tradervancouver

Thoughts from a "gainfully unemployed" trader

Quora as a social experiment

 

About a week ago, I joined the next sensation sweeping the nation, Quora. It’s another futile effort on my part to remain relevant with the cool kids. At 46, you’d think I’d be past my high school angst by now, but you’d be wrong.

Anyway.

Because life is competitive, they have a “stats” page. This, like high school, let’s you know whether or not you matter on the social spectrum. Healthy! I’ve answered seven questions thus far, and they’ve ranged from life/relationships to, of course, trading.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed something peculiar. Can you see what I’m talking about?

quora1I’ll give you a hint: look at the top question, and look at the bottom question. My answer to the top question I rattled off in short order, and while I did silently pat myself on the back for some of the humor I managed to inject into it, it wasn’t a terribly thoughtful write. Conversely, the bottom question that I answered, I actually put some thought and heart into. I answered that question because I felt it was an important one – in my mind, certainly more important than what my recommendations were for options reading material.

But the people have spoken. They don’t give a shit about inspiring spouses! They want to trade options! Our partner’s happiness be damned! Bank coin! Bank coin! Bank coin!

Even a relatively ‘boring” (well, certainly not to me, and apparently 130 other geeks) post on understanding the delta of an option garnered 6 times the views.

The inquisitive part of me can’t help but wonder if there’s an observation to be made here on our social priorities. Granted, it’s impossible to know the gender, age, occupation, etc of the audience, but it does appear from this very small sampling of 1,000 views, that money related posts hold more social currency than life and relationship ones. If that is the case, then I am a bit troubled. Perhaps the individual priorities of many of us are out of whack. Are our significant others really getting the focus they should, and that they deserve? Are we spending enough time on ensuring we grow as healthy, balanced souls? Are we well-rounded, thoughtful, contributing members of our communities, and our society? Or are we hell-bent on trading the shit out of $SPY weeklies off the 5 minute?

Just a thought.

Either way, I’ll continue to answer questions that I feel I can answer intelligently, and that interest me…regardless if they’re popular with the cool kids, or not.

 

“How do you inspire your significant other?”

 

This was a recent question posted on Quora.com .

http://www.quora.com/How-do-you-inspire-your-significant-other/answer/Brian-C-Vancouver

This was my answer:

There’s a quote I saw a while back that seems like a good way to start this answer:

Never Forget, there are three types of people in your life:
1. Those who helped you in your difficult times
2. Those who left you in your difficult times
3. Those who put you in your difficult times

When we’re in a relationship, we’re in a team. Or, put another way, we’re now members of a very small gang.Where once there were two separate people, now there is one unit, which contains two people. Like any good gang, our job is have the back of our fellow gang member. Hmm. I see this rapidly deteriorating into street fights with lead pipes, neck tattoos, and prison time at Pelican Bay, so perhaps we should break from the analogy now.

The point is, two people in a relationship need to be able to rely and depend upon each other. That’s what breeds inspiration. Here are some ways we can do that:

1. Be on your partner’s side. Always. Maybe they’ve had a bad day at work, and messed up. Maybe they spent 40 minutes in the boss’s office getting ‘chatted to’. Even if your partner was maybe, sorta, probably, kinda in the wrong…stand by them. In all likelihood, they already know they were in the wrong, but they don’t need to hear that from their boss, and then their spouse. Be supportive, be compassionate, and be on their side. Because right now, they need you. Your job at that point, is to provide a safe place for them to land.

2. Lift them up, don’t bring them down. Life can be crummy enough at times, without having the one you trust the most adding to the crumminess. I’m reminded of the crabs in a bucket story:

One time a man was walking along the beach and say another man fishing in the surf with a bait bucket beside him. As he drew closer, he saw that the bait bucket had no lid and had live crabs inside.
   “Why don’t you cover your bait bucket so the crabs won’t escape?”, he said.
   “You don’t understand.”, the man replied, “If there is one crab in the bucket it would surely crawl out very quickly. However, when there are many crabs in the bucket, if one tries to crawl up the side, the others grab hold of it and pull it back down so that it will share the same fate as the rest of them.”


