Monday, June 30, 2008

French Army fires into crowd... on accident

As seen on Reuters:

TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) - Sixteen people including four children were wounded after a soldier fired live ammunition during a military show in the southern French town of Carcassonne, a local official said on Sunday.

The accident occurred during a combat demonstration by the Third Marine Parachute regiment in which a soldier used live ammunition instead of blanks, said Bernard Lemaire, the prefect of the southwestern region of L'Aude.

Praise Cthulhu... how the frak does that happen? No blank firing adapter in the rifle? Who issued live ammo for a military show?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

LA Times: WTF?

So, in reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on the 2nd Amendment the LA Times has an opinion piece, with this tidbit:

This year, about 12,000 Americans will be shot to death. It's a staggering figure, and even though lawmakers have continued to pass gun-control laws to try to bring the number down, they have not significantly reduced the murder rate. Indeed, for the last decade, guns have steadily remained the cause of about two-thirds of all homicides.

Gun manufacturers insist that these deaths are not their fault, preferring to pin the blame on criminals and irresponsible dealers.

Say what? The manufacturer of a legal machine is responsible for it's use?

So... Ford and Honda are responsible for drunks who use their cars to kill people?

Spoons are responsible for people eating too much ice cream?

This is the sort of idiocy those of us who support the right to keep an bear arms just scratch our heads at. Firearms are machines, not demon infested imps which act independent of human will.

Blaming the tool for the user's actions just leads to the same action being performed with a different tool.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Drunken driver gets 43 years for killing mom, kids

Apparently, Ohio can do something right.

From the AP:
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A Michigan man was sentenced to 43 years in prison Friday for driving the wrong way on an interstate and slamming his pickup truck into a minivan, killing a Maryland mother and four children who were returning home from a Christmas trip. Michael Gagnon of Adrian, Mich., had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and marijuana in his system, authorities said.

Lucas County Judge Linda Jennings called Gagnon a dangerous person. "You have a drinking problem and you don't even know it," she said.

Gagnon, 24, had pleaded no contest to five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of aggravated vehicular assault.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

2nd Amendment: An Individual right


The Supreme Court has ruled that the second amendment is an individual right.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Silent on central questions of gun control for two centuries, the Supreme Court found its voice Thursday in a decision affirming the right to have guns for self-defense in the home and addressing a constitutional riddle almost as old as the republic over what it means to say the people may keep and bear arms.

The court's 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns and imperiled similar prohibitions in other cities, Chicago and San Francisco among them. Federal gun restrictions, however, were expected to remain largely intact.

You can read the full decision here. Note that it's a 157 page .pdf. While large in size, it's also an interesting read.

From my reading of it, the Court seems to be saying that:
  • The Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own firearms.
  • People have a right to defend themselves.
  • Handguns are a valid tool for self defense, and banning handguns violates the Constitution.
  • Some restrictions, such as those preventing felons and the insane from own firearms, are legal.

Note that I'm not a lawyer. I don't even play one on the internet.

The 5-4 margin worries me, but overall it's a good decision.

Congrats America!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Change! .... wait, is that a monkey???

What the...

Have to wonder if they meant to portray Obama, or if the word "Change" is just that closely identified with Obama's message.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin has died


SANTA MONICA, Calif. - George Carlin, the frenzied performer whose routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” led to a key Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, has died.

Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, went into St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He had performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. He was 71.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Old and busted: Global Warming. New.. erm... hotness: Global Cooling

Yeah, really.

From the News busters blog:

Investor's Business Daily is reporting something we haven't seen much of in the media since the 1970s: concerns about global cooling. You read that correctly: cooling.

Kenneth Tapping, a researcher at Canada's National Research Council, wants to look for evidence of increased sunspot activity, according to IBD. "The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century."

A "solar hibernation" in the 17th Century "corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715," IBD reported. "Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe."

Tapping's concerns fly in the face of the current media drumbeat about global warming, which would have Americans believe the Earth is on course for catastrophic climate changes unless the federal government (i.e. taxpayers) steps in to save the day.

The Investors Business Daily article mentioned above is here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Britain is the world's biggest arms dealer

From the UK Times Online:

London Britain was the world’s biggest arms seller last year, accounting for a third of global arms exports, the Government’s trade promotion organisation said.

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) said that arms exporters had added £9.7 billion in new business last year, giving them a larger share of global arms exports than the United States.

