Archive for May, 2012

Quebec Students Win: What Happens Next

- May 27th, 2012

The Quebec student strike against the Charest government’s plans to increase tuition fees is over — and the students have won.

 

Oh, there are still meetings and negotiations and roadblocks and stumbles and flare-ups and shouting and tears and more marches ahead, but the path and the end result are now clear. It’s just a matter of getting there.

 

When student leaders and government representatives sit down at the negotiating table on Monday afternoon, there will be only two significant points on the real (secret) agenda: 1. Rolling back the planned tuition hikes and 2. Allowing Jean Charest and his government to save face by appearing to have not caved in to the Vietcong, I mean students.

 

Because this is Jean Charest’s Vietnam and he (through his minions) is negotiating a defeat, not a compromise.

 

There is a third item on the agenda — the repeal of the hated Bill 78 anti-demonstration law. But that won’t take more than a few minutes to wrap up because the Charest government knows it gambled and lost playing the tough guy and wants to make nice with the pot-banging electorate as quickly as possible.

 

Many, many things can go wrong in the next few weeks and the situation still has the potential to get very ugly. But if the student leaders and the Charest government both get what they’re after in the coming days, here’s what could — and probably will, at the end of the day — happen:

 

Both sides will claim victory because (for the students) tuition will be frozen or any increase will be just a token amount and (for the Quebec government) the $216-million-a-year savings the government would have reaped from the tuition increase  will still be found (they will say).

 

How can those two apparently contradictory outcomes be reconciled?

 

I certainly don’t have any inside line on the Quebec government’s thinking (nor would I want one, frankly; a gruesome locale) but I’ve seen enough cornered politicians scrambling for a bolthole to hazard a guess:

 

A tripartite commission composed of representatives from the student unions, university and CEGEP administrations and the Quebec government will be set up to find, oh, somewhere in the range of $216 million a year in savings from the province’s annual $4-billion-plus post-secondary education budget.

 

It really doesn’t matter what the actual dollar or percentage amount is or what, exactly, the deadline is for the commission’s report. Because it will all be for show, a way for Jean Charest to walk away from the table with head held high and his boyish, wavy locks (he’s getting a little old for that, don’t you think?) blowing in the breeze.

 

There will be a Quebec provincial election in the next year or so and, if polls are any indicator, there’s a very good chance that Jean Charest will not be the premier of Quebec after that election.

 

In which case, the Quebec budgetary deficit and student tuition fees and all the rest of that frappe will no longer be his concern. Charest will take a nice, long vacation before assuming his duties as Canada’s next ambassador to France.

 

If he’s unlucky enough to win re-election, well, commissions have a habit of having their report deadlines pushed back.

 

And that, kids, is the way I see it.

 

The best thing to come out of this situation? A new generation of tough, cool, articulate politicians seems to be emerging in the ranks of Quebec’s student leaders. Lucky them. Where’s Ontario’s crop of pot bangers? Sigh.

 

Welcome Home, Connie

- May 23rd, 2012

487px-Conrad_Black_mug_shot

So Conrad Black wants to be a real Canuck again.

 

The much-maligned mogul who spent most of the last half-decade incarcerated in U.S. federal prisons told the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge (in an interview aired, appropriately, on Victoria Day) that he would like to regain his Canadian citizenship — if the Canadian people are willing.

 

“I always intended to take my citizenship back when that was appropriate,” Black told Mansbridge. “I would have done it long ago if we hadn’t been interrupted by this nonsense in the United States.”

 

That “nonsense” was, of course, Black’s conviction on a plethora of fraud and obstruction of justice charges related to his business dealings a decade ago. At the end of a legal chain that led all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Black’s convictions ended up being cut back to one relatively minor count of mail fraud and one count of obstruction.

 

Black served his time and is back at his Toronto home in the Bridle Path-Post Road area now. But he’s here only on a temporary residency permit because he gave up his Canadian citizenship in 2001 in the culmination of a feud with then-prime minister Jean Chretien, who vindictively would not allow Black to accept an appointment to the British House of Lords.

 

Now, more than a decade later, Baron Black of Crossharbour wants to become plain old Conrad Moffat Black of Toronto again — at least on this side of the Atlantic.

 

Should we accept the return of the prodigal son?

 

I say yes, a thousand times yes.

 

Conrad Black has probably done many things worse than the two supposed abuses of which he was convicted in the U.S. He is a vain, blustery, arrogant elitist with bullying tendencies.

