31.5.11

Rape and risk and blaming the victim.

http://gawker.com/5806802/elderly-woman-sexually-assaulted-on-upper-east-side


http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/dominique_strausskahn/index.html


Get some mace or pepper spray. And some situational awareness - I see way too many young girls running around with headphones on and not a care in the world. To me that just screams "VICTIM".

You're never gonna find a perfect airtight defense, but staying in groups, knowing your drinking limits, trusting no-one, learning some self-defense, getting some strength via a GPP program and always thinking about where you'd run to or what you'd do if something happened - all that helps.

If all else fails you can hire me at $4000/month plus expenses.



http://gawker.com/5806802/elderly-woman-sexually-assaulted-on-upper-east-side?comment=39620682#comments


Sometimes I wonder about people who seem like they deeply badly *want* to find something to be outraged about in what someone else writes. Is it really that important to have something to be angry about?

Either case, you're never gonna find that one silver bullet that kills off all the risks that you take just living life sort of normally. But you can take step to minimize those risks, which won't help you much if you're 85 years old, though.

I'm so terribly sorry if me trying to help others by sharing my training and experience offends anyone. If I happen onto a sexual assault in progress I'd be likely to first call the cops and then find a way to royally hurt the person doing the assaulting. Hmmm... gouging the eyes out of a rapist from behind - yeah, I'd do that.

As far as the "DOESN'T HELP" comment - bullshit. What doesn't help one person might save the life of another. I realize people don't want to hear this, but truth hurts sometimes - you're looking at an anecdotal sample size of one. Your experience is valid, but not universally applicable.
The world is an awful evil place where people get betrayed by those they trust the most, let alone what happens between total strangers. Common sense and protecting yourself and staying vigilant and training yourself to deal with emergencies will help mitigate risk, but unless you have mad amounts of cash many risks will never go away completely. Good luck. 

20.5.11

Guns in Mexico.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704904604576335162888589404.html?














One Gun's Travels
June 2007
The gun—an 82A1 sniper rifle—is shipped by manufacturer Barrett in Murfreesboro, Tenn., to a distributor in Grand Prairie, Texas.
July 2007
It is then shipped to a dealer in O'Fallon, Mo.
August 2007
The dealer sells the gun via the Internet to John T. Shipley, an FBI agent and gun hobbyist, in El Paso, Texas.
August 2007
Mr. Shipley sells the rifle to El Paso deputy sheriff Luis Armando Rodriguez, who resells the gun.
March 2008
The gun is found at the scene of a shootout between a Mexican military patrol and a suspected drug gang in Chihuahua, Mexico.
 Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, says there's ample evidence to indicate that the vast majority of weapons used by drug cartels in Mexico come not from the U.S., but from Russia and China and via Guatemala and other Central American countries. He suggests that the Obama administration should improve enforcement of existing laws, rather than proposing new laws.
The border is way too porous for guns and cash going one way and drugs and people going the other. The ATF no doubt has as many problems as most other government agencies. The NRA isn't helping the issue by fighting tooth and nail to protect every American's right to sell a gun on to whomever without keeping records or telling anyone who has what gun. Whatever the merits of the above case, it's way too easy to be a straw buyer, and then just turn around and make a quick buck by selling to people who can't buy in a store. In the parking lot, for example.


Also, why the hell do private persons need to have access to .50-cal sniper rifles? Is there a legit hunting or self-defense or defense of property need for such weapons?


Pistols. Go ahead.
Hunting rifles. Sure.
Shotguns. Yes, nice home defense weapon.
Assault rifles? Say what?
Extended capacity magazine? Sorry, I don't see the need for that.
Sniper rifles with an effective range of 1800m? No, there's no legit need for that outside of law enforcement and military.


EDIT: On second thought, a rancher or someone living in an isolated area could conceivably have a legit reason to want to own an assault rifle. The cops might take half an hour or more to show up. In the meantime there go your cattle and your equipment and your family and the bad guys will have military-grade gear. You should at least have a last-ditch means of defending yourself.


Let's get the assault rifles duly licensed and verified to still be in your possession once a year, by a sheriff or at a police station or by a notary (?) or similar. These need to get tracked, and not be in the possession of random people living in the middle of a city.

18.5.11

The world will end May 21st. Backpedaling and excuses start on May 22nd.