“As demonstrated by this outstanding export performance, the UK has a first-class defence industry, with some of the world’s most technologically sophisticated companies,” Digby Jones, the Minister for Trade and Investment, said.

UKTI said that the figures were boosted by orders for Eurofighter Typhoon jets from Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest arms buyer, which has imported $31 billion (£16 million) in weapons over the past five years. There were also orders from Oman and Trinidad and Tobago for offshore patrol vessels.

The US is still the world’s biggest exporter over the past five years, with $63 billion in total arms exports. Britain was second with $53 billion and Russia third with $33 billion.

Interesting... especially considering the UK attitude towards civilian firearms ownership.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Recently, I was talking to someone about using GPG. The question came up: How do I use this?

I humbly offer the GPG Mini Howto. It's got everything from Installation to Key Management and a section on front ends and email clients.

As good as that is, I'd also recommend Gmail users check out the firegpg plugin. It helps a lot with the GPG / Gmail combination by adding some useful buttons to the Gmail interface. Doesn't get much easier than that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More on the Upper Arlington threat

On May 13th there was a report that the FBI thwarted a terror threat at an Upper Arlington school. The next day it seemed like the story might be a tempest in a teapot.

Well, today there's this from WTTE:

Teen not being charged over Ohio school threat
June 17, 2008 11:20 EDT

UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (AP) -- Authorities have decided not to charge a 15-year-old for an online threat that closed his Columbus area high school one day last month.

An Upper Arlington police spokeswoman says the boy has been referred instead to a program that typically provides juveniles with counseling, community service and supervision. Officer Heather Galli also says the teen and his family have cooperated with investigators.

Upper Arlington High School canceled classes May 14 after police learned of the threat from the FBI. An agent in Tampa, Fla., had seen a Web posting in which the student wrote he would lock school doors that day and fire at students in hopes of killing a number "in the upper 60s."

Authorities say the boy told them he wasn't serious.

So that's that, I suppose. Seems like a kid was acting out and got some attention. Possibly more attention than he was looking for.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Congress and CFs

A little something from youtube...

It's Rep Ted Poe from the 2nd district of Texas speaking on an energy bill in congress, specifically the requirement to use compact fluorescent light bulbs.

He makes some good points, such as there's nothing in the Constitution which gives congress the authority to regulate which light bulbs must be used in US homes and the environmental regulations around disposing of compact fluorescent light bulbs. Since they contain mercury, those regulations are apparently not minimal.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Caturday

First, we interrupt this regularly scheduled Caturday with this:

Tim Russert passed away yesterday from an apparent heart attack. There's a number of memorials on the web to him in respect of his long career in journalism and political talk shows. By all accounts, he was a great guy off camera as well as an excellent interviewer on camera.

He'll be missed.

In the spirit of the common man overcoming adversity with good humor, Caturday now continues.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Private muslim school in Virginia has some interesting textbooks

From the AP
McLEAN, Va. (AP) — Textbooks at a private Islamic school in northern Virginia teach students that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam, according to a federal investigation released Wednesday.

Other passages in the school's textbooks state that "the Jews conspired against Islam and its people" and that Muslims are permitted to take the lives and property of those deemed "polytheists."

The passages were found in selected textbooks used during the 2007-08 school year by the Islamic Saudi Academy, which teaches 900 students in grades K-12 at two campuses in Alexandria and Fairfax and receives much of its funding from the Saudi government.

The academy has come under scrutiny from critics who allege that it fosters an intolerant brand of Islam similar to that taught in the conservative Saudi kingdom. In the review, the panel recommended that the school make all of its textbooks available to the State Department so changes can be made before the next school year.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a panel formed by Congress, last year recommended that the school be closed amid concerns that it promotes violence and too closely mimics the conservative Saudi educational system.

Some of the more interesting items:
_ The authors of a 12th-grade text on Koranic interpretation state that apostates (those who convert from Islam), adulterers and people who murder Muslims can be permissibly killed.

_ The authors of a 12th-grade text on monotheism write that "(m)ajor polytheism makes blood and wealth permissible," meaning that a Muslim can take with impunity the life and property of someone believed guilty of polytheism. According to the panel, the strict Saudi interpretation of polytheism includes Shiite and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.

_ A social studies text offers the view that Jews were responsible for the split between Sunni and Shiite Muslims: "The cause of the discord: The Jews conspired against Islam and its people. A sly, wicked person who sinfully and deceitfully professed Islam infiltrated (the Muslims)."

