Saturday, December 6, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back for now...

So it's been forever and a day since I posted here. Frankly, I wondered what the point of all this was. Is. Whichever.

On the other hand, as an archive of things which amuse me this blog has some value.

Anyone else catch the Unspeakable Vault on the upcoming elections?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

The "Mayors and Crime" trifecta is now in play

First, there's the story of the Mayor of Detroit having his bond revoked for leaving the country.

From the AP:

DETROIT (AP) - Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was jailed Thursday for a bond violation in his perjury case, his pleas for leniency rejected by a judge who made it clear the mayor would get no special treatment.

Kilpatrick, charged with perjury and other felonies over his testimony in a civil trial, apologized and acknowledged that he made a mistake when he visited Windsor, Ontario, minutes away from Detroit, for city business last month. But District Judge Ronald Giles was not moved, saying he needed to treat the mayor like any other defendant.

Now the Mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, had a SWAT team kick in his door and kill his dogs.

Again, from the AP:

BERWYN HEIGHTS, Md. (AP) - Mayor Cheye Calvo got home from work, saw a package addressed to his wife on the front porch and brought it inside, putting it on a table. Suddenly, police with guns drawn kicked in the door and stormed in, shooting to death the couple's two dogs and seizing the unopened package.

In it were 32 pounds of marijuana. But the drugs evidently didn't belong to the couple.

Police say the couple appeared to be innocent victims of a scheme by two men to smuggle millions of dollars worth of marijuana by having it delivered to about a half-dozen unsuspecting recipients.

The two men under arrest include a FedEx deliveryman; investigators said the deliveryman would drop off a package outside a home, and the other man would come by a short time later and pick it up.

A furious Calvo said Thursday that he and his wife, Trinity Tomsic, are asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the July 29 raid.

"Trinity was an innocent victim and random victim," Calvo said outside his two-story, red-brick house in this middle-class Washington suburb of about 3,000 people. "We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us."

Calvo insisted the couple's two black Labradors were gentle creatures and said police apparently killed them "for sport," gunning down one of them as it was running away.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mother Pleads Guilty To Having Sex With Teen

Becky Jo Tatum, previously arrested for unlawful contact with a minor, insurance fraud, drug possession and weapons possession, among other things, has plead guilty to sleeping with one of her daughters friends at a party.


COLUMBUS, Ohio — A mother accused of having sex with a teenager pleaded guilty to the crime on Wednesday.

Becky Jo Tatum admitted having unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. She said that she engaged in sexual conduct with a 14-year-old girl, her daughter's friend, at a party, 10TV's Maureen Kocot reported.

The teenager told police that Tatum's daughter claimed her mother had sex with other teenage friends, Kocot reported.

Bexley police also found more than one ounce of cocaine and a gun inside Tatum's home. She was not allowed to own a firearm because of a 1999 conviction for attempted drug trafficking and a 1998 conviction for promoting prostitution.

Tatum will be confined by an electronic monitoring device until she is sentenced in September. She could face up to 11 1/2 years behind bars.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Another domestic terror attack

Looks like arson and firebombs aren't just things that happen around here.

From the LA Times, it seems there's been a firebomb attack on two UC Santa Cruz scientists.

Santa Cruz -- Firebombs that struck the home and car of two UC Santa Cruz scientists this weekend were part of an increasingly aggressive campaign by animal rights activists against animal researchers at University of California campuses, officials said Monday.

Santa Cruz police officials said the blasts, which occurred three minutes apart, caused one of the scientists, his wife and two young children to flee their home through a second-story window.

There's a reward in the case:

City officials joined in harshly condemning the bombings and urged members of the public who might have evidence in the case to contact authorities. They announced a $30,000 reward, including $2,500 donated by the Humane Society of the United States.

"The threats and attacks are shocking and abhorrent," Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty said. "We as a community are unambiguous in our condemnation of these actions. Let me be clear, this is not protest. This is terrorism."

Nationwide, incidents of violence by self-described animal rights activists have been on the rise, according to the Foundation for Biomedical Research, which has tracked such attacks since 1981, when there was one.

In 2000 there were 10 such episodes against biomedical research facilities alone, and in 2006 that figure had grown to 77, according to the group's website. In addition, the type of attacks has changed in recent years.

