Monday, July 30, 2012

Gun Crime, Facts vs Opinions

Gun control advocates, the press and many politicians would have you believe that we in the USA are the leaders in violence and murder. They tell us again and again that as a nation we do not compare to our peaceful neighbors. 

However a U.N. report produced in 2011 tells a completely different story.

The report contends that the US crime rate in general has been declining since the mid 1990s, resulting in the steady downward trend of the Northern American
homicide rate.

The report goes on to break down the numbers on homicides and group them into geographic regions. 
The USA is in the Americas region. There are 45 other countries listed in the Americas region.  

Given the press about our love of guns and murder you would think we would be on the top of the homicide list. But the U.N's facts tell a different story. 

Here is a shortened list of the winners and losers. Homicide rates are listed after the country's name.

The winners:
Canada: 1.8 
Martinique 4.2
Cuba 4.6
United States of America 5.0

38 other countries fall in the middle.
The losers:
Venezuela  49.0
Jamaica  52.1
El Salvador  66.0
Honduras  82.1

So out of 46 countries we rank 43rd in murder rates. Some might say that that we still are the murder capital because those are statistics that do not reflect the total number of people killed, and we gun crazy Americans kill far more people than anyone else. Well that too would be wrong. 

Remember with 330 million people our population is so large that many of country's in the list would not even make a large city here. 

Total number or homicide victims:
Brazil 43,909
Mexico 20,585
Colombia 15,459
United States of America 15,241
Venezuela 13,985

All of these countries have far more restrictive guns laws than we do. Mexico has one, yes one gun store. It resides on a military installation and the process to purchase a gun is so complex only a retinal scan is missing. Brazil allows gun ownership with a license from the government and there are restrictions on caliber, style, even accessories. No one under the age of 25 may own a gun. Venezuela and Colombia are similar in their gun laws to Brazil.

Based on all this information many would point out that Canada is still the best/safest place to live. But again that would be wrong. With the exception of homicide almost all other violent crime rates in Canada are higher than ours.

As a percentage of population:
Assault   Canada 2.3 - USA 1.2
Rape       Canada 0.8 - USA 0.4
Total Crime Victims Canada 23.8 - USA 21.1

When it comes to crimes that may be prevented by gun ownership, assault and rape Canada beats us by a 2 to 1 margin. The Total Crime figures might be skewed as well since one of the big crimes in the USA that Canada does not have is car theft. The US had ten times more car thefts than Canada. But this may have been balanced out by the more  restrictive drug laws in CANADA, which resulted in 164 times more drug arrests in Canada than the USA. 

But wait everyone says Canada is much better than the USA. Nope, not even the Canadians are happy there. Their suicide rate is higher than ours, 9% higher in the 15 to 24 year group and 18% higher in the 25 to 34 year group.

Well, Europe then is much better, right?
Maybe, maybe not. They do have a lower homicide rate in most places, but Russia beat us out with 15,954 homicides or over twice our murder rate.
In the USA one in ten murder victims is female, in Europe four out of ten murder victims are women. 

All in all, when you get the real numbers and not the opinions we are not doing too bad compared to our neighbors.

The Radarman

Statistical Information:




Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mitt and the Olympiads

On July 25th, Brian Williams of ABC asked Mitt Romney what he thought about the Olympics. Mitt's reply has become a huge scandal. All the news commentators, are calling it a great misstep in his campaign. How oh how can Mitt win now that he has said such terrible things about England and the Olympics? Wow! Well just what did Mitt say that was so bad. It took a little digging to find a transcript of the terrible things Mitt said but here it is in all its horror. 

You know, it's hard to know just how well it were turn out-- will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the-- private security firm not having enough people-- the sup-- supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging. Because in the games, there-- there are three parts that makes games successful.

Number one, of course, are the athletes. That's what overwhelmingly the games are about. Number two are the volunteers. And they'll have great volunteers here. But number three are the people of the-- of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the games actually begin.

 Yep, read'em and weep folks. That is all he said. It is horrible isn't it? 

He said that it is difficult to tell how successful a huge project that took of billions of dollars, years of planning and execution, thousands of man hours and most importantly, that had not happened yet would turn out. The nerve of him to not declare a complete and utter success for an event that had not yet occurred.

He had the gall to identify that there were things that were disconcerting. He did not say problems he just said disconcerting. He went on to identify two things both of which had been identified by the press both in and out of Briton as PROBLEMS, not just disconcerting.

Mitt identified three things he thought were necessary for a "good" Olympics.

"Number one, of course, are the athletes. That's what overwhelmingly the games are about." Well there is his first mistake. He assumed the Olympics was about the athletes when everyone running the show know it is about the logos, the sponsorships, the TV time, the brands, the MONEY. Foolish man doesn't he know better.