The world is supposedly ending on May 21st. Christian fundamentalist fanatics are predicting Rapture. Average reasonable people are selling them Rapture-related services like promising to take care of their pets and sending post-Rapture emails to your loved ones left behind.

Might as well get in the mood. And throw a Rapture party.
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=211925385492823
Countdown to Backpedaling: The End is Nah!

Eclectic Method - The Apocamix from Eclectic Method on Vimeo.

Mp3 available here: http://soundcloud.com/eclecticmethod/apocamix/download

Background: http://www.livescience.com/14227-rapture-parties-planned-celebrate-doomsday-saturday-21.html

Bribespot. Grass-roots internet vs. Corruption.

http://www.bribespot.com/



Bribespot is an app that allows you to see how much corruption is going on around. Using your smartphone (or a website) you can report locations where bribes are requested/paid, indicate the size of a bribe and area of government affected by it.
By accumulating data from thousands of anonymous users, we turn isolated users into powerful movement against corrupt individuals and institutions. Choose one the three ways to use Bribespot:
  • Mobile app for Android
  • Mobile app for iPhone (coming soon)
  • Website
In the future, we will add localized versions of the apps for specific countries and make data collected via our application to interested individuals and organizations. If you want to support these efforts, please consider donating to Bribespot.
Team
Bribespot was developed and launched during a startup competition Garage48 Tallinn in April 2011. It's the event that brings together participants with different skills - from software development and marketing to design and business management - to turn new ideas into working businesses.
Bribespot was built by international team coming from Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Iran. Find out more about the individuals by clicking on the name:Kimmo (project manager), Dovydas (developer), Mehrnoosh (marketer), Paulius (designer), Sten (developer), Aleksandr (developer), Viktor (mobile developer), Tomas (PR and marketing), Vytautas (mobile developer), Artas Bartas (team leader).

Contact

Like the idea? Why not become a fan of our Facebook page! We welcome your feedback and would be happy to answer your inquiries. You can reach us via email or find us on Twitter
Sooner or later someone will come up with the good idea to pay money for credible reports of corruption, and figure out a way to screen out false reports or people being pissed off about paying $25 for this or that government service that they think should be a free so they try to make their local government look bad on this or that app or website.
Citizen journalism, preferably with video or audio evidence. In another ten years when every cellphone has a video camera and a camera snake or a lapel pin camera. Get forced to pay a bribe, record the transaction. Post to website. Get money. Publicly shame the official or criminal or whomever.
More good stuff at http://www.transparency.org/

17.5.11

The year 2011. I heart democracy.

http://www.economist.com/node/18684158?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/mt/13may11

The subtext of which being how many of your personal favourite country(ies) are allied with or have massive business dealings with or have substantial corrupt business dealings with how many of the repressive regimes depicted here?

We all want a perfect world.

Then we meet the harsh reality, which is that international relations and foreign policy is, like most politics in general, the art of the possible.

Let's assume that US foreign policy has an attack of conscience and gives a massive kick in the crotch to our relationship with Saudi Arabia, for example. Now you have a revolt on Capitol Hill due to lobbying this and oil that. Ooops there goes cheap gas, or rather our half-heard ability to even have a minor say in such things. Good thing in the long run in my personal and very un-orthodox opinion, but not so good for most analysts in the short- and medium-term. There goes a huge part of our Middle East intelligence cooperation network. There goes our bases. There goes our support for operations in Iraq. Now you have an emboldened Iran.

To put it simply, just going full blast with the moral high-horse cannons against Riyadh right now is simply not an option. We're gonna have to go with very gradual change on that one. Much to the detriment of a lot of Arab and Muslim women in general and Arab/Muslim lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and transgender people in particular. Which don't exist according to Iranian and Saudi leaders.

Now there's something to really get the moral outrage patrol legitimately stoked up about. But Al Jazeera and Huffington Post and Jezebel and Gawker and Reddit and Anonymous and Wikileaks have easier targets closer to home. And just like terrorists, they tend to go for the easy, close targets. That's okay. In their position I would, too.

*shrug*

16.5.11

Do not buy a Mac if you might be job-hunting anytime soon.

Most webmasters do not bother trying to make sure that their website functions properly on every single Operating System and with every single browser.

That means majority rules. Almost all government and military entities us some sort of Windows OS and then Internet Explorer. Most big companies as well.

A busy executive sitting at his desk that spends one minute looking at the new employment/career website he ordered from the tech guys downstairs - is not going to bother looking at and QA-ing that same website with multiple browsers and OS's. If he doesn't see a problem in less than a minute, he assumes it's good to go and moves on to more important business.