The point here is don’t be one of those crabs holding back the one trying to improve. Be your spouses cheerleader; remind them often how great they are. Tell them you’re proud of them. Encourage them, don’t discourage them. If they want to take a class, but are feeling less than confident, be the one to tell them they can, and should, take it. If they want to switch careers, but aren’t sure of your reaction, let them know you’ve got their back.

Back in 2002, after 9 years as a stockbroker, I left my job abruptly to begin a new career in the trades. My then wife at the time was not only supportive, but encouraging; that, despite her parents being unsure of their son-in-law’s decision. For a while, she was probably the only one on my side. Knowing she had my back made all the difference, and gave me the inspiration to be successful.

3. Listen. There’s a saying that goes something like this, “It was never my listening that got me into trouble“. We all want to be heard, and that’s understandable. Somewhere along the way though, we’ve stopped practicing the art of listening to one another. And your spouse, of all people, needs that. So be the person in their life that truly, really, listens to them. It costs you nothing, and doing so will give them a place to feel heard; and when we feel that we are heard, we get inspired.

So back to that opening quote, make it your mission to be the first type: the one who helps them in difficult times. Being a positive influence will bring more inspiration to your partner. You may find it also brings more inspiration to yourself, as well.

Good luck!

 

 

 

“What books are good to learn about options trading?”

This was a recent question posted on Quora.com .

http://www.quora.com/Which-books-are-good-to-learn-about-option-trading/answer/Brian-C-Vancouver?share=1

This was my answer:

That’s a great question. It can be overwhelming to know where to start.

I have two recommendations that I think will be more than sufficient to not only get you started, but carry you for quite some time. Options trading can be as simple – or as complicated – as you want to make it. If your goal is to be a successful trader, there’s no need to make it complicated; the market doesn’t reward complexity, nor does it care how smart you think you are. That said, if you’re a bit of a trading geek like myself, reading about, and understanding, some of the deeper nuances of options trading is “fun”. These books will keep you busy.

 

 

1. Option Volatility & Pricing, by Sheldon Natenberg. This is a comprehensive, and I’ll be frank, somewhat dry read. Even for me. That said, I’ve highlighted half the book, and have page markers and post-it notes throughout it. It’s a valuable book in my library, and I think of it as a textbook. There are 18 chapters covering everything from the basics of what an option is, to theoretical pricing models, to trading strategies. Odds are, you won’t read the entire book, as it won’t all be of interest to you (are you really going to be trading intermarket volatility spreads? And do you see yourself putting on a jelly roll anytime soon? – and yes, that’s really a thing; page 231.). That said, the book is loaded with examples and is nothing if not thorough.

2. Your Options Handbook, by Jared A. Levy. This is probably my favorite options book. It’s well written, meaning it doesn’t come off as a textbook, and it engages the reader. There are 11 well thought-out chapters, starting with Market Basics and Market Mechanics, which if you think about it, is a pretty logical place for an options book to begin. Huh. It breaks down trading strategies from the basic, to the slightly more complicated, to advanced, to advance advanced (I just made that term up, as it seems appropriate). But it also offers up worthwhile advice on other aspects of trading as well, such as “Top 10 things professionals do that the average retail investor doesn’t”; lessons that will serve traders well in all aspects of their trading, not just in options. And again, there are examples on everything throughout the book. It also goes into the topic of Risk and Money Management, which I think is paramount – something every book on trading should pay homage to. There’s a section on Trading Tactics, where the subject heading is, “Take Kibbles and Bits, Not The Whole Pie”. That gives you a feel for the style here.

 

Weird Stuff in the News…This Week – 03/21/15

 

Smelling like a bacon cheese burger…all the time, on purpose (video)

A “Chinese Driver” decal that’s apparently mostly offending…Caucasians

Free news for all! Because, apparently it’s our right

Rental car company crossing the line between helpful and pervy

Another week gone by, and another week that brought us plenty of news stories that make no sense, or at least very little.

 

As local TV anchor @sophielui tweeted earlier this week…

sophie 1My favorite quote of this article?