"Number two are the volunteers. And they'll have great volunteers here." No matter how you try to turn it around that sounds pretty positive about the people. But I'm sure someone in the press found a pretzel twist that would make it sound bad.

"But number three are the people of the-- of the country. Do they come together and celebrate the Olympic moment? And that's something which we only find out once the games actually begin." There it is again he did not make a glowing prediction about the success of something that has not yet occurred. 

One of the things most everyone desires in their politicians is that they tell us what they are really thinking and tell us the truth. It is something we rarely get. 
Well Mitt Romney just told us what he was really thinking, he gave us a truthful opinion. For that everyone is now saying he cannot be President. You know what they may just be right.


3D Printer makes guns too.

3d Printed Firearm

Looks like 3d printers can do more than just print little bits for toys. I wonder how long before Lucky Lucy Napolitano tries to ban printers?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Things that haven't made it into our news.

Have you heard about the largest industrial port in the Caribbean? Somehow, I don't think our embargo of Cuba is working anymore.

According to Oregon water laws, all water is publicly owned?!?!

Adam called it again. He who controls the water, controls everything.
Oregon Man Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail

Friday, July 27, 2012

Black Hatter's, Mad Hatter's and the FAA

This article tells the story of a hacker at the Black Hat convention demonstrating the ability to spoof the FAA's Air Traffic Control System into believing a phantom aircraft was inbound to touch down on the runway. Hacker Shows Air Traffic Control Danger With 'Ghost Planes' 

For background, I spent over 20 years in the USAF, working on Air Traffic Control radar systems. I watched the progression from electron tube radars to state of the art computer based systems. In truth I retired almost 20 years ago, so things have changed, but slowly and much if what I worked on is still in service. 

In the simplest of terms, the radar of the past used by the controller to guide airplanes around sent out a big radio pulse, it bounced off the metal of the aircraft, came back in the antenna and was displayed to the controller as a target. As the systems advanced a device called a transponder was installed on aircraft. This responded to signals from the ground and "Replied" in the form of codes which relayed a whole new set of information about the aircraft, most importantly the altitude of the plane and its ident code, the "squawk". This became the little numbers seen on radar scope as 0380 or 5689. But all of this information was processed at the ATC radar's location and displayed along with the old radar paint. So the controller saw both the live target and the digital data that went with it. In today's ATC further advances can and do fill books about how the live and squawk data is now sent out for processing in huge data centers and linked to things like crew lists and flight plan info. But at its core a radar painted the airplane and a real target had to be generated.

ADS-B is part of the NEXTGEN and removes the radar from the picture. The only information seen by a controller is the data transmitted from the airplane. As a result the ATC system must assume if it is getting data it must be valid. If as stated, a hacker can spoof the data and make planes appear at will FAA has a problem and a big one. 

However, the entire NEXTGEN project is costing a huge pile of money as well as suffering from completion date issues, and it will require even more time and money before it is done. 

Here is an interesting quote “The bad news is that out of the $11 billion designated for modernization of the ATC system in February, only about one-third, or $4 billion, will likely be dedicated to NextGen programs and will require four years of annual congressional appropriations. Who in this room has any reasonable degree of confidence that we’re going to actually get the funds necessary to implement NextGen by 2020? . ."
Air Traffic Control Newsletter #94 June 2012

Lots and lots more money. To equip a general aviation aircraft, like Adam's old plane can cost almost $30,000. To do the same for a commercial aircraft, about a quarter million.
 ADS-B: Frequently Asked Questions

It also appears the FAA wants to equip all ground vehicles on the tarmac to also have ADS-B. So count every fuel truck, fire truck, luggage truck, tug, maintenance vehicle, car, pick-up, what have you, at every airport and multiply times some unknown figure between $0 and $30,000 and you get a lot more money. "ASD-B is a nifty solution where
every vehicle has a transmitter so
they can see and talk to each other..."

Centerline the Voice of Airports
I find it amusing under the heading of Trains good, Planes Bad the writer attempts to frighten the reader with quotes like "Costin showed he could use just $2,000 worth of store-bought electronics to convince an ADS-B, the FAA's preferred air traffic control system...". It is not the preferred system, it isn't even installed yet. I can say that my preferred mode of transportation is a $200K BMW 750i, but last I looked there isn't one in my driveway so any problems with that make of automobile are not something I worry about.

Costin then of course goes on to tell us the worst case that could happen, "Costin invited his audience to imagine a worst-case scenario, saying, "Imagine you inject a million planes; you don't have that many people to cross-check. You can do a human resource version of a denial of service attack on an airport."