 

But so what?

 

How can we turn this guy down? He is unique, one of a kind, fascinating and — whether you love him or hate — you know in your heart he is truly Canadian.

The citizenship issue was just something that spun out of control in the middle of a nasty, ego-driven dogfight between two alpha males a long time ago. One of the dogs was the prime minister of Canada, so it’s not surprising that Chretien won the Canadian battle and Black had to limp off, waving his British peerage as a tattered flag of Pyrrhic victory.

 

In renouncing his Canadian citizenship, Black wasn’t saying “Screw you, Canada.” He was saying “Screw you, Chretien — you cheated but you’re not going to beat me.”

 

Then five years later he got into an even bigger fight with an even bigger government — the United States of America. The most powerful government in the world was hell-bent on Black’s destruction — and he survived. He paid a high price but he didn’t bitch and moan — and he survived. He has consistently maintained his innocence on all counts.

 

Yes, most of Conrad Black’s problems have been of his own making. But he’s always taken the heat, stood his ground and faced whatever adversity has come his way without flinching or complaining or looking for someone else to blame.

 

He’s a stand-up guy. He’s done his time. He’s an old dog who wants to rest for a while and lick his wounds. In Canada. The country of his birth. We should let him. You don’t really want to kick an old dog one more time, do you?

 

Besides, he does the Obnoxious Rich Guy so well, we would be fools not to keep him as our national champion on the world stage. Black has so much more class and breadth of spirit than vulgar chumps like Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch.

 

He may be a monster (I really don’t think so) but he’s our monster — and always will be. Let’s make it official again.

 

Robert Downey Jr.’s Greatest Sin

- May 18th, 2012

Robert-Downey-Jr

 

Robert Downey Jr. is one of the finest actors of his age, an electrifying presence on film and in person, a fearless and exultant celebrant of life and art.

 

On a personal level, he is brilliant, erudite and utterly charming — but always with a bad-boy edge of dangerous unpredictibilty.

 

He also spent much of his 20s and 30s on a kamikaze ride of drug abuse. He later said he was misdiagnosed as bipolar during that period because he was using crack cocaine in his psychiatrists’ washrooms while being assessed.

 

As a child, Robert Downey Jr. was a sick puppy. Really.

RDJ-Pound

His first screen appearance was in 1970 when, at the age of five, he appeared in his father’s absurdist comedy, Pound, about a group of animals (played by human actors) stuck in a dog pound overnight. Little Bobby had the role of a sick puppy.

Pound

Robert Downey Senior, as well as being a brilliant playwright and independent filmmaker, was also a drug addict and introduced his son to marijuana at the age of six. Junior later testified in court that he was a confirmed drug addict by age eight,  the beginning of his 30-year embrace of alcohol and drug use, overuse and abuse. Thanks, Dad.

 

As Downey’s personal life spiralled downward, his acting career climbed upwardly — from New York stage roles to the cast of Saturday Night Live to a variety of Brat Pack movies in the mid-’80s.

young_robert_downey_15

As a serious actor, his breakout role was in 1987′s Less Than Zero, in which he played a rich young drug addict in crisis. Downey said his personal life ran parallel to the film production but was “an exaggeration of the character.” Art just couldn’t keep up with life.

 

His film career bounced through a well-received stream of independent and semi-mainstream films with some  highs (Oscar nomination for Chaplin) and some lows (being fired as the voice of Satan on an animated TV series).

DowneyJrRobert-1997

The period between 1995 and 2001 was Downey’s lowest period, with multiple arrests on drug charges, stays in various jails and rehab facilities, and a slew of bad publicity that left him unemployable in films because no insurance company would post completion bond for any movie he appeared in.

robert-downey-jr-mug-2001

And then he cleaned up his act. He just got tired of being constantly messed up and took advantage of one last court-ordered rehabilitation stint. “It’s not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems — what’s hard is to decide to actually do it,” Downey told Oprah Winfrey a few years later.

 

(By the way, Robert Downey Sr. is now clean and sober like his son. And they remain close.)

Robt-Downey-Sr

From there, Downey’s film career resumed its upward trajectory with a mix of quirky, attention-gathering independent films and money-making Hollywood popcorn-churners.

 

And then came the pivotal year 2008 and Downey’s ascent into Hollywood pantheon of super heroes as Iron Man.

Iron-Man

The rest, of course, is history. Iron Man made almost $100 million its opening weekend and about $600 million in theatres before it was released on DVD, making even more hundreds of millions.