The tech guy that coded the site gets a pat on the back and goes back to work on something else.

Which leaves the Mac user population with the options of jumping through hoops with emulators or using multiple different browsers or just plain doing their job hunting on a different computer.

This computer will likely be my last Mac. Bought it for the express purpose of filming UI-less CGI within a certain 12million-subscriber MMO. Purpose which is no longer applicable. Goodbye overpriced niche with a cult pseudo-hipster following.

15.5.11

Waterboarding/torture effectiveness in the pursuit of Osama bin Laden.

For a while now I've been researching the relative effectiveness of torture in the pursuit of global terrorists. My personal bias, which I'll try to leave out of this - is a reasonable moderate conservative.

Arguments:
Sen. John McCain, against - http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bin-ladens-death-and-the-debate-over-torture/2011/05/11/AFd1mdsG_story.html CIA Director Leon Panetta quoted as saying the intel for OBL's capture not related to the information gained from KSM.

Mr. John Kiriakou, some indirect results for - http://articles.cnn.com/2007-12-11/politics/agent.tapes_1_waterboarding-cia-director-michael-hayden-cia-agent?_s=PM:POLITICS

Gordon Corera, BBC News Security correspondent, unidentified sources - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11715577 :

Soon after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured, British intelligence officials began receiving intelligence from their US partners. Some of it proved valuable. It helped identify al-Qaeda operatives in the UK and disrupt a plot - still in its early stages - to fly hijacked planes into Canary Wharf.
Which is disputed:
British officials say there is no evidence that waterboarding saved lives of UK citizens, as Bush claimed in his memoirs
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/09/british-deny-bush-claims-foil-terror
...in a number of instances:
No 10 dismisses George Bush's claim in his memoirs that interrogation technique is legal and helped foil attacks on Heathrow and Canary Wharf
The former chair of the Commons intelligence and security committee, Kim Howells, cast doubt on Bush's claim that it had helped save British lives. "We are not convinced," said the Labour MP.
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/09/george-bush-memoirs-waterboarding

British officials said today there was no evidence to support claims byGeorge Bush, the former US president, that information extracted by "waterboarding" saved British lives by foiling attacks on Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf.
British counter-terrorism officials distanced themselves from Bush's claims. They said Mohammed provided "extremely valuable" information which was passed on to security and intelligence agencies, but that it mainly related to al-Qaida's structure and was not known to have been extracted through torture. Eliza Manningham-Buller,head of MI5 at the time, said earlier this year that the government protested to the US over the torture of terror suspects, but that the Americans concealed Mohammed's waterboarding from Britain. 
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/09/british-deny-bush-claims-foil-terror
 The otherwise not terribly stellar intellectual (i.e., conspiracy theory crackpot) Jesse Ventura in a pithy quote reflecting what kind of results can be produced with the technique:
"...you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/jesse-ventura-you-give-me-water-board-dick

The negative long-term effects of being viewed all over the world as a country that tortures people in secret prisons while we tell the same world to follow our lead on human rights, I would hope doesn't need too much elaboration. Let's give the liberals the benefit of the doubt on this one.

What remains then, is Mr. Kiriakou's "indirect" link (he later said he was used by active CIA to spread misinformation regarding the claim that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted 35 seconds) and the assertion by BBC News Security correspondent Gordon Corera that intelligence information received from the US by UK authorities had direct results - who "later realised it came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and that he had been waterboarded dozens of time to produce it."

Current Conclusion:
Possibly somewhat effective in short-term efforts to prevent terror attacks and with some serious negative effects in long-term. No or little impact in the hunt for OBL.


My question to fellow intellectuals and political thinkers:

Besides Mr. Kiriakou's indirect link and the unidentified sources of Gordon Corera, is there something I've missed in open sources that's even remotely tangible or concrete, to justify torture? Please cite your sources

11.5.11

Dorothy Parvaz, Al-Jazeera reporter detained in Syria, now imprisoned in Iran.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/dorothyparvaz/


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/al-jazeera-detained-reporter-sent-from-syria-to-iran/2011/05/11/AF6PiApG_story.html



Last week, Al-Jazeera said Syrian authorities confirmed the detention of Parvaz, who holds U.S., Iranian and Canadian citizenship. She works for the news network’s English-language channel.
Parvaz joined Al-Jazeera in 2010 and recently reported on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The station said she graduated from the University of British Columbia, obtained a masters from Arizona University, and held journalism fellowships at both Harvard and Cambridge universities.
Al-Jazeera reporters were allowed to stay in Syria as other reporters were expelled, but two weeks ago the station said it was scaling back its Syrian operations, citing harassment by security forces.
Iran has the power to pull a random journalist out of Syrian detention for whatever reason? Or Syria just finding a quick easy way to get rid of an irritant? Or some actual spying going on?


