Saturday, July 06, 2002

There's a great deal of ink spilled in the press about this guy, the fellow that took a few guns to the Los Angeles airport and started shooting. Most people seem to be trying awfully hard to find some way to call him a "terrorist". The Israeli government is even saying that Peres' granddaughter was somewhere in the terminal at the time of the attack.

Yeah, sure. And I was somewhere in the same country at the time of the attack. So what?

About ten years ago when I started my brief career in law enforcement there was a term to describe what this guy did. It was called "suicide by police".

The basic idea is that someone wants to check out, but he either doesn't have the guts to do it himself or he wants to go with the idea that his name will be in the papers. So he grabs a gun or two and goes somewhere where he's sure that he can find some armed people that will stop him in the most direct manner possible. A mall where a police officer is working special duty, a bank where they have an armed guard in the lobby.....or an airport.

Lots of people are running around trying to find a story or make some political hay over this. There's really nothing that could have been done to avoid this, and there's nothing that anyone can do to keep it from happening again. Steven den Beste has a pretty good take on the situation here.

Friday, July 05, 2002

I was invited over to a friends house for a 4th of July celebration. He and his wife also had a few other friends come over, and we all sat down to a traditional meal of home-made potato salad, hot dogs, cole slaw and a pickle tray (I love pickle trays).

He poured us all a dollop of home made apple wine and the conversation waxed and waned. He indicated one of his guests and said "Ellen here is English. Came over here in '52......"

He didn't get any farther because Ellen spoke up. In a delightful British accent she said "Oh, no, Charles. I'm an American. Have been since I was born, I just didn't know it until I came here for a visit."

So I called for a toast. "To the United States, where you're one of us if you want to be one of us!"

Seemed like the thing to do. And the potato salad was killer.

On the 4th of July, Megan McArdle has posted some thoughts on liberty that were originally written by people who really seem to know something about the subject. Go ahead and read some of these posts and see if you can't find one that appeals to your sense of liberty.

If you can't find something that makes your heart beat a little faster, puts a small lump in your throat, or at least encourages you to look at our flag with a little more appreciation, then you probably just like the 4th because of all of the hot dogs.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Today we see this news story, where the U.N. says that HIV and AIDS is killing people in unprecedented numbers. The article also notes that the highest rates of infection, as well as the fastest growing number of new infections, is to be found in the undeveloped countries of Africa. The U.N. wants the developed nations of the world to fund a massive relief effort.

This was commented on by Steven den Beste. If I understand his position correctly, Steve thinks that any effort would be wasted, since the drugs we have to fight the disease wouldn't actully cure it. He points out that the only way to stop the spread of HIV is through education and the choice of safe sex practices. First education, then relief efforts.

I agree that efforts now would be wasted. But I don't think a massive education effort is the first step. Instead I think the first step is a massive effort by law enforcement.

No one seems to be asking how such an enormous section of the population in many of these countries could be infected. It would appear that everyone assumes that third world countries are simply sinkholes of ignorance, and it's through ignorance that disease spreads. This is true up to a point, but I believe that the appalling rate of infection is due more to what we in the U.S. would call "violent sexual assault".

There's something wrong here. Notice that 98% of all cases of AIDS in Africa is to be found in southern Africa. I might very well be wrong, but I've noticed for a long time that there's a terrible attitude about rape in southern Africa. Although a Google search will produce many links to sexual violence in South Africa, it's pretty obvious that the problem isn't confined to South Africa alone. Added to this is the fact that many of the drug programs to combat AIDS are specifically targeted towards survivors of sexual violence.

Why would that be?

It's pretty obvious that sexual assaults increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, so much that it's difficult to find a sexual assault counselling service that doesn't advertise it's services to treat STD's. This means that an increase in rapes could very well lead to an increase in cases of STD's. And HIV can be transmitted sexually.......

Diseases just don't happen. Infection just doesn't appear. It has to be transmitted through a vector, or specific condition favorable to the spread of the disease. The best way to close off this particular vector is by a judicial system that will punish rapists and a law enforcement effort that's effective at catching the perps.

When most people think of the army of Ancient Rome, they think of the legions advancing on their enemies using the gladius, or Roman short sword, to cut down their enemies. It's true that they eventually got close enough to use their swords, but first they softened the enemy up a bit by throwing their two pilum, or heavy throwing javelins.

The idea was that the enemy would lose it if the guys in the front rank started to scream and run around with all of their blood coming out of them. So the pilum was designed to do a number on even armored men. The shaft was made of heavy wood to lend as much power to the throw as possible. The long metal rod behind the point was made of a soft iron so it would bend when it hit something and make it tough to throw back at the Romans. The tip of the pilum was made of a harder iron so it would punch through armor. All in all a very effective weapon.

Which brings us to this big ol' spear. It's not an ancient infantry weapon but a harpoon for whaling. Notice that it looks very similar with a heavy wooden shaft and a long rod leading to the point. In fact, the only real difference is in the business end of the harpoon, which is designed less for penetration and more for sticking in to whatever it hits.

Considering that commercial whaling dates back to 100 CE or so, does this mean that the Roman pilum influenced harpoon design?

Probably not. Both the pilum and the harpoon have similar functions so they have similar features. They both have to penetrate the target deeply, so they are both made with long rods behind the points and heavy wooden shafts to lend weight. The difference in point design is due to the fact that few whales happen to be armored, so the point of a harpoon doesn't have to be made to punch through something hard. But they both have to stick and stick deep.

This is more an example of similar tools being developed to do similar jobs.