“I don’t think you should pay for news,” Eric, a 22-year-old Chicagoan, said. “That’s something everybody should be informed in. Like, you’re going to charge me for information that’s going on around the world?” And then there’s 19-year-old Sam from San Francisco: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”

 

Millennials say keeping up with the news is important to them — but good luck getting them to pay for it

The new report from the Media Insight Project looks at millennials’ habits and attitudes toward news consumption: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”
2,549
2,209

 

Most millennials don’t seek out news on social media, but the vast majority of them get news from social networks once they see it there, according to a report released today by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Only 47 percent of the millennials surveyed said consuming news is a major reason they visit Facebook, but 88 percent of the respondents said they get news from Facebook at least occasionally. 83 percent said they get news from YouTube on occasion, and 50 percent found news on Instagram. Next in line: Pinterest at 36 percent, Twitter at 33 percent, Reddit at 23 percent, and Tumblr at 21 percent.

“Simply put, social media is no longer simply social,” the report says. “It long ago stopped being just a way to stay in touch with friends. It has become a way of being connected to the world generally — to send messages, follow channels of interest, get news, share news, talk about it, be entertained, stay in touch, and to check in and see what’s new in the world.”

The study found that of those who get news from Facebook, 57 percent do so at least once a day; 44 percent said they did so multiple times per day. That’s a far more regular habit than other social networks induce: The once-a-day number was for 29 percent for YouTube and was 26 percent for Instagram. And Twitter? Just 13 percent of millennials said they use it as a daily source of news.

API_chart4

The report emphasizes that millennials don’t exclusively get their news only from Facebook or other social media. In virtually every news category included in the study, millennials said they have multiple pathways to find information.

The survey asked respondents how they accessed 24 different news topics, from national politics and government to style, beauty, and fashion. Facebook was either the number one or two source of information for 20 of the 24 topics, and in nine of those topics it was the only source cited by a majority of respondents. Search was the second most popular source of information, ranking first or second in 13 of the 24 news topics.

API_chart1

For hard news topics, like economic news or local crime coverage, millennials tended to look directly toward original reported sources for information, as opposed to looking on social media or through curated sources like Google News or other aggregators.

API_chart2

About 75 percent of millennials said they turn primarily to social media for coverage of lifestyle topics. 91 percent of millennials, for example, use social media as a primary source for coverage of pop culture and celebrities. 84 percent of respondents also said social media is a primary source for style, beauty, and fashion topics.

API_chart3

“There are also a few topics for which there is no favored path, or for which people use at least two of them equally,” the study says. “For instance, Millennials have no clear preferred path to news about science and technology. Social, curated, and reporting platforms are cited equally for these topics.”

The study found that millennials of all ages get news from various sources, but that their habits vary. More than half of millennials older than 30 describe themselves as mostly proactive consumers of news; only a third of millennials under 25 say the same. There was broad support for the idea that keeping up with the news had value — 85 percent of millennials surveyed said it was at least somewhat important to them.

Will they pay for news? From the report:

When it comes to paying for the news, 40 percent of Millennials report paying for at least one subscription themselves, including a digital news app (14 percent), a digital magazine (11 percent), a digital subscription to a newspaper (10 percent), or a paid email newsletter (9 percent). When subscriptions used but paid for by others are added, that number rises to 53 percent who have used some type of paid subscription for news in the last year.

Interestingly, this digital generation is more likely to have paid for non-digital versions of these products. For instance, 21 percent say they have paid in the last year for a subscription to a print magazine, and 16 percent for a print newspaper, rates that are higher than for digital versions of the same products.

API_Chart5

In addition to the broader survey data, researchers did deeper interviews with 23 millennials in three different locations around the country. Those interviews revealed a reluctance among some interviewees to pay for news online.

“I don’t think you should pay for news,” Eric, a 22-year-old Chicagoan, said. “That’s something everybody should be informed in. Like, you’re going to charge me for information that’s going on around the world?” And then there’s 19-year-old Sam from San Francisco: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”

 

Burger King to launch burger-scented cologne. Because, yeah – THAT’S what the ladies what…

Would YOU wear cologne that smells like fast food? Burger King to launch Flame-Grilled, a fragrance inspired by the Whopper… but it’s out on April’s Fools Day

  • Burger King Japan is promoting a new scent called Flame-Grilled
  • The limited edition cologne will be scheduled for release on 1 April 
  • The fragrance is retailed at 5,000 yen – around £27 
  • A single-day promotion includes a free Whopper with every perfume sale

Vegetarians look away. If you’ve ever craved the smell of fast food all day long, Burger King has come up with the ultimate solution with the launch of a new burger-scented cologne.