I doubt that the Syrian evil overlord dictatorship people actually had good reason to arrest her, but I suppose anything is possible.


So what's the big deal? Why is this reporter important?


It carries a very small but gradual and nearly inevitable risk that Al-Jazeera's so-called "news" coverage, hitherto a fairly slanted bunch of anti-Western demagoguery and populist "death to the invaders, death to Israel" type stuff - may soon be starting to become a little more nuanced.


Once your very own friends and your own employees start getting attacked, you become more sensitive to finding bad stuff to report on relative to the regimes doing the repression. If Al-Jazeera was based in Israel and their people were dying in sidewalk terror bombings in caf├ęs down the street from their office, you can bet they'd report on the evils of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. But they're not. It's an ARAB news network for the ARAB world which is heavily MUSLIM above all else.


Their coverage might be individually correct and well done in many cases. You'd be hard pressed to find actual lies and un-truths many times. But it's what they choose to report on that's important. The Bin Laden raid becomes a report on the violation of Pakistani sovereignty. A Hellfire drone attack that kills a Taliban leader in Afghanistan becomes a human-interest story on the shattered lives of his family, the women and children and the neighbour that died in the blast and how it's all the fault of the US.


It's not that Al-Jazeera is necessarily wrong in what they report. All these things might be true. But it's a lack of a broad overview and time to fully digest and analyze all facets of a story on the part of their average reader or TV-watcher (not unlike Fox News, here) who have a quick coffee break at work and get 15 seconds of graphic footage of carnage from another US anti-terror mission that happened to also have some collateral damage. BAM. Nose-diving US poll numbers. Hatred and incitement in the streets.


So yes, Ms. Parvaz might be doing the world a small favour by giving her network a chance to sub-consciously re-align itself against tyranny and oppression. There's plenty of that tyranny and oppression to go around, by the way. Iran. North Korea. Syria. Women and gays in Saudi Arabia. Discrimination based on this or that in Africa. And let's throw in a little mis-treatment, lack of due process and torture in Guantanamo Bay, some "Greater Israel" settlers in the West Bank and deprivation in Gaza (damn I wish the Palestinians would do the Gandhi thing and move toward a mass civil resistance nonviolence model) - and you start to see the bigger picture.


Now add the awful things L-e-T and the various Taleban factions are responsible for and it all becomes a little overwhelming.


But yes, good things are coming. But maybe not for Ms. Parvaz.

US Gasoline prices in perspective.


You might argue that cheap gas has been beneficial to the US economy. Sure.

And it's also helped fuel (heh) a reliance on personal transportation, road goods transport and a long-ignored rail system. That's not good in a long term perspective. It leads to massive amounts of roads and infrastructure since the elected representatives feel the need to respond to their constituents' insatiable appetite for roads and alleviated congested traffic. Witness Los Angeles. New York metro area. Etc.

Do you really want to live in a civilization that is 100% reliant on cheap oil from the Middle East and OPEC?

From a longer-term macro-economic perspective I'd say a gradual increase in oil prices might just be a good thing for the US economy and the world overall - it would help curtail massive vehicularization of societies like China and India, which societies are about to make a hell of a huge impact on global environmental pollution. Now add Russia. Africa. And what happens when a cheap-gas addicted US citizenry all of a sudden encounter a nasty thing like a spike in gas prices.

The Europeans and the Japanese and a lot of other societies would just shrug their shoulders, plan their travel a bit more and take the bus. We don't take the bus in this country. We have to have a car. Or a pickup truck. Or a big SUV. It's "Freedom" with a capital F. It's also a disaster waiting to happen.

A gradual increase in gasoline prices would hurt, for sure - but over the long term as the US economy gradually improves over the next 20-50 years it would help change people's attitude that they can just jump in their gaz guzzler and do whatever they want without a care in the world. They would start asking their elected representatives for good, realistic mass transit options.

