Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday morning music


Here's a great rendition of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, recorded in 1990 at the Gasteig Philharmonic Hall in Munich, Germany.  The soloist is the then-sixteen-year-old Maxim Vengerov, and the conductor of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra is Pavel Kogan.





I've always thought that Tchaikovsky, in particular, sounds best when played by a Russian orchestra, conductor and soloist.  There's something about his music that draws out the national character, I suspect.  At any rate, this was a rousing performance.

Peter

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Legalized narcotics and car accidents


I wasn't surprised to see a report this week that correlated the incidence of vehicle accidents with the legalization of formerly illicit narcotics.

According to the HLDI [Highway Loss Data Institute], past researchers haven't been able to "definitively connect marijuana use with real-world crashes," and even a federal study failed to find such a link. "Studies on the effects of legalizing marijuana for medical use have also been inconclusive," said the HLDI.

Instead, the group focused on three states -- Colorado, where legal marijuana retail sales started in 2014, as well as Oregon and Washington, where sales began in 2015 -- and compared them to the collision claims in neighboring states such as Nevada and Utah, parts of which now allow only medical marijuana. It also factored in statistics regarding the three states where recreational use is now legal from before it became available to the general public.



Colorado saw the largest estimated increase in claim frequency -- 14 percent more than its bordering states, while Washington state was 6 percent greater and Oregon had a 4 percent increase. Allowing for the total control group, "the combined effect for the three states was a smaller, but still significant at 3 percent," said HLDI Vice President Matt Moore.

There's more at the link.

So much for those who claim that the use of such narcotics is a 'victimless crime', affecting no-one but the consumer of the drugs.  Not so much.  We all pay for this in higher insurance premiums, and some of us pay in terms of injuries, pain and suffering, too - if not death, either our own or that of a loved one, killed by a hopped-up driver.

I know some will claim that the situation is no different with legalized narcotics than it is with alcohol.  Both cause the same problem.  Nevertheless, why add to the existing problem by legalizing new ways to become intoxicated?  That doesn't make much sense to me . . .

Peter

Thwarting data-miners and privacy-invading snoopers


I had to laugh at a recent post at Raconteur Report on how to frustrate, thwart and totally mess up those who are trying to mine every detail about you, whether for surveillance or profit.  Here's an excerpt.

Go by the local bookstore.
Collect 50 magazine blow-in subscription cards while you browse.
From political and religiously slanted periodicals, when possible.
Sign up for the magazines using your own name.
No middle initials.
At 17 real addresses you never lived at, all around the country.
Mail them in.
Next month, do the same thing for 5 people randomly selected.
Forward all your junk mail **** to those addresses.
Ideally, by responding to it using those addresses.
(And if you can’t figure out how to pull the same thing off online using dead end g-mail and yahoo addresses, you’re not tall enough for that ride.)

. . .

Send $5 to each of 13 religious organizations. All different than yours.
And three atheist organizations.
And the Flat Earth Society, and the Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.
And the NRA, and the ACLU.

. . .

Get some cheap burner phones. (Quantity optional.)
Use them, and a prepaid cash gift card from Visa or MasterCard. Give one of the new phone number(s) out, with your name, every time you’re asked for a phone number that’s nobody’s goddam business, and order different inexpensive oddball crap to yourself.
At each of the 17 addresses you don’t live at.
Bonus: Use Amazon.
Send yourself Mein Kampf at one address, Mao’s Little Red Book at another, Shrillary’s It Takes a Village at a third, and Barry Goldwater’s Conscience Of A Conservative at a fourth address, and so on. Get the cheapest crappiest used copies listed.

. . .

For maybe 200 bucks, you can so **** up data miners, you’ll be listed at a dozen or more addresses you never lived at, and half a dozen phone numbers you won’t ever use, and be registered as belonging to every political and religious group on the planet. If 100 people did it, then did it to half a dozen random strangers, data mining them would be like looking for a needle in a wrecked auto junkyard, with a metal detector. Blindfolded.

. . .

And in case you never read Hayduke’s Revenge books, any time someone asks for a Social Security number that’s none of their goddam business, Richard Nixon’s number is 567-68-0515.

And there’s also a list of more Social Security numbers online, for Kurt Cobain, Walt Disney, etc.  Knock yourself out.

There's more at the link.  Go read the whole thing.

Evil, devilish and fiendish ideas . . . but I think all of them may be a lot of fun (from our point of view, that is).

Peter

Friday, June 23, 2017

America's most dangerous cities


Statista offers an interesting infographic, showing murder rates for various US cities per 100,000 residents over the past five years.  The top of the list doesn't surprise me at all.  (Click the image for a larger view, at Statista's Web site.)




