Sunday, December 13, 2009

Party Animal

Party Animal, originally uploaded by Safety Neal.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Resilient Communities and the Dormant Commerce Clause

The Dormant Commerce Clause (or DCC) posits that states and cities cannot discriminate against any out of town vendor. There are a couple of exceptions, but they're very narrow and essentially create a wide-open market in the U.S.

For instance, the State of Minnesota cannot discriminate against out of state apples or even apples flown in from New Zealand.

When I think about the amount of gas burned (and carbon generated) to bring apples from New Zealand to an apple-growing region like Minnesota, it makes me dizzy.

The Dormant Commerce Clause (or DCC)is a matter of Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution's "Commerce Clause" |Wex|Wikipedia|.

I think Congress should statutorily give governments the power to protect local interest of creating more resilient communities (as John Robb encourages at Global Guerrillas).

Governments should also be able to make regulations than impact trade to curb carbon emissions on a rational basis.

These steps would make it easier to be a localvore.

Fire, then Brimstone

Feuer entfachen, originally uploaded by fotoARION.

Cold Weather Survival: Firestarting & Tinderbox

Winter has officially arrived in Minnesota. I just had an educational CCDC/CERT training session on cold water survival and hypothermia response.

A few ice safety take-aways:

Ice is never safe because of springs and fish activity. It's not necessarily a uniform consistency all over, so depth of ice varies.

Wear a PFD if you go out on the water.

Slush is always a bad sign. NEVER drive a car or truck out on the ice.

Snow mobiles actually exert less pressure per square inch on the ground than a human being. I think this is also true for a person wearing skis.

If someone is suffering from hypothermia, be sure to warm them up slowly. Getting them too warm too fast can result in cold blood shocking the heart and stopping it.

Carry a rope in your car to throw to people who've broken through the ice. (A small weight on one end with a hand loop is great too.)

Never go out on broke ice to "rescue" someone unless you've special training. You'll end up in the drink yourself.

If you don't have a rope, a ladder also works.


Another piece of advice the speaker offered offered was to carry some firestarter.

I'm not good at starting fires, so I struggle with this issue.

Kit Up has an excellent discussion of firestarting titled Lord of the Flame.

This is my current approach:

I use an empty vitamin bottle as a tinderbox. I added some cotton balls (with a dab of vaseline each) to the bottle. I then taped it to a plastic wallet on a lanyard.

The wallet is reinforced with duct tape. Duct tape is handy in an emergency, after all.

The wallet has a lighter, a multi-tool & Swedish Fire Steel in it. See Gear Junkie for a description of Swedish Firesteel.

A plain cigarette lighter at least has a piece of steel and tinder. I like the FireSteel as a backup, but I'm a safety geek...

Add some tinder (dryer lint, fat wood, twigs, grass, paper, char...) and you've a fire making pouch, aka tinderbox. A small candle rocks for light and heat generation. Tea lights, votive candles, candles also come in tins...

The duct tape on my fire making pouch is safety orange, so it's easy for me to find and retain my tinderbox.

Magnesium sticks sound good in theory, but I'm hesitant to use a knife so close to my fingers when I'm freezing to death. The bits of magnesium dust also blow away easily and it's not easy to get the spark strip to work when it's below freezing. (This I've tried.)

Here's a proposition that I've considered, but I would welcome feedback.

Starting a fire is difficult, especially in a strong wind.

In a life or death situation (with the wind blowing 50 mph), you could attach your tinder to a strip of duct tape to hold it in place long enough to get a spark on it. Otherwise tinder is easily blown away.

The downside to the duct tape method is burning a small piece of plastic in the duct tape, which is bad for the environment.

Other suggestions for a tinder box?

|Cross-Posted at Safety Neal's Civil Defense Blog|

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Have you tried Google?

The droids we're googling for, originally uploaded by Stéfan.

Acronym War: 4GW vs TIMN

The Committee of Public Safety has an interesting(and wide-ranging) critique of fourth generation warfare as a different way of analyzing the evolution of social groupings, arguing essentially that we've entered the network age where globalization ties people together more by networks of interest and commerce than by national or ethnic interests.

Something to mull over...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Semper Fi

Last week was the 234th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps.

I'm an Army brat and my experience is that all soldiers tend to be gung ho, but Marines are over the top by any standard.

But when it absolutely, positively must be dead by midnight, I can think of no one I'd rather call on than the U.S. Marine Corps.

Oo-rah has a nice post about what it means to be a Marine.

Get some!

A third path for Afghanistan

This weekend I caught up on some of my educational programming on the DVR and I thought Rory Stewart's suggestions on Bill Moyer's Journal for how to approach the Afghanistan problem were insightful. Decide for yourself.

I think Mr. Stewart is correct that Obama has put himself into a box in terms of policy decisions with no way out but to accede to the military's desire for evermore troops and ordinance. Such a waste.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The party of medieval romanticism

Juan Cole's supplies a larger context to the Republican resistance to trials for Gitmo inmates.

Predictably, Republican critics vowed to fight [Obama's decision to try Al Qaeda detainees in New York District Court], since they much prefer to hold people forever without trial while torturing them, sort of the way some English kings did in North America before there was that pesky American constitution.

In fact, on a whole range of issues, the contemporary Republican Party is a party of medieval romanticism. Its disquisitions on when the human person begins are theological in character and rooted in assumptions even a lot of medievals would have questioned.

Its faith that bankers would never steal from us and so do not need to be regulated is a form of mysticism that medievals would have applied to saints. And its fascination with arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and with torture more recalls the star chambers of yore than the deliberations at Philadelphia over 200 years ago. |The Only Anchor - Informed Comment|

I'd never really thought of the Republicans as being this reactionary, but Professor Cole makes an interesting connection here.

Ever since George Bush characterized the Iraq War as a crusade, I've wondered how many of the more fundamentalist Christian members of the US Armed Forces view our actions in the Middle East as a modern day crusade.

A few days after [September 11, 2001], George W. Bush... [s]peaking spontaneously, without the aid of advisers or speechwriters [described] "This crusade," he said, "this war on terrorism."


I remember a momentary feeling of vertigo at the President's use of that word, the outrageous ineptitude of it.

The vertigo lifted, and what I felt then was fear, sensing not ineptitude but exactitude.

My thoughts went to the elusive Osama bin Laden, how pleased he must have been, Bush already reading from his script...

Contrary to schoolboy romances, Hollywood fantasies and the nostalgia of royalty, the Crusades were a set of world-historic crimes. I hear the word with a third ear, alert to its dangers, and I see through its legends to its warnings.

For example, in Iraq "insurgents" have lately shocked the world by decapitating hostages, turning the most taboo of acts into a military tactic. But a thousand years ago, Latin crusaders used the severed heads of Muslim fighters as missiles, catapulting them over the fortified walls of cities under siege. Taboos fall in total war, whether crusade or jihad. |The Bush Crusade - Alternet|

Putting heads on pikes and using them in catapults, now those were the good ol' days!