 

And critics loved Downey’s performance. The Rotten Tomatoes aggregate review website gave it a 95% approval rating. And, honest to goodness, one high-brow critic even said the film represented “American foreign policy realized without context.”

 

One thing led to another: Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man 2, Sherlock Holmes 2, and — ta-da — Marvel’s The Avengers.

Avengers-poster

The bloody Avengers. Bloody successful (biggest opening weekend in North America — ever). Bloody well received (93% Rotten Tomatoes rating). Bloody awful (in my opinion).

 

Why so glum, chum?

 

Because Downey has now made it not only acceptable but MANDATORY for the leading actors and actresses of our time, artists with the genius to splash the deepest despair and delight of the human spirit across the big screen, to become cartoon super heroes.

 

Those roles used to be reserved for blandly handsome/beautiful hack performers like Christopher Reeve and Linda Carter. Look super. No acting required.

christopher-reeve-superman

But just stopping eight-armed other-worldly villains and holding up collapsing bridges isn’t enough any more. The cartoon heroes now have to emote  — spill their psychological guts on the ground, actually — and make their suffering seem not only believable but somehow compelling.

 

Why couldn’t the world of cinematic super heroes be left to cardboard cutouts like Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans? Why did good actors like Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson have to be dragged into this quagmire of quasi-mythology? With multi-picture contracts, no less.

Ruffalo-Downey-Jr

Of course Downey and his hip/chic directors (Jon Favreau, Guy Ritchie, Joss Whedon)  aren’t the only ones fostering this abomination. Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale have done their part with the Dark Knight trilogy.

 

And Johnny Depp opened the door on this cool-to-be-a-cartoon hyperbaric chamber with his exaggerated, kohl-eyed pirate Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

johnny-depp-pirates-of-the-caribbean

But Johnny Depp, no matter how saucy and slinky, is simply not in the same league as Robert Downey Jr. when it comes to acting.

 

Downey has the ability to transform not only a movie but the way a generation sees the film experience.

 

However, instead of using that super power for good by dragging a brilliant, esoteric independent film’s viewership up by a few hundred thousand or a few million, he chose to make a deal with the devil and invest his talent in technically spectacular movies enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people around the world, but movies with all the real heft of a ping-pong ball.

Avengers-Iron-Man

That is Robert Downey’s Jr. greatest sin — not drug abuse or violation of all acceptable forms of human behaviour, but getting his personal act together just to infuse big-budget Hollywood spectacles with vaguely intellectual and/or artistic pretensions — and a mesmerizing screen presence.

 

He could have been a contender. He could have been Marlon Brando Jr.

marlon-brando-kurtz

Like Brando, he could have gone on to crown his film career with movies like The Island of Dr. Moreau … and Superman … and Superman II … and Superman Returns.

Brando-Superman

Sigh. Why can’t our film heroes be truly heroic?

 

Oh, right — they’re actors, not super heroes.

 

So I guess we wait for Iron Man 3 next year and Marvel’s The Avengers 2 in 2015 and hope that Robert Downey Jr. decides to scatter a few crumbs of his talent in other less heroic but mightier film fare when time allows.

 

We can only pray Downey’s future work allows him to open up the dramatic possibilities of more compelling dialogue than “Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

 

Don’t Get Arrested In Florida

- May 16th, 2012

 

Well, that’s pretty obvious advice, isn’t it?

 

If one wanted to be (not) really helpful, one could say, “Don’t get arrested in ANY state. Or country, for that matter.”

 

Easier said than done, smartypants.

 

There are several American states I stay out of these days for reasons I’d obviously rather not go into in this public forum. We all make mistakes and, as long as it’s not a felony and the state line is within an hour’s drive, my rule of thumb is to get out of there and never go back. Homeland security is another matter. (You don’t think they read a radical left-wing rag like the Sun, so you?)

 

So why do I focus on Florida in particular?

 

Because in Florida you not only have to worry about your legal jeopardy and rights when you’re booked, you have to worry about how you look.

 

You simply cannot pull a Nick Nolte in Florida and keep any degree of personal dignity. Not that Nick kept any self-respect after his California arrest.

 

nick-nolte

 

But if you’re arrested in Florida (and some other states, but not ones that Canadians flock to in such flock-like numbers) you don’t even have time to call your lawyer or personal hair stylist before your mugshot is out there on the Internet for the entire world to see.