The cologne will supposedly imitate the signature aroma of the Whopper Burger, which consists of 100 per cent flame-grilled beef, freshly sliced onions, lettuce and mayonnaise.

The scent, which has been named Flame-Grilled, is set to be launched by Burger King Japan on 1 April 2015.

Burger King Japan's new cologne, 'Flame-Grilled' is set for launch on 1 April 2015

Burger King Japan’s new cologne, ‘Flame-Grilled’ is set for launch on 1 April 2015

Not for vegetarians: 'Flame-Grilled' will smell like the Whopper Burger: beef, fresh onions, lettuce and mayonnaise

Not for vegetarians: ‘Flame-Grilled’ will smell like the Whopper Burger: beef, fresh onions, lettuce and mayonnaise

‘Flame-Grilled’ will set you back 5000 yen – which comes to around £27. Pricey.

There will also supposedly be a one day promotion, whereby every customer will receive a free Whopper Burger with their purchased perfume bottle.

It’s apt that the release of the perfume would fall on 1 April (April Fools’ Day), and many have speculated that the ‘launch’ is in fact a global practical joke.

While many people are doubtful of the launch’s authenticity, the fast food chain insists that the upcoming release is not a hoax.

In fact, this isn’t the first time that it’s launched a fragrance. In 2008, Burger King unveiled a men’s spray, dubbed Flame, which was promoted as ‘the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broilled meat’.

Flame was only available online and in certain stores in New York, and was discontinued shortly after its launch.

Spoof Burger King advert for perfume set to become reality

April Fool's? While many people think that the cologne is a hoax, the advert insists the authenticity of the cologne and sees it retailing for 5000 yen, which is around £27

April Fool’s? While many people think that the cologne is a hoax, the advert insists the authenticity of the cologne and sees it retailing for 5000 yen, which is around £27

Are we ready for a pervy Rental Car Company? I think likely not.

 Hertz Puts Video Cameras Inside Its Rental Cars, Has ‘No Current Plans’ To Use Them

from the no,-really,-it’s-not-switched-on-yet department…

(techdirt.com)

Last week we wrote about the hypothetical situation of CCTV cameras being installed in every home. It turns out that this particular dystopia is closer than we thought: an article by Kashmir Hill on the Fusion site passes on the news that Hertz is putting cameras inside its rental cars as part of its “NeverLost” navigational system:

Hertz has offered the NeverLost navigational device for years, but it only added the built-in camera feature (which includes audio and video) to its latest version of the device — NeverLost 6 — in mid-2014. “Approximately a quarter of our vehicles across the country have a NeverLost unit and slightly more than half of those vehicles have the NeverLost 6 model installed,” Hertz spokesperson Evelin Imperatrice said by email. In other words, one in 8 Hertz cars has a camera inside — but Imperatrice says that, for now, they are inactive. “We do not have adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video at this time,” she said.

So why did it install them?

“Hertz added the camera as a feature of the NeverLost 6 in the event it was decided, in the future, to activate live agent connectivity to customers by video. In that plan the customer would have needed to turn on the camera by pushing a button (while stationary),” Imperatrice explained. “The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so.”

But of course, Hertz would hardly go to the trouble and expense of fitting its cars with this feature unless, at some future point, it did plan to use them. Morever, that future use might go well beyond “live agent connectivity”, as Hill rightly points out:

you could imagine camera mission creep, such as Hertz using it to capture video of what a trouble renter is up to in the vehicle, or to see who is really driving the car, or to snoop on a singing — or snuggling — driver.

According to the Fusion article, Hertz doesn’t seem to be telling anyone about the camera, on the grounds that the company doesn’t plan to use it, and so there’s nothing for customers to know. But if and when it does announce its presence, there will be precisely the problem Techdirt mentioned last week: that people in front of it would naturally be worried they were being spied upon — even if assured to the contrary — and would start constraining their speech and behavior.

“Chinese Driver” decals are back in the news here in Vancouver. Again.

Funny joke or racist stereotype? ‘Chinese Driver’ stickers spark debate

A car decal that resembles an ICBC new driver ‘N’ sticker or ‘L’ learner sticker is raising some eyebrows.