More generally, the panel found that the academy textbooks hold the view that the Muslim world was strong when united under a single caliph, the Arabic language and the Sunni creed, and that Muslims have grown weak because of foreign influence and internal divisions.

One wonders of how tolerant of intolerance an open society can be.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More than 10 items or less in the UK? That's a beating to death...

From the UK Daily Mail:
A shopper has died after he was attacked in Sainsbury's in a row over queue-jumping.

Kevin Tripp, 57, was hit so hard in the face as he waited by the checkouts that he collapsed to the floor unconscious and in a pool of blood.

Horrified shoppers, including young children, saw the father-of-one crumple to the ground. He was taken to hospital but died late last night.

Tony Virasami, 37, from Catford, south-east London, appeared in court today charged with his murder and was remanded in custody.

It is alleged his girlfriend summoned him to the store after she accused Mr Tripp of barging in front of her in the queue to pay.

Wow. So, your girlfriend calls you over to throw a beat down on a guy who cuts in line... and you kill him. The sad thing is, besides the obvious, I doubt his girlfriend will face any charges.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ohio gets the Castle Doctrine

Governor Strickland has signed Senate Bill 184, aka the Ohio Castle Doctrine into law:
Over the objections of law-enforcement groups, Gov. Ted Strickland yesterday signed into law a bill that relaxes certain gun restrictions and establishes a "castle doctrine" for shooting an intruder in self-defense.

The legislation, Senate Bill 184, takes effect in 90 days.

It was backed by the National Rifle Association to establish a presumption that a person acts in self defense when shooting someone who unlawfully enters his or her home or occupied vehicle. Supporters say it will protect the innocent from facing charges.

Amendments added to the bill will allow people to carry unloaded firearms in the cab of a vehicle with ammunition nearby and prohibit landlords from telling tenants they cannot own guns.

What press coverage there is seems critical, but the announcement on the Governors site has this to say:
State Senator Steve Buehrer sponsored SB 184, which presumes that a person has acted in self-defense when using force that may cause death or injury against an individual who has unlawfully entered the person’s home or occupied vehicle. Under current Ohio law, the burden lies on the resident who has used force to prove his or her reasoning for such action.

Get that? Under current law, if someone breaks into your home and you use lethal force to protect yourself you're presumed guilty and must prove you acted in self defense.

However, if someone breaks in and kills you, they're presumed innocent. Really.

This bill corrects that. The folks at OhioCCW have an analysis up, but neither they nor I are providing legal advice or a professional interpretation. You want that, pay a lawyer.

Good news for the people of Ohio.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

UK Anti-gun campaigner stabbed to death

From the BBC:
The grandson of prominent anti-gun campaigner Pat Regan has been arrested on suspicion of stabbing her to death.

Mrs Regan, 53, was discovered at the property on Marlborough Grange in the Hyde Park area of Leeds on Sunday.

The mother-of-six started campaigning against gun crime when her son Danny was shot dead in 2002.

The 20-year-old man was being held on suspicion of murder, police said. It is thought he had been arrested earlier in the day over another stabbing.

I've some sympathy for her, given the circumstances:
Mrs Regan set up a Leeds branch of Mothers Against Guns after her son Danny, 25, was shot at his home in Haydock, near St Helens, Merseyside in December 2002. His killer has not been found.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Regan's death proves in a rather stark way that controlling the tools used in crime is not a valid method of controlling crime. Criminals just find other tools.

Like knives.

Flip o' the tentacle to The Ready Line for passing on the story.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Preliminary Uniform Crime Reports, 2007 and Columbus, Ohio

Well, the preliminary Uniform Crime Reports for 2007 are out.

You may hear about these statistics on the news, if there's not a celebrity off shaving something while the cameras are watching.

When I see them, I like to compare the stats to past years, relate my local area to regional statistics... yes, it's a moment of geeking out with statistics.

Here's a comparison of Columbus, Ohio, violent crime rates to the Midwest:

The chart shows percentage change; negative numbers indicate a decrease of course.

Note that violent crime in general is down in the Midwest by %1.7, but up in Columbus by %5.

While Columbus has had fewer murders than the Midwest as a whole ( down %8 in Columbus vs. down %3.8 regionally ), rape is on the rise in Columbus by %11 while regionally it's down %7.1 .