 

For example, on Monday of this week there were 1,400-1,500 arrests in the state of Florida and 1,377 arrest mugshots are already up online for you and me and the rest of the world see.

 

Take a look. Here’s a link to florida.arrests.org where all those mugshots are posted — and stay forever.

 

The cross-section is demographically fairly representative of Forida’s population, which means that — regardless of race, colour or creed — there are an awful lot of old people up on charges in the Sunshine State on a daily basis.

 

Take, for example, this tough old dude.

 

Frank-Urban-5-15-2012-Seminole-Cty

 

We know from the booking information posted on florida.arrests.org that this desperado is named Frank Urban and he recently turned 71 (born  April 23, 1941 — before the U.S. entered World War II).

 

Fast Frankie (or maybe Fierce Frankie or maybe Frankie Flowers) was arrested in Seminole County (in the-middle-of-nowhere-Florida) on 5-15-2012 (that’s cop talk for Monday).

 

And what was Fast/Fierce/Flowers Frankie arrested for?

 

We don’t really know. Because, like so many of the (maybe) perps who are held up to public ridicule and/or disgrace and/or ruin on the florida.arrests.org website, the reason for Frank Urban’s presence there is listed as “Charges Unknown.”

 

Most of the 1,000-2,000 people whose photos and rap sheets are posted each and every day on the florida.arrests.org website are there for things like drug possession or public drunkenness or driving without a proper license or petty theft (petit theft, as it is known in Florida criminal statutes) or trespassing (which, in Florida, means a homeless person chose the wrong place to sleep), often accompanied by a charge of assault on a police officer.

 

There are also, sadly, a lot of domestic assault charges and child endangerment charges and assault on senior charges.

 

There are relatively few charges involving death or dismemberment or disaster.

 

All in all it’s a sad, sorry story of failed human beings stumbling through life, knocking over stop signs as they go, stealing candy bars and hurting people they say they love.

 

But it is the human condition at its most basic, most primal. It’s pathetic and it’s fascinating. It could be you or me, there but for the grace of God and (maybe) staying out of the state of Florida.

 

It’s 1,000-2,000 new stories of the human tragedy/comedy every day — and those stories are waiting for you to read online every day.

 

Can you read those stories in the faces captured in the flash of the booking photo?

 

I don’t think so. But let’s find out.

 

Take a look at the people in the mugshots below. They are variously charged with premeditated murder in the first degree, driving under the influence resulting in manslaughter, “charge unknown” but requiring protective custody, indecent exposure, contempt of court and trespassing.

 

Can you really tell these books by their covers?

 

Florentino-Ubiles-5-14-2012-Orange-Cty-contempt-court

David-Brown-5-14-2012-Lee-Cty-indecent-exposure

Kevin-Heenan-5-14-2012-Monrie-Cty-trespass

Allison-Chambliss-5-14-2012-Orange-Cty-DUI-manslaughter

James-Benjamin-5-14-12-Palm-Beach-Cty-murder-1st-degree-premed

Kent-McLellan-5-14-2012-Seminole-County-protec-custody

 

It’s hard to figure, isn’t it? If you want to know their real stories (or what the Florida police say their stories are), they were all booked and photographed on May 14. You can sort through the 1,377 mugshots posted that day to find the answers.

 

(Or you can drag their mugshots from this blog over to your desktop. I’ve got their names and charges listed in the image ID. But that would be cheating, wouldn’t it? Actually, dragging photos is a Mac thing, isn’t it? And I’ve just discovered that the image ID will show up — at least on my Mac laptop — if you run the cursor over a photograph.)

 

I’m going to leave you now, but before I go I want you to take a look at one particular mugshot.

 

Julia-Back

 

This is Julia Valentine Back. She was arrested in Key West, Fla., on Saturday for trespassing (which basically means she is homeless and a homeowner didn’t like her sleeping on his or her property Saturday night).

 

The photo itself is (dare I say) arresting but I was also drawn to the locale. I spent quite a bit of time in Key West in my late teens and early 20s and I used to know a lot of broken/interesting people who washed up there like driftwood at the southern-most shore of America. People like Jimmy Buffet and the cocaine-dealing fire chief “Bum” Farto. But also people like Julia Valentine Back. In fact, Jimmy probably wrote “There’s A Woman Going Crazy on Caroline Street” about someone like Julia Valentine Back while he was sitting in the Bull & Whistle.

