Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Excited Delirium and Police Tactics

NPR has a news article on excited delirium, a controversial medical diagnosis for people who manifest rage and superhuman strength. The condition is being used by Taser International to explain deaths in custody of individuals who are hit by tasers.

Browsing around I found a page by the Force Science Research Center at the University of Minnesota Mankato discussing ten techniques for dealing with individuals suffering from Excited Delirium. The seventh technique specifically deals with the use of a Taser on individuals suffering from Excited Delirium (or ED).
In considering tactics, keep in mind that "[Excited Delirium] is often characterized by superhuman strength and imperviousness to pain. Thus, control through empty-hand, mechanical techniques may be more difficult to achieve, and pain-based techniques may be relatively ineffective." The subject is typically "unresponsive to verbal direction."

The effectiveness of pepper spray and impact techniques (baton strikes and beanbag rounds) "will likely be diminished with individuals who are unresponsive to pain."

If empty-hand techniques are to be tried, "then the officers should be trained in advance to function as part of a multiple-officer takedown team."

A better choice may be Conducted Energy Devices (Tasers). However, current research cautions about a possible link "between MULTIPLE such applications and death in persons with symptoms of ED. To mitigate this risk, a SINGLE Taser application should be made before the subject has been exhausted."

(The Taser should be used not in the hope of gaining compliance but to create a window of disablement during which officers can establish physical control of the subject.)

One Taser firing in the probe mode, "followed by a restraint technique that does not impair respiration, may provide the optimum outcome."

NOTE: "The Taser should not be used in the pain-distraction (push/stun) mode in dealing with ED individuals," since that is primarily a pain-reliant technique.

Whatever the tactical approach, "without a common plan and without training and practice in working together in multi-officer techniques, officers may very likely end up working against each other." |PoliceOne| (emphasis added)

Another article on PoliceOne by Charles Remberg claims that Excited Delirium can be traced back to 1849.

Much about ED remains a mystery, although the syndrome has been recognized since 1849 or earlier. Modern experience shows that the typical encounter with first responders begins with an "agitated, excited" adult male creating a disturbance, triggering a call to 911...

Hyperthermia (overheating) may be spiking his body temperature to 105-113 degrees, so he’s often sweating profusely, although perspiration may cease "in the later phases of the emergency." Frequently ED subjects will be tearing at their clothing or already be partially or totally naked.|PoliceOne|
There is some speculation that the rise in cases of Excited Delirium is tied to the ever-increasing abuse of methamphetamine and is tied to methamphetamine psychosis.

This article by a Canadian police investigator suggests that chronic users of cocaine and methamphetamine as well as schizophrenics (off their meds) are subject to excited delirium. Abnormal dopamine levels are the likely culprit for excited delirium. Dopamine regulates body temperature and is also key to the fight and flight reaction in the brain.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Groupthink: how meetings make us dumber

Groupthink isn't a new concept, but this recent article helps explain why meetings and committees made up of (otherwise) bright people often come up with such poor ideas.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How To's

I found these both mildly amusing and informational, thought you might also enjoy them.

How to Talk to Someone on a Bus or Train

How to Crash an Airline's In-flight Entertainment System

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We're off to see the Wizard

I've been reading Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone. It's a fascinating work. The author alleges that Douglas Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense in charge of planning for post-war Iraq wanted Ahmed Chalabi to be put in charge of the new government. But the State Department didn't trust Chalabi.

So Feith appointed Jay Garner, a retired General, to take charge of the reconstruction of Iraq, but Feith didn't give Garner any of the Pentagon's post-war planning. The reason for this was to force Garner to rely on the Iraqi exiles and thus a government of exiles would come into force despite the State Department's insistence.

If true, this means that Garner was set up to fail... but this really set up the entire Iraqi reconstruction to fail.

Feith is largely responsible for the incredible disgrace in Iraq. Gen. Tommy Franks once said that Feith was "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." |Political Animal| Feith is also the man whose work in manufacturing pre-war intelligence was declared inappropriate, but not illegal, by the Pentagon's Inspector General. |Capitol Hill Blue|

Of course, the failure to hire real reconstruction professionals was a huge mistake. Instead this administration selected personnel based on their ideological commitment to the neo-con vision and one's connections within the Republican party.

The Republicans almost religious allegiance to "free market economics" was another huge problem for the reconstruction. And we broke the country long before we invaded. The country was bombed and starved to the edge of collapse by the US, and then we took over the place. Brilliant.