Cartman takes a page from Glenn Beck's Playbook

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Blog: Legal Search and Rescue

I've started a new blog, Legal Search and Rescue (LSR). The Fireside Chat will remain my primary personal blog while LSR will be an outlet for my interests such as disaster law, law enforcement & military powers, martial law and other legal research topics.

Rules of Gunfighting

Fun post on rules of gunfighting over at Everyday Gun Blog.

Who knew there were so many rules?

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Sun on the west, originally uploaded by Katarina 2353.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A more perfect Union, the EU after Lisbon

The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty last week creates the potential for a stronger, more assertive Europe, but the character of the new President and Foreign Minister of the EU will have a profound impact on the role that Europe takes.

[T]he Lisbon Treaty has the potential to herald the emergence of a new world actor – a Europe that can look upwards and outwards and is equipped with the bureaucratic tools to do so. In his recent speech, British foreign minister David Miliband laid out why this matters. Without greater coherence – and an integrative system in place – European countries, however big, will become bystanders in a G2 world run by China and the US. A coherent framework for cooperation will help Europeans get a clearer sense of each other’s priorities and to develop a shared idea of the foreign policy challenge they must confront. Butterflies are beautiful, in part because they take time to develop, and at no stage during their caterpillar period look as if they can emerge colourful and lithe. The same is the case for common and effective EU foreign policy.|Lisbon Treaty Passes, Europe Might Emerge As A New World Actor - GovMonitor|

It will be interesting to see if the new President can paper over European differences and make the EU more powerful.

Foreign Policy has a short post on the four most unexpected consequences of the fall of the Iron Curtain, one of which is Europe's geopolitical weakeness.

Monday, November 09, 2009

This Cyborg Life

Gizmodo has invited Aimee Mullins to be a guest editor. I love their tag This Cyborg Life.

Here's Aimee's recent presentation at TED.

Aimee's impressive modifications that make her taller, faster, better.

Arguably I am a cyborg already because of my constant interface with the Internet through the elegance of my Iphone and the clunkier reality of the 3-5 desktop computers I use on a daily basis.... but I won't really feel like a cyborg until I get a mindjack.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Mad Men

Do you ever wonder if anti-depressants are so common because almost most every person on Earth has some form of mental illness? If not organic mental illness, then traumatic stress disorder.

Even the odd sane person has the misfortune of being a sane person in an insane world... which makes that person a guard in this asylum we call Earth.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Spam Poetry

I just received a piece of spam mail with the reference line: sad love words filthy ass whore...

This juxtaposition of sentiment amuses me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Taser warns not to shock chest

CNN has coverage of Taser's new cautionary advice to police departments, don't tase people in the chest as this is more likely to lead to accidental death.

Taser stun guns has advised law enforcement agencies to avoid hitting suspects in the chest, partly "to minimize controversy." ...The company advises aiming a Taser at a person's back, pelvic muscles or thigh.|CNN|

Taser's advisory to police departments suggests that this new targeting strategy is a response to all of the litigation resulting from deaths in custody when a Taser is used.

Sudden cardiac arrest, a leading cause of death in the United States, often occurs in the midst of an arrest, Taser International said in the bulletin. If a stun gun is discharged to the chest, a lawsuit likely will follow, charging that police used excessive force, the [Taser advice] document said. Plaintiffs could charge that the electronic control device caused an arrhythmia, or a disruption of the heart's rhythmic beating, the advisory said. |CNN|

I think this change is long overdue.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Hamburger-Speicherstadt (HDR), originally uploaded by Kliefi.

I am a Warehouse

Interesting item in the Guardian about the play, Building Understanding: Epitaph for a Warehouse, performed by Chris Gunness, chief spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency.

The Israelis fired white phosphorus artillery shells (aka WP or willy pete) onto the warehouse, there's really no denying that. Of course, some people consider the mere use of white phosphorus in an anti-personnel role to be a war crime, so it's not surprising that the Israelis deny using it.

While I don't think one can uncategorically declare the use of WP to be a war crime, using WP against civilians is pretty hard to justify regardless of how you feel about using WP against soldiers.

It's definitely nasty stuff. As the article mentions, it burns on contact with air and burns through flesh to the bone. If you jump in the water, it stops burning... until you emerge and then it finishes burning.

The UN recently did put out a report |Reuters|that clearly indicates Israel is guilty of a war crime in its use of WP, which is controversial in the US, of course, given the nature of domestic politics in the US and Israel.

Mr. Gunness' approach to telling the story from the apolitical viewpoint of a warehouse is inspired.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First Annual Winter War: Kill Those Damned Lawyer First

Those Damned Lawyers invite you to an afternoon of Winter Paintball: Kill Those Damned Lawyers, First Annual Winter War, 2010. The Winter War shall kick off with the invasion of SplatTag |Directions|at 1300 hours on Saturday, January 2, 2010.

Participants must bring a red or blue armband. Lawyers should bring red armbands and non-lawyers should wear blue armbands. Anyone not wearing an arm band shall be shot on sight.

We encourage participants to bring their own mask, snow camo, and body armor.

Be supplied for a four hour forced march through enemy territory. Conditions will be frigid and treacherous.

Safety Neal shall make a reservation with SplatTag. Reservations can be cancelled on 24 hours notice in case of national attack or everyone pussies out.

If there's a blizzard bring your cross country skis and we can play "Defend Finland 1939".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Polo Horse Rider at Kargil, originally uploaded by Captain Suresh.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Thomas Ricks has a post about some of the lessons learned by the US military in Afghanistan. But what I thought was most interesting was one of the comments on Rick's post, which I've quoted below.

[The enlisted personnel in the US Army] have learned that they are being sent to the graveyard of Afghanistan to fight and die for the criminal puppet Karzai and his lucrative heroin cartel.

The Afghanistan people hate [the US Army] completely and want to see them killed and mutiliated. The Afghan "Army" will betray their plans to the Taliban and shoot them in the back. They will never accept the invader/occupier of their land.

Their senior officers do not care about them at all. They only care about impressing their higher ups for promotion, cush assignments, and high paying jobs in the arms industry.

Afghanistan is page 14 news to most Americans and they pay no attention at all to what is going on there. The majority of Americans can not even find it on a map. They are broke, in debt and one pay check away from financial disaster. Afghanistan is the last thing on their minds. Iraq is ancient history.

The DC politicians and pentagon gangsters only pay lip service to their [sacrifice], and use them as pawns for their own greedy motives. Same goes for the corrupt "Think Tank" propaganda [parasites]. They look at the enlisted as "Fly over" trailer trash, while laughing all the way to the to a belt way booze and hooker party. Their bank accounts are swelling with enlisted blood.