Every major US city should be convenient and fast to get around in without taxis and without cars in the inner city.

8.5.11

Incompetence kills you and your friends.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13325850


Al-Qaeda leader Huthaifa al-Batawi, accused of masterminding the deadly siege of a Baghdad church last October, reportedly led the revolt.
He grabbed an officer's gun while being led to an interrogation and shot four policemen dead, including the head of the unit.
Five other officers were wounded in crossfire before Batawi was killed.

You let a dedicated terrorist/insurgent within reach of your gun while you're transferring him. You're stupid. Now you're dead. Hopefully your friends and colleagues learn something from the manner in which you chose to die. You chose to be the kind of person who doesn't pay attention to dangerous criminals right next to you, because it's never been a problem before, and no-one has ever dared try anything before because you're "the man" and you're the "macro" and the "big boss" and you're tough. You chose to either not put proper prisoner-handling procedures into place, or not follow those procedures. You're dead because of it. Which isn't important. But your friends are dead, too - which is.

Accidents happen. People make mistakes. Police officers make mistakes. My former martial arts instructor was a cop. Him and his partner were dropping a guy off in a cell after an arrest, but his partner forgot to leave his gun outside. The man went for the gun as soon as the handcuffs came off, and my instructor brained him with an oversized metal club, errr... I meant to say Mag light. Which caused a stroke. Which lead to a lawsuit. I'm fairly sure all involved would rather that the cop had *not* forgotten to leave his gun outside when dropping off the prisoner.

It's just that in some businesses, making a serious mistake - even a minor one - gets you, and more importantly your friends, killed. That ain't no good. But now people will learn from it, I hope.

6.5.11

"Birth at home"-promoting midwife convicted of two felonies in death of breech-birth child.

Carr, who is a certified professional midwife but who state records indicate is not licensed in Virginia, is an advocate of home births and has worked with hundreds of women in the Washington region, many of whom offer high praise for her work and care. And she has held herself out as being especially adept at high-risk deliveries: When she met the boy’s mother — who was 43, in her first pregnancy and had a child in breech position — Carr told her that she had done 40 to 50 breech births in homes without problems, according to court records.
Looks like she talked herself and a lot of prospective parents into thinking that her skill and knowledge would eliminate the very real risk that a breech birth represents. That kid would have been alive today and the parents' pride a little ruffled maybe, if they had gone to a hospital. If you do a difficult and dangerous thing 40 or 50 times in a row with no ill effects - does that prove that it's not inherently risky? Or rather, does it prove that you can get lucky and your skill and knowledge can help, but that 1-2.5% (assuming the 1 in 40 or 1 in 50 is true or even remotely representative) chance of the baby dying in a midwife-assisted home breech birth is still too much of a risk?
Fifty to 75 people — including numerous babies — joined Carr in Alexandria Circuit Court on Thursday, standing when she walked into the courtroom in what supporter Nicole Jolley said was a show of respect. Jolley said Carr has “amazing skill.”
Excellent. Amazing skill in persuading people that home births are the way to go. Amazing skill at letting a baby have its head stuck in the birth canal for 20 minutes. Amazing skill at talking people into believing in a social fad - that of performing a high-risk birth at home when a healthy outcome can be virtually guaranteed in a hospital setting. Giving birth is inherently risky, to both mother and child. Reducing those risks to an acceptable level is incumbent on the parents and properly licensed, knowledgeable medical personnel. A midwife practicing normal low-risk home births is great, I'm all for it - but that person needs to know when to say "Stop, we need to go to the hospital, this is too risky." If you don't know when to say that, you're putting children at risk, you're smooth-talking parents into doing unhealthy dangerous stuff and you're putting yourself at liability of getting convicted of multiple felonies.

This woman, in collusion with the parents, are responsible for the death of a child that was wholly unnecessary. She got what she deserved. The parents - well, they'll have to deal with the repercussions of making bad decisions and trusting the wrong people, for the rest of their lives. You can't really charge them with a crime for being stupid and gullible and ignorant, but it certainly looks like their ignoring competent medical advice lead to the death of their child.

Difficult, high-risk medical condition? Might want to go to a hospital.

Difficult, high-risk pregnancy? Might want to go to a hospital to give birth. 