 

Julia first came to the attention of the Key West police in 2006 when she was 53 and they arrested her for disorderly conduct. She managed to stay off the police radar until 2008 when she got into a bit of trouble for things like “petit theft” and “fail to leave property on order of owner.”

 

She was released on her own recognizance and, of course, failed to appear in court. Somehow or other she managed to stumble into the consciousness of Key West police again in 2010, when she was 57, and they arrested her for failing to appear in court on the 2008 charges. That’s when this photo was taken.

 

Julia-Back-9-18-2009

 

Julia was arrested again last September for “petit theft” and this was her booking photo.

 

Julia-Back-9-6-2011

 

In November 2011 and January 2012 she was charged with trespassing (homeless or at least no longer wanted) and this photo was taken on one of those two occasions.

 

Julia-Back-11-16-2011

 

Then, on Saturday night, she was arrested again for picking the wrong place to sleep and the Ma Kettle mugshot made it onto florida.arrests.org.

 

Julia-Back

 

I love this photo. Julia’s been kicked around a lot by life but, man, she’s got gumption. She may be hurting bad on the inside but she gives the world a smile. And she’s got nice teeth in some of her photos. I hope her teeth are still good. That’s important when you’re homeless.

 

So here’s to you, Julia Valentine Back. I hope the Key West cops treat you well. At least the sun is usually shining and a nice breeze is always blowing in from some point of the compass.

 

I’ll check in on florida.arrests.org from time to time to see how you’re doing.

 

And you’re just one of the 1,000-2,000 human stories that show up there every day.

I Want My Own Submarine

- May 13th, 2012

Yellow_Submarine

One day when I was in my middle teens, my father —completely out of the blue —  said this to me: “I could buy you a sailboat but I’m not going to. It wouldn’t be good for you.”

 

I just stared at him like the crazy man he apparently was and said nothing. What do you say to a statement like that?

 

I puttered around in little borrowed Sunfishes and whatnot, but I had absolutely no interest in owning a sailboat of my own. And I certainly never asked my father for one. The thought had never crossed my mind — until my father put it there.

 

In the course of a summer afternoon, I had gone from having zero interest in boat ownership to suddenly craving — needing — a sailboat to call my very own. Fortunately the instilled madness soon passed, much like an ambush craving for nicotine five or six years after you quit smoking.

 

I never did find out what prompted my father’s bizarre (albeit, for him, normal) pronouncement, but I had a flashback to it earlier today when I learned that the U.S. government will not let me chug around in my own submarine — even in international waters.

 

Of course I don’t really want my own submarine. I find the idea dumb, claustrophobic and dangerous — especially if it was a homemade DIY submersible, which is really the only way I can see the average person acquiring a submarine.

 

But my Pavlovian teenage rebellion (which never really disappears completely, no matter how old we are) suddenly kicked in when I read that the U.S. Congress had, in 2008, passed a law making it illegal for me, as a private individual, to own and/or operate a submersible or semi-submersible vessel on the high seas, in international waters outside the normal territorial jurisdiction of the United States of America.

 

The law is formally entitled “an Act to amend titles 46 and 18, United States Code, with respect to the operation of submersible vessels and semi-submersible vessels without nationality.”

 

Among other things, the law says this:

 

‘‘§ 2285. OPERATION OF SUBMERSIBLE VESSEL OR SEMI-SUBMERSIBLE VESSEL WITHOUT NATIONALITY.

‘‘(a) OFFENSE.—Whoever knowingly operates, or attempts or conspires to operate, by any means, or embarks in any submersible vessel or semi-submersible vessel that is without nationality and that is navigating or has navigated into, through, or from waters beyond the outer limit of the territorial sea of a single country or a lateral limit of that country’s territorial sea with an adjacent country, with the intent to evade detection, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.”

 

You can look it up yourself. Here’s a link to it on the U.S. Justice Department website.

 

 

As you see, there’s the twist of “without nationality” involved but, really, who is the United States government to go poking its nose into my business — and threatening me with 15 years in Leavenworth — if I manage to construct my own unregistered submarine and successfully navigate it a few hundred kilometres out into the Atlantic Ocean?

 

(Just writing that last bit made my stomach knot up with dread: Who would do something as insanely suicidal as that? Actually, I’m sure there’s someone out there who would, if they haven’t tried it already. If he or she wants to be buried alive at sea in a coffin of his or her own construction, how is that the business of Washington, D.C.?)

