Trump, the NRA, and 700,000 Armed Teachers

Trump, the NRA, and 700,000 Armed Teachers

Fox News, instead of mourning and praying, immediately came out with arming teachers, after the Parkland shooting. We suspect that Trump immediately picked that up as his solution. Trump has picked a definite number, of one out of five teachers. I have noticed that Trump loves numbers ending in five. There was no cited study that showed that this was the best number.

The press has immediately looked up that there are 3.5 million teachers in the US, implying that we will be vetting, training, and arming 700,000 teachers, after we find such volunteers. Now Trump is saying they should get extra pay, but yesterday he said that this should be paid for out of local school funds, that is, no federal aid.

First of all, teachers are just people, and they can be depressed emotionally or as a side effect of medicines, just like anybody else. So instead of no guns in schools, there will now be 700,000. There aren’t many students per year being shot. In fact, as gun free zones, schools are probably much safer than other areas. Now they will be the most dense areas of concealed carried guns, which is going to make them the most dangerous areas.

Trump added the restriction that the weapons must be concealed carried. His secret servicemen are professionals at that. Are we to imagine that teachers are going to teach for 30 or 40 years without ever revealing that they are carrying. Records of shootings in hospitals show that one in five are taken from hospital guards. These are professional guards, not volunteer teachers. In Trump’s imagination, he stated that one of his White House Generals would become such a teacher.

Yesterday, Trump imagined that previous policemen or soldiers, who could be working as janitors, food service people, school staff, or a librarian, would also volunteer as armed personnel. It is highly unlikely that previous policemen or soldiers are working as janitors or food service people.

Teachers and schools would prefer to have more counsellors that could help students with problems, and more nurses to make students healthier, and even save some lives.

At the 3,000 person Stoneman Douglas High, assuming 30 students per class, there would be 100 teachers, and 20 armed ones. When the SWAT team arrives, what are they going to do when confronting 20 armed and probably panicked teachers. It seems like that would take up their time, rather than finding the single shooter.

Remember that Florida has the “stand your ground” law, where you can shoot if you “feel” threatened.

Right before Trump ended his meeting today, a school executive from Indiana described one of their new high tech defensive schools which had security cameras feeding into the police station, lockdown equipment, and smoke and eye irritant gas defenses. Trump immediately dumped on this, guaranteeing him that only offensive, armed personnel would work, since it would keep scared shooters from ever coming to the school. If you are insisting that such shooters are mentally ill, how do you know what would deter them, especially if they have specific grudges and are suicidal anyway.

Yesterday, Trump talked about banning assault weapons to 18 year olds until they turned 21. Then the NRA president spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, saying 18 year olds needed guns for self protection, and it was their holy right. So today Trump did not mention gun restrictions. In today’s White House news conference, it was said that Trump only meant restrictions on 18 year olds through screening.

Trump didn’t mention screening the teachers, I added that. Trump’s administration is extremely deficient in its extreme screening. Trump has 130 people with temporary security clearances in the White House. Somehow, Mr. Porter, a known wife beater when he gets angry, was allowed to be the President’s secretary. The secret service should never have allowed such a dangerous person into the White House, much less being next to the President all day long. Who is going to continually screen the armed teachers to make sure that they are not depressed or angry every day they come on the campus armed.

If Trump and the NRA start their armed teacher experiment, there will soon be some incident or incidents among the trial schools, showing how dangerous the fully implemented proposal will be.  Would any students in the country feel comfortable in going to school after such incidents?  Would they shy away from their teachers?

There was a senior armed Sheriff’s Deputy at the school, but he did not enter the invaded building. He resigned today.

Unfortunately, Trump, always the skinflint, said: “You give them a little bit of a bonus, so practically for free, you have now made the school into a hardened target”, totally dissing the teachers who would be willing to risk their lives to protect students.

The NRA has 5 million members. There are 73 to 81 million gun owners, so only 6-7% are in the NRA. The NRA dues in 2016 were $40 for one year, $100 for three years, and $140 for five years. Estimating roughly $30 per year for a member, the NRA would be raising $150 million a year from members. In 2016, the NRA spent $58 million on politics, mostly outside, not direct to candidates. Of that, $31 million was spent backing Trump and opposing Clinton.