The enlisted are blamed for failure, and officers will take all the credit they can for themselves, adding as much ribbon and tin to their uniforms as will fit on their puffed up chests, while [mutilated] enlisted men and women waste away in VA hospital wards for decades to come, completely forgotten. |Link|

My father was an enlisted man in the Army and he would refer to me as officer material at times, it was a backhanded compliment.

Which is why I think I relate to the perspective of this author.

I guess I'm not quite as cynical as I believe there are many causes for our landing in the current quagmire. Afghanistan is a clusterfuck that is abetted by the extreme partisanship of our political leadership, by the incestuous nature of our political class and the defense contractors which is abetted by the pride, tenacity, and detachment of military professionals from our political discourse.

We are hip deep in the quicksand and unwilling to pull back. Maybe it's time to fix bayonets and charge!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who promised you a rose garden?

Stephanie Johnson, a recent college graduate wrote a touching (if rather naive and self-pitying) commentary about the curse of graduating in the current recession/depression in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required).

[W]hat I'm certain will mark my existence forever is this: The curse of graduating in 2009... my college class faces the toughest job market in 25 years and our wages will be less than those of other graduating classes for at least a decade...

The unemployment rate is 9.4 percent when I walk across the stage... and accept my bachelor's degree in English. I smile as the photographer takes my photo, not knowing exactly what I'm smiling about.

I'm lucky; I know this. My graduating class is largely unemployed right now, as are thousands who graduated before us. Data released in October from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds is 15.1 percent...

I struggle with guilt over not appreciating the job I have...

For now, being cursed is something other graduates and I have no choice but to live with. There are few jobs to be had, and there is no upward direction to strive for. I don't know what to set my sights on, because the jobs I thought I'd be doing are either filled by people with years of experience, or they have disappeared.

I'll just have to worry about it if and when our curse lifts. |Chronicle of Higher Education|

There are so many people in the world who would kill for a chance to come and live in our depressed economy. And those of us lucky enough to live in the United States need to come to grips with the fact that we are no longer the world's richest country.

We're deeply, deeply, deeply indebted to the rest of the world. Norway and Japan have higher standards of living than we do and China has far higher currency reserves. Japan also has more advanced consumer technology.

The United States is a second world nation and the sooner we accept this, the happier we'll be.

We need to lower our expectations, individually and as a society.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the bankers!

The House Of 647 Thieves, originally uploaded by BarneyF.

As the Republic turns...

Matt Taibbi does a nice job of encapsulating how corrupt and dysfunctional our political system is. I've been saying for years that the only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is who their corporate masters are.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that we have problems whose solutions involve taking on powerful interests, political challenges that will necessarily involve prolonged and hard-fought conflicts, but what we have in the Democratic Party is an organization dedicated to avoiding such conflicts and resolving issues in the manner of a corporate board, in closed meetings with the chief cardholders where things get hashed out to the satisfaction of everyone present.

The problem from the standpoint of the typical voter is that he is not terribly present in those discussions. When Rahm Emmanuel met with Billy Tauzin and Merck and Pfizer in the Roosevelt Room (how ironic!) of the White House earlier this summer to work out the details of exactly how much of a bite the new health bill was going to take out of the pharmaceutical industry — the answer turned out to be none, and all the insane subsidies of big Pharma are going to remain in the final bill — were you there? Was anyone representing you there?

The Democrats feel safe in leaving you and me out of that room for two big reasons. One, our main electoral alternative is the party that put George W. Bush in office. Two, the last time significant quantities of Democrats decided to buck and send the party a message, they helped get George Bush elected by giving Ralph Nader the deciding votes of what turned out to be the tightest of elections. Or at least that’s the storyline that’s been popular since that incident. The Nader “debacle” forever closed the notion of third-party progressive challenges to mainstream Democrats, at least in the minds of the Democratic Party bigwigs, anyway. |Elizabeth Warren for President - Taibblog at TrueSlant|

Via Global Guerrillas

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Colin Gray has a short article on security situation in the 21st century that I just read. It suggests the future will be characterized by the following:

  • Great power rivalry
  • Adverse climate change
  • Resource rivalries and shortages (food, water and energy)
  • Overpopulation
  • Disease pandemics
  • Jihadi terrorism and insurgencies
  • Nuclear proliferation
  • The "unknown unknowns" (the things to worry about if we know about them, for example, asteroids)...
  • "global economic meltdown"

That about sums it up!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hate to let food go to waste...

Thrill Killers

Murder is a perennial topic of interest for myself and sociologists. Murder is the most easily documented crime because it's so hard to get rid of the body.

There are many different types of murder: murder-suicides, serial killers, spree killers, thrill killers, manslaughters (accidental murders), self-defense murders, political assassination...

But thrill killings are especially troubling to safety geeks like me, since the murders are often seemingly random.

Boston's Sarah Schweitzer discusses patterns in recent thrill killings in New Hampshire.

[P]art of the pattern tends to be teens killing without obvious motive, specialists said. While murders by older people tend to be motivated by jealousy or greed or revenge directed at an individual, youths who kill tend to act out feelings of rage or alienation on people they don’t know or against people with whom they have little cause to be angry.

Their target is not one particular individual, but rather anyone who is available.

“The victims are interchangeable,’’ Levin said. “They look at the accessibility of the victim. They make sure the victim lives in an isolated area, with no security system. They use vulnerability as a criteria.’’

Some specialists say that a sense of disenfranchisement was bound to be stronger in small New Hampshire towns, such as Amherst and Brookline, the hometowns of the teens charged in the [killing of Kimberly Cates of Mount Vernon, New Hampshire, see also Nashua Telegraph coverage].

In small homogenous communities, teens who don’t fit in stand out much more than in cities, they say.

“A strong sense of community is wonderful if you happen to be accepted,’’ Levin said.

“But if you are regarded as an outsider, you may feel profoundly rejected . . . Their peer group is the only game in town. If they are rejected, they have nowhere else to go.’’|Some see links in ‘senseless’ killings - Boston|

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Other Americas...

Brennan suggests the best qualities of America:

We are not an assimilative, homogeneous society, but a facilitative, pluralistic one, in which we must be willing to abide someone else’s unfamiliar or even repellent practice because the same tolerant impulse protects our own idiosyncrasies.
- Justice Brennan in Michael H. v. Gerald D., 491 U.S. 110 (1989)
I'm a very judgmental person, but it's good to celebrate others for who they are, not who we want them to be. I'll try to remember that.


Deus Ex, originally uploaded by Kiel Bryant.

A Freak among Men

Sarah referred to me as hypervigilant the other day, which really amused one of the other librarians. She thought it was a nice spin on my paranoia.

I'm not sure why I'm such a safety freak. I would say it helps me sleep well at night, but I rarely sleep.

Eternal vigilance, my friends...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Round Up of Latest Non Lethal Technologies

Mike Ferner has a fascinating post about non-lethal law enforcement/military technologies on display in response to G20 protests as well as new things in development.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Exit the Hegemon?