"Prior to that, the vast majority of actions taken were against institutions -- break into the lab, steal the animals, trash the facility," said foundation President Frankie Trull. "More recently, however . . . they've become much more personal, attacking the researchers at their homes. California seems to be the focus of this activity right now, but not the only focus."

Note that there's also a $110,000 reward in a related case.

Federal and local officials on Tuesday announced a $110,000 reward for information leading to arrests and convictions in the attempted firebombing of a prominent UCLA eye doctor’s car last month.

A group known as the Animal Liberation Brigade claimed responsibility on a website for the act, which authorities described as “domestic terrorism.”

On June 24, an incendiary device was lighted next to a car parked at the Westside home of Dr. Arthur Rosenbaum, who is chief of pediatric ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute.

The device did not ignite, but authorities said it had the potential to cause great harm.

Rosenbaum has conducted research that, among other things, used monkeys to test procedures correcting severe cross-eyed conditions.

UCLA says that all animal research at the university is humane and meets federal standards.

At a news conference Tuesday at FBI offices in Westwood, law enforcement officials urged anyone with information about last month’s incident to call the FBI at (310) 477-6565; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at (888) 283-2662; or local law enforcement agencies.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Psychiatry becomes pill pushing... as if you didn't know

Not that it's a surprise to anyone, but the AP is reporting that psychotherapy is in decline in favor of drug treatments.

His study found that the percentage of patients' visits to psychiatrists for psychotherapy, or talk therapy, fell from 44 percent in 1996-97 to 29 percent in 2004-05. The percentage of psychiatrists using psychotherapy with all their patients also dropped, from about 19 percent to 11 percent.

Apparently, the thinking is that insurance companies will pay more for visits to get drugs than for the time it takes the "talking cure" to be effective.

The expanded use of pills and insurance policies that favor short office visits are among the reasons, said lead author Dr. Ramin Mojtabai of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

"The 'couch,' or, more generally, long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy, was for so long a hallmark of the practice of psychiatry. It no longer is," Mojtabai said.

Today's psychiatrists get reimbursed by insurance companies at a lower rate for a 45-minute psychotherapy visit than for three 15-minute medication visits, he explained.

Of course, no mention of health care would be complete without marketing references:

As talk therapy declined, TV ads contributed to an "aura of invincibility" around drugs for depression and anxiety, said Charles Barber, a lecturer in psychiatry at Yale University and author of "Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation."

"By contrast, there's almost no marketing for psychotherapy, which has comparable if not better outcomes," said Barber, who was not involved in the study.

So, all that talk about "chemical imbalances" ( none of which can be objectively tested for, apparently ) is bunk? Is it all really just a matter of changing one's outlook and actions? Not that that's a simple proposition... but it's not something you need a prescription for.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Knights Templar sues Vatican

Yes, really.

From the UK Daily Telegraph:

The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ, whose members claim to be descended from the legendary crusaders, have filed a lawsuit against Benedict XVI calling for him to recognise the seizure of assets worth 100 billion euros (£79 billion).

They claim that when the order was dissolved by his predecessor Pope Clement V in 1307, more than 9,000 properties as well as countless pastures, mills and other commercial ventures belonging to the knights were appropriated by the church.

Damn. You can just about hear the popping of conspiracy theorists heads.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I'm not dead yet...

From the AP

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - A man believed to have died in a Colorado flood in 1976 has been found living in Oklahoma.

Sixty-three-year-old Darrell Johnson told the Fort Collins Coloradoan for a story Friday that he didn't know he had been counted among the 144 victims of the Big Thompson Canyon flood until a resident called him last year.

Barb Anderson said residents didn't want his name on a memorial plaque without proof he was dead.

Johnson and his family had decided to leave their shabby cabin the morning of the flood after just one night. A few hours later, the resort was washed away.

How Johnson ended up on the victims list remains a mystery.

He now directs funerals in Oklahoma City and acknowledges he was lucky to get the bad cabin.

Says something about the state of records. If the guy was declared dead in 1976 I'd think his Social Security Number would be in the Social Security Death Index.

Of course, having a living person show up in the death index is a real problem, so a death not being reported seems a better error, considering the problems than a "false positive" can cause.

Odd problem for someone in the death industry, though.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Happy Caturday

With a special Caturday appearance by lio:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Anthrax suspect kills himself

As seen on NPR, a suspect in the 2001 Anthrax attacks has apparently killed himself.