One issue arose during the CNN townhall, which was Sen. Marco Rubio’s funding from the NRA, and whether he would renounce it. Marco Rubio only got $9,900 from the NRA, their top level funding allocation for Senators. I say only, because his entire campaign was funded for $25.3 million. So the NRA direct contribution was only 0.4% of the total. Why couldn’t Rubio decline the funding? Because the Gun Block of voters and the NRA would have denounced him. Rubio’s opponent, Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy, received $18.6 million.

The previous article and the Mother Jones article linked there show that the more guns you have, the more shooting incidents and deaths you have.  All this carnage to just protect gun profits?

Posted in 2016 Election, American Carnage, Armed Teachers, Assault Weapons, Children, Donald Trump, Education, Gun Control, Guns, Terrorism, Trump Administration | Leave a comment

US and State Gun Deaths and Polls

US and State Gun Deaths and Polls has a collection of graphs showing essential facts of US and State gun ownership risks, and polls on how to solve them.

The US owns 42% of the world’s civilian guns, or 270 million out of 644 million guns.

The US death rate from guns is 30 per million, compared to Canada at 5.1 and Germany at 1.9. We are far greater than other advanced countries.

Mother Jones had a 2013 article “10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down“.  In a graph containing all states of gun deaths versus gun ownership as a percent of adults, there is a rough linear relationship, that gun deaths increase linearly with gun ownership. California is near the least-mean-square fit line, with 7.4 gun deaths per 100,000, at 20% percent of adults owning guns. The highest gun owning state is Alaska at 62%, with 20 gun deaths per 100,000. Texas, the second largest state after California, has 35% gun ownership, and 10.6 gun deaths per 100,000. Florida has 32% gun ownership, and 11.5 gun deaths per 100,000. One problem with this fit, is that the intercept of the curve at zero gun ownership, is at about 5 gun deaths per 100,000, an impossibility. The least dangerous states with rates below 7.5 per 100,000 are Hawaii (2.6), Rhode Island (2.9) Massachusetts (3.2), New York (4.2), Connecticut (4.9), New Jersey (5.3), Minnesota (6.6), Iowa (7.4), and California (7.4). These include the magnificent seven states which have banned assault type weapons, along with Rhode Island and Minnesota, but not including Maryland at 9.0.  The firearm death rate data cited here is from the CDC for 2014.

Unfortunately, these rates have to be applied to the population of the state, and are led by California at 2935 deaths, Texas at 2823, and Florida at 2408.  The next highest state total is 1389, over a thousand lower.

A similar linear curve can be fit between countries, but the US has by far the highest rate of gun ownership at 90% (even though only 33% own guns), and with 9 deaths per 100,000. The lowest death rates are in Chile, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Singapore, Poland, Netherlands, and Spain.

Among 15 industrialized countries, the US violent crime rate has 5.5% of people as victims at least once a year, and the average of the 15 countries is 6.3% of people. The total crime rate of nonviolent and violent in the US is 21% a year.

While US homicides by firearms have averaged around 12,000 a year, the scary thing is that suicides by firearms have been steadily rising to 22,000 a year by 2016. This is the most important reason for removing guns from people who are depressed or mentally ill, and preventing them from purchasing them.

Of these suicides, 16,500 are from states with the highest rates of gun ownership, and 4,000 from states with the lowest ownership rates. Non-firearm suicides are the same in both groups of states, at 9,000 per year for a total of 18,000. That is probably how the two groups are formed.

Australia cut its firearm suicide rate down to about a fifth after instituting a gun buyback program.

In comparing Republican and Democratic views on proposed gun policies, a remarkable 89% of both agreed to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns. One cannot fail to mention here that one of Trump’s first acts was to cancel this ruling by Obama for people who were deemed to mentally ill to do their taxes. Other policies agreed on by most were to ban gun sales to those on no-fly or watch lists. Oddly, the NRA opposed losing this valuable buying cohort. Also, both highly favored background checks for private sales and gun shows.

Policies favored by Republicans but strongly opposed by Democrats were allowing concealed carry in more places, and arming teachers and officials in K-12 schools. Neither was much in favor of allowing concealed carry without a permit. Once you put guns in schools, they become targets for theft by students, and may even lead to mayhem. They also make students feel that they are in a prison, a style that schools were trying to get rid of a number of years ago.