Mankind hasn't quite figured out how to take all the risk out of giving birth yet, but we have figured out that it's better to do so in a clinical setting with a whole bunch of resources to assist if things don't turn out the way they usually do.
After Carr was arrested, Jolley, a certified professional midwife, founded In Service to Women, a group focused on providing legal aid to midwives and uniting home-birth advocates. She said the group has raised $45,000 in less than two months, and hundreds of people joined the group on Facebook to offer testimonials about Carr’s contributions to the community.
“The outpouring of support has been amazing,” Jolley said. “Her services are coveted.”
Proving that people are gullible fools and will follow anyone that talks a smooth talk and gets the proper reputation with the proper people to build a client list with some good names on it. You're basically playing Russian Roulette with a high-risk home birth, except the chances of a dead baby aren't 1 in 6 as with a six-shooter, they're maybe more like 1 in 20 or 1 in 100 with a smart, skilled midwife. But you're still taking unnecessary risks. You're taking chances that you didn't need to take, all for the benefit of who?

You. The parent. You wanted a home birth and you got it. To hell with the risk to the kid. If it's the kid you care about, then give the kid a maximum possible chance of survival. Will that be provided by one single knowledgeable and skilled midwife - or by a whole building full of surgeons and technicians and nurses? Your call. Your choice.
The parents sought out Carr in August after nurses at a licensed birthing center in Alexandria said they could not deliver at home because of the fetus’s position in the womb; breech births are most often delivered by Caesarean section because the risk of complications from a breech delivery — in which the baby is positioned feet-first — are high, according to medical officials.
Seems to me that the parents cared more about the home-birth-advocacy thing than they cared about the kid. Those parents were unlucky, where apparently many others that had made the same bad decision had simply gotten lucky and avoided that 1-2.5% chance if the midwife's claim of 40-50 successful home breech births is indicative.
Carr agreed to do a home delivery and, prosecutors said, declined to call for help when things got out of control. A medical examiner ruled that the death was due to complications from a breech birth at home.
Harold Fox, director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Johns Hopkins and who employs midwives, reviewed the case for prosecutors and determined that the delivery was high-risk and should have been performed in a hospital. According to court records, he said that “all of the actions of the Defendant created a gross departure from the accepted standard of care.” 
Personnel at Children’s Hospital contacted the Virginia Department of Health Professions after the baby’s death, a call that initiated a criminal investigation. Alexandria prosecutors interviewed every witness in the case before proceeding with an indictment this year. Boucher said the boy’s parents are “understandably devastated,” adding that they did not seek out prosecutors but agreed to help once an investigation was underway. 
In the final analysis, the parents' bad choices had as much to do with this as the midwife. Unfortunately I don't think there are any laws that will let you prosecute parents for making bad decisions and not giving their children a fighting chance to survive a difficult high-risk birth.

Stop believing what people tell you. Do your own research. Don't trust someone just because they say they've done this successfully 40 or 50 times. Do you really want to be involved in that 41st or 51st time when it all goes haywire and some poor innocent kid dies?

Superstition.
Religious fundamentalists.
Anecdotal evidence-believers.
Conspiracy theorists.
Social fad followers, including vegans.
Cult members following a charismatic leader.
People who believe their friends above competent medical or other authority.

Two very simple rules:
1. Trust no-one...
2. ...and believe in nothing that anyone tells you...
...until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.


Just because your friends swear by something or because you read a few articles or some stuff on the internet, doesn't mean there's not that 1-2.5% risk of your child dying - a risk that you could easily eliminate by talking to competent personnel and getting some sound advice from a variety of properly licensed, vetted and educated sources. As opposed to some snake-oil salesperson who talks a good talk and knows the immense value of network marketing - a phenomenon not unlike a snowball going downhill getting bigger and bigger after you get a certain critical mass of people who believe in you and then help you get more followers or clients.


Reminds me of these tribal knowledge guys who swore that they were right in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, and unfortunately managed to send a guy to his death with their pseudo-science: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann

And also the differences in how men and women (ok, this is a huge generalization, there are lots of exceptions, you may be one) approach different sources for learning and authoritative information:
http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com/blog/2010/05/word-of-mouth-men-trust-authority-women-trust-common-experience.html


UPDATE:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/midwife-karen-carr-convicted-in-alexandria-babys-death-is-under-investigation-in-md/2011/05/11/AFlrp22G_story.html
Last week, Karen Carr was convicted of two felonies for her role in the September death of a baby boy she delivered in an Alexandria home. This week, her cellphone keeps ringing with women who want her to deliver their babies.
Carr has since been banned from delivering babies in Virginia as part of her plea agreement.
"Underground" midwife without license, two felonies. Barred from delivering babies in a state where she supervised the unnecessary death of a child. Phone keeps ringing.