Another example of marketing hype?

I ran across this article which suggests that Blu-Ray is being aggressively marketed by salespeople in the sampled area. It's not a statistically random sample, rather a sample of convenience.

The author suggests that higher priced machines are being pushed with misleading sales tactics. Those who work on commission would have an incentive to sell the higher-priced toy if the technologies are otherwise comparable.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Current Events

I've been following the French presidential election with some interest and I was reading a Guardian article about the uphill struggle of the socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal.

On a series of foreign visits, [Royal] managed to spark minor diplomatic incidents with Israel, Canada and China in rapid succession. But with the campaign focused almost entirely on domestic issues the impact may have been limited and may even have helped by bolstering Royal's image as an outsider. 'She comes across as a victim of a mistrustful and arrogant political establishment,' one Socialist MP said.

But Royal's admission live on TV that she did not know how many nuclear submarines France possessed did damage her. |Link|

The French have nuclear submarines?!?!

What is the world coming to?

Super Hero Lover

Via the Bellman.

Beer Slurpy

I left some beer in the car overnight and it froze. Beer slurpies aren't bad, but they can be a bit messy as the carbonation does odd things as the slurpy melts.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Nothing to see here

Sarah and I spent most of Valentine's Day at the hospital, luckily we did our Valentine's Day presents early. She's doing as well as can be expected, but chemo definitely sucks.

After I get some much needed sleep I'll be back to blogging.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The vast darkness of human suffering

I recently read a piece in the Hamline Journal of Law and Public Policy that claimed that we could stamp out child abuse in a mere three generations in this country if we fought the good fight really hard. It'd only take 120 years or so...

I was dubious then and I'm even more dubious after reading this:

The [United Nations] report, the first of its kind, charts various kinds of violence, from prostitution to school bullying, taking place in different stages and spheres of children's' lives - at home, in the community and in institutions.

[The UN report] estimates that some 150 million girls, 14% of the planet's child population, are sexually abused each year, as well as seven percent of boys, or 73 million children. [For a total of 223 million abused children each year.]

Such violence can leave serious long-term psychological scars which result in increased risky sexual behaviour, substance abuse and violence towards others in adulthood. |BBC|
Now I recall why I don't have any children. Child maltreatment and sexual assault are global problems and they won't be easily corrected.

My sole remaining hope for the human race is that genetic engineering will allow us to raise the intelligence of the human population at an astounding rate and so many of our social ills will fall away as people determine that solving these endemic problems is worth the sacrifice.

But for the moment, most of the human race are no better than chimps in clothes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Criminals exploit Wi-Fi hotspots

The Washington Post has a recent article discussing how Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming a criminal's best friend.
"If a suspect is going from coffee shop to coffee shop and using free signals to commit crimes, the police probably aren't going to catch him. That's the reality." [says Todd Shipley of the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics].

Open wireless signals are akin to leaving your front door wide open all day -- and returning home to find that someone has stolen your belongings and left a mess that needs cleaning.

One way to combat it is for people to secure their wireless networks by making them password-protected. But, authorities said, businesses and cities that offer free connections need some way to track the users, such as filtering measures that could scan to see who is accessing the network. |WaPo|
The Washington Post article focuses on the risks created by child molesters and child pornography and the challenges this presents to law enforcement.
These days, the Internet is as indispensable to an officer's arsenal as his gun and handcuffs. Indeed, a growing number of officers are being assigned to patrol cyberspace.

Across the nation, 46 multi-jurisdictional Internet Crimes Against Children task forces have been created to carry out online sting operations aimed at ensnaring sex offenders because a man tapping away on a computer in Rockville might very well be soliciting a child in California. Every week, federal and local authorities cast their nets.

And although most sex crimes against underage boys and girls involve victims and suspects who know each other, an increasing number involve online interactions between strangers. Online solicitations -- in which pedophiles cultivate relationships with children and then arrange to meet them in public places -- are becoming more common, federal authorities said.|WaPo|
People need to become more sophisticated about securing their computers and their Internet connections. The Mail & Guardian Online has a series of security suggestions here.

Tal Zarsky has also written an interesting law review article Thinking Outside the Box: Considering Transparency, Anonymity, and Pseudonymity as Overall Solutions to the Problems of Information Privacy in the Internet Society on using psuedonyms (rather than a truly anonymous system) to track people down when they commit crimes, but until there is some evidence of malfeasance, the psuedonym protects one's identity.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What the world needs now...

