That sinking failed publicity stunt feeling

The Dot Earth blog recently featured an interesting piece on the scuttling of a boat called the Ady Gil, featured in a television program called “Whale Wars” shown on Animal Planet. “Whale Wars” is about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and their ongoing harassment and confrontations of Japanese whaling vessels. If you watch the show (I don’t, and in fact I had not heard of it until now) you already knew of the confrontation which resulted in the destruction of the Ady Gil. It is what happened after this incident, however, that is the focus here. From the post:

The news doesn’t relate to the collision, but the aftermath. Pete Bethune, who was the skipper of the destroyed speedboat, the Ady Gil, resigned this week from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, claiming that the boat, donated by Ady Gil, the millionaire it was named for, was unnecessarily scuttled to generate better publicity. There’s quite a bit of coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the New Zealand Herald, Gil is quoted as saying that he believes Bethune. Watson denies the allegations. (Shortly after the first boat was damaged, Gil started raising money for a replacement.)

In a later post to the Dot Earth blog, Paul Watson, the Sea Shepherd campaign’s leader, responds to this allegation:

On camera, I say, “it’s Pete’s boat, it’s Pete’ call.”

On camera, Pete Bethune says that the boat cannot be salvaged and that his decision was to abandon it.

Abandoning it would have left it as a navigational hazard. It was Pete who went to the vessel to attempt to scuttle it and Maritime Safety Australia was made aware of this. I am not criticizing Pete’s decision. It was the correct decision to make. What I am saying is that neither Captain Chuck Swift nor I ordered Pete to scuttle the vessel.

So why has Pete Bethune decided to make such an accusation to the media and the public that I ordered him to sink the Ady Gil?

The answer is obvious. I fired him the day before for providing false testimony to the Japanese police. He threatened to make this allegation to me if I did not reinstate him. I refused. In fact I sent the threats to the media before he released them.

So what is this story about?

To put it bluntly it was the seizing of an opportunity to make a scandal out of nothing, based on the words of a man who had been fired from Sea Shepherd the day before.

The abandonment of the vessel and the failed attempt to scuttle it was a responsible decision and made known to the proper authorities at the time. What was not justified is the deliberate destruction of the vessel by the Japanese ship Shonan Maru #2.

Now, I admire a good publicity stunt just like most other marketing and public relations counselors/consultants out there. If true, the accusation that a boat was intentionally wrecked and then scuttled (intentionally sank) simply for publicity is pretty damning. However, instead this appears to be more of a case of a skipper fired from his organization for lying to the Japanese police, attempting to extort his way back to his job. It didn’t work.

It does put a huge black mark on the Japanese whalers collectively that the crew of the Shonan Maru #2 intentionally rammed the Ady Gil, an act which was reckless and patently devoid of scruples. However, Pete Bethune, the skipper of the Ady Gil,  deserves the same black mark for a pathetic attempt at extortion, and lying about events that were well documented on video for future use in a television program.

We can all learn from Mr. Bethune’s actions as an example of what not to do. Shame on you, Pete Bethune, and good luck finding a new job. You’re going to need it.

Pencil sharpeners are dangerous? Really?

The UK’s Daily Mail reports on one of the most bizarre examples of weapons control run amok. Charlotte Howard went to go buy pencils like any other 11-year-old schoolgirl who had exhausted her existing supply of writing utensils (or art utensils, as it appears from one of the pictures these may be colored art pencils).

But Charlotte was stopped cold by the cashier, who refused to complete the sale because the pack contained a pencil sharpener, which is classed as a “dangerous object.” It gets even better, though. Her mother, Allison Howard, was also refused the sale because she might give the pencils and sharpener to her daughter!

Thankfully, another store in the area completed the sale. However, to me, this is the truly shocking part (quoting the article):

…The 99p Store chain’s commercial director Hussein Lalani said he was ‘proud that our processes restricting the sale of certain items to under-18s have been proved to work’.

But he added: ‘We will look into the way this particular product is classified.’ Last year, the company made headlines after a 15-year- old boy was stopped from buying wine gums in case they contained alcohol.

Sure, the process works. There’s a saying from the early days of computer programming that applies here: Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). It would appear Mr. Lalani or one of the workers under his command (or maybe even elsewhere in the company) apparently programmed the cash register/point of sale systems with the garbage classifying a pencil sharpener as dangerous, and not surprisingly, that garbage came back out again.

Rather than celebrate that with a “hey, the computer is stupid and did what it was told” it would be more appropriate for Mr. Lalani to eat a double helping of humble pie, apologize profusely to the Howard family, and make sure this doesn’t happen again. This is a disgrace to civilized, intelligent society and deserves nothing short of absolute condemnation.