Other numbers are similarly bad for Columbus. In robbery, we're up %5 while the Midwest is down %3 and in Aggravated Assault Columbus is up %4 while regionally it's down %0.2.

Rates for Violent Crime per 100,000 in Columbus Ohio are as follow:
Violent CrimeMurderRapeRobberyAggravated Assault

That's the problem with statistics... sometimes they tell you things you don't want to hear.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

How to commit mass murder without firearms

Every now and then, some anti-gun type points to countries like Japan, which heavily regulates firearms to the point of an almost total ban. They say the lack of firearms prevents mass murder by removing the tools of offender.


TOKYO - A Japanese man rammed a truck into a crowd of shoppers, jumped out and went on a stabbing spree in Tokyo's top electronics district Sunday, killing at least seven people and wounding 10 others.

The deadly lunchtime assault paralyzed the Akihabara neighborhood, which is wildly popular among the country's cyber-wise youth. The killings were the latest in a series of grisly knifings that have stoked fears of rising crime in Japan.

A 25-year-old man, Tomohiro Kato, was apprehended in the attack.

Note that besides such spectacular attacks, there seems to be a rise in attacks overall in Japan:

Once rare, stabbing attacks have become more frequent in Japan in recent years as violent crime has increased.

In March, one person was stabbed to death and at least seven others were hurt by a man who went on a slashing spree with two knives outside a shopping mall in eastern Japan. In one of the worst attacks, a man with a history of mental illness burst into an elementary school in Japan in 2001 and killed eight children. The killer was executed in 2004.

Stories like this are infuriating, but also serve to illustrate that those determined to do hard to others will find a way.

Disarming the populace, who in large majority do not commit violent crimes, serves only to ensure a pool of available victims.

Police officers, for the most part, do an admirable job of dealing with violent crime but even the best police simply can't be everywhere at all times.

Obviously it's best if incidents like this never happen in the first place, but removing firearms from the population does not facilitate that goal, as incidents like this illustrate.

Parents face charges for raising their daughter vegan

No, it's not some anti-hippie crusade. The girl has rickets and the bone density of an 80 year old.

From the UK Times Online:

A 12-YEAR-OLD girl in Scotland brought up by her parents on a strict vegan diet has been admitted to hospital with a degenerative bone condition said to have left her with the spine of an 80-year-old woman.

Doctors are under pressure to report the couple to police and social workers amid concerns that her health and welfare may have been neglected in pursuit of their dietary beliefs.

The girl, who has been fed on a strict meat and dairy-free diet from birth, is said to have a severe form of rickets and to have suffered a number of fractured bones.

The condition is caused by a lack of vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium and is found in liver, oily fish and dairy produce. Decalcification leads to the bones becoming brittle and can cause curvature of the spine.

If some idiotic nitwits want to put themselves in danger by following a philosophy which denies human nature, great. Especially if they don't have health insurance and are forced to bear the cost of their own idiocy.

However, forcing your children to follow such lunacy is child abuse. These parents have wrecked their child's body in pursuit of their inane devotion.

There seems to be some support on both sides of the pond for a reasonable course of action:

Jonathan Sher, head of policy at Children in Scotland, an umbrella group representing 400 organisations, said social workers should intervene where a vegan diet was putting children’s health at risk.

Last year, an American vegan couple were given a life sentence for starving their six-week-old baby to death. In 2001 two vegans from west London were sentenced to three years’ community rehabilitation after they admitted starving their baby to death.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Happy Caturday

French Army falling apart

No, it's not a joke.

Apparently the French Army is a sad state:
According to confidential defence documents leaked to the French press, less than half of France's Leclerc tanks – 142 out of 346 – are operational and even these regularly break down.

Less than half of its Puma helicopters, 37 per cent of its Lynx choppers and 33 per cent of its Super Frelon models – built 40 years ago – are in a fit state to fly, according to documents seen by Le Parisien newspaper.

Two thirds of France's Mirage F1 reconnaissance jets are unusable at present.

Of course, the timing is a bit suspect:

The disclosure comes just ten days before President Nicolas Sarkozy announces a major reform of the armed forces, with a defence white paper outlining France's military priorities for the next 15 years.

He is expected to argue that the situation can only improve by reducing the number of France's operational troops from 50,000 to 30,000, and its fighter aircraft, as well as closing military bases.

He will also use the occasion to push for greater military integration in Europe, an issue that France will highlight when it takes over the EU's six-month rotating presidency in July.