Kenneth Anderson asks whether Obama's recent speech at the UN suggests a change in the US's approach to international affairs.

Mr. Anderson's view of America's military dominance suggests that the United Nations is really irrevelant in the context of global security and that Europe's armies are substantially incapable of any significant military operations.

So, the US is the world's policeman currently. But does Obama's speech signal a move away from that position?

NATO... is an extension to a very special top-tier crowd of the full benefits of the US security guarantee. Our allies trust it because it is not a collective security system; it is a US security guarantee in which the allies provide some legitimacy and the US supplies everything else. It’s a friends-with-benefits kind of arrangement. They trust it because they fundamentally trust two non-collective-action propositions:

  • First, the US will put it interests sufficiently first that it will not engage in free-riding behavior – even though, for the sake of some measure of gained legitimacy, it will not worry when others do.

  • Second, the broad security interests of the United States are sufficiently close to theirs, on a costs and benefits basis, that they will be willing to go along with the overall US security plan, even as they seek to alter it to meet their interests by the effect of talking, complaining, maintaining an illusion of collective security, and so on.

The question is whether President Obama is genuinely signaling a new paradigm [of]

[Perhaps Obama's speech indicates that the] Tired Superpower that wants to refocus inwards and let the rest of the world deal with its own problems...

One can’t say with certainty at this point – what the President would like to do is clear; not clear whether political events will let him. |They Made a Multilateralism and Called It Peace - Volokh Conspiracy|

It's a long article referencing even longer law review articles, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

In today’s version [of American Declinism] is a consequence of the loss of US dominance over the global financial system, loss of dominance of the dollar, and so on finally extending to undercut the economic basis of the US empire.

Michael Lind, whose intellect I greatly respect even when I find his ideas not at all right, has a recent essay linking multipolarity to the end of US security hegemony.

I’ve written quite skeptically about all this, in yet another unread academic article on the relationship between UN collective security, the Security Council, and the US security guarantee....

One of these days [America's] decline will turn out to be true... It is always possible for a society to eat its seed corn, and that seems to me an apt description of what the administration and Congress are proposing for American society domestically.

A long-term collateral effect... of debt-financing domestic social democracy is to starve the US security guarantee to the point that it can no longer even guarantee the freedom of the high seas.

Don’t get all schadenfreudey too soon, however .... The dream of global governance through international institutions and law is a lovely dream that supervenes, like oil floating upon water, alas, upon the fact of the American hegemonic security guarantee.

A genuinely multipolar world is not only a more insecure one ... it is also a more unjust one. Be careful what you wish for... [Dreams] of liberal internationalism [rest upon] the US’s clumsy and imperfect security hegemony ....

President Obama might well have put the capstone on human rights as the apex language, and signalled a return to a more multipolar world in which the apex language of values is, once again, world peace. |Id.|
We live in interesting times and this post (and the dozens of comments following it) are entertaining fare.

Based upon my own eccentric interests, I think the US security umbrella will increasingly be provided by unmanned vehicles and killer robots.

This will make it far easier to kill people and blow up their stuff whenever they threaten US interests or its allies' interests.

Of course, I think we also stand on the precipice of global ecological disaster and the jockeying for the top position in international politics is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Of course, when this Titanic sinks, it will take most (if not all) of modern civilization with it.

The decline of the United States relative to other countries is of minor interest to me, I am concerned that the damage we are inflicting on the planet as a whole is the real problem. See Earth Trends, for instance.

Stuck in my head

They've been playing Eric Hutchinson's song "Ok It's Alright with Me" relatively frequently on Sarah's favorite radio station, Cities 97, and I cannot get it out of my head...

See if it has that effect on you.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Pakistani Citizen Militias respond to Taliban

If the police and army cannot protect you, then you just have to be your own protection. And that's when an AK becomes a very comforting piece of equipment.

Dr Naeem Khan was taking no chances. Walking through streets once filled with Taliban gunmen, the amiable country doctor looked ready for battle – an AK-47 in his hand, ammunition across his chest, and a chunky dagger tucked into his pocket.

He patted his weapon fondly. "This has become part of our everyday life now, like lunch and dinner," he said as he entered the small hospital where he works...

Six major militias have been established in recent weeks with the blessing of the local government and military. They are led by the khans – powerful local landlords and politicians, many of whom were forced to flee by the Taliban but who are back with a vengeance....

The lashkars [or Pakistani citizen militias] are part of a wider issue in Swat: how to ensure the militants do not rise again once the army pulls out. That leads to a more hotly contested question: how they flourished in the first place.

Afzal Khan Lala, an 82-year-old politician and tribal khan, refused to leave Swat in the fighting, even after being shot twice in an ambush. Suggestions the Taliban are an expression of wealth inequalities is "rubbish". "This talk of class warfare has been cooked up in Islamabad and Lahore," he said, blaming instead deep-rooted failures of politics and governance. The lashkars, which he insisted on terming "village defence committee", were a crude but necessary interim measure, he said. "The government's first duty is to protect the life and property of its citizens," he said, sitting on a rope bed as white-bearded elders streamed in to meet him. "Today it can't do either. So now the citizens have to protect themselves."|Swat Valley civilians turn to arms as uneasy peace takes hold - Guardian|

All that glitters is not necessarily gold

Malta - Euros (Coins), originally uploaded by marfis75.

Tasers in Libraries Update

Previously I blogged about a student who was tasered in a library at UCLA for failing to display his student ID.

The case settled for $220,000 according to a recent article in Minnesota Lawyer by Barbara L. Jones discussing recent legal developments in court cases related to the (mis)use of Tasers. Unfortunately, the article is only available to subscribers. If you've access the article is titled: Golden Valley [Minnesota] Taser case leads to Significant Payout.

All other things being equal, lighter is usually better

H&K's G11 used caseless ammo, but was never adopted. Was it too far ahead of its time? Or was it just too fugly to take seriously?

One potential problem with caseless is cooking off in a fire. Modern battlefields are filled with fire from flares, white phosphorus munitions and tracers, gun barrels overheating during full auto fire, these all ignite combustibles...

So caseless ammo may be lighter, but it needs to be pretty stable for soldiers to want to carry it into a firefight.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Yosemite Valley View, originally uploaded by Bridgeport Mike.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Safety News: Killer Floormats

Five people have been killed by loose floormats in Toyota cars.

One of my friend's mothers was in a crash when a soda can rolled under the brake.

It's important to keep all possible obstructions out of the driver's footwell.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Meth is bad, m'kay

beavis, originally uploaded by stoneth.

Meth made easy: shake and bake

I often have South Park's counselor Mackey's line "Drugs are bad, m'kay?" running through my head when I read stories about drug abuse. Of course drugs exist on a continuum ranging from the beneficial to the pernicious... anti-depressants are beneficial drugs that help people live productive lives, for instance.

Other the other hand, methampethamine is a rather pernicious drug in my experience.

