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Saturday, March 01, 2008


I have come to the conclusion that if somebody invented a pill that would cure cancer, schizophrenia and over eating all at the same time and in one dose some greedy idiot would oversell it. What convinces me of this terminal illness of capitalism, bro, is the mis-development of Jack Cover’s little 1974 invention which he playfully called “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”, AKA, the TASER. Mr. Cover, who started life as a researcher for NASA, saw his non-lethal weapon as a replacement for the gun in self defense, or at least a supplement to it. Instead it has fallen into the hands of marketing morons who have sold it to idiots, like 40 year old Kenny Chumsky, who was celebrating his birthday on a recent Wednesday night in his parent’s garage on Southwest Liberty Avenue in Port St. Luce, Florida. After the consumption of enormous quantities of alcohol Kenny broke out the evening’s entertainment, a Taser, with which Kenny incapacitated his party guests, one after the other. What fun.
A Taser works on the simple idea that a short burst of low amplitude high voltage electricity will overload your bodies’ nervous system, harmlessly rendering you incoherent, incapacitated and possibly incontinent, and for perhaps 3 or 4 minutes, as harmless as a bull with his testicles in a vise. Now, the vise does not have to be very large to completely control a really big bull and most Tasers work on just a couple of “AA” batteries. There are of course several transformers involved which step up the kick to something approaching 50,000 volts, but I get half that voltage every time I kiss my wife or touch a doorknob in low humidity. It hurts like hell but it ain’t fatal, and kissing my wife is much more fun that Kenny and his “friends” were having, shocking the brains out of each others’ heads.
Then, along about 2 AM (now Thursday morning) Kenny and friends had been incapacitating and humiliating each other long enough that the repetition was beginning to bore them. So as his mother was walking passed Kenny hit the old broad with the Taser and - Zap! – his old lady dropped like a rag doll, bouncing her head off the garage floor, drawing blood and raising a lump. I’m sure everyone had a good laugh over that one, at least until the cops showed up. See, Kenny’s mom had called them. She actually pressed charges of domestic battery and assault against her own son. My God, you’d have thought he had tried to electrocute her or something.
In 1993 the inventor, Mr. Cover, then 73 years old, fell in with Rich Smith, a brand new 25 year old MBA graduate and his older brother Tom, and together the three started Taser International, Inc. Thanks to Rich’s marketing savy, and Patent #6636412, TASERS are now being unleashed from San Pedro, California to Martin County, Florida, where Sheriff’s Deputy Lori Kandill recently used her TASER inside the county court house, against another deputy. It seems Lori was being teased by her “friend” of 20 years, Deputy Dillon Murphy, and in playful response she “Tasered” him several times on the abdomen: And as soon as he recovered control of his muscles, Deputy Murphy playfully body slammed Deputy Kandill to the floor. It was all harmless horseplay in the hands of professionals, the kind of bonding ritual you would expect in a testosterone rich environment, which would likely have been quickly settled with a heartfelt apology and a hearty “fuck you”, except the entire episode was caught on surveillance cameras and was brought to the attention of Sheriff Robert Crowder. He suspended Deputy Kandill for 12 days without pay, and her supervisor for two days. Geez, the next thing you know, they’ll be disciplining officers who take out their night sticks and start playfully whacking each other on the head.
The basic problem seems to be that nobody can decide if the Taser is a deadly weapon or, according to Rich Smith and his marketing staff, a sort of an electrified water pistol. As CEO of Taser International Rich has been Tasered a number of times, as has his wife and his mother. (You can bet Rich’s mom never called the cops!) In fact Taser International has a whole range of user friendly units, including a ladies Electric Pink Taser, and has just introduced a cute little clip-on kitty looking sort of thing that quickly converts into a Taser, should the kids you’re pre-teen is babysitting for want to argue about their bed time, or whether her boyfriend gets to eat out of their parent’s refrigerator. Yes, it’s a Taser friendly world, harmless and fun filled, with the joyous pranks engaged in by Paul J. Dupay from North Prairie and Paul M. Dupay from Waukesha, a Wisconsin father and son. Their adventures began on New Years Day when a police officer responded to a call of a car in a ditch. The officer found 22 year old Paul M. uninjured, standing outside his disabled vehicle, shivering in the cold. He let Paul M. warm up sitting in his squad car. And Paul M. returned the favor by stealing the officers’ Taser. And the next anyone saw of the missing item was on “YouTube”. ( *
There, at one time, you could watch as Paul M. and his 41 year old father, Paul J. took turns Tasering each other, at least until somebody called the East Troy police and reported two local morons displaying their stupidity and stolen goods online. It seems at times that YouTube is sort of the Home Shopping Network for the cops, doesn’t it? On January 3 the cops executed a search warrant at the home of Paul J. and seized the stolen Taser, the video camera and the computer, and the Moron Network was off the air, at least until the next morons show up.
So is the Taser a Wonder Weapon that instantly harmlessly disables at a touch, or via electric prongs fired from 15 feet away, good for a joke on an annoying old lady, or is it a deadly weapon A Wake Forest University study of 1,000 humans hit with Tasers, showed that 99.7% of subjects had no substantial ill effects, but three needed hospitalization and two died. Ninety-nine point seven percent certainly meets any sane definition of safe, but it does raise questions about the civilian version, now being sold at TASER parties in people’s homes, which actually use much longer bursts of shock than the police versions. Clearly more study is needed, and soon, and not by Tasering Rich’s mother again. But the one thing about Tasers that is absolutely clear right now and can be stated without fear of contradiction, and that is that they should never be used on snakes.
This story occurred on January 15th when visitors to Everglades National Park spotted a 6 foot python slithering through the grass beside the main road, and pulled over to have a look. The snake, being a shy creature, began looking for an escape route and eventually crawled up into the engine compartment of a Ford Explorer. The owner, Rod DeLong gingerly tried to pull the snake out before giving up and driving 15 miles to the park entrance and appealing for help. Now at this point the snake was doomed. Pythons are not native to Florida, but so many have been dumped in the everglades by moronic mostly male humans who think having a “pet” that eats other pets is “cool”, until it gets taller than they are, that the ecology of the place is falling apart. All the area zoos are stuffed with abandoned pythons and yet the local pet stores are still selling them, under the counter of course. And so the outcome for this particular snake was inevitable from the moment he gulped down his first white rate or ate his first Pekinese.
The only question for the park rangers was how to get the snake out from around the engine block so they could kill it, and I suppose it was natural, given the marketing done by the Smith brothers, that one genius in the group would suggest using a TASER on the python. And this was where the marketing for Taser International Inc. met the reality of life, sort of like in the movie Jurassic Park. When the TASER was applied the snake did not release its death grip on the engine block, it tightened it and, in the same reflex, released it’s bladder and vomited, both with unusual force and volume. The rangers and Mr. DeLong still faced the problem of untangling the snake from the engine block but now the block was wet and sticky and stinky as hell. The problem had escalated from difficult to disgusting.
Eventually the rangers were able to disengage the snake by partly disassembling the engine, and they immediately killed the misguided beast. But poor Mr. DeLong and his family had to then drive home with the most God awful odor cooking off the engine block every mile of the way – call it the Python’s unsweet revenge. But the Python’s fate seems to me to be emblematic in small of the future of Taser International; done to death by over marketing.
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