Lynda Steele and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Tuesday, March 17, 2015 6:00AM PDT

A car decal that resembles an ICBC new driver “N” sticker or “L” learner sticker is raising some eyebrows in Metro Vancouver. (editor note: ICBC is the governing drivers licensing body in BC, Canada. “N” stickers denote “new” driver, “L” stickers denote “learning” driver)

The yellow “C” stickers have the words “Chinese Driver” written underneath and they have sparked a debate: Are they meant to be funny or are they a racist stereotype?

Gary Menard was out walking his dog in Vancouver’s West Side, when he noticed the unusual sticker on his neighbour’s car.

“I just didn’t know quite what to think, whether it was a joke or an actual warning or what. It kind of caught me off guard,” he said.

He wondered why the driver put the sticker on their car and so did we. But no one was home at the house where the car was parked.

So consumer reporter Lynda Steele tracked down the store selling the controversial sticker, the Super Garage in Richmond’s Aberdeen Mall.

When she asked the retailer who was buying the stickers, she was told it was mostly purchased by Chinese people.

“But sometimes we also get Caucasians buying it because it’s funny,” said the retail clerk.

But not everybody felt the same way. All of the Caucasian people who were asked were offended by the sticker. But the majority of the Chinese people CTV News questioned didn’t feel the same way.

“It could be very light hearted. Maybe people are just trying to amuse people,” said Queenie Choo of S.U.C.C.E.S.S, a group that provides social services for the Chinese community in Metro Vancouver. “I don’t know what are the intentions are, but I don’t think there was any intentions to be racist.”

And since most people purchasing the sticker are Chinese, one UBC sociologist says it’s probably a form of gentle self-mockery meant to unite, not offend.

“Some would argue it actually increases solidarity because we all acknowledge there’s a stereotype, we’re okay with it because it’s not true, so we’re going to show you we don’t mind and we’re going to have fun with it. I think that’s the difference,” said Dr. Elic Chan.

But in an area like Metro Vancouver, where 43 per cent of the residents are of Asian heritage, Gary Menard thinks there’s no room for racial jokes, regardless of who’s making them, or why.

“It’s wrong to do the ICBC-looking thing, and it’s just not an area where I think we should be going,” he said.

Why I follow… @Scot1and

 

In life, Like tends to attract Like. You put out good energy, you will likely attract good energy back. I can’t recall which of us found each other first. We may not agree on every trade, which is to be expected. I do know his posts, process, and mannerisms are in sync with my own, and I place value his work.

Case in point, his blog post from March 17, 2015 – this is exactly how I think, too:

speculator 1

He understands the theory of Risk of Ruin. And that it doesn’t need to be complicated:

speculator 5

His charts are simple, concise and are clearly put together by someone that “gets it” – discipline to a process is everything:

speculator 2or this:

speculator 3I follow people that show they have a process, and a willingness to embrace that they cannot know what the market will do. Those are the traders that are unstoppable, regardless of whether or not their last 5 trades were profitable. Those are the traders that will be around in a year, or five, or twenty. And it’s exciting and motivating to watch them work. This can be a solitary business, and weeding out the noise, for the wise, is paramount.

Plus, his site disclaimer is fucking awesome:

speculator 4Follow him on stocktwits ( @Scot1and ) or on his blog at http://sostrading.blogspot.ca/

 

 

 

Failure turned Success

 

I recently answered a question that was posted on quora.com

The question was:

What are some examples of failures that eventually succeeded?

This question could easily be answered with a weighty novel because there are in fact, that many examples. But let’s look at just a few of the more interesting ones.

.
KFCHarland Sanders was beaten by his stepfather at 12, worked as a farm laborer, streetcar conductor, fireman, and sold insurance. He ran an unsuccessful gas station in his 30’s, and then a restaurant that he was forced to close when the highway changed. But not before he had rebuilt it from the ground up after a fire. Ouch. He didn’t get started on his road to success until he was nearly 65. He was essentially broke, and started banging on doors to sell his chicken recipe. He was turned down. A lot. One thousand and eight times, in fact. That’s a lot of rejection. I don’t know too many people that are willing to face rejection ten times, let alone hundreds, or even a thousand times, in a row. That’s persistence. Roughly ten years after that first rejection, he sold his company for $2,000,000. Apparently the chicken recipe was a good idea after all.