 

It turns out that, in fact, plenty of people (with less money than James Cameron) are building their own submarines and taking them down as much as 100 metres in waters from the Baltic Sea to coastal Florida to lakes in China.

 

Tao-Xiangli-metal-barrels

Here’s one report from Ananova, a British web news service, in 2008:

Tao Xiangli made the 1.6 tonnes submarine mostly from metal barrels and improvised parts by hand, reports Zhong’an Online.

“Metal barrels are possibly the best material for me because of their low cost,” said Tao, a migrant worker in Beijing.

The 20ft submarine is cramped inside with room for only one person but it features pressure meters, monitoring cameras, a TV set, oxygen supply and headlights.

“Although the equipment is simple, it’s enough for a basic submarine, and more importantly, it enables the passenger to see things clearly underwater,” said Tao.

It took Tao more than a year of research and experiments, but he says the most difficult challenge he faced was not a lack of knowledge, but of funds.

“The devices for submarines are all expensive, so because I couldn’t afford them I found a lot of inexpensive replacements,” he said.

Tao said the basic submarine cost him £2,200 (about $3,500), the equivalent of a year’s pay.

 

A year later, the China Daily newspaper ran these photos and reported:

Tao-Xiangli-afloat

Tao Xiangli prepares his homemade submarine before operating it in a lake on the outskirts of Beijing September 3, 2009. Amateur inventor Tao, 34, made a fully functional submarine, which has a periscope, depth control tanks, electric motors, manometer, and two propellers, from old oil barrels and tools which he bought at a second-hand market. He took two years to invent and test the submarine which costs 30,000 yuan (that’s about $4,700 — up from the $3,500 reported a year earlier).

Tao-Xiangli-lake

 

Now of course the U.S. government has what it thinks is a good reason for passing the no-you-can’t-own-a-submarine act. Doesn’t every government always have a good reason for passing any law? Oh, it doesn’t? You mean some laws are stupid and wrong and counter-productive and actually damaging to the fabric of society? Really? Who knew?

 

Turns out the U.S. anti-submarine-ownership law is aimed at South American narcotic cartels smuggling drugs into the U.S. (or at least close to the U.S. before being transshipped at sea to surface vessels) on fibreglass semi-submersibles.

coke_sub

U.S. drug busters estimate about a third of all cocaine shipped from South America to the U.S. is now transported on narco subs built at hidden shipyards along the coast of Colombia and elsewhere. How they could know the percentage breakdown is beyond me (and I take it with more than a grain of salt) but it does indicate that there must be quite a few of these druggie subs floating around out there in the ocean.

 narco-submersible

Here’s a link to a story that takes you inside a drug-smuggling sub.

 

 

According to the New York Times, U.S. drug busters believe the Colombian cartels are building about 120 subs a year. Each sub carries anywhere between three and 12 tonnes of cocaine, depending on the size of the vessel.

 

Here’s a link to the New York Times piece.

 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) estimates that about 10% of all narco subs are captured. (Again, how do they really know?) Others are sunk by their crews after making delivery to avoid detection. And still others return to South America to make several subsequent trips.

 

But I don’t care about the drug smugglers.

 

There must be other ways, other legal means to scupper the narco navies without infringing on the right of lunatics around the world to sink or swim in submarines of their own fiendishly clever devising.

 

Here’s Chinese inventor Zhang Wuyi, for example, who has designed, built and sold several different models of personal submersibles.

zhang-wuyi-1-submarine

zhang-wuyi-2-submarine

 

And German U-booter Michael Henrik Schmelter takes his homemade sub to depths of 100 metres off the Baltic coast near Kiel.

 

M-K-Schmelter-sub

 

But my favourite is a Florida physics teacher named Karl Stanley who has built a couple of submarines in his home machine shop that can descend to depths of 100 metres as well (with a theoretical crush depth of  almost 200 metres). Both Karl’s one-man and two-person subs are made from large propane tanks  (of two different sizes) and are pedal-powered underwater.

karlsub-1

Here’s a link to Karl’s website where he explains how he built his subs.

karlsub-2

 

These people are all Grade A kooks in my opinion, but what would the world be without kooks doing things that other, rational people consider insane?

 

With or without the blessing of the U.S. government, they’re going to take their dangerous dreams to sea.

 

All I can say is good luck and God help ‘em.

 

And I would advise them all to hoist a piratical Jolly Roger. It seems like the only flag they should be sailing under.

Tao-Xiangi