People are stupid and take unnecessary risks.
The newborn’s death in Alexandria was followed by another death in rural Maryland in November, a case now under investigation by the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.
The D.C. Department of Health issued a cease-and-desist order against Carr in January after the death of the baby in Alexandria and another case in the District in October, in which a baby she was delivering had to be rushed to a hospital.
The District’s cease-and-desist order states that investigators discovered that Carr had been delivering babies for “many years” without a license and that she “has caused or may cause immediate and irreparable harm to the public.” The U.S. attorney’s office in the District is investigating Carr’s midwife practice, according to law enforcement sources.
“The lack of integrity and veracity demonstrated by the defendant’s taking advantage of a plea arrangement to her benefit, standing before the court under oath and affirming that she was pleading guilty because she was in fact guilty, and then turning right around and claiming that she did nothing wrong, is extremely disturbing,” Boucher said. “It evidences the same arrogance that got her into trouble in the first place, and it does not bode well for her future clients.”
The newborn death rate is two to three times higher for planned home births than for those that take place in hospitals, said George Macones, chairman of the committee on obstetrical practice at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has long opposed home births. Some home-birth advocates say such studies are flawed.
Absolutely. Let's make more and better studies so we have better material on which to make decisions. Women absolutely should have the option of a home-birth. Excuse me - FAMILIES or single mothers should have the option of a home birth. Everyone has an axe to grind. Everyone wants you to change your life to dance to your tune. I'm biased. So are you. But let's agree that taking unnecesssary risks involving other people's lives is, well, unnecessary.
“There’s no question that if you come to a hospital, there’s a one in three chance you end up with a C-section, and it’s certainly true that some of them aren’t medically indicated,” Macones said. But at home, where there is less monitoring of the baby, there is more chance of a bad outcome, he said. “Obstetrics can be a risky business. Things can go wrong.”
Like many non-nurse-midwives, she worked underground.
Kirsty Welch was not at all satisfied with the service she received from Carr. She hired Carr to deliver her son in March 2008 and thinks Carr made a series of bad decisions that ultimately led her to be rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment.
Welch said Carr showed up at her home near Old Town Alexandria late in the delivery process. Carr was on her cellphone for much of the delivery, she said, speaking to another client who was also going through labor.
Showing up late? Not unusual - babies don't always come on time. Part of a home birth, unless you want the midwife to stay at your house for a week or two. Acceptable risk? I don't know, but I'll give the midwife/home birthers the benefit of the doubt on that.

Cellphone?? WHAT?
“Her attention was elsewhere,” said Welch, now 32.
After a healthy boy was born, Welch began to hemorrhage. She said Carr administered drugs to her before quickly leaving for the other delivery. An assistant stayed behind, and Carr stayed in touch with her by cellphone.
“Even with Karen on the phone, they never told me how serious the situation was,” Welch said. “She left me there, and if someone hadn’t stepped in, I could have died.”
Ultimately, Welch’s doula, or maternity aide, became concerned and called paramedics. Welch said Carr and another assistant implored her not to tell authorities that they had administered pitocin and another drug to her. Virginia law prohibits non-nurse midwives from administering drugs.
Smart girl to make the call. Telling your clients to lie to the authorities to protect you? Telling people that if paramedics of all people find out the truth, then you'll be in trouble? How about a little of that shiny TRANSPARENCY? Where's Wikileaks when you need them?
“The idea of her continuing to practice absolutely bothers me,” Welch said. “We felt really comfortable with her, and it was a false sense of security. I don’t want her to put anyone else in danger.”
“The drugs probably did save her life,” Carr said. “I’m glad I used them. But I also — it always puts me in a precarious position, especially in Virginia, when I use them. That I’m not really allowed to do that.”
Translation: What I did was illegal and I didn't want to get caught so I told people to lie about it.
Two women who supported the mother during the September delivery said in interviews that both Carr and the mother knew the risks involved in such a delivery. They both said everything was going well, until it wasn’t.
Because we're stupid and we believe and trust our friends over competent research and medical authority. We think because things go well a few times that means what we're doing is fine and we can keep doing it. It's a false sense of security based on small sample statistics. It's anecdotal evidence. It's arrogance.
“Everybody was on board with everything,” one of the women said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because it is a legal case; neither was charged. “No one is going to put their child at risk on purpose, nor is any midwife,” the woman said. The mom and midwife thought everything was safe. That’s all that matters. And they were both wrong. . . . It was devastating.”
Stupid people rarely recognize when they're being stupid. Learn to be humble. Do some research to see if there are any risks associated with this big medical thing you've got coming up in six or nine months.