The original post which is at the Huffington Post is run with no attribution and no by-line which I thought odd. But CNN, Information Week and Agence France Press are all sited in the article as sources. Given their history of accuracy and the time lag on implementation plus cost over runs, the best I can say is Happy Flying Citizen! We still have some time left.
The Radarman

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Honesty about guns and Freedom

Link to original post. Now includes reference links and documentation.

Auroroa Colorado Honesty about Guns and Freedom

Honesty is the Best Policy

It’s time for a little honesty.

Earlier today, a young man walked into a late night screening of the latest Batman movie at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, killed 12 people, injured 70 others and walked outside to get into his car where he was arrested by police.  He leaves broken families, broken hearts, broken dreams in his wake.  Now the questions start:  how did it happen?  Who is at fault?

Now I’m watching a news conference where public officials and police are congratulating each other for a great job.  While I’m sure they all were very heroic, based on what I’ve seen and heard in the reporting, the police were not involved in ending the shooting or preventing any of the deaths inside the theater.

I’m thinking it’s time to lay it all out and see if we can make sense of it all and see if there is a solution that will work.  The only way to get to a solution that can actually work is to look at this with honesty, so here goes:

In 2010, there were around 309 million people in the United States.  There are somewhere in the region of 300 million guns in the United States.  Since 1999, 19.79 Billion movie tickets were sold in the United States.  Being honest about this requires that we acknowledge that when 20 billion people go to movies over 13 years, and that during that entire time twelve people are killed by violence at movie theaters, it does not require changes to gun laws to make them harder to own and get.  Why not, you ask?  Let’s take an honest look at the situation.

In 2010, 8,775 people were killed by firearms.  That is tragic.  The loss of any life is devastating. However, honesty requires us to do the math:

8775 (gun deaths in 2010) divided by 309,000,000 (population of the US in 2010)

This means that less than 3 thousandths of a percent of the population was killed by guns in 2010 (1 percent of 309,000,000 is over 3 million people).

In 2010, the NHTSA reports 32,885 people were killed in automobile accidents.  That’s four times as many as guns, although that still represents 1 one-hundredth of a percent of the population

The CDC reports that 443,000 people die from smoking and second-hand smoke every year.  That’s 50 times the rate of gun deaths.  Now that’s a lot of people, right?  Well, not really compared to the total number of folks alive in the US.  It’s still only .14 percent of the population.

More perspective?  Over the course of your life, you have a 1-in-5 chance of dying from heart disease, a 1-in-7 chance of dying from cancer, a 1-in-100 chance of dying in a car accident, a 1-in-246 chance of dying from falling down.  You have a higher chance of dying from suicide than you do from firearm violence.  You are 10 times more likely to die of an accidental injury as from firearm assault.

So if all of this is true, then why is it that every time a shooting happens, we hear that guns should be banned.  Why don’t we hear calls to ban automobiles?  Why not make cigarettes illegal altogether instead of just taxing the poo out of them?  Why isn’t movement outside of the safety of our beds banned?

Ok, so now for more honesty:  A few minutes ago, I heard a reporter say that there have been 27 ‘mass’ shootings since the 1999 Columbine attack.  Chicago nearly equaled the violence of the theater shooting over the Memorial Day weekend with 11 dead and more than 40 injured in gun violence.  If you include homicides that did not include guns, 21 people were killed in Chicago alone.

You may be surprised to learn that there is more gun crime in places with more gun laws.  Illinois has some of the toughest laws on the books.  Chicago is even more restrictive than the rest of Illinois.  However, for some reason Chicago is rampant with shootings.  Same thing with Philadelphia – Pennsylvania has fairly liberal gun laws, but Philly heavily restricts those freedoms.  Both Chicago and Philly are extremely dangerous places, gun-wise.  Why is it that St. Louis gun violence per-capita is lower than East St. Louis, just right across the river in Illinois?  Tiny East St. Louis had two murders and 3 other shootings following a ‘Stop the Violence’ rally Memorial Day weekend.

Some more honesty:  Did you know that in Chinese grade schools, 51 people (mostly children) were killed and 207 injured in attacks in the last 10 years?  Did you know that none of these attacks was done with guns?  In one of these attacks, the killer killed 12 people and injured 5 with a machete.  They involved knives, meat cleavers, machetes, gasoline, hammers… it seems that in the absence of guns, people will still kill each other.

So this brings us to the real meat:  What would have stopped this idiot in Colorado?  We know exactly what the result of a disarmed citizenry is, so we can discard that option first:  12 people dead and nearly 70 injured.  We know that if you have a room full of disarmed people and someone comes in and wants to kill them, whether with a gun or a machete or a meat cleaver, that there isn’t much that can be done to prevent it.  That’s what happened in this case. 