The sudden naming of scientist Bruce E. Ivins as the top — and perhaps only — suspect in the anthrax attacks marks the latest bizarre twist in a case that has confounded the FBI for nearly seven years. Last month, the Justice Department cleared Ivins' colleague, Steven Hatfill, who had been wrongly suspected in the case, and paid him $5.8 million.

Ivins worked at the Army's biological warfare defense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., for 35 years until his death on Tuesday. He was one of the government's leading scientists researching vaccines and cures for anthrax exposure. But he also had a long history of homicidal threats, according to papers filed last week in local court by a social worker.

Kinda odd that social workers are only recently filing papers about homicidal threats. You can read them for yourself here.

For a whole lot more on the anthrax attacks, ABC news and links to the invasion of Iraq, check out this opinion piece on Salon. Seems like there's a lot more to this story.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beheading on Canadian Bus

As seen on the AP

"We heard this bloodcurdling scream and turned around, and the guy was standing up, stabbing this guy repeatedly," Caton said from a hotel in Brandon, Manitoba, where he and other horrified passengers were taken.

Caton said the driver stopped the bus when he became aware of the attack and passengers scrambled off. A short while later, Caton said he re-boarded along with the bus driver and a trucker who had stopped to see what was happening.

He said the suspect had the victim on the floor of the bus and "was cutting his head off" with a large hunting knife.

"When he was attacking him, he was calm," said Caton. "There was no rage or, or anything. He was just like a robot stabbing the guy."

The attacker turned toward them and the three men quickly left the bus, blocking the door as the attacker slashed at them through an opening. The three secured the door to prevent the man's escape. Caton said the driver disabled the vehicle after the attacker tried to drive it away.

As the three guarded the door with a crow bar and a hammer, the attacker went back to the body and calmly came to the front of the bus to show off the head.

Cody Olmstead, another passenger, said the man "dropped the head and went back and started cutting the body." Olmstead said the man later use the head to taunt police.

No reports of the killer saying "there can be only one".

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Assessing the themes of The Dark Knight

Interesting post over on slashfilm. One viewers brain-dump on the themes presented in The Dark Knight, which I enjoyed.

Spoilers abound in the post, so if you're one of the remaining people who hasn't seen this yes, you might want to go see the movie before you read further. Or not. Just trying to meet you half way.

Either way, it's an interesting read.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Arson in Columbus, Ohio

Seems like the local media has noticed the apparent uptick in arson in the area. Someone even put together a google map of suspicious fires for the area in 2008.

NBC4i has a story up about one of the more recent cases.

"They set my car on fire at about 2 o'clock this morning," Smith said. "And we went back there. Fire department came and put it out. We went back in the house, laid back to go back to sleep. The next thing you know, that apartment's on fire."


Another fire also considered arson called firefighters out to 536 Bulen Avenue on the city's near East Side. The flames started in a vacant house and spread to an occupied home next door. The family of five escaped safely.

A third suspicious fire actually was the first of the morning and was on the near East Side, too. These flames also started in a vacant home but on the corner of South 18th Street and East Engler Street. No one was hurt, and no neighboring buildings were damaged.

Seems like arson is a harder crime to solve than others. High profile cases, such as the five OSU students killed five years ago are still unsolved.

On April 13, 2003, a fire ripped through a home on East 17th Avenue. When the blaze was finally extinguished hours later, two Ohio State students, Alan Schlessman and Kyle Raulin, were dead, 10TV's Angela An reported.

Also killed in the fire were Andrea Dennis, Erin DeMarco and Christine Wilson -- all of whom were visiting from Ohio University.

In the time since the fire, much has changed.

The East 17th Avenue home has been renovated and remodeled, and most of the students present the night of the fatal fire are graduated and gone.

While the fire is all but a memory to most, Columbus Police Det. Rick Bisutti said one thing had not changed in five years: his search for the arsonist who killed five people.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Dark Knight

Just got back from seeing this.

If you haven't already, chew through the restraints, skip the meds and head straight for the nearest theater.

Heath Ledger nailed the role. Whatever remaining camp was in characterizations of the Joker has been taken out back, carved up into chunks and fed to hungry dogs.

The writers deserve lots of praise, as they seem to have made the Joker akin to the court jester of other older stories; the one guy who has an insight into human nature and can talk about it. The idea of the Joker as an "agent of chaos" is genius.

Oh, and it's a Joker movie. Batman is almost a supporting role.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sacramento Zombie map

This is neat...