80% of Democrats wanted to ban assault type weapons, but only 54% of Republicans did. That is much higher than other polls that I had cited in earlier articles.

77% felt that Congress was not doing enough to stop mass shootings, and 62% thought that President Trump was not doing enough. They forgot to ask if both were making such acts more likely with their actions.

All in all, the polls and data showed definite paths to take for progress in reducing gun deaths.

Posted in American Carnage, Assault Weapons, Children, Congress, Education, Governors and State Legislatures, Gun Control, Guns, Politics | Leave a comment

Florida’s Gerrymandering Defeats an Assault Weapons Ban

Florida’s Gerrymandering Defeats an Assault Weapons Ban

Since there are a lot of numbers in this article, I will summarize the result at the start. The Florida House refused to take up an Assault Weapons Ban by almost two to one. This is a little more than the Republican to Democratic split of the Florida House. Yet in the Presidential election of 2016, Trump only won by 1.3%. Obama won the 2008 election by 2.8%. So while Florida voters are mostly equally split between parties, it has a very dominant Republican gun supporting legislature and governor. This is a severe case of gerrymandering in our nation’s third most populous state. This is why the courageous and angry student survivors of the Parkland shooting could not expect to get any caring from the Florida legislature.

Republican Governor Rick Scott is rated A+ by the NRA. Yet on a state voting basis, Florida has one Republican Senator (Mario Rubio), and one Democratic Senator, Bill Nelson. Nelson is up for re-election, and will probably face Gov. Rick Scott. Now, this may be an election about guns controls. Florida has had three mass shootings: the Orlando night club, the Parkland school, and one in Fort Lauderdale.

Now for the numbers. The Florida House did not take up the Assault Weapons Ban by 71 to 36, one vote short of two to one. The Florida House of 120 is dominated by 76 Republicans to 40 Democrats with 4 vacancies, or almost two-to-one. The Florida Senate of 40 is also dominated by 23 Republicans to 15 Democrats with 2 vacancies. Yet as of January 31, 2018, there were 4.81 million registered Democrats, beating 4.55 million Republicans. But No Party had 3.46 million registered voters, and 0.07 million minor party voters.

In the 2016 Presidential election, Trump won Florida’s 29 electoral votes by 1.3%, with 49.1% to Clinton’s 47.8%. The other candidates with 3.1% could have swung the vote, with Johnson getting 2.2%, Stein 0.7%, and Castle getting 0.2%. Talk about places where Russia’s social media, hacked DNC, DCCC, and Podesta emails, and Comey’s two anti-Clinton announcements could have influenced the election.

The Southeast coast of Florida is strongly Democratic, with the three populous counties from North to South being Palm Beach, Broward, and Maimi-Dade. The Parkland shooting was in Broward County. In 2016, Clinton won Broward County by over two-to-one, 66.5% to 31.4%. Clinton won Miami-Dade 63.7% to 34.1%, and won Palm Beach, 56.5% to 41.2%. It must also have been shocking to the Broward County students, where Democrats rule two-to-one, to go to the state legislature, where Republicans rule two-to-one.

If the Republican legislature is really a result of gerrymandering, it can’t be reversed until after the 2020 census, and after redistricting in 2021, except the redistricting will be dominated by a still Republican legislature. The only hope is a that a non-partisan redistricting committee can be required by a statewide ballot. This is really speculation on my part. I only go to Florida to tour the Caribbean and to look at the swamp.

Posted in 2016 Election, Assault Weapons, Clinton, Donald Trump, Gun Control, Guns, Politics, Voting Rights | Leave a comment

States That Ban Assault Weapons

States That Ban Assault Weapons

Gun ownership across the country is more concentrated in rural districts, as opposed to urban districts. That is partly why Republican voters and Representatives, as well as Senators, are from rural districts and states. Certainly, the ability to fire guns in a rural district is much easier than in an urban one. And fear of outsiders is greater in rural districts, inspiring more guns for safety. So we recognize the inevitability of different gun laws. Yet more states are passing laws that do not allow cities from setting their own gun laws to protect the non-gun-owning Democrats gathered in cities.

Seven states and Washington D.C. ban the sale or importing of AR-15 like assault weapons. Looking up the states led to the very sad history