So if disarming isn’t the solution, what is?  More gun laws?  Remember, we’re trying to be honest, now:  There are currently more than 25,000 gun laws on the books nation-wide.  Gun laws do not stop gun crime.  By definition, a criminal is someone who commits a crime.  If someone wants to kill another human being and makes the decision to do it, more gun laws won’t prevent the murder any more than a sign saying ‘no swimming’ will keep kids who really want to swim from swimming.  If laws and signs could stop crime, there would be no crime.  In the case of murder, the laws may change the method, but ultimately the penalty for committing murder is worse than the penalty for using a gun or a machete, so the gun is only the tool used to do the more serious crime.

What about banning guns?  If this is your choice, you should consider moving to another country.  Utterly banning guns is not an option in the United States:  The 2nd amendment gives the citizens the right to be armed.  Most politicians seem to think that the next best thing is to make more laws.  Making it harder to get a gun is what usually is suggested.  We know that this shooter spent months buying his guns, stockpiling ammo and whatever.  We know he had no criminal history.  He was legally able to own firearms.  Would more laws have stopped him?  Only if you believe that a kid really won’t run away from home because he was told he isn’t allowed to cross the street.

Ok, so more laws won’t work.  Banning guns won’t work.  What will?  More police?  Can we afford that?  Especially when you consider that out of the 300+ million people in this country, less than 9,000 are likely to die from gun violence?  How many police would be needed to ‘up’ visibility by 100%?  Is that enough?  Do we need 10 times as many police?  100 times?  This is like saying that since the fire department can’t stop all fires, we need 100 times as many firemen.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach people to deal with fires so you only need the firemen for the really BAD fires?  If we treated house fires the way we treat guns, a house burning down would lead to laws making it harder to get and use fire, not requirements to learn how to use an extinguisher.

Ultimately, then this is the solution to the gun problem.  The current solution is to affect the lives of the innocent.  We need to shift that focus to affect the lives of the guilty.  Unofficially ‘deputize’ the public through training, common sense laws that allow law-abiding citizens to carry legally owned firearms anywhere (no exceptions) and harsh, mandatory penalties for people who commit crimes.  You may not like guns.  You may not like to even consider guns.  But for just a moment, imagine these scenes:

-       Scenario 1:  A young man is considering attacking a crowded theater with guns and smoke grenades.  His plan has a lot of variables.  Will anyone in the crowd be armed?  If he thinks it’s a possibility, it complicates his plan.  So he wears body armor.  When he comes in and begins shooting, the crowd realizes that it is NOT a stunt.  In that crowd, nobody is armed.  The shooter is able to kill people with impunity.  Nobody will stop him.  He fires so many rounds that it may take days or weeks to figure out how many shots were fired.  The police arrive 2 minutes after the shooting starts, but still aren’t able to stop him until he is getting into his car in the parking lot.
-       Scenario 2:  A young man is considering attacking a crowded theater with guns and smoke grenades.  His plan has a lot of variables.  Will anyone in the crowd be armed?  If he thinks it’s a possibility, it complicates his plan.  So he wears body armor.  When he comes in and begins shooting, the crowd realizes that it is NOT a stunt.  In that crowd are 5 to 10 people carrying legal firearms they are trained to use.  The shooter doesn’t know who the people are that have guns.  Since the training of the armed citizens includes knowledge of body armor, at least one of the armed citizens fires, hitting him in the head, killing the shooter, saving many people.

Or what about this one:

-       Scenario 1:  A group of terrorists board airplanes and partway into the flights pull out knives and take over the aircraft to crash them into buildings.  The terrorists kill several passengers and flight crew, and take over the aircraft.  The passengers on one of the planes try to re-take the plane and fail.  Over 3000 people are killed in the aircraft and in buildings.
-       Scenario 2:  A group of terrorists board airplanes and partway into the flights pull out knives and guns and attempt to take over the aircraft to crash them into buildings.  On board each aircraft are several citizens legally carrying their personal firearms.  The terrorists don’t know who has a gun or if anyone does.  The citizens draw their fire-arms and open fire, killing the terrorists and saving the aircraft.

Some of you may be saying that there is a third scenario for the above events, so in the interest of honesty, here it is: 

Let’s assume that the citizens who are armed in my scenarios above fail to bring down the people threatening their lives.  What would be different about the outcome from what actually happened?  Probably virtually nothing.  The planes would still have been flown into the towers, the Pentagon and that Pennsylvania field.  The 12 people who died in the theater, probably would still have died.  The difference is that if the citizenry was armed, there is at least a CHANCE that the passengers on those planes, the people in those buildings, the folks at the Pentagon and some of the movie-goers in Colorado would have survived. 

So honestly, what’s the downside?

Doug Fitler
US Air Force Retired