View Larger Map

Someone whipped up a google map of Sacramento, with zombie related overlays. Supply sources, zombie infestation areas and safe zones are noted.

Worth a look, and a laugh.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Variable velocity rifle

As seen on slashdot, a company is claiming development of a rifle variable velocity bullets:

A gun that fires variable speed bullets and which can be set to kill, wound or just inflict a bruise is being built by a US toy manufacturer. The weapon is based on technology used to propel toy rockets.

Lund and Company Invention, a toy design studio based near Chicago, makes toy rockets that are powered by burning hydrogen obtained by electrolysing water. Now the company is being funded by the US army to adapt the technology to fire bullets instead.

The US Army are interested in arming soldiers with weapons that can be switched between lethal and non-lethal modes. They asked Company Invention to make a rifle that can fire bullets at various speeds.

And later...

Lund says that the new weapon system will use different types of bullet for lethal and non-lethal use. Police forces already use separate shotguns for non-lethal loads – typically marking them with bright orange tape to prevent any confusion – so this shouldn't be an issue.

The existing VWS design is a .50 calibre (12.7 mm) rifle weapon, but Lund says the technology can be scaled to any size, "handgun to Howitzer".

As a note, the New Scientist article used the term "non-lethal". A more correct term is "less lethal", since there have been documented cases of people dieing after things like tasers, pepper spray and rubber bullets / bean-bag round were used on them.

Of course, the actual circumstances of each case are unique; there may have been other factors in play. What is clear is that all weapons are just that: weapons. Not to be used indiscriminately.

Back to this rifle. While the article mentions an interest in riot control, there are other uses.

Long range shooters would appreciate a higher velocity, as this would prevent muzzle drop.

Also, anyone using a silencer would appreciate reducing the muzzle velocity to subsonic levels in order to further quiet the weapon. Even with a silencer to capture the gases from the fired round, if the slug itself is traveling at supersonic speeds there will be an audible "crack" as the slug passes the supersonic barrier.

An interesting concept, and one I hope merits further review.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In the Mexican drug war, the narcos now have a Navy...

In an odd story, it seem the Mexican Navy has seized a submarine full of cocaine.

The Mexican military, working with information from U.S. intelligence services, found nearly six tons of cocaine in a makeshift submarine seized this week off the Pacific coast.

The 10-metre-long, green fiberglass craft was designed to travel just beneath the water, leaving almost no wake.

It was one of Mexico's largest maritime drug seizures and the first time the country has seen drug smugglers using a submarine, the navy said.

Which would seem to indicate the smugglers are trying to avoid the authorities. However, it's not like they're not taking on the authorities directly.

Some 1,700 people have been killed in drug gang violence in Mexico so far this year, and Calderon's frontal assault has failed to stop attacks on police and soldiers.

Drug hitmen shot and killed a policeman in his office in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez Friday, the first time gunmen have penetrated a police building to murder an official in the city, police said.

It's also not the first time a submarine has been in service to drug smugglers. This story from the BBC is from 2000:

olice in Colombia say they have found a half-built submarine in a warehouse in a suburb of the capital Bogota.

Police chief General Luis Ernesto Gilibert said Russian documents were found alongside the partially-completed vessel.

He said the 30 metre (100ft) vessel would have been capable of carrying huge quantities of cocaine or heroin.

He speculated that, once completed, the submarine would have been disassembled and taken by lorry to to Colombia's Pacific or Caribbean coast.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

National Guard still in New Orleans

Speaking of the National Guard, I wasn't aware that the Louisiana National Guard is still on patrol in New Orleans.

It's been nearly three years since Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters devastated parts of New Orleans.

And to this day, the National Guard continues to patrol some of the hardest-hit areas.

The guard's mission is to prevent looting and provide a law and order.

The Guard will stay in the city at least until the end of the year following Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to extend its tour of duty.

Given the conditions three years ago it was completely understandable, even required, that armed troops were required.

I was surprised that the Guard was still present, but apparently at least some of the citizens of New Orleans want the Guard to remain:

However, Jeffery is one of many residents with an ever-growing concern... that National Guard troops will leave by the end of September. "They actually look after us and they answer our calls. They are the ones we kind of expect when we make a call," says Jeffery.

