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.