October 23, 2014

Well, THAT'S a change

Police Commissioner William Bratton said Thursday that investigators were still trying to identify the assailant and determine a motive. He said they hadn't ruled out a possible terrorism connection.

Well, that's different. Usually in a case like this what we hear is "We're not really sure what the heck happened, but we're absolutely certain it had nothing to do with terrorism. Definitely no terrorism here! So go on about your business and don't worry your little heads!"

They've been doing that ever since 9/11; their primary concern has been to avoid any kind of public panic, or anti-Muslim backlash -- and that's more important than, you know, telling the truth and keeping citizens safe. Finally we've got a police official who admits what everyone knows: they can't be sure this early, and only a fool would exclude the possibility.

UPDATE: Not to mention, "There's not even the faintest chance of any Ebola in the US. What, you mean there was some? Well, we've got it under control and there won't be any more!"

They're less concerned with keeping us safe than they are with keeping us calm.

I suppose it makes some sense: people fleeing from an infection, and unknowingly carrying the infection with them to new places, is how you end up with a full-blown plague in the era of air travel. They don't want that to happen. (There's no similar logic with the "No Terrorism" bull, though.)

And, of course, the Obama administration outright refuses to implement a full-scale travel ban, or mandatory enforced quarantine for those at risk, because... they haven't actually given any kind of good justification for why, except the usual "Racism!!!"

UPDATE: The new case in NYC could be very bad. He was admitted into the hospital today and the antibody test was positive. Seems he rode the subway last night and went to a bowling alley. How many hundreds of people may have been exposed, and how can you possibly find them all?

WHY IN HELL WASN'T HE IN HARD QUARANTINE? He had been in West Africa treating Ebola patients before he came home.


"The goal right now is to make sure people don't panic," he said.

Which seems to be more important than things like... making sure the disease doesn't spread.

This CNN article is loaded with testimonials about how saintly and wonderful this particular doctor is, kind of ignoring the fact that he of all people should have known how important it was for him to stay out of circulation.

Like not riding the subway to a bowling alley.

He may have contaminated the subway car he was on, but I can't see how they could possible figure out which one it was. Will they disinfect every subway car (hundreds of them)? Or just roll the dice and hope for the best?

So far our blitheringly incompetent public health authorities have been doing a lot of dice rolling.

UPDATE: Regarding the guy in NY with the hatchet, FrontPage Magazine says his name was Zale Thompson, age 32, Muslim, from Queens. Imagine that!

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October 22, 2014

At Arms


This grayhair is Kevin Vickers, Sergeant at Arms for the Canadian House of Commons. A gunman penetrated the Parliament building today, and Vickers shot him dead.

Good job, sir! He seems to take the "at arms" part of his title seriously!

UPDATE: He was in the RCMP for 29 years, so presumably he's been trained to shoot. I wonder what he used? Is a pistol part of his standard uniform? (Or a shoulder holster under that coat?)

UPDATE: Next day, Vickers received a standing ovation from Parliament.

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October 21, 2014

We've arrived. (Where?)

Are you ready for this? .moe is an internet Top Level Domain, since July. And yes, it's based on the Japanese term moe.

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October 16, 2014

The Cat in the Hat comes back

How many of you remember the kid's book The Cat in the Hat comes back?

The Cat takes an unauthorized bath and leaves behind a pink bath tub ring. All attempts to clean it simply spread it around, until the entire house is contaminated and all the snow outside has turned pink. The Cat keeps deploying additional smaller cats to help, only they just make things worse. Finally, the 26th and last (and smallest) assistant pulls a deus ex machina out of his hat which goes FLASH and all the pink is gone.

As I read about how various health authorities, particularly the CDC, have been botching the Ebola pre-outbreak in the US, it feels like the Cat's pink. It just keeps spreading, and everything it touches becomes contaminated.

Which is really bad news, of course; we may have already missed our chance to keep it confined to a bathtub, or even to a single neighborhood.

The sheer incompetence on display is disillusioning. It seems like the Centers for Disease Control no longer know how to control noxious diseases -- or care. They'd rather spend their time worrying about things like obesity and gun control, which may or may not be important but which emphatically are not diseases.

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October 14, 2014

Interesting symmetries

A federal judge struck down the Texas voter ID law. (She was just overridden by the 5th Circuit.) One sentence she wrote:

In her ruling last week, Gonzales Ramos, an appointee of President Barack Obama, called the law an "unconstitutional burden on the right to vote."

I find it interesting that the majority of people who oppose voter ID laws are in turn in favor of imposing as many (unconstitutional?) burdens as possible on the constitutional right to own firearms.

It's also been amusing to watch opponents of gun rights and opponents of abortion rights (politically generally diametrically opposite) taking their tactics out of the same chapter and book. I even wonder whether they're learning from each other.

UPDATE: Please note that I am not implying any moral equivalence.

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'Tentacle Robots' Designed For Space Exploration, Clemson University Researchers Say

"'Tentacle Robots' Designed For Space Exploration, Clemson University Researchers Say".

Nobody tell the Japanese!!!

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October 08, 2014

Thomas Duncan dies

I have very mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, it's natural to feel sorry for the guy, since he died horribly. But on another level I'm having a difficult time suppressing feelings of hatred for him.

He knew he was infected with Ebola when he came to the US. He did it because he thought he might get better medical care here, and maybe have a better chance of surviving.

So, in hopes that he himself would survive he decided to risk 300 million Americans getting the same disease, including the family members he was visiting.

No one wants to die, but risking others without their permission or knowledge to save yourself is wrong, evil, hideous, monstrous.

And it didn't save him. He died anyway, but because of him who knows how many Americans might now die?