Or you can trust some random snake-oil saleswoman tribal witchdoctor with candles and soothing music who talks a good talk that was recommended by your best friend who tried to talk you into doing it so she'll feel better about the risks she took herself.

Good luck. If you're stupid and willing to take unnecessary risks with high-risk home delivery of a breech birth or something similar, just because you'll do anything to avoid the scar of a C-section - including accidentally kill your unborn child - then you're gonna need that luck.

5.5.11

Policemen die in Iraq due to stupidity, ignorance and superstitious nonsense.

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/05/2011555537677889.html




Headline reads: "Policemen killed in Iraq suicide bombing".


Notice what the joker in the funny-looking red beret on the left is holding in his hands?


It's this damn thing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sniffex
Same as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadro_Tracker
Different name - same damn divining rod: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADE_651
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GT200


One of the culprits who scammed the government of Iraq out of millions of dollars is now free on bail in the UK: http://sniffexquestions.blogspot.com/2011/02/jim-how-was-jail-again-for-selling.html


In a nutshell, it's a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowsing rod, a.k.a. "divining rod" that superstitious idiots have been using and promoting for hundreds of years to find water, hidden treasure, gold and now explosives. It's a plastic handle with a cheap extendable antenna, some wires to make it look complicated and some cheap plastic & metal to make it seem like there's some computer thing going on with it. Add a nicely done professionally produced video marketing campaign and a few kickbacks and the government and people of Iraq got blown for a cool $80 million.


See, the thing with these so-called "explosives detection devices" is that they don't work. They've been proven not to work. All you have to do to figure it out for yourself is to make a controlled double-blind test. Which the US Navy did, here: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/23365128/Test-Report-The-Detection-Capability-of-the-Sniffex-Handheld-Explosives-Detector


Which James Randi did, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruTmqfGJhTI


More: http://sniffextest.blogspot.com/


So what's the big deal? They're not doing any damage. Some scammer gets rich. The people of Iraq lose their tax money or oil revenues or whatever and no big deal, right?


Yeah, except now the people transporting bombs through checkpoints have it that much easier to get past. A simple flashlight and an inspection mirror to look underneath cars works a lot better, simply because it WORKS. It does something, besides make the person conducting the check feel better.


And you wonder why people keep dying in bombings of places that you'd normally assume would be secure in most average, civilized countries.


If you're reading this and want to help, repost it or post a link or tell someone. You might save the next 13 Iraqi police officers from becoming victims like these guys did.




EDIT: Heh. Someone wrote a spythriller about ithttp://www.amazon.com/Running-Steck-adventures-spymaster-ebook/dp/B004P5NSAA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1304589438&sr=8-2

2.5.11

Osama bin Laden's dead. Now what?

Not much, that's what.

Some internal Pakistani soul-searching. Some gradually changing attitudes within Pakistan. Some greater momentum for Afghani and US good guys in Afghanistan. Some greater scrutiny of Pakistan's attitudes toward the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Waziristan/Taliban problem.

Some momentum for the Democrats in 2012's Presidential election, but the GOP will be fighting back taking credit. Obama had good odds going into 2012 already, what with the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and Trump's idiocy all working against the GOP already. Now he just has slightly better odds. No real serious GOP alternative like Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell or a stand-out war hero, either.

Efforts around the world to stop stupidities like religious fundamentalism and associated intolerant fanatics got a shot in the arm, but it's not that big of a deal, except for Pakistan and US patriots.

Speaking of those rascally terrorists:

An Al Qaeda terrorist with strong links to chief Osama bin Laden used impotency injections so that he could focus on carrying out jihad and not on womanising, according to secret Guantanamo Bay files released by WikiLeaks.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was captured in November 2002. During interrogations by CIA officials, he reportedly confessed to injecting himself with chemicals to stop himself from being distracted by women, according to the Daily Mail.
http://news.webindia123.com/news/articles/World/20110429/1739417.html