images

Post it notes – This is perfect example of an attempt at greatness that was an abysmal failure…and yet a spectacular triumph. In the late sixties, lab geeks at 3M were attempting to produce a super strong adhesive to be used in the aerospace field. Clearly, they failed miserably. But what they had inadvertently produced was a glue that not only could be peeled off a surface without leaving a residue, but that could also be reused. Still, initially no one saw the marketable usefulness of this – remember, these aren’t traits you look for when putting a plane together. Through a myriad of happenstances, it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that 3M realized they had something of great value, and the Post-It note was rolled out to the public. Fun fact: the reason they were yellow? It was just the available paper stock color they had lying around for those early test runs.

post_it_failure

Walt Disney – not everything Walt Disney touched turned to gold. He weathered bankruptcy at 22, and even his early films that we know and love weren’t smashing successes. On their initial screenings, Pinocchio and Fantasia each lost $500,000, and surprisingly, Bambi and Sleeping Beauty lost money as well. Some seeds just take longer to grow. Oh, and he was once fired from a newspaper because he, and I quote, “lacked imagination and no good ideas.” Enough said.

Edison and the light bulb – A teacher once told Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Almost everyone by this point knows the story behind his comically unsuccessful attempts to create the first lightbulb. But he also held over 1,000 patents, many of which were complete failures. Like…the electric pen. But despite his failures, they inevitably led to greater projects that did weave their way into the fabric of our society. As he said, he didn’t fail – he just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. It’s about perspective.

678px-Light_bulb_Edison_3

Dilbert – And finally, for a more modern day example, I would suggest you pick up and repeatedly read, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, by Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert). He gives an almost painful account of how many of his early failures, which include erroneous career paths, inventions, and a couple of ill-conceived restaurants, led to his current success. He also proves that you don’t need to be a master of one trade to be a success, but instead can be moderately good at a number of things, and simply combine them. He’s made a living out of being a passable artist, moderately funny and presenting decent writing skills. Those, combined with his business experience, have served him well. And he works hard.

7-biggest-lessons-dilbert-creator-scott-adams-learned-from-success-and-failure-giang-open-forum-embed

 

 

Weird Stuff in the News…This Week – 03/15/15

A town that’s banning bad behavior.

A state that’s banning climate change.

Another state that’s putting some zing back into the death penalty.

And museums that are being forced to regulate common sense.

This past week there were a few news stories that caught my eye, and either made me smile, or made me shake my head.

So without further delay, let’s get to it:

 

I have no issue with this one. Ban away!

Selfie Stick

Selfie sticks, the logical “extension” of an already irksome activity, were recently banned in Premier League soccer stadiums. Now museums around the world are starting to do the same over worries of accidental damage to artwork. The Smithsonian barred their use effective last week as a “preventative measure to protect visitors and museum objects,” especially on crowded days. Meanwhile, a formal ban is pending at Versailles palace and Centre Pompidou in France, and visitors are now being told to stow their sticks by guards at the Louvre. Both Pompidou and the Louvre will continue to allow regular photography and selfies.

The list doesn’t stop there. New York’s MOMA and Met museums, along with Washington DC’s National Gallery of art, the Getty Center in LA and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago have all laid down the banhammer. Seattle’s Museum of Art has also ruled them out, but a spokesman said it’s part and parcel of an existing tripod and umbrella ban, put in place to prevent accidental damage. Then she added the zinger that the rest of us were thinking: “There’s also the obnoxious factor.”

 

Idaho is considering bringing back executions by…

…wait for it…

…firing squad.

What could possibly go wrong?

 

 

firing squad 1Vote for firing squad shows frustration with drug shortages

By BRADY McCOMBS and LINDSAY WHITEHURST

Associated Press March 11, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY — A vote by Utah lawmakers to bring back executions by firing squad is the most dramatic illustration yet of the nationwide frustration over bungled executions and shortages of lethal-injection drugs.

Utah and several other states are scrambling to modify their laws on the heels of a botched Oklahoma lethal injection last year and one in Arizona in which the condemned man took nearly two hours to die. Meanwhile, Texas executed a Mexican mafia hit man Wednesday evening with its second-to-last dosage of drugs.

Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has declined to say if he will sign the firing-squad bill, a decision that’s not expected for a week or so.