Unfortunately, now it's even easier to make and meth arrests are on the upswing again.

[N]ow drug users are making their own meth in small batches using a [two liter bottle for a] faster, cheaper and much simpler method with ingredients that can be carried in a knapsack and mixed on the run.

The "shake-and-bake" approach has become popular because it requires a relatively small number of pills of the decongestant pseudoephedrine — an amount easily obtained under even the toughest anti-meth laws that have been adopted across the nation to restrict large purchases of some cold medication.|New meth formula avoids anti-drug laws - MSNBC|

I do support decriminalizing many drugs and reducing penalties by encouraging treatment options over prison, but there will always been some drugs that are beyond the pale, like PCP.

Meth is horrible because it not only destroys people's lives but also leaves toxic waste behind that's harmful to law enforcement and anyone else who lives in a contaminated house where the meth has been cooked or shaken.


The Tazer of Liberty, originally uploaded by

Taser Update: 81 year old cripple tasered

Here's an interesting item about a California Highway Patrol officer tased an 81-year old man who was partially paralyzed and walked with a cane.

According to this account, the man struck the officer with the cane before being tased.

Now, what's even more interesting to me is Alternet's take on this:

Again, every American needs to realize that if they look at a police officer sideways or misunderstand their orders they will be shot with electricity regardless of whether the officer has other choices.

When you see a half paralyzed, 81 year old man tasered, you know for sure that it cannot be possible that they needed to taser him three times to subdue him. It was to teach him and anyone who was watching a lesson: if you fail to quickly comply with a police officer's instructions, no questions asked, you will be electrocuted and hauled off to jail. That's just the way it is. |Taser Torture: Crippled Octogenarian One of the Lucky Ones - Alternet|
As an attorney, I've come to appreciate that there are always two sides to a story... and typically both sides are lying. So you have to work hard to ferret out the truth.

So Alternet's pronouncements of unbound torture in the police state amuse. If you read the whole article the author links this police abuse to Milgram's experiments on authoritarism and torture in the 1960's.

This entire line of inquiry amuse me because I am fairly liberal and think we do live in an authoritarian police state. But the U.S. is an authoritarian society with rules and police officers can find themselves destroyed if they run afoul of those rules as well.

Alternet's pronouncement tells me more about the author's biases than about the actual event...

The most dangerous of game

Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.

- Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Frake: portmanteau for fake friend

I think we need a new word for fake friends as described in my previous post.

I suggest frake... But I'm open to suggestions!

Of course, Sex and the City gave us frenemies, for fake friends, real enemies...

But I just want something to indicate an impostor, a fake friend either hired or coerced into the role.

This is essentially the entire premise of 2005's romantic comedy, the Wedding Date.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rent a Friend

I'd like to say that I saw this coming, but even I am not that cynical. Or at least I wasn't...

Ichinokawa launched his Hagemashi Tai [I Want to Cheer You Up] agency three-and-a-half years ago, after abandoning plans to become a qualified counsellor...

The affable, bespectacled 44-year-old now employs 30 agents of various ages and both sexes, across Japan with the skills and personality to temporarily adopt a new identity: as the father of a boy who is in trouble at school, for instance, or the parents of a woman attending a formal match-making party.

The number of rent-a-friend agencies in Japan has doubled to about 10 in the past eight years. The best known, Office Agent, has 1,000 people on its books.

The rise of the phony friend is a symptom of social and economic changes, combined with a deep-seated cultural aversion to giving personal and professional problems a public airing.

In recent months demand has surged for bogus bosses among men who have lost their jobs; for colleagues among contract employees who never stay in the same job long enough to make friends, and from divorcees and lovelorn singletons.

Ichinokawa's agents charge a modest 15,000 yen (£100) to turn up at a wedding party, but extra if they are asked to make a speech or to sing karaoke.

His preparation is exhaustive, examining every possible question that, if answered incorrectly or not at all, will embarrass his client and ruin his reputation. "In three and a half years I've never once been caught out," Ichinokawa says.

... I love [says Ichinokawa,] helping people with their problems and making them happy. When they email me afterwards to say thank you, I feel fulfilled. |Guardian|

Now I'm forced to consider that people I meet are lying about their very identities.

The world is full of liars, my friends, and some of these liars are very talented.

Don't get me wrong, there are a few people I trust, but it tends to be a small circle.

Mursi woman and Kalashnikov Rifle

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Western Way of Revolution

One of my favorite quotes from the Founding Fathers is from Samuel Adams.

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom — go from us in peace.

We ask not your counsels or arms.

Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.

May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. - Samuel Adams, address delivered at Pennsylvania State House, August 1, 1776 |Link|

Taking on the British empire in its heyday was pretty ballsy.

From a strategic perspective, it seems curious to me that Founding Fathers chose such a confrontational option. Open warfare was a risky gambit that almost failed. George Washington, fortunately, was masterful at the strategic withdrawal. The Americans had few outright victories during the War for Independence.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Cliff along Lake Superior, originally uploaded by Safety Neal.

Transhumanism & the Acceleration of Human Evolution

Ran across this LA Times story talking about an anthropologist who has determined that the pace of human evolution has accelerated in the last 30,000 years based on studying human genetic data.

The article merely refers to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences without a citation. I visited Professor Hawk's website and the PNAC website and the only thing I could find were references to his 2007 article.

Hawks' blog post, Why Accelerated Adaptive Evolution is Faster Evolution, is interesting on this score.

This reinforces the transhumanist viewpoint to my mind. Humanity is evolving at a tremendous and if we are to survive the current crises facing us, we must get our shit together in a hurry and evolve intellectually and emotionally as well as through genetics.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Boundary Waters

Lillies of Gull Lake, originally uploaded by Safety Neal.

Back on Track

Got back from my vacation in the Boundary Waters this weekend. I had a great time and enjoyed fellowship and great food. Although I'm a hard core technophile, it was refreshing to not have any TV, radio, or cell phone service.

The cabin actually had XM radio, but we never turned it on...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

District 9 rocks!

I saw District 9 last night and I give it two thumbs up. Rotten Tomatoes has District 9 pegged as 89% fresh as I write this.

Update: Monkey made some telling criticisms of the film this week... I have to agree that alien "eye" acting is overdone, but I still enjoyed the movie.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Is torture ever acceptable? What about Hitler?

Jeffrey Goldberg has a provocative piece in the Alantic about the moral dimensions of Tarantino's new flick, Inglourious Basterds |RT|. ** Spoiler Alert - Don't read Goldberg's piece before seeing the movie if you don't want to learn about plot elements. **

Early in [Inglourious Basterds], Aldo the Apache announces the goals of his unit:

“We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. They will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us.”

Soon enough, the Basterds are committing war crimes, beating prisoners to death and collecting the scalps of dead Germans. “Every man under my command owes me 100 Nazi scalps,” Aldo demands.

