Animal’s Daily Stupid Tourist News

Why the hell do people travel – voluntarily – to dangerous shitholes?  People should know better, but not everyone does.  Excerpt:

North Korea has returned one of its American prisoners — a University of Virginia student sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a regime propaganda sign who reportedly fell into a coma shortly after his sentence began.

“At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea. Mr. Warmbier is en route to the United States, where he will be reunited with his family. The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement this morning.

“Out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Warmbier and his family, we have no further comment on Mr. Warmbier,” he added.

At a State Department briefing later in the day, press secretary Heather Nauert said the government is “pleased” to have Otto Warmbier back in the United States. “What an incredible day that one of our fellow American citizens who’s been detained in North Korea for more than a year — as we had difficulty, as you all are very well aware, in reaching him,” she said.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that the loony Norks released this young man, I am sympathetic to his health issues and earnestly hope he recovers quickly and completely.  I’m likewise happy for his family and can appreciate the relief they must feel that their loved one is finally on his way home.

But really, why the hell was he over there in the first place?  Why would any rational American visit North Korea (and not that I used the disclaimer rational, which excludes Dennis Rodman) or Iran?  You are asking – nay, begging for trouble visiting either of these shitholes.  It’s not like either of them are luxurious vacation spots.

What gets into these people’s heads?   Why the hell would anyone choose to go to a place like North Korea, that hellhole ruled by a stunted little gargoyle with bad hair from a long line of stunted little gargoyles with bad hair?  Does anyone have any idea what the hell was going through Mr. Warmbier’s head?

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Turns out we could have had cell phones years before we did.  Why didn’t we?

Bureaucracy.  Excerpt:

Before there were cellphones, there was the mobile telephone service, or MTS. Launched in 1946, this technology required unwieldy and expensive equipment—the transceiver could fill the trunk of a sedan—and its networks faced tight capacity constraints. In the beginning, the largest MTS markets had no more than 44 channels. As late as 1976, Bell System’s mobile network in New York could host just 545 subscribers. Even at sky-high prices, there were long waiting lists for subscriptions.

Cellular networks were an ingenious way to expand service dramatically. A given market would be split into cells with a base station in each. These stations, often located on towers to improve line-of-sight with mobile phone users, were able both to receive wireless signals and to transmit them. The base stations were themselves linked together, generally by wires, and connected to networks delivering plain old telephone service.

The advantages of this architecture were profound. Mobile radios could use less power, because they needed only to reach the nearest base station, not a mobile phone across town. Not only did this save battery life, but transmissions stayed local, leaving other cells quiet. A connection in one cell would be passed to an adjacent cell and then the next as the mobile user moved through space. The added capacity came from reusing frequencies, cell to cell. And cells could be “split,” yielding yet more capacity. In an MTS system, each conversation required a channel covering the entire market; only a few hundred conversations could happen at once. A cellular system could create thousands of small cells and support hundreds of thousands of simultaneous conversations.

When AT&T wanted to start developing cellular in 1947, the FCC rejected the idea, believing that spectrum could be best used by other services that were not “in the nature of convenience or luxury.” This view—that this would be a niche service for a tiny user base—persisted well into the 1980s. “Land mobile,” the generic category that covered cellular, was far down on the FCC’s list of priorities. In 1949, it was assigned just 4.7 percent of the spectrum in the relevant range. Broadcast TV was allotted 59.2 percent, and government uses got one-quarter.

I’m old enough to remember Ma Bell.  My sister, in fact, had a long career with Northwestern Bell and later AT&T, retiring as a regional VP of Sales.  When I first moved out of my folk’s house, mere days after I graduated high school, I left their creaking, moribund rural company, Ace Telephone, and moved to a nearby good-sized town (Cedar Falls, Iowa) and was hooked up with telephony by that self-same Northwestern Bell.

I had the choice of two leasing one of two hard-wired phones, a slimline wall-mount or the traditional big clunky desk phone.  I chose the latter, in traditional black (because, as we all know, black is cruise control for cool) and opted for the touch-tone dialing.  That last wasn’t available from Ace telephone, as they were still on a pulse system that required rotary dial phones.

Owning the phone wasn’t an option.  It was Ma Bell’s, and we paid a lease to use it.  Long-distance calls were prohibitively expensive for an 18-year old with a full-time job at the sporting-goods department in Woolco, at least if I wanted any beer money left over at the end of the week.

Priorities, you know.

