the details of your own job?  Having an interview with a skeptical consular official is no picnic, I am sure, but knowing that your right of return will be weighed against the answers you give, I think any reasonable person would try to give the most complete information that they could.

Travelling while being an idiot is not a crime, but based on what is known so far, it is hard to see how this incident could have had any different resolution than it did.

Passengers behaving badly: Miss Clare Irby


Unlike the male codfish, which, suddenly finding itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger sons.

— Wodehouse, P.G. Heavy Weather.  London:  Herbert Jenkins, 1933.

That prejudicial view is well-founded, apparently.  Once upon a time the plutocrats took it upon themselves to be decorous in public; those days are long past.

On March 26th Miss Irby, a descendant of the well-known Guinness clan, was a passenger aboard Kingfisher Airlines Flight 001, an Airbus A330-200 flying from Bombay to London.  She is alleged to have become drunk, publicly amorous with a fellow passenger (who was travelling with his girlfriend), and ignored her crying child, whose diapers had to be changed by the cabin crew.  The fellow’s girlfriend woke up, saw Ms. Irby and her boyfriend canoodling, and freaked out, causing the flight crew to request the Metropolitan Police attend the aircraft’s arrival.

Shivaneji Sharma, a flight attendant, told the jury Miss Irby had drunk three to four glasses of wine in the first 90 minutes of the flight and added: “Her speech was slurred. She was asking for more and more red wine.

“She had absolutely no clue about the child and the way she was behaving was not tipsy, but drunk.”

[Prosecutor Mr. Bill] McGivern said that at one point Miss Irby took off her skirt, revealing her black G-string, before changing into a pair of leggings in her seat in row 26 near the back of the aircraft.

…[Flight attendant Ms. Arpita Mehra] said: “She was travelling with her kid and she was not in a state that could take care of her child.

“The child was all on his own and was crying in the cabin. She was busy with the guest sitting behind her.

“They were having a conversation and getting personal with each other and the child was crying.

“The man was leaning forward and grabbing hold of her breast and they were kissing each other.”

…Saloni Khanna, director of the crew on flight number IT001, said that at one point she saw Miss Irby sprawled across four seats and added: “Her skirt had risen up to the waist and her underpants were visible. The child had dirtied his diapers and she wasn’t aware. I told the crew to take care of the child. “

After four hours the captain ordered his staff to refuse to serve any more alcohol to Miss Irby.

…Cabin crew director Saloni Khanna said Miss Irby stuck up her middle finger at her. [Defence counsel] Mr Saunders suggested she had just waved her hand, which she rejected.

The prosecutor said Miss Irby repeatedly pushed the button to call members of staff, and at one stage called one of them a “bitch”.

Miss Irby was arrested when the flight landed. A police officer believed that she was still drunk when he attended, the jury heard.

— Rayner, Gordon.  “Drunken socialite ‘stripped to her knickers and cavorted with fellow passenger’ on flight.”  Daily Telegraph, 14 September 2009.

Dirty diapers flung about the cabin?  Screaming child left unattended?  Passengers might be willing to forgive two drunken idiots trying to get it on, but awkwardly getting it on while your kid roams the aisles emitting high-pitched shrieks and visible stink rays?  She’s bloody well lucky to be alive, let alone charged and in custody.

UPDATE: Bystander at The Magistrate’s Blog notes that Miss Irby has been acquitted by a UK court, on the technicality that her moronic drunken behaviour occurred aboard an Indian-registered aircraft outside of UK airspace, thus it lacked jurisdiction.

Why Gwyneth Paltrow is annoying


Simple—it’s genetics.

A scientific analysis of her mom’s filmography has determined that Blythe Danner has historically been so tooth-grindingly annoying in every role I have seen her, that I invariably want to smack her in the face with a shovel.

So there was never really any chance that Gwyneth could escape inheriting the “SHUT UP for pity’s sake” gene.

RELATED: Gwyneth makes friends on the set of her new movie.

How to be a drama queen

Celebutard blogger Perez Hilton allegedly got into an altercation with security guards and of the Black Eyed Peas.  All of them being here in Toronto for the MuchMusic Video Awards.

Here are some of his tweets concerning the incident.

-I’m in shock. I need the police ASAP. Please come to the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel now. Please.

-I was assaulted by Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas and his security guards. I am bleeding. Please, I need to file a police report. No joke.

-Still waiting for the police. The bleeding has stopped. I need to document this. Please, can the police come to the SoHo Met Hotel.

-I spoke to my lawyer. I really need to talk to the authorities. Please come to the SoHo Met Hotel. Have called the police. Need them here.

I don’t know how big an idiot one has to be, to be an able-bodied adult with functional knowledge of how to use the telephone, but not enough knowledge to look up the number of the local police in the phone book.  Or even to call the fargin’ concierge of the hotel you’re staying at, and ask them to call the police.

This reminds me of the time my grandmother got chest pains in the middle of a weekday, and thought she was having a heart attack.  First she called her daughter, who was not home.  Then she called her granddaughter, who also was not home (people generally being at work at this time).  Finally she called a friend, and related her troubles.  The friend spent a half hour trying to convince her that it would be best to call 9-1-1, if one truly thought a heart attack was imminent or underway.  My grandmother was too nervous to contact the authorities herself, never really having much exposure to them.  So after a half-hour discussion the friend ended up calling 9-1-1 instead.  Ridiculous.

You may have guessed by now that it wasn’t actually a heart attack.

Now of course Grandmother got thoroughly lectured on how it is best to call emergency services directly if one thinks an emergency is underway, but it has made absolutely no difference.  She still calls everyone but the medics if she thinks she’s experiencing some calamity.  Although she sits no more than fifty yards from a nurse and has “attendant call” devices at her fingertips, she still calls every relative on speed dial first, and it’s up to one of us to call the nurses’ station and brief them on the situation.

Seems like Perez Hilton has a similarly impractical approach.

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Shorter Gilles Blackburn

It’s my fault for being a moron, skiing off-trail at a resort I had never been to before, and carrying no navigation or survival gear; but it’s your fault for not coming to bail me out before my wife died.

You know, for 300 bucks you can buy a GPS with 25-hour battery life, and for a hundred more you can add to it a digital topo map of the Canadian West.

For a lot less than that, you can get a paper topo map, a waterproof case for it, and a good compass.  And maybe matches.

If there is negligence involved in this case, one tends to think it is on the part of the unfortunate fella who took his bride off marked trails into a backcountry area where he did not know the local geography.  And did so without any basic navigation or survival equipment.

Having lived in Alberta or B.C. thirty years ago and skiied the Rockies a few times is no surety against getting lost.  The Rocky Mountains cover some 991,691 square kilometres across the continent.  No single individual is going to know every nook and cranny of such a vast area.

If you’re heading into what is for you unexplored terrain, good preparation and information from knowledgeable locals are not just a good idea, they are an absolute requirement for survival.

UPDATE 160139Z DEC 2011: The lawsuit against the ski hill operator was withdrawn, he settled with the volunteer SAR organisation, and the lawsuit against the RCMP is ongoing.