The horror-movie director Eli Roth — his film Hostel is the most repulsively violent movie I’ve ever seen twice — plays a Basterd known as the “Bear Jew,” whose specialty is braining Germans with a baseball bat. Roth told me recently that Inglourious Basterds falls into a subgenre he calls “kosher porn.”

“It’s almost a deep sexual satisfaction of wanting to beat Nazis to death, an orgasmic feeling,” Roth said. “My character gets to beat Nazis to death. That’s something I could watch all day. My parents are very strong about Holocaust education. My grandparents got out of Poland and Russia and Austria, but their relatives did not.” ....

The recent Ed Zwick movie, Defiance, about a group of Jewish partisans in German-occupied Belarus, featured armed Jews engaging in vigorous self-defense, in a way that most Holocaust movies don’t. Tarantino said he had not seen it. “My guess is, that doesn’t go far enough,” he said. “My guess is that it’s frustrating in a whole different way.”

He is correct that Defiance doesn’t go as far as he would go, but it is something of a corrective, not only to Schindler’s List, which is a story of Christian redemption and Jewish passivity, but to the schmaltz and vulgarity of most Holocaust films, from Jakob the Liar to Life Is Beautiful. The Jews in Defiance kill Nazis, but they periodically stop to debate the merits and drawbacks of killing. When I described this, Tarantino argued that it would have been unrealistic to expect the Jews of Europe to debate the morality of killing Nazis.

I asked Tarantino if he thought the over-the-top violence of the Basterds might offend people. “Why would they condemn me?” he said. “I was too brutal to the Nazis?” |Hollywood’s Jewish Avenger - Atlantic|

I certainly take the view that killing can be justified, even righteous. But torture never is.

Although I can see the appeal of torture from a vengeance standpoint. It might seem justified, but torture is beyond the pale.

Of course, that doesn't deal with the more difficult question of the morality of enforced sensory deprivation... but that's a blog post for another time, although Salon has an essay on the CIA's favorite form of torture.

Monday, August 31, 2009


mer de tranquilite, originally uploaded by in touch.

Gigatons of Ice

While we all know that global warming is accelerating, this article has some nice imagery.

The glaciers of Greenland are the fat, restless fingers of its vast ice sheet, constantly moving, stretching down into fjords and pushing ice from the sheet into the ocean, in the form of melt water and icebergs.

Before their first expedition, [glacier scientists] Hamilton and his colleague Leigh Stearns, from the University of Kansas, used satellite data to plan exactly where they would land on a glacier.

"When we arrived there was no glacier to be seen. It was way up the fjord," he says. "We thought we'd made some stupid goof with the co-ordinates, but we were where we were supposed to be." It was the glacier that was in the wrong place. A vast expanse had melted away.

When Hamilton and Stearns processed their first measurements of the glacier's speed, they thought they had made another mistake. They found it was marching forwards at a greater pace than a glacier had ever been observed to flow before. "We were blown away because we realised that the glaciers had accelerated not just by a little bit but by a lot," he says. The three glaciers they studied had abruptly increased the speed by which they were transmitting ice from the ice sheet into the ocean....

Driven by the loss of ice, Arctic temperatures are warming more quickly than other parts of the world: last autumn air temperatures in the Arctic stood at a record 5C above normal. For centuries, the ice sheets maintained an equilibrium: glaciers calved off icebergs and sent melt water into the oceans every summer; in winter, the ice sheet was then replenished with more frozen snow. Scientists believe the world's great ice sheets will not completely disappear for many more centuries, but the Greenland ice sheet is now shedding more ice than it is accumulating.

The melting has been recorded since 1979; scientists put the annual net loss of ice and water from the ice sheet at 300-400 gigatonnes (equivalent to a billion elephants being dropped in the ocean), which could hasten a sea level rise of catastrophic proportions.

As Hamilton has found, Greenland's glaciers have increased the speed at which they shift ice from the sheet into the ocean. Helheim, an enormous tower of ice that calves into Sermilik Fjord, used to move at 7km (4.4 miles) a year. In 2005, in less than a year, it speeded up to nearly 12km a year. Kangerdlugssuaq, another glacier that Hamilton measured, tripled its speed between 1988 and 2005. Its movement – an inch every minute – could be seen with the naked eye. |The Sermilik fjord in Greenland: a chilling view of a warming world - Guardian|(emphasis added)

What will we call Iceland after all the glaciers melt?

The Discipline of Steel

Samurai Marghe, originally uploaded by IL_Razza.

Seppuku for Pundits

Since I recently suggested that Paul Wolfowitz would committ seppuku if he had an honorable bone in his body (via Facebook), I thought I'd do some research and I found a fascinating page on the ritual of seppuku.

If he isn't going to kill himself, he should at least have the decency to shut the fuck up and not go around writing whiny articles suggesting Obama follow his example of ruining our national honor in the pursuit of some ridiculous neoconservative vision of a democratic middle east.

Of course, these four writers make the case in a much more reasonable way.

You'll have to forgive me that I'm still bitter over the catastrophe that Iraq has become. And not just for the US. We've lost many good men and women and wasted several trillion dollars in Iraq, but this pales next to the tragedy inflicted on the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have lost everything.

Even assuming that Wolfowitz's intentions were genuinely benevolent, that is not enough. At the end of the day, his policies were a humanitarian and political disaster and consequences matter when you hold yourself out as a pundit and a policy wonk.

Monday, August 24, 2009


DSC04907, originally uploaded by granitepics.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Coercive Use of Force

Whether increased Taser use is good public policy is a complex question.

Tasers essentially give law enforcement a portable cattle prod to use to obtain compliance. If you're a law and order type and think compliance with law enforcement is a good thing, then the Taser is a blessing because it's hard to argue with a Taser.

On the other hand, even if you believe in civil disobedience, a Taser is certainly more kind than a bullet, or an attack dog, or even a baton.

Pepper spray is one of my favorite weapons, but it does tend to contaminate everything in site, including the cop using it.

Cops are also highly skilled at subduing individuals with their hands as well... a lot cops in the States have played a lot of football and excel in the open field tackle, and the hands are much "softer" than these other options.

But tackling or fighting with people takes a huge physical toll on police officers over their careers and risks a "gun grab," which often leads to someone being shot.

So, I think tasers are generally beneficial to law enforcement and society.

I think the question we should be asking as a society is if we want police officers to be as coercive as they are. Police can abuse their power, but this is true with all weapons.

UK Police eye Taser Shotgun

Human Rights groups don't like taser products in general and the new Taser X12 shotgun-based module even less. The X12 is a shotgun that only loads the new XREP ammo. XREP stands for extended range electronic projectile.

Here's an image of the X12 with a single-shot pistol taser (X26) below:

But as the following article concludes, the other alternatives are even less appealing. For the UK, I can see how this is far more controversial than it is in the States.