Statista notes that the number of homicides in Chicago since 2001 surpassed total US war deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq by November last year.  They provided this infographic last year.




I'll do my best to stay clear of all those cities, thank you very much!

Peter

Why worry? It's just $14 billion of taxpayer's money . . .


. . . plus a few billion more to fix the problems.

The U.S. Navy has a major ship design disaster on its hands with the new EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System) catapult that was installed in the latest aircraft carrier; the USS Ford (CVN 78). During sea trials the Ford used EMALS heavily, as would be the case in combat and training operations. Under intense use EMALS proved to be less reliable than the older steam catapult, more labor intensive to operate, put more stress on launched aircraft than expected and due to a basic design flaw if one EMALS catapult becomes inoperable, the other three catapults cannot be used in the meantime as was the case with steam catapults.



Some of the problems with EMALS were of the sort that could be fixed while the new ship was in service. That included tweaking EMALS operation to generate less stress on aircraft and modifying design of EMALS and reorganizing how sailors use the system to attain the smaller number of personnel required for catapult operations. But the fatal flaws involved reliability. An EMALS catapult was supposed to have a breakdown every 4,100 launches but in heavy use EMALS failed every 400 launches. The killer here was that when one EMALS catapult went down all four were inoperable. With steam catapults when one went down the other three could continue to operate.

Moreover it would cost over half a billion dollars to remove EMALS and install the older steam catapults. This would also take up to several years and lead to many other internal changes. The navy is now considering bringing a recently retired carrier back to active service as a stopgap because whatever the fix is it will not be quick or cheap.

This EMALS disaster was avoidable and the problems should have been detected and taken care of before the Ford was on sea trials.

. . .

The EMALS disaster calls into question the ability of the navy to handle new, untried, technologies. That is not a new problem and has been around since World War II. In retrospect not enough was done to test and address what are now obvious problems. The current solution is to delay the moment of truth as long as possible and then conclude that it was unclear exactly how it happened but that measures would be taken to see that it never happen again. That approach is wearing thin because more people are well aware that is just a cover for the corruption and mismanagement that has been developing within the industries that build warships.

There's more at the link.  What's more, EMALS isn't the only problem with the ship.  You'll find a list of some of the more important defects here.  Together, they'll probably cost billions to fix - billions of our taxpayer money.

I don't know what the heck is wrong with the US Navy's procurement process, but it's clearly in a mess.  The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program has been derisively renamed 'Little Crappy Ships', in tribute to the endless problems that continue to plague it;  the San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ships took years to get right, particularly the lead ship;  and maintenance has been shelved or postponed for far too long due to budgetary pressures, resulting in a multi-year backlog.  These and other problems led to a recent headline claiming bluntly that 'The US Navy is screwed'.  The problems with USS Ford are merely another symptom of that reality.

Speaking as a taxpayer, I want to know why multiple heads responsible for these fiascos have not rolled.  If President Trump wants to 'drain the swamp', the Pentagon - and Navy procurement bureaucrats in particular - might be good places to begin.




Peter

Rappelling to get away from a high-rise fire?


I found an article over at FerFal's place, discussing rappelling (a.k.a. abseiling) as an escape technique from a fire in a high-rise building.  It's obviously prompted by the Grenfell tower fire in London earlier this month.  I visit Ferfal's blog regularly, and mostly like what he has to say;  but, in this case, I must respectfully disagree with his advice.

In the first place, here's what the tower looked like as it burned. Look at the flames spurting out of windows all around the building, and the burning insulation (cladding) around the concrete.





Now, imagine dropping a rappelling rope (usually of kernmantle design, made of nylon and/or other synthetic fibers that are flammable) down the side of that building.  What are your chances that the rope will not catch fire?  I'd say slim to none.  Even if it doesn't, what are your chances of rappelling down the side of the structure, safely and uninjured, with so many flames reaching out at you?  Again, I'd say slim to none.  Even if you start down a side of the building that isn't visibly on fire, what guarantee is there that it won't catch fire while you're on the way down?

There's also human nature.  If you're trapped in an apartment, and you suddenly see a rope dropped past your window or balcony, aren't you very likely to seize it and try to climb down it yourself?  Unfortunately, if you're not fit or strong enough, or adequately trained in rope climbing techniques, to take advantage of it, you're unlikely to reach safety by using it;  and, in the process, you're likely to overstress the rope's weight limit (remember, the person who dropped it will also be using it, higher up the building).  Put too much weight on the rope, and it'll probably snap.  Even if it doesn't, the point on the building to which it's anchored may not be able to take the added weight, and might give way.  I'd say many people trapped in a burning building will behave like that, making escape problematic, to say the least.