The Ninth Ward is slowly rebuilding. But Chambliss says that rebuilding and growth may stop if the National Guard troops are taken out. Crime may come back. He says, "Theft, burglary, some assaults and a number of murders have happened."

That's why Jeffery and others with the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, and Silence is Vviolence are petitioning Ggovernor Bobby Jindal to keep the troops here. "Since they're working, why take them away? Why not just add to what they have and then take them away?"

Perhaps New Orleans still isn't capable of dealing with the situation. Or the population doesn't consent to be governed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

National Guard heading toward Chicago?

From the Chicago Tribune:

CHICAGO - Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday raised the possibility of bringing in state troopers or even the Illinois National Guard to help Chicago combat a recent increase in violent crime -- an offer that Mayor Richard Daley didn't know was coming.

Appearing at signing ceremony for a bill that toughens the penalty for adults who provide guns to minors, Blagojevich said "violent crime in the city of Chicago is out of control."

"I'm offering resources of the state to the city to work in a constructive way with Mayor Daley to do everything we can possibly do to help ... stop this violence," said the governor.

Blagojevich said Daley had not asked for help and he had not talked to the mayor about offering it, adding he would call Daley after he met later in the day with the state police, National Guard and others.

Which seems a bit odd. Daley didn't seem to ask for the help, but there's the Governor offering it.

The role the National Guard would play is apparently undecided. His office did some serious backpedaling:

Blagojevich said it is far more likely that state troopers would be used than guardsmen. In fact, his office moved quickly after the governor's comments to stress in a news release that Blagojevich was not considering bringing in National Guard troops to the city.

"The only way the National Guard would be involved, if they are involved, is with the use of tactical helicopters that are currently used in narcotics operations," spokesman Lucio Guerrero said in a prepared statement.

Likely the prospect of using a military force to keep order in a major city struck some as a little extreme, even if it's so Chicago has a chance at hosting the Olympics in 2016.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sure hon... you can stand there

After all, the view is great...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A darker beauty: The work of Keith Thompson

I found this little gem a while back, but neglected to write it up here.

Keith Thompson is a Canadian artist working, apparently, out of Ontario. He starts with line drawings and works his way up with multiple layers of transparent color glazes to produce the final work.

His gallery is extensive, and well worth your time. I've lost an hour or two in browsing his work; if this keeps up, I'll be making some blank space on a wall to fill with one of his lovelies.

The Leicheoberschutze:

The Undying Flagellant:

And the Yokai:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dear Clarice...

If you'll pardon this interruption in the usual content here for a moment, and just a moment I assure you, there's a little tidbit I'd like to share with you.

Of late, I came across the movie Hannibal again. Third in the series of books by Thomas Harris featuring Dr. Hannibal Lecter, in some ways it's the best of the bunch.

The movie Hannibal contains a lovely letter from Dr. Lecter to Clarice Starling, after Dr. Lecter heard news of Starling's involvement in a bloody shooting:

Dear Clarice,

I have followed with enthusiasm the course of your disgrace and public shaming. My own never bothered me except for the inconvenience of being incarcerated, but you may lack perspective.

In our discussions down in the dungeon it was apparent to me that your father, the dead night watchman, figures largely in your value system. I think your success in putting an end to Jame Gumb's career as a couturier pleased you most because you could imagine your father being pleased.

But now, alas, you're in bad odour with the FBI. Do you imagine your daddy being shamed by your disgrace? Do you see him in his plain pine box crushed by your failure; a sorry, petty end of a promising career? What is worst about this humiliation Clarice? Is it how your failure will reflect on your mommy and daddy? Is your worst fear that people will now and forever believe they were indeed just good old trailer camp tornado bait white trash and that perhaps you are too?

By the way I couldn't help noticing on the FBI's rather dull public website that I have been hoisted from the Bureau's archives of the common criminal and elevated to the more prestigious 10 Most Wanted list. Is this coincidence, or are you back on the case?

If so, goody goody, cause I need to come out of retirement and return to public life.

I imagine you sitting in a dark basement room bent over papers and computer screens. Is that accurate? Please tell me truly, Special Agent Starling.

Regards, your old pal Hannibal Lecter, M.D.

P.S. Clearly this new assignment is not your choice rather I suppose it is a part of the bargain but you accepted it Clarice. Your job is to craft my doom. So I am not sure how well I should wish you but I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun.

Tata, H.

Full of whimsy and a keen insight into the character of Starling, it's one of my favorite movie lines.