The Brits are not used to police carrying guns and shooting suspects... which is old hat here in the US. In the US, less than lethal is decidedly better than lethal force.

But in the UK, they are weighing options that are all less than lethal, so it's a much closer question.

A new Taser that fires wireless electric shock projectiles up to 30 metres is being considered for use by UK police forces, the Home Office has confirmed.

The eXtended Range Electronic Projectile (XREP), which went on sale in the US last month, attaches itself to its target with a series of barbed electrodes and delivers a 20-second, 500 volt shock....

The Home Office confirmed it was evaluating the XREP for possible use by law enforcement in Britain. "The Home Office Scientific Development Branch are considering it as part of their ongoing remit to evaluate new less lethal technologies" a spokesman said.

Taser rejected Amnesty's concerns, saying the XREP would cause less pain when it hit than other "less lethal" impact munitions and was a safer way to immobilise someone than shooting them with live ammunition.

"The premise behind the XREP is not to cause or impart physical pain, it is to cause incapacitation," spokesman Steve Tuttle said.

"I'm not saying this is risk free: it will leave potential bruising and it could cause a contusion. But when you compare it to a traditional impact munition it will be significantly less likely to cause injury and much more accurate." |UK Police may be issued with new high-power Taser - Guardian|

PoliceOne has a BluTube video on the X12 available as well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


THE TURTLE, originally uploaded by Alice Linck.

Milk Fed Suburban Blues

So, even though I fancy myself as Safety Neal and I read all these first aid manuals and buy my cutting edge safety gear, I don't necessarily assume that I know how to survive the apocalypse.

If being smart and having a backpack was enough to survive the apocalypse, then it's not really an apocalypse.

That's why I usually cannot stand disaster movies. If the cute female love interest is going to be saved by the ruggedly handsome main character, then I'm not interested.

Or some fairy tale happy ending like The Day After Tomorrow where all the survivors are airlifted to Mexico.

Giving me a break. When the SHTF, people are going to die and get maimed and life is going to suck.

Sure, I try to stack the deck in my favor, but in reality I'm a reasonably athletic librarian, not Rambo.

At least I'll be able to pass some neat survival gear to the cannibals that eat me...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Between sky and snow

Between sky and snow, originally uploaded by Anna Kovaleva.

Repeating the Mistakes of Vietnam in Afghanistan

If you aren't reading Nightwatch, you should be.

I've absolutely no power to change any of the strategic mistakes Nightwatch identifies, but at least I won't be surprised when our foreign adventurism blows up in our face.

Afghanistan: The new NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said there is no purely military solution to Afghanistan, and to win, the core of the new NATO strategy is to provide Afghan people with better opportunities in life, to win their "hearts and minds." Rasmussen also said in several weeks NATO field commanders will submit reports on the situation, which will be used to formulate a plan on how to proceed.

NightWatch Comment: The Dane has been preaching the NATO gospel all week, but it is time to raise a red flag to the pontification about winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan. First, the hearts and minds of the Afghans in general are probably less significant as targets than ensuring the tomato harvest and bringing in the other food crops before winter without having to dodge bullets.

Second, how does a “hearts and minds” strategy work with the Durani Pashtuns vs the Ghilzai Pashtuns vs the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, gypsies, and Nuristanis plus the hundreds of clans. What makes modern people think Afghans are all cast of the same mold? They pride themselves on being the world’s greatest tribal society, according to Dupree, extolling difference not similarity.

The evidence that one idea fits all Afghans is an insult to a tribal society that was ancient and honorable before the time of Alexander the Great. There could never be one hearts and minds program for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The tribes are culturally too diverse. Ask them.

As for the Western capability to understand the hearts and minds of the pre- and semi- modern ethnic groups, history is not on the side of success. Southeast Asia after World War II featured a succession of blunders owing mostly to profound ignorance and arrogance. Events in South Asia and Palestine after World War II and Sub-Saharan African in 1960 are testaments to western misunderstanding about the importance of security over “being liked,” paid for in the lives of local populations.

Older experts, every bit as educated, insightful and sensitive as modern experts, failed to understand the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese a generation ago. The evidence is lacking that a new generation of theorists, strategists, planners, experts and generals have superior knowledge, scholarship and insight about a still more primitive people than the Vietnamese. The results of so much “human terrain” study are not apparent on the ground in Afghanistan after nine years. Expertise is never enough.

And, do serious minded people today really think the enormously complex actions of living systems are comparable to the study of geography, as implied in the term “human terrain? “

Somehow the US society at large, including the defense establishment, has forgotten the lessons of Vietnam. One judgment they forgot is that the Veterans of Vietnam universally judged the hearts and minds program of that era to be a source of ridicule and shame. And does anyone today seriously believe that all government resources were not applied to the Vietnam conflict? The US was at war then, not just the Defense Department.

It is hard for the older generation of ex- and retired soldiers and government officers to believe that their younger successors would actually “swallow” slogans as a substitute for serious problem solving. One wonders who dug up this slogan of past failure.

The NightWatch suspicion is that the politicians’ continual references to the need to win Afghan hearts and minds are a shallow strategem to deflect blame onto the NATO armed forces in the event the Afghanistan adventure miscarries. |Nightwatch|

Why Killing Insurgent Leaders Backfires

I find this analysis persuasive. Unfortunately, when the only tool the DoD has is a hammer...

NightWatch Comment: The death of Baitullah Mehsud produced a leadership gap that lasted less than 36 hours. That is the downside of decapitation tactics – billed as strategies -- against tribal insurgencies and uprisings. Decapitation has never proven to be a permanent solution that produces the destruction of a pre-modern armed opposition movement.

The western model of leadership posits that elimination of the leader collapses the opposition. That is mythology in the West as well as everywhere else. More importantly, decapitation appears to strengthen organizational commitment to the remaining leaders.

Poisoning the host, as in the Sri Lankan anecdote above, is a more durable and devastating strategy for suppressing insurgency and terrorism than decapitation because of what Professor Bob Jervis describes as Systems Effects, in his book with the same name.

A new study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace highlighted another down-side of decapitation. The author of the study pointed out that in killing the more experienced Taliban field commanders the Forces of Order denied themselves opportunities to fracture the insurgent movement, by exploiting the grounds for disagreement.

Experienced field commanders are prone to balk at unreasonable orders and break away from senior religious leaders who fail to appreciate their operational problems, responding with platitudes and suras (i.e., Quranic verses) to requests for ammunition and explosives.

On the other hand, new leaders strive to prove their loyalty to the cause, however unreasonable its directives. This results in greater organizational integrity in the short term.

Decapitation is a useful short term tactic, but no one should confuse it with a strategy. At every level of targeting wisdom the drone campaign has been an expensive, long term failure in the sense that it has produced dead men but no measurable reduction in the threat to US interests in Afghanistan or Pakistan; no reduction in the determination of anti-US fighters to die for the Taliban; no reduction in the spread of Taliban influence and attacks in Afghanistan or in the fighting in Pakistan; no disincentive to other terrorist groups in attacking pro-US interests anywhere in the world and it has made Pakistani hostility to the US nearly nation-wide. It has backfired for eight years.