“States are wondering which way to go, and one way is to send up a warning flag that if you don’t allow us freedom in this lethal-injection area, we’ll do something else,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. “This might be a message rather than a preferred route of punishment.”

States have struggled to keep up their drug inventories as European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment refuse to sell the components of lethal injections to U.S. prisons. The Texas deadline is the most imminent, but other states are struggling, too.

The Utah bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Ray, argues that a team of trained marksmen is faster and more humane than the drawn-out deaths involved when lethal injections go awry.

Though Utah’s next execution is probably a few years away, Ray said Wednesday that he wants to settle on a backup method now so authorities are not racing to find a solution if the drug shortage drags on.

He’s hopeful that the proposal will become law, saying he thinks the governor would have already announced his intention to veto it if that were his plan.

Opponents, however, said firing squads are a cruel holdover from another era and will earn the state international condemnation.

Lawmakers stopped offering inmates the choice of firing squad in 2004, saying the method attracted intense media interest and took attention away from victims.

Utah is the only state in the past 40 years to carry out such a death sentence, with three executions by firing squad since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The last was in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death by five police officers with .30-caliber Winchester rifles in an event that generated international interest and elicited condemnation from many.

The American Civil Liberties Union decried Gardner’s execution as an example of the “barbaric, arbitrary and bankrupting practice of capital punishment.” Religious leaders at the time called for an end to the death penalty at an interfaith vigil in Salt Lake City.

Three more death-row inmates who chose firing squad before the law changed would still have the option after their appeals are exhausted. If those executions go forward, prison authorities will choose the gunmen from a pool of volunteer officers, starting with those in the area where the crime happened, Ray said.

“We’ve always had a lot more volunteers than actually had spots,” he said.

Under the new measure, the method would be based solely on the availability of lethal-injection drugs, not an inmate’s choice.

Utah’s next execution probably won’t happen for at least a few years, said Tom Brunker, the state attorney who oversees capital cases.

One person nearing a possible execution date is Ron Lafferty, the longest-serving death row inmate who claimed God directed him to kill his sister-in-law, Brenda Lafferty, and her baby daughter in 1984 because of the victim’s resistance to his beliefs in polygamy.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled back in 1897 that death by firing squad was legal, Brunker said, but he expects a constitutional challenge if the bill becomes law and an execution is scheduled to use a firing squad.

“It has the potential to slow it down the first time it’s on deck,” Brunker said.

University of Utah criminal law professor Shima Baradaran said she doesn’t see a constitutional challenge succeeding because the federal government generally leaves capital punishment decisions to the states, and the firing squad has not been declared cruel and unusual.

State laws that allow methods other than lethal injection for executions are not unique to Utah. In Washington, inmates can request a hanging. In New Hampshire, hangings are the default method if lethal injection cannot be given.

Outside the U.S., 54 countries allow executions by gunshot, including China, Vietnam, Uganda and Afghanistan, according to Cornell University Law School’s Death Penalty Worldwide project. Of those, 41 countries allow full firing squads while the others do it differently, such as by a single bullet at close range. Only nine countries are known to have done a firing squad execution in the last decade, the school’s research has found.

Most Utah lawmakers are Mormon, but the firing-squad effort does not seem linked to any teachings or doctrine from the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon church takes a neutral position on capital punishment, and church leaders declined comment Wednesday on the measure.

During the mid-1800s, then-Mormon President Brigham Young promoted the practice of blood atonement, the idea that a person guilty of murdering an innocent person must shed his own blood as compensation, said Philip Barlow, a professor of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University.

But that school of thought was abandoned after Young’s death, and that part of church history is hardly known by most Mormons today, he said.

 

First rule of Climate Change…we don’t talk about Climate Change…

Florida Bans Employees From Mentioning Climate Change

March 10, 2015 | by Stephen Luntz

Photo credit: NOAA. Sea levels won’t have to rise far to put much of Florida underwater.

You might think a very low-lying state regularly smashed by hurricanes would be worried about rising seas and warmer oceans powering up bigger storms. If you think this, however, you would be entirely wrong. Because the state of Florida is not worried about global warming. Not a bit. And to show you just how not worried they are, they’ve banned any employee from the Department of Environmental Protection from even using the words “climate change” or “global warming.” Because nothing says lack of concern like censorship.