At once both contemptuous and challenging, it's also a note of concern in it's opening lines.

One finds out later in the book Hannibal that Lecter's perspective comes from the death of his sister, and the soldiers who ate her to prevent their starvation.

Of course, this point was also covered in a later film, but that was frankly a disaster not worthy of the earlier efforts.

Still, I find it an interesting thought. Those who've suffered horrible events are very different from others in their ability to endure events. What would drive others over the edge into madness they can put in perspective, so to speak.

Lecter's own "disgrace and public shaming" was the result of his capture, exposure as a serial killer and cannibal, and subsequent incarceration in a prison for the criminally insane. This seemed only an inconvenience, compared to earlier events.

Not that Dr. Lecter represents a paragon of sanity, of course. As Trevor Goodchild noted, that which does not kill us makes us stranger.

Just as Dr. Lecter gained the ability to endure lesser torments than that which broke his sanity, his sanity was nonetheless broken.

So this letter from Dr. Lecter to Clarice Starling represents both an individual surmounting events and that same individual becoming permanently divorced from mainstream humanity.

An amusing thought, to be sure.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

When physics isn't PC

Apparently, in Dallas a County Commissioner thinks the term "black hole" is racist. No, really.

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price is sticking to his comments that the term "black hole," which a colleague used, is racist.Price also says language such as "angel food cake" and "devil's food cake" are also racially insensitive.

You've really got to check the video on the link above though. That quote above doesn't do it justice.

Just in case you need a reference, the all knowing wikipedia defines a "black hole" as:

A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing, not even light, can escape its pull after having fallen past its event horizon. The term "Black Hole" comes from the fact that, at a certain point, even electromagnetic radiation (e.g. visible light) is unable to break away from the attraction of these massive objects. This renders the hole's interior invisible or, rather, black like the appearance of space itself.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

LOLCat Zombies!

Would the sound of a can of tuna opening distract them from tasty, tasty brains?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Another difference between the UK and the USA

I've always liked that joke about the US and the UK being two countries separated by a common language. One of those "you laugh because it's funny, and you laugh because it's true" kind of thing.

Obviously, there's another differences as well.

Take the sanctity of the home. Apparently in the UK kids can throw rocks at your home for two hours before the police show up, and if you try to chase them off the cops will arrest you.

"My wife called the police at 6 o'clock.

"They just kept on throwing stones through my back gate.

"I left the back door open to stop them smashing it. I have two kids and if one of those stones hit them it could have caused some really nasty damage.

"Suddenly a really big rock came crashing into the kitchen.

"I just grabbed the stick, which was the nearest thing I could find, and chased them off.

"The police turned up just as I was chasing them."

Retired Mr Davis said Pinehurst West was under constant attack from gangs of unruly teenagers and he feared for the safety of his sons Peter John and Jimmy Lloyd.

"One of my neighbours had a seven-month-old baby in their kitchen, when a brick came through the window," he said.

"It showered glass across the baby's face.

"Something needs to be done to stop these kids. They are out there almost every night."

Check the comments in that article as well. Interesting reading from this side of the pond.

You've probably heard of the case of Joe Horn down in Texas. He's the guy that saw two men breaking into his neighbors house. He confronted them in his yard and killed both of them with a shotgun.

As you may also of heard, under Texas law the shooting was legal. Horn's lawyer sums it up:

"I think the evidence showed that Joe was, in fact, within his legal rights to do what he did. He didn't want to do it, but he didn't have any other alternative," said Lambright.

So in two cases the police weren't present to deal with crimes in progress. In the UK, attempting to chase off a gang of kids throwing rocks gets you arrested. Here in the states, you can kill thieves on your front lawn.

In both countries, it's unrealistic to expect the police to be everywhere at all times and to prevent all crime. That's just silly... no system is perfect.

At least here in the states it's not legally required to be a victim.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Children: Joy or Burden?

An interesting story on NPR which casts doubt on the joys of parenthood:

The cliché refers to newborn children as "bundles of joy," but recent research indicates that bundles of anxiety, or even bundles of depression, might be more accurate.

Sociologists are discovering that children may not make parents happier and that childless adults, contrary to popular stereotypes, may often be more contented than people with kids.

Parents "definitely experienced more depression," says Robin Simon, a sociologist at Florida State University who has studied data on parenting.