The world definitely needs more nuclear weapons, so Russia is arming itself with a new generation of nuclear weapons.

The Japanese are in the process of turning their non-army into the world's third largest army, according to Ken Port, one of the professors at William Mitchell College of Law who speaks Japanese fluently and regularly teaches at Japanese law schools.
[Prime Minister Shinzo Abe]and his supporters in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - which is neither liberal nor democratic - talk of "amending" the Constitution, they are not, however, talking about simply altering the wording of one part of the document, or even just adding one or two Articles in the American "amending" style. Rather, the result of amendment will likely be a wholesale redrafting of the document which will have a critical impact on the nature and manner of Japanese international and domestic policy, and the most significant development in Japan since World War II. |Jurist|

Bush is capitulating in his negotiations the North Koreans, they apparently will get to keep their nuclear weapons and get oil shipments from the U.S.

I can see why the Japanese are concerned about their safety with a loose cannon like North Korea nearby and the U.S. seems an unreliable protector since we've most of our Army tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The peculiar institution of marriage

The turmoil over gay marriage continues to roil the country.

I'm amused to no end by the recent move to require married couples to have children within three years or have their marriage annulled.

“For many years, social conservatives have claimed that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation ... The time has come for these conservatives to be dosed with their own medicine," said WA-DOMA organizer Gregory Gadow in a printed statement. “If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who cannot or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage." |Link|

In other news, the Bellman is covering the Michigan legal battle to disenfranchise civil unions. I support gay marriage, but the people of Michigan have spoken... and the courts cannot deny the bigotry espoused by the ballot initiative that passed there.

Motorists are MAD in Britian

Britian is in the middle of a letter bomb campaign. No one's quite sure who is responsible, but it's a war of intimidation rather than death that is being waged against the nanny state. The modern administrative state is under attack.

The [Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)] office worker... was treated for cuts after the bomb went off in her hand... The devices are contained in a padded [envelope] and contain "pyrotechnic" material, similar to that used for making fireworks. Police believe the intent is to alarm rather than kill. Rather than being addressed to individuals, they are sent to "post-holders" at companies... Two days later, a woman was injured while opening the mail at the London offices of Capita, which collects congestion charge fees [that prevent people from entering London with their car for free]. On Tuesday, a package injured two people at the postal address in Wokingham, Berkshire, of Speedcheck, which deals with traffic regulation devices.

An angry motorist could well be responsible for the latest attacks, according to "Captain Gatso", the campaigner responsible for attacks on speed cameras and who operates under a pseudonym.

"What we are looking at now is a war on the motorist," said the man who represents Motorists Against Detection (Mad). "And the motorist is fighting back," he said. "It's payback time." |Guardian|
So, do pyrotechnics count as terrorism or civil disobedience? Does the answer change when some office worker loses an eye?

The Lack of Crime...

It's well known that the crime rate has been falling in the United States for years,
and some economists have suggested that liberal abortion laws are responsible for the drop in crime. |Link| However, this does not explain the European drop in crime.

The survey, carried out by Gallup Europe for the UN crime prevention agency and funded by the European Commission, says that no single factor can explain the drop in crime across Europe over the past 10 years but that a fall in the proportion of young males and improved security measures such as burglar and car alarms are probably more influential than tough sentencing policies or rising prison populations.

Its says that "sentencing policies in Europe as a whole are considerably less punitive than in the US and yet crime is falling just as steeply in Europe as it is in the US". The authors add that Britain and Ireland stand almost alone in Europe in jailing persistent burglars rather than using community service orders to punish them. |Guardian|(emphasis added)
Maybe crooks are now finding it easier to steal from people over the Internet rather than in person...?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Best cat name ever


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Safety Proposition: Helmets for Car Rides

I'm starting a new feature called Safety Propositions. I'm calling them propositions because they could just be my crazy ideas. But I'll set them out periodicially and see if I can persuade anyone with my tactical safety suggestions.

I think we should all wear light-weight helmets during long car rides. The idea first occurred to me after seeing a television report on insurance fraud. People who crash their cars on purpose wear motorcycle helmets. It's a prudent precaution when you know you're going to be in an accident.