There's also the need, not just for training, but for ongoing familiarization.  Training in rappelling techniques is widely available, sure enough;  but like any specialized skill, it takes ongoing practice to remain useful.  If you learn how to rappel, but never practice it after that, how much good will that be in a building fire five years later?  Will you remember it well enough to get to the ground in safety?  More to the point, what about your kids?  You may have learned to rappel as a solo climber, or with your partner;  but if you now have one or two small children, have you ever practiced harnessing them to your body, so you can get them to safety as well?  I'd say the odds of that are vanishingly small.

Some (particularly after the 9/11 attacks) have spoken of using a parachute to escape a high-rise building.  They're available, but their use raises at least five issues.  The first is that parachutes, like rappelling, require training and ongoing practice to use effectively.  Next, there's the the proximity of other buildings.  If yours is in a cluster of them, such as a city center, there isn't going to be a lot of empty space for your jump.  The odds of colliding with another building, or getting your parachute caught on an obstruction like a protruding flagpole or fire escape, or hitting power lines or telephone wires on the way down, are pretty high.  Third, the wind in such an environment can be fluky.  It can vary in strength, direction, etc. as it's funneled between the buildings.  That's going to affect the behavior of your parachute.  So will the fourth issue;  updrafts caused by the heat of the fire.  They've been measured at over two thousand feet per minute - a nightmarish prospect.  Winds or updrafts may carry you back against - or even inside - the burning building from which you've just jumped.  Finally, parachutes, like climbing ropes, are made of synthetic materials.  They're not fireproof.  If you have to jump through or past flames to get off the building, and/or your parachute canopy happens to collide with a piece of burning debris, floating in the air (and there are usually a lot of them in a fire like that - just look at video clips to see them for yourself), it may catch fire.  If it does, you're going to drop like a stone.  On balance, I'd say that parachutes aren't a viable means of escape for anyone except trained, experienced sky-divers, and even they will have serious problems in such an environment.

On balance, I think the recommendations I gave in my first article on this tragedy still hold good.  Live as low in the building as you can arrange;  get out as fast as you can, as soon as the warning is received;  have flashlights, fire extinguishers, and other emergency equipment to hand, so that you can use them to aid in your escape;  and don't rely on emergency services to get you out.  They'll doubtless do their best . . . but they can't perform miracles.

At the time of writing, the death toll in the Grenfell fire stands at 79.  Many of them trusted 'official guidelines', and stayed put, waiting for a rescue that never came.  Don't make that mistake.

Peter

Thursday, June 22, 2017

YAY! Lawdog's book is almost ready!


I'm delighted to hear that Lawdog's first book is scheduled for publication next month.  Miss D. and I have been part of the cheerleading squad urging him to write it, so it's great to know it's about to happen.

Those of you attending LibertyCon at the end of this month may be able to meet him there, if his work schedule permits, and ask him more about it.

Peter

Black culture, viewed through the filter of extremism


Following my previous post, in which a black activist urges his comrades to "Let. [Whites]. F***ing. Die.", I thought it might be worth posting a link to Fred Reed's misgivings about black culture.  Let me say at once that I don't believe what he says applies to all black culture - far from it!  However, I think it does apply to a lot of extremist 'ghetto culture', as found in many inner cities in the USA.  In particular, I think it applies to the so-called 'rap culture', and to activists such as the one quoted in my previous post.

Here's the core of Fred's argument.

Nothing worked and nothing is going to work. There is clarity in this realization, a clarity to admitting what is actually happening. It avoids tortured reasoning to show  that the dysfunction of blacks is due to anything and everything but blacks themselves. One need not make endless excuses for endless bad behavior, for the crime and dependency, the racial attacks, and the degradation of society.

The culture of the ghetto opposes everything usually believed proper in an advanced  society: high academic standards, equality of opportunity, good English, minimal obscenity, equality under the law, low rates of crime, reasonable self-reliance, freedom of speech. Black culture, intensely racist, encourages none of these and opposes most. It is tribal, based on identity, instead of principle.

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading in full.

As I said earlier, I don't believe Fred's argument applies to a large segment of the black community;  but I've seen at first hand how accurate it is when discussing many inner-city 'ghetto culture' black neighborhoods.  I've worked in such communities in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles and elsewhere.  It's hard to call Fred wrong when one is surrounded by institutionalized helplessness.  (If you don't believe me, see movies such as " Get Rich or Die Tryin' ", or "Straight Outta Compton".