This system was crony capitalism in action.  Ma Bell had a government-granted monopoly on telephony, or as near as made no difference.  But then, in the early 1980s, divestment happened!  Ma Bell was broken up, and in months a thousand flowers bloomed.  Suddenly you could buy your own phone, in a wild variety of styles and sizes, cordless and corded.

The onset of cellular phones, when that finally happened, put paid to the expensive long-distance fees; cellular companies immediately started competing for that market, first offering “free long-distance,” then doing away with the concept altogether.

You know what the market looks like now.  But it’s galling to think we could have let the free market, rather than Imperial bureaucrats, decide the whole thing forty years earlier.

Animal’s Daily Steaming Pile News

Recently the Washington Post published an  article marking the one-year anniversary of the heinous Pulse nightclub shooting.  While the shooting was heinous, so was WaPo’s characterization of it:

By the end of the night, more than 1,000 people had gathered to remember what happened last June, when Orlando became the first U.S. city of the summer — before Falcon Heights, Minn., and Baton Rouge and Dallas — to be upended by gun violence

Did you get that?  Gun violence.   The Daily Caller presents a portion of the 911 call transcript:

— “Emergency 911, this is being recorded,” the operator said.

— “In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent,” Mateen said in Arabic.

— “What?”

— “Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God,” he continued, then switching to English: “I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.”

— “What’s your name?”

— “My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.”

— “What’s your name?”

— “I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.”

— “Alright, where are you at?”

— “In Orlando.”

— “Where in Orlando?”

Anything I could add to that would be superfluous.

Just read that, and think on it, and think about what an enormous steaming pile of shit that WaPo writer cranked out.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Moving on, here’s a shocker:  Chimps are not people.  Excerpt:

Chimpanzees do not deserve the same rights as people, a New York state appeals court unanimously concluded on Thursday, as it refused to order the release of two of the animals to a primate sanctuary.

The 5-0 decision by the Appellate Division in Manhattan is the latest defeat for the Nonhuman Rights Project and its lawyer Steven Wise in a long debate over whether caged chimpanzees are actually legal “persons” entitled like humans to bodily liberty.

Citing experts like British primatologist Jane Goodall, the Nonhuman Rights Project said chimpanzees and humans share many behavioral, cognitive and social capabilities.

It said this entitled chimpanzees to many of the same rights, and sought “habeas corpus” relief to win freedom for Tommy and Kiko, each held by a private owner in upstate New York.

But the shared capabilities “do not translate to a chimpanzee’s capacity or ability, like humans, to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions,” Justice Troy Webber wrote for the appeals court.

“While petitioner’s avowed mission is certainly laudable, the according of any fundamental legal rights to animals, including entitlement to habeas relief, is an issue better suited to the legislative process,” Webber wrote.

Speaking as the guy who wrote a book on the topic (cast your eyes to the right) animal’s do not and can not have rights.  We should and do accord legal protection to animals; animal cruelty statutes have a long history in Western law.  But that’s not the same thing as acknowledging rights.  Key difference; animal cruelty statutes apply only to the actions of humans.

Rights are essentially negative in nature; they define actions governments and our fellow citizens may not take.  Government and our fellow citizens may not restrict our rights to self-expression, or to peaceably assemble, to bear arms or to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.  But no animal has the necessary moral agency to understand this; a human can be held accountable for violating another’s rights, but an animal may not.  It may be controlled or destroyed, but not put on trial.  It cannot confront its accuser; it cannot appeal to a jury of its peers.

Now, I’ve had occasion to interact with great apes; specifically, chimps and an orangutan.  It’s interesting, because when you look into the eyes of one of these close cousins you get an odd feeling; it’s not like looking at a cat or a dog.  There’s something more there.  But what there isn’t is human intelligence; what there isn’t is moral agency.

The Appellate Division in Manhattan got this one right.

 

 

Rule Five Thousands Standin’ Around Friday

I travel by air, well, a lot, and I haven’t personally had any issues with the Transportation Security Agency (TSA.)  Maybe I’m lucky.  Maybe having a Pre-Check pass spares me some of that.  But plenty of people have had issues with TSA, and they aren’t improving.  Excerpt:

“Food can trigger lots of false alarms because of the density of some items,” the Wall Street Journal recently reported about the Transportation Security Administration’s justifications for imposing yet another round of tighter and more-intrusive airport carry-on baggage restrictions. “Chocolate, for example, can look like some types of explosives to X-ray machines.”

As a result, some airline passengers around the country—soon to be all of us—are being asked to remove such items as books, electronic devices, and food from carry-on luggage for separate screening.