French proposals circulating in Brussels show that France wants a new EU military headquarters based in the Belgian capital and run by Europe's new foreign policy chief. It is also calling for a bigger rapid reaction force and for countries to spend more on defence.

So France wants to spend less on defense but wants other EU nations to spend more. Nice.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

DC to seal off bad neighborhoods

No, really.

D.C. police will seal off entire neighborhoods, set up checkpoints and kick out strangers under a new program that D.C. officials hope will help them rescue the city from its out-of-control violence.

Under an executive order expected to be announced today, police Chief Cathy L. Lanier will have the authority to designate “Neighborhood Safety Zones.” At least six officers will man cordons around those zones and demand identification from people coming in and out of them. Anyone who doesn’t live there, work there or have “legitimate reason” to be there will be sent away or face arrest, documents obtained by The Examiner show.

Lanier has been struggling to reverse D.C.’s spiraling crime rate but has been forced by public outcry to scale back several initiatives including her “All Hands on Deck” weekends and plans for warrantless, door-to-door searches for drugs and guns.

So warrantless searches are too illegal, so set up check points? Arrest people because they're driving down the wrong street?

Peter Nickles, the city’s interim attorney general, said the quarantine would have “a narrow focus.”

“This is a very targeted program that has been used in other cities,” Nickles told The Examiner. “I’m not worried about the constitutionality of it.”

Which other cities? Perhaps some in the former Soviet Union?

For once, I agree with the ACLU:
Shelley Broderick, president of the D.C.-area American Civil Liberties Union and the dean of the University of the District of Columbia’s law school, said the plan was “cockamamie.”

“I think they tried this in Russia and it failed,” she said. “It’s just our experience in this city that we always end up targeting poor people and people of color, and we treat the kids coming home from choir practice the same as we treat those kids who are selling drugs.”

Treating everyone like a criminal only seems to create more criminals. If the population is trained, by police actions, to not trust the police then the job of enforcement becomes harder, if not impossible.

It's the same mentality that says people don't have the right to defend themselves, and deserves the same response.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chávez decree tightens hold on intelligence

From the International Herald Tribune:

Under the new intelligence law, which took effect last week, Venezuela's two main intelligence services, the DISIP secret police and the DIM military intelligence agency, will be replaced with new agencies, the General Intelligence Office and General Counterintelligence Office, under the control of Chávez.

The new law requires people in the country to comply with requests to assist the agencies, secret police or community activist groups loyal to Chávez. Refusal can result in prison terms of two to four years for most people and four to six years for government employees.

Wow. Kinda makes the Patriot Act seem amateurish. I'm sure there are some elements who'd like to have mandatory "cooperation" with either the Democratic or Republican political parties, not just the government.

What's this new measure for?

The sweeping intelligence changes reflect an effort by Chávez to assert greater control over public institutions in the face of political challenges following a stinging defeat in December of a constitutional reform package that would have expanded his powers.

Chávez, who has insisted the defeat would not dampen his ambitions to transform Venezuela into a Socialist state, said the new law was intended to guarantee "national security" and shield against "imperialist attacks."

Oh, of course.

Sitting ruler tries to increase their power through elections and fails, so call out the secret police. Never mind responding to the will of the people... they're just idiots who need to be lead by the nose or, if they resist, eliminated.

Monday, June 2, 2008


As seen on

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Suicide and the US Army

I'm sure most of you have seen the AP story about the rise in suicides in the US Army.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of Army suicides increased again last year, amid the most violent year yet in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. An Army official said Thursday that 115 troops committed suicide in 2007, a nearly 13 percent increase over the previous year's 102. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a full report on the deaths wasn't being released until later Thursday.

Finding stats to work with takes some googling. Most of what I could find online was for FY 2005.

From I found that the suicide rate in the US was 11.0 nation wide in 2005.

Also in 2005, there were 512,400 Active Duty US Army personnel. Note that I said "Active Duty"; that figure doesn't count the US Army reserve, the National Guard units or any civilian personnel.

That same AP article mentions there were 85 suicides in 2005.

That's a rate of 16.59 suicides per 100,000 for the Army compared to, again, 11 per 100,000 for the United States.

Given that the suicide rate for the Army is higher than the general population, I wonder if there's been a corresponding increase in the suicide rate in the general population which is simply reflected in the Army statistics, or if the Army's experiences in Iraq are becoming more of a factor than they were in past years.