Peter

A black radical puts whites in their place . . .


. . . or so he thinks.  Here's an excerpt.

What I propose will certainly have most white/cisgender/heterosexuals who practice bigotry (or do not believe they practice bigotry even when they do) up in their outrageous feelings because they have become accustomed to our worship, rely on our fealty, and receive sustenance from our sacrifice. They want us as Django Unchained’s Stephen, infinitely and perpetually servile, or as the punchline to their malicious humor, laughing along with them.

Our indifference to their well-being is the only thing that terrifies them.

So:

If you see them drowning.

If you see them in a burning building.

If they are teetering on the edge of a cliff.

If their ships are sinking.

If their planes are crashing.

If their cars are skidding.

If they are overdosing.

If their hearts have tellingly arrested.

If they are choking in a restaurant.

If they are bleeding out in an emergency room.

If the ground is crumbling beneath them.

If they are in a park and they turn their weapons on each other:

Do nothing.

Least of all put your life on the line for theirs, and do not dare think doing so, putting your life on the line for theirs, gives you reason or cause to feel celestial.

Saving the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous.

Let. Them. F***ing. Die.

And smile a bit when you do.

For you have done the universe a great service.

Ashes to ashes.

Dust to bigots.

There's more at the link.

I do strongly recommend reading the article in full.  I'm pleased that such attitudes are openly expressed like this.  It allows the rest of us to know who our enemies are.

If you know, or encounter, people who approve of such sentiments, or express them . . . make a mental note, and - in the event of social unrest - take appropriate precautions against them.

Peter

So, when does the Clinton Foundation investigation start?


It seems to me, with all the feverish enthusiasm in certain quarters of Congress and the Senate to investigate President Trump ad nauseam, that it's time to return the favor.  When does the investigation start into the Clinton Foundation and the many, many allegations of corruption against it over the years?  I'm sure you remember them.  For example:

There appears to be a whole lot more (and more convincing) evidence against the Clinton Foundation than against President Trump.  That being the case, why isn't it being investigated just as enthusiastically - and as vindictively?

I note, too, that private investigators are uncovering a great deal of material that should, I think, be far more widely publicized . . . but the mainstream media are almost completely ignoring it.  For example, consider the work of Charles Ortel.  Last year he wrote:

State, federal, and foreign laws bar public charities from being run for private gain in interstate commerce—which means, by using the mail, telephones or the internet. The Clinton Foundation’s complex operations (it is not just one entity but a web of them) do not comply with this requirement. Nor does the Clinton Foundation ever seem to have submitted its financial records to an independent, properly certified audit by a qualified accounting firm.

Overall I consider the Clinton Foundation to be a charity fraud network.

There's more at the link, and in other entries on his Web site.  He's just one of those who've been digging for dirt about the Clinton Foundation.  Most of those doing the digging appear to have found what they were looking for.

Isn't it time we hauled all that data out into the light, and figured out how much of it is real, and how much is political smoke and mirrors?  After all, if we're doing that with the allegations concerning President Trump, isn't it only fair and even-handed to do it to the other side as well?  (Yes, yes, I know - naive question - but one can still ask it, no?)

Peter

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Ohio ... will see 10,000 overdoses [resulting in death] by the end of 2017"


That's the forecast from a coroner in that state.  (A tip o' the hat to Tamara for linking to the article.)

Overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 — they now claim more lives than car crashes, gun deaths and the AIDS virus did at their peaks.

In Ohio, it has sent the death toll surging. According to data from the Montgomery County coroner, 365 people died of drug overdoses from January through and May of this year; 371 people died of such causes in all of last year.

On any given day, Montgomery County sheriff's deputies respond to multiple overdose calls and are equipped with Narcan, or naloxone, a nasal spray that counteracts the effects of a drug overdose.

Each deputy carries two doses, but that isn't always enough to save lives. One deputy said that more than 20 doses were needed to revive a recent victim and that victims often don't survive.

The death toll has overwhelmed the coroner, who tests for more than two dozen varieties of fentanyl during autopsies, and the county morgue's body cooler is consistently filled with overdose victims.

Coroner Kent Harshbarger estimates that ... the state will see 10,000 overdoses by the end of 2017 — more than were recorded in the entire United States in 1990.

There's more at the link.

That's an absolutely ghastly statistic . . . but in all honesty, what effective means are there to change it?  Prohibition has manifestly not worked.  Since the so-called 'War on Drugs' kicked off in 1971, illegal and prescription narcotics have become much more prevalent, and much easier to get, than ever before.  The 'War on Drugs' has ended in defeat, whether officials like to admit it or not - so why continue it?  Einstein famously defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".  By that standard, the 'War on Drugs' is insane.  Period.