This makes an odd sort of sense (not really). An internal investigation of the TSA, leaked in 2015, found that many types of explosives apparently look to agents quite a bit like chocolate. Guns seem to closely resemble Tom Clancy novels in their eyes. Knives may be easily mistaken by the thin uniformed line against especially dim terrorists for those fuzzy troll dolls, though that part is a bit unclear. Well, maybe that’s not all true. But such confusion would explain why “TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.”

“In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer,” ABC News noted, “but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down.”

Well, they should obviously have used chocolate in the test. Maybe a few of those suspicious-looking Toblerone bars kids sell door to door would have set their spidey-senses tingling.

After that embarrassing failure, the TSA’s working theory seems to be, if you make everybody dump their sandwiches, tablets, and paperbacks into separate bins at the security checkpoint, we vastly increase the chance of intercepting backpack nukes and rocket-propelled grenades, which themselves could be mistaken for sandwiches, tablets, and paperbacks. Sure, the guards may still need some guidance as to which confiscated items are safe for noshing, but the security measures will be covering all bases.

Maybe one day someone will have a sudden rush of brains to the head and re-institute the Fourth Amendment at the nation’s airports.

We talked (well, I wrote, you read) about privatizing air traffic control just the other day.  Why not privatize airport security as well?  As recently as 2001, plenty of airports contracted security to private companies.  As part of the post-9/11 pants-shitting over security issues, the Imperial government implemented our current security theater.  New York’s Chuck Schumer, that master purveyor of malapropisms, claimed “to professionalize, you Federalize.”

Schumer’s statement here is the purest form of corral litter, suitable only for enriching lawns.  But then he has a long history of such.

Security theater isn’t just in place at airports, of course.  A couple of years back I was summoned to the Arapahoe County courts for jury duty.  On my way in to do my civic duty, I had to pass through an Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office security point.  In my pocket, I had a tiny Swiss Army knife – one of the little $10 models with a nail file and a <1″ blade.  A Sheriff’s deputy made me take it out to leave in my truck, stating it was classified as a “weapon.”

“Seriously?” I said.  “This?”

“I know,” the deputy replied.  “I don’t make the rules.”  He looked embarrassed.  I know I would have been, in his place.

But back to the TSA.  Why don’t we just chuck the TSA while we’re chucking the Imperial air-traffic control system?  Privatize the whole shebang – I’ll bet next week’s invoice that airport security will be faster, more efficient and more thorough.

If that pisses off Chuck Schumer, well, consider that a bonus.

Better yet – make one more thing a part of the security contract:  Take a few lessons from the Israelis.  While our TSA folks look for weapons, the Isreali security folks look for terrorists.  They profile – oh, hell yeah, they profile – and their agents are trained to spot behavioral cues, to spot when someone is lying to them.

Let’s convert our airport security theater into something that’s actually effective.

Animal’s Daily Icons of Rock News

Genre music has always been a thing.  One of my favorites, country rock, had its roots in the Cajun music of Louisiana, in blues and jazz from all over the South.  But it took the artists of the Sixties and Seventies to make Southern Rock great.

One of the pioneers was Tony Joe White, a purveyor of what was then known as “Swamp Rock.”  Here’s his best-known work, Poke Salad Annie.

The Sixties gave way to the Seventies.  Southern Rock exploded onto the scene, and one of the pioneers was Black Oak Arkansas.  Here is their iconic Jim Dandy.

Another pioneering group was The Allman Brothers Band; here, from a 1970 show, is their song Whipping Post.

As the Seventies progressed, more and more examples cropped up.  Here are two; first, Molly Hatchet and Dreams I’ll Never See.

And one of the greatest, of course, was Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Here they are in 1977, performing what is perhaps their best-known tune, Sweet Home Alabama.

Enjoy!

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Is it too soon for another aliens post?  Nah.  Let’s have another aliens post!

Why haven’t we encountered aliens yet?  Turns out there are a variety of reasons.  Excerpt:

In 1950, a learned lunchtime conversation set the stage for decades of astronomical exploration. Physicist Enrico Fermi submitted to his colleagues around the table a couple contentions, summarized as 1) The galaxy is very old and very large, with hundreds of billions of stars and likely even more habitable planets. 2) That means there should be more than enough time for advanced civilizations to develop and flourish across the galaxy.

So where the heck are they?

This simple, yet powerful argument became known as the Fermi Paradox, and it still boggles many sage minds today. Aliens should be common, yet there is no convincing evidence that they exist.

Here are twelve possible reasons why this is so.

Go on and read the twelve, but not mentioned is one that I find most likely; alien life may well be so alien as to make any social interaction impossible.