"Part of our cultural beliefs is that we derive all this joy from kids," says Simon. "It's really hard for people who don't feel this to admit it." Social pressures to view only the positive aspects of child rearing only make the problem worse, she says. "They're afraid to admit it because it runs so counter to our cultural beliefs that children make you happy."

I can't say I'm surprised. As a childless person, I do not find my life lacking. I've no need for children, and frankly it took quite some time to realize other people really want children.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Suicide rates and firearms

Interesting article from the American Journal of Psychiatry:

Guns and suicide: possible effects of some specific legislation

CL Rich, JG Young, RC Fowler, J Wagner and NA Black
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego.

The authors describe suicide rates in Toronto and Ontario and methods used for suicide in Toronto for 5 years before and after enactment of Canadian gun control legislation in 1978. They also present data from San Diego, Calif., where state laws attempt to limit access to guns by certain psychiatric patients. Both sets of data indicate that gun control legislation may have led to decreased use of guns by suicidal men, but the difference was apparently offset by an increase in suicide by leaping. In the case of men using guns for suicide, these data support a hypothesis of substitution of suicide method.

So, what's that mean?

It means there's data that shows banning firearms does not lower suicide rates. Instead of shooting themselves, suicidal guys throw themselves off buildings.

Once again, controlling the tools does not control the behavior. People just find other tools.

UK Minister calls for Children to be locked in schools, forced to eat only approved food

From the UK Daily Mail:

Children should be locked inside school grounds to stop them buying unhealthy food from shops and takeaways, a minister said yesterday.

The proposal comes amid new evidence that the Jamie Oliver-inspired drive to make school kitchens offer more nutritious meals is being shunned by pupils in favour of junk food.

And, later on in the story, there's this:

Virtually all the children who were allowed out bought food from local shops, mainly fizzy drinks, chocolate, sweets, crisps, cakes, biscuits and chips.

Some things, you just can't make up.

Obviously in some people's minds the freedom of individual choice only extends to approved choices. If those in power don't approve of individuals choices then those individuals must be forced behave. So much for freedom.

Interestingly, the real problem may not be "health food":

The researchers found it was not the healthy menus in school canteens that were deterring the pupils so much as long queues, poor facilities and high prices.

They said schools considering keeping children on the premises ought to address these issues first, a finding backed by Oliver last night. 'If you look at what's going on in schools where the catering staff have got the right support and where a "dining culture" is developing, that's where it's working,' he said.

'But there's a big divide between these schools and the many where there are still problems.'

Ah, but why improve services when you can restrict individual choice?

After all, real improvements cost money. Much better to just force people to behave the way you want, rather than actually attempting to entice them to your way of thinking.

Or, perhaps, there's another option. Restrict the ability of those in government to interfere in our lives. Then improving services becomes a more attractive option, rather than forced lock ins.

Of course, that would require the governed to take some interest in their government.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Knife attacks overtake terrorism as top priority in UK

From the Seattle Times there's this story on an arrest in a vicious knife attack in London:

British police arrested a suspect Saturday in the brutal murders of two French students who were tied up and stabbed scores of times before their bodies were set alight.

The killings have shocked a country already worried by a spate of knife attacks involving young people; 18 teenagers have been slain in London this year.

Officers detained a 21-year-old man on a street in southeast London at about 3:40 a.m. (0240 GMT) Saturday, police said. He was being held at a London police station.

Police would not say whether the arrested man was the prime suspect in the case, and appealed for witnesses to come forward.

On June 29, Laurent Bonomo and his friend Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were bound and stabbed to death at Bonomo's rented apartment, near where the arrest was made. Bonomo had been stabbed nearly 200 times, while Ferez received nearly 50 stab wounds.

The apparent motive is, perhaps as usual, something incredibly banal:

Police said Friday the murders may be linked to the theft of two PlayStation game consoles, which they believe were taken from the apartment the night of the killings. A laptop computer also was stolen from the apartment six days before the attack.

But this strikes me as an interesting tidbit:

The brutal killings have shocked a country already concerned by a spate of knife attacks involving young people. Eighteen teenagers have died in suspected murders in London this year, compared to 27 in all of 2007. Most were stabbed, and police in the city say the fight against knife crime has overtaken terrorism as their top priority.

More proof that banning firearms does not prevent crime. Criminals just find different tools to use in pursuit of the same insane reasons they have for attacking others.

Saturday, July 5, 2008