But Americans get in fatal car accidents rarely given how many miles they drive. |PDF| I totally agree that if you're just running errands around town, it's a hassle to put on a helmet every time you get in the car and the benefit to hassle ratio is very poor.

But let's say you hop into the car for a road trip and you're going to drive for three or more hours at highway speeds. Given the risk of a serious accident associated with high rates of speed, why not strap on a helmet?

Car accidents generate life-threatening head wounds when there is impact and twisting, the combination is not good for your brain and spinal cord. A helmet won't do anything for the twisting, but it will decrease the impact. It will at least diminish the first impact. If you roll your car, a bike helmet isn't going to do you much good.

Bike helmets, skateboard helmets, and rappelling helmets all will absorb a fair amount of impact. If you already own one, there's no cost involved. I once tried it on a long ride and I found it wasn't uncomfortable at all. I admit I don't do this frequently because Sarah would ridicule me to no end (like she'll do for this post)...but I think the benefit-hassle ratio is far more attractive for long road trips.

Before you decide that I'm totally off my rocker, think about the millions of Americans who will spend tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade to an SUV using the excuse that it makes them safer in an accident...yet wouldn't even contemplate doing something to make themselves safer that might mess up their hair. Which is some evidence that SUV's are about status and image rather than safety.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Bleedin Canuck?

Yesterday a law student asked me if I was from Canada. I'm not really from any one place, I'm a vagabond, not a Canuck. But I was pleased that she thought that I might be Canadian.

I generally claim Manhappiness, Kansas as my hometown, but the place I went to high school and college doesn't exist anymore.

My friend Monkey is a student of Buddhism and I told him that I cannot really swallow the whole reincarnation bit. It's a beautiful, poetic vision of the world...but it seems just as implausible to me as the Christian and Muslim visions of heaven and hell.

He suggested that another interpretation of reincarnation is that we are reincarnated as different people over the course of our lives.

I liked this answer and I think it is a clever solution to the philosophical paradox of the Ship of Theseus dealing with identity over time and through change.

When I look back on the confused, anti-social young man I was in high school, I feel reincarnated.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The lion will lay down with the lamb

The BBC has an article about a Rottweiler that raised two lambs. Pretty cute.

11-month-old Molly is like a mother to the two lambs, who stick closely to their unlikely guardian. Ms Foster added: "The cat came into the kitchen the other day and walked over to the bucket where the lambs were sleeping, but Molly pushed her away as if to say: 'They are mine.' "She will let the sheepdog have a look, but only for so long before she pushes him away as well." |BBC|

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The best zombie movie you haven't seen yet

A friend suggested that I watch 28 Days Later, and I'll admit that I was dubious. I ordered it for $2 from Amazon and then it sat around for months until I was looking to unwind and felt like watching a movie.

I thought the narrative was easy to follow and that the explanation for people transforming into zombies was more credible than any other zombie movie I've ever seen. And as anyone who knows me can testify, I've a hard time suspending disbelief...

Rotten Tomatoes gives 28 Days Later an 89% fresheness rating. The Wikipedia entry (with plot spoilers) is here. IMDB's entry is here. It was directed by Danny Boyle who also directed Trainspotting and Shallow Grave, two great movies.

I like the fact that the zombies are fast, it makes the movie much scarier.

Read. Write. Revolt.

The Bellman pointed me to Molly Ivin's last column. |Wikipedia| I learned that I'd been totally mistaken in something I'd believed.

[L]et's keep in mind that when the Army arrived in Baghdad, we, the television viewers, watched footage of a bunch of enraged and joyous Iraqis pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein, their repulsive dictator, in Firdos Square. Only one thing was wrong: The event was staged, instigated by a Marine colonel and a psychological operations unit that made it appear spontaneous.

When we later saw the whole square where the statue was located, only 30 to 40 people were there (U.S. soldiers, press and some Iraqis -- and one of several U.S. tanks present pulled the statue down with a cable). We, the television viewers, saw the square being presented as though the people of Iraq had gone into a frenzy, mobbed the square and spontaneously pulled down the statue.|Link|
Obviously I'm not cynical enough, I need to get more practice.

Partying with Poindexter

My friend Arpita sent me this quote today:

Everyone in this band probably reads more than you do; hanging out with Radiohead is kind of like getting high with a bunch of librarians.Chuck Klosterman

Personally I find Klosterman hard to read, the constant pop-culture references quickly grow tiresome, but this does make me want to listen to more Radiohead.