To be fair, the ban appears to have no official status. It hasn’t even been written down, and a spokesperson for the governor told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR): “There’s no policy on this.” However, as Tom Cruise reminded us in “A Few Good Men,” policies don’t have to be written down to have force.

Nor has governor Rick Scott explicitly expressed his disbelief in human involvement in global warming, saying “I’m not a scientist.” But when a group of scientists met with Scott, at their request, to explain climate science to him, he listened but asked no questions and gave no indication of a change of heart.

However, FCIR has had former employees, consultants and volunteers tell them the rule is understood in the department with 3,200 staff. “We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” attorney Christopher Byrd told FCIR. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

FCIR’s sources say the instructions go back to 2011 after Scott was inaugurated and appointed his own man, Herschel Vinyard Jr., as DEP director.

“It’s an indication that the political leadership in the state of Florida is not willing to address these issues and face the music when it comes to the challenges that climate change present,” said Byrd.

In some states, the effects of climate change may be hard to detect so far, but Miami Beach is now experiencing unprecedented flooding, drinking water stocks are being contaminated by salt and the state’s tourist-attracting coral reefs are dying.

Despite its abundant sunlight, Florida is lagging behind not just California and Nevada when it comes to installing solar power, but freezing Massachusetts as well, thanks to a lack of state support. The state has even made it illegal for homeowners to rely entirely on electricity they produce themselves.

In an echo of the more famous scene from the aforementioned film, it seems that Florida’s legislators can’t handle the (inconvenient) truth.

H/T The Guardian

 

An finally, in a cross between Footloose and every Stephen King book that features a creepy small town…

Taber, Alberta, outlaws bad behaviour with $75 fine for spitting in public and $150 for yelling or swearing

Bill Graveland, Canadian Press | March 10, 2015 | Last Updated: Mar 10 9:49 PM ET
More from Canadian Press

Taber town centre.

 TABER, Alta. — Do not disturb.

Or yell, or swear or spit on the sidewalk.

The southern Alberta town of Taber, population 8,104, which calls itself Canada’s corn capital, has brought in a bylaw to clamp down on bad behaviour.

But the fines may leave a bad taste in the mouth for anyone who breaks the law.

Reading like a page from the Old West, the bylaw includes a $75 fine for spitting in public and a $150 penalty for yelling, screaming or swearing in a public place. There are also limits on noise from bars.

The town’s “quiet hours” are between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“My personal reaction was well, it’s Taber. But my legal reaction was uh oh. I don’t think that’s going to pass muster with freedom of expression and freedom of association,” said Linda McKay-Panos, executive director of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre at the University of Calgary.

“I think it’s the culture of that place, but anywhere in Canada we have the protections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and [that includes] Taber.”

‘We’ve got crime and insurrection fought to a standstill’

The bylaw was put in place to “regulate and prohibit certain activities in order to prevent and compel the abatement of noise, nuisances, graffiti and public disturbances and to provide for a curfew for minors.”

Taber’s top cop has a sense of humour about the reaction the bylaw has elicited.

“We’ve got crime and insurrection fought to a standstill,” Police Chief Alf Rudd said.

“You know 57,000 tweeters in five minutes can’t be wrong … I see people are having fun with it and I can appreciate that, but if they’re thinking the Taber Police Service has the capacity to do the type of enforcement that’s being talked about, that’s not going to be happening.”

Ms. McKay-Panos, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Calgary, said the bylaw appears unconstitutional and would be unlikely to stand up in a court of law.

“Especially the part about swearing in public. If I’m walking down the street heading to a store and quietly swear to the person beside me, I could be caught by the bylaw,” she said.

“I think you could argue swearing is pretty close to the core of what we want to protect because it’s either self-fulfilling speech or it’s personal expression of an opinion. That is very closely guarded under the Constitution.”

Other aspects of the bylaw are also disturbing, added the law expert, who noted there is no definition of what a swear word is. She said there’s also a section that allows police to order groups of three people or more to disperse — which goes against freedom of association.

Chief Rudd said the bylaw is no different than a section in the Criminal Code about causing a public disturbance, and allows officers to deal with “momentary lapses in proper judgment.”

“The application of this law will be done with discretion, by experienced trained officers who are trusted in the community. If someone finds themselves charged under this section, I would guess it would be pretty extenuating circumstances.”

 

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