In the National Security Advisor’s search for metrics, this program is a negative model. It is tempting to imagine what might have been accomplished in Afghanistan by devoting the drone resources and finances to simpler proven tactics, like bribery and good old fashioned human source intelligence work.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Worship me!

electrocution warning!, originally uploaded by iron ming.

First Aid for Electrocution Victims

Hopefully I'll never encounter an electrocution victim (much less become one) but just in case, I thought I'd check into electrocution first aid.

I like the suggestions at UMC:

Electrical shocks can stop a person's breathing or heart, and also cause burns.

If the victim is still in contact with the electricity source, be extremely careful that you don't become the next casualty. Switch off the current if you can. If this is not possible, push the person away from the electricity source using some form of insulated or non-conducting lever (a wooden chair, a broom handle). Remember that water is an extremely good conductor, so beware of wet hands, wet floors, and anything damp.

High-voltage electricity - the kind carried by power lines or railway cables - is usually instantaneously fatal. Never go near a person suffering this type of electrocution; high voltage electricity can 'arc' several meters through the air.

As soon as you have switched off the electricity or separated the victim from the faulty appliance, check for breathing and pulse, and give artificial respiration or cardiac resuscitation as necessary, place in the recovery position, and dial 911.

First Aid for Electric Shock Victims

  • Don't touch them!
  • Unplug the appliance or turn off the power at the control panel.
  • If you can't turn off the power, use a piece of wood, like a broom handle, dry rope or dry clothing, to separate the victim from the power source.
  • Do not try to move a victim touching a high voltage wire. Call for emergency help.
  • Keep the victim lying down. Unconscious victims should be placed on their side to allow drainage of fluids. Do not move the victim if there is a suspicion of neck or spine injuries unless absolutely necessary.
  • If the victim is not breathing, apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If the victim has no pulse, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Then cover the victim with a blanket to maintain body heat, keep the victim's head low and get medical attention.

First Aid for Electrical Burn Victims

Electrical burns vary in severity depending upon: (1) how long the body is in contact with the electric current; (2) the strength of the current; (3) the type of current; and (4) the direction the current takes though the body. Often these burns are deep. There may be more than one area burned. One area may be where the current entered the body and another may be where it left. Electrical burn wounds may look minor on the outside, but could be severe on the inside.

If a person has received an electrical burn, check for shock and follow the steps outlined above. If the person is conscious and there are no signs of shock (such as being cold, clammy, pale and having a rapid pulse), begin treating the burned area. Do not apply grease or oil to the burn. Cover the burn with a dry, sterile dressing, but do not cool the burn. Keep the victim from getting chilled. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Backup Bag

I thought I was a safety geek, but this guy puts me to shame.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Aquatic Ape Theory Espoused

I find this argument intriguing.

UPDATE: Ran across some criticisms of the theory from professional anthropologists here and here.

Food for thought.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Failure is no longer an option...

Failure, originally uploaded by Markydeee.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Taxi to the Dark Side - Great Documentary

Sarah and I just finished watching Taxi to the Dark Side. Sarah suggested it and when I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes, it had a 100% fresh rating.

I've never seen that high a rating before, but the film earns it IMHO. It an eloquent explication of how the United States devolved into a torture regime.

I think it's impossible to watch this film and not have it temper one's enthusiasm for the United States. And I love this country. I love the red states and the blue states. I love the United States Post Office and the Library of Congress and the United States military.

But Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld fucked up a lot of things during their time in the sun. And their misdeeds have dishonored us all... even as their lunatic reign bankrupted us.

I really don't understand why they haven't been imprisoned. I guess it would infuriate half the people in this country.

If you're one of those people, you should watch Taxi to the Dark Side. Let me know if it doesn't change your mind.

If you already dislike Bush and Cheney, then this movie will give the reassuring, if sinking feeling, that you were right all along about those bastards.

I hate to end my blog post on such a somber note. So let me entreat God to bless America. And the rest of the world. May they forgive us our offenses against them someday.

But I think we have to meet them halfway and prosecute Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for torture and murder.

Monday, July 27, 2009

SOG SEAL Revolver

This is a good close-up of the scallops for the thumb on the back of the knife blade as discussed in my previous post.

Go to Hell Bag & SOG Knives

Borelli Consulting has an interesting item about a "Go to Hell" bag. This is a slightly different angle on a bug-out bag.

The Go to Hell bag is discussed in the camping context, in case you get marooned or lost, you should always have a few important items on you (like water and a knife).

While the SOG Team Leader seems like a good knife, I have a SOG SEAL Revolver, that I really like. It has a saw blade hidden in the handle that swaps out with the knife blade.

The lock-up is tight and it seems much safer to me than having the saw blade on the back end of the knife, where you want to put your thumb for control. The Revolver's knife blade is scalloped precisely for thumb placement and control.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Dancers, originally uploaded by Lupe Jelena.

Death before Dishonor

I watched Michael Mann's Public Enemies |WK|RT| tonight and I loved it. I enjoyed the acting, dialogue, and the special effects, by which I mean that the firefights were awesome.

An interesting portrait of Hoover in the picture as well as John Dillinger.

I liked Mann's prior movie Heat |RT|quite a bit, although it was a bit rambling. Public Enemies is a much tighter narrative.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Space exploration: Moon, Mars, and then... Generation Ships

While I love the idea of the human race spreading through the cosmos like a sexually transmitted disease, I'm skeptical that we'll be able to establish a significant presence on Mars by 2050.

A senior Nasa official has told the Guardian that the world's space agencies, or the commercial firms that may eventually succeed them, could issue one-way tickets to space, with the travellers accepting that they would not come back....

If, as [John Olson, Nasa's director of exploration systems integration] predicts, humans reach Mars by the middle of this century, engineers and astronauts may then set their sights on the frozen planets, fiery moons and stars beyond.

"We're going back to the moon, not for flags and footsteps but for a sustained presence," Olson said. "We're going to use the moon as a stepping stone to Mars and we're going to look at other interesting spots, like asteroids and near-Earth objects, and we're going to look at all the other exciting places to go in this solar system."...

"Space is no longer for power and prestige; it's truly for economic benefit," the Apollo 11 flight director Eugene Kranz said. "The technology that emerges from high-risk, high-profile, extremely difficult missions is the technology that will keep the economic engine of our nation continuing to go through the years."

With currently foreseeable technology, a round trip to Mars launched from a lunar outpost would take two to three years – a journey of six to nine months each way and a year-long mission on the surface. |Space exploration volunteers wanted (The catch? It's a one-way ticket) - Guardian|

Maybe the Chinese will spend some of their $2 Trillion in hard currency reserves to send astronauts to the Moon...