UPDATE: Potentially or actually sacrificing others to save yourself is cowardice. Heroism is to sacrifice yourself to save others, like this guy. Him I'll mourn. But not Thomas Duncan; he doesn't deserve it.

UPDATE: Brickmuppet is less vindictive than I am.

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September 30, 2014

Jobs that take balls

There are jobs that require real guts. Obviously being a combat rifleman, but I mean other things.

I think the most praiseworthy of them are the men who risk everything to save others. Combat medic, of course, but firemen. Crew of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter is a good example: their motto is "That others may live". Unspoken is the first part: "We risk death so that others may live." And once in a while they actually do die.

What inspired this thought was that I was just reading about Rodeo Clowns.

I really love Rodeo, and out here in Oregon this is prime rodeo territory. When I was in Massachusetts we went to a rodeo once, supposedly the North East Regional final. And they were terrible.

Most of the calf ropers missed the calves, for instance. It wasn't really much of a surprise, though; Massachusetts isn't exactly prime ranching territory.

I went to a rodeo at the Oregon State Fair and it was surreal, because it alternated events between traditional rodeo and something called "Kentucky Trotters". There were two announcers who took turns; the rodeo announcer had a western accent and was just what you'd expect. The other one, for the Kentucky Trotters, was British and I imagined him with a cup of tea.

The competitors in the rodeo events wore jeans and cowboy hats, but the Kentucky Trotter competitors wore the kind of stuff you see them wear in dressage events. The Rodeo announcer could scarcely contain his contempt, and that was how I felt, too.

There's a hole-in-the-wall town in the Willamette Valley called "St. Paul" which is otherwise pretty forgettable, but every year on July 4 they have a rodeo and it's awesome. I've been to it a couple of times, and you wouldn't believe such a small town could put on such a great event. It is loads of fun.

But in this area, the king of rodeos is the Pendleton Roundup (which is world-famous). Pendleton is another relatively small town, but the population triples for the Roundup. (You've never seen to many Airstream house trailers in your life.) It's fairly near the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and the Indians are big-time participants, doing events in traditional clothing, but also competing.

I've been to it once. My roommate and I decided on a whim to go out there, and we waited at the hospitality desk for people with spare tickets to show up with them. As a result, he and I didn't sit together, but it was still fun.

There are a lot of events in a proper rodeo, including one (barrel racing) for women. In rodeo the men are men and the women are women and everyone thinks that's a mighty fine thing. Anyway, women don't compete in the other events because they're too dangerous or require too much muscle.

Calf roping is a big event. One of the neat things about it is that the horse the cowboy rides is a full partner in the event, and it knows what it's supposed to do.

Team roping always blows me away. The first cowboy lassos the calf's head, which is hard enough, but the second guy has to throw his lasso under the rear legs of the calf and then tighten it up to catch the legs. It ain't easy, but at a decent rodeo like St. Paul or Pendleton they almost never miss. At the Massachusetts rodeo, on the other hand, they nearly always missed. I got a bit disgusted.

I've never been too impressed with "Bronc riding". I'm sure a bucking horse could toss me off, but for an experience cowbow the horse's rhythmic bucking isn't too hard to synch with, and it's very rare for one of them to take a dive.

Anyway, the last event is always bull riding. (That's when the animals get their revenge.) It's dangerous. Those bulls are big and strong and mean, and unlike Broncs the bulls have a number of different patterns to try to get the cowboy off their back, and can switch from one to another without any warning. Every rider gets thrown, the only question is whether it's before or after the time period.

And in some cases once the rider is down, the bull comes back after him, to try to kill him. Some bulls are really mean. And that's where the Rodeo Clown comes in.

The clowns are out there to protect the riders and distract the bull. It isn't always necessary; a lot of the bulls just head for the exit once the rider is off. But sometimes things get nasty.

I saw a clown get his jaw broken one time. The rider used a "suicide wrap", which doesn't always release when you want it to. (It's banned now in most rodeos.) He got tossed off, but his hand was stuck, and the bull went into a spin. In that case all the clowns can do is to wade in and try to pull on the rope to get the rider's hand free. And this clown got hit in the face with the bull's horn, and it broke his jaw.

It takes real guts to do that. Obviously no one wants clowns to get hurt, but it does happen, and once in a while they get killed. Bulls can be really dangerous.

I don't watch rodeo hoping to see someone get hurt. The ideal rodeo has good competition, and everyone goes home safe afterwards, including the animals. But that element of danger is part of the experience; it's certainly inherent in Bull Riding.

So here's to the men in the funny costumes: brave and dedicated, taking risks so the riders can be safe.

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September 23, 2014

October Surprise

Some guy who is supposed to be politically significant, whom I had never heard of before, was claiming last week that Obama was going to pop an "October Surprise" on the Republicans. (In October.)

I think I know what it will be: he's going to ask Congress for an Authorization for Use Military Force against ISIS.

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September 20, 2014

Exchange rates

Starting about the first of the year, someone began to actively manipulate the Dollar/Yen exchange rate to keep it stable at about 102 yen to the dollar. I presume it was the Bank of Japan, but I don't actually know for sure.

I keep an exchange rate gadget on one of my computer desktops, showing USD vs JPY, just because I'm curious, and it's been preposterously stable for quite a long time. Exchange rates don't do that unless someone is fiddling with them.

Starting about a month ago they stopped doing it, and now the exchange rate is 109 yen to the dollar and trending up rapidly. Over the last ten years it's been as high as 128 and as low as 76. When the Yen was very strong, it caused all the disadvantages for Japan that we all know and love: making their exports expensive, presumably reducing their sales.

Which, I suspect, is why (I presume) the Bank of Japan began buying dollars with yen, to inflate the yen relative to the dollar. I wonder why they stopped?

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