If you haven’t yet, check out the recent sci-fi thriller Arrival.  Movies aren’t usually the best place for possible scenarios for alien contact; nor are sci-fi novels (and I say that as a part-time sci-fi writer.)  But Arrival does a halfway decent job of portraying the visiting aliens as truly alien; they aren’t just humans with odd makeup jobs.

As for convincing evidence; give some thought as to what convincing evidence would be, short of aliens actually showing up here.  In Carl Sagan’s book Contact he had an alien transmission in a radio signal, presenting a string of prime numbers.  That’s a pretty good indicator.

We could always wait for aliens to notice us.  But any such indication would be limited by the speed of light.  Given how long we’ve been broadcasting, that limits our possible contacts to a sphere of about a hundred light years – or less, depending on what specifically any possible intelligence may be watching for.  That’s a teeny, tiny little bubble of our stellar neighborhood.  And there is no reason to think they’d even recognize us as intelligent – or even as life.

The Milky Way may well be teeming with intelligent life.  They’re just beyond our ken.

Animal’s Daily Air Traffic News

President Trump is proposing to privatize the nation’s air-traffic control system.  Not a bad idea.  Excerpt:

President Trump, in a speech Monday, promised to replace the current government-owned and operated air traffic control system with a private “self-financing, non-profit organization” relying on user fees, not taxes, to fund itself.

The idea is not new. Canada, the U.K. and Germany are among the roughly 50 countries that privatized air traffic control.

It has been a long-fought goal of libertarians like Bob Poole, senior transportation analyst for the Reason Foundation (the non-profit that publishes this website). Poole has argued since the 1970’s the “high-tech 24/7 service business” that is air traffic control “is a poor fit for a tax-funded bureaucracy housed within a safety regulatory agency.”

Poole proposed what Trump is now embracing, dumping the Federal Aviation Administration-run system with a non-profit air traffic control entity less bureaucratic, more cost-effective, and ultimately more responsive to consumer needs.

As a 2016 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report found, the FAA has done a pretty terrible job managing and modernizing a system upon which some two million air travelers every day rely.

Despite repeated attempts by Congress to reform the FAA’s management, personnel, and organizational practices, its “costs continue to rise while operational productivity has declined,” the report concluded.

Canada thought this was a good idea, and it turns out they were right.  Here’s the solution.

The airlines are for this.  The pilot’s union is for it.  Canada did it with considerable success.  So did the UK.  Ditto Germany and France.  New Zealand did it in the 1980s, and as the linked Reason article points out, they saw their “...air traffic control system go from losing $5.5 million a year to turning a $2.3 million profit in just a year after privatization.”

There are no good reasons not to do this; we can modernize, we can increase efficiency, we can reduce cost.   Who could be against this?

Well, the loony old bat from Frisco, Nancy Pelosi, for one; she said privatization would “hand control of one of our nation’s most important public assets to special interests and the big airlines.”

For the political Left – and Pelosi is so far to the left, she needs inserts in her left shoe to stand straight – government is always the answer.  In this case the history of privatization speaks pretty eloquently.  Hopefully Congressional Republicans will grow a pair and push this through; let Queen Nancy howl.  Success speaks for itself.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links.

Another early flight back to loony San Fran awaits so I am forced to some brevity this morning, but I have to comment on the horror that is fundamentalist Islam and its latest atrocity – in London.  Excerpt:

Following the third terrorist attack in three months Mrs May defiantly confirmed Thursday’s General Election will go ahead and issued a warning to jihadis and those who harbour them as she said “things need to change”.

After chairing a Cobra meeting she said: “It is time to say enough is enough. Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would. Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values.

“But when it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change.

“While we have made significant progress in recent years there is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.

“So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out – across the public sector and across society.

“That will require some difficult and often embarrassing conversations, but the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism.”

So, PM May, this is what it took for you to say ‘enough is enough?’  Manchester wasn’t enough?  Westminster?  Leytonstone Tube Station?  Lee Rigby?  The London Underground?

Lockerbie?

Britain – the once and former Great Britain – has been putting up with this crap ever since they decided to allow unchecked and largely unscreened immigration from the Middle East and North Africa.  Now, whether the British people realize it or not, they are at war, and today’s Britain is not the same Britain it was in 1941.

Maybe this latest atrocity will galvanize England.  Maybe it will galvanize all of Europe.   Maybe it will even galvanize the peaceful, moderate Muslims who are so conspicuously quiet after each attack.

But recent history forces us to conclude otherwise.  Europe is dying, not with a bang but with a whimper.  An old, tired, non-procreating whimper.

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.