Of course, there's another side to the 'War on Drugs' - it makes it much harder for those of us who need prescription narcotics (including yours truly) to get them.  Restrictions on the legitimate prescribing of such drugs have made it more and more onerous and expensive for us to obtain them.  I wrote some years ago about the problems involved in getting them in Tennessee.  Texas is a bit easier, but I still have to see the doctor every three months to get my prescription renewed - and hand over a co-payment every time.  I'm fortunate, because I can afford that;  but I know others who need their prescriptions just as badly as I do, but can't afford such repeated doctor visits.  We have the 'War on Drugs' to thank for that.

I've seen the effect of prolonged drug use on the convicts with whom I worked as a prison chaplain.  Those of you who've read my memoir of those years will recall the self-proclaimed 'Sam the Sex God', who'd fried his brain on PCP when he was a teenager, and now had little or no control over his emotions or feelings.  He was far from alone.  I shudder to think how many there are like him in our prisons - and how many who are not in prison, but walking the streets, with a potentially very dangerous lack of self-control.

From a humane, moral and ethical standpoint, I simply can't recommend letting addicts die of their overdoses, rather than bring them back with Narcan . . . but from a practical standpoint, a number of law enforcement officers with whom I've spoken about the problem have no qualms about recommending such an approach.  One told me that he'd 'jump-started' (his term) one particular addict no less than seven times in the past month.  "Why should I do it an eighth time?" he demanded.  "All he'll do is go out and steal something else, to pay for the ninth high - and then we'll be off to the races again."  I find it hard to argue against that.

Ten thousand deaths this year, in just one state.  How many more in other states?  How many in the USA as a whole?  How long can this insanity continue?  Is it even remotely possible to stop it - and if so, how?

Your guess is as good as mine . . .

Peter

He should have stayed in prison . . .


. . . rather than be shot by his partner in crime.

James Robert Young Jr., 41, of Macon, had been out on parole for less than 10 months when he was fatally wounded after breaking into a woman’s home at 152 Bradstone Circle.

. . .

Young was trying to carry out a big screen TV and dropped it when the woman yelled at the men and they started to run.

The other man fired a gun back toward the house and hit Young, Davis said.

“I’d much rather see one burglar shoot another burglar than an innocent homeowner,” Davis said.

Young died in the threshold of the woman’s front door, Bibb County Chief Coroner Leon Jones said.

The shooter is still on the run.

. . .

Young has been incarcerated at least five times in Georgia prisons for crimes committed in Bibb County, according to the Department of Corrections website.

There's more at the link.

I'm just waiting for cries from his family and friends of "But he was putting his life back together!" and "He dindu nuffin!"  Despite them, I daresay the taxpayers of Bibb County and Georgia owe a collective vote of thanks to the shooter, for saving them the expense of yet more time behind bars for the late Mr. Young.

Peter


Is there any legal way to overturn this?


I'm infuriated to learn that potential evidence in the alleged interception of communications between some members of President Trump's election team has been placed out of reach of investigators.

The National Security Council cannot hand over records relating to former National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s surveillance of Americans, because they have been moved to the Obama presidential library and may be sealed for as many as five years, conservative watchdog Judicial Watch announced Monday.

. . .

Judicial Watch earlier this year filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for those documents, including of communications between Rice and any intelligence community member or agency regarding any Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers, or any suspected communications between Russia and Trump officials.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the group will seek to find out when the records were moved, and warned of legal actions.

. . .

The Wall Street Journal editorial board has argued Rice had no reason to request the unmaskings. Since then, the House intelligence committee has also subpoenaed the intelligence community for information on unmasking requests by Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

There's more at the link.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this transparently duplicitous maneuver was performed precisely to hide illegal monitoring of President Trump's campaign by the Obama administration.  There is no logical reason whatsoever why unmasking requests by Ms. Rice should form part of President Obama's library.  To place them behind that firewall can only be an attempt to prevent them being used in investigations and (possibly) prosecutions.  No other explanation seems possible.

I hope this can be overturned, and the records made available.  If it can't be done under existing law, then I want Congress and the Senate to change the law to make them accessible.  This maneuver was nothing more or less than an obstruction of justice.  It must be overturned, or the rule of law (what's left of it, at any rate) will become nothing more than a hollow mockery.

Oh - and if the Democratic Party is so hot about investigating everything, I presume they'll put their weight behind obtaining these records as well.  If they don't, all their rhetoric will be exposed as meaningless partisan political hackery . . . not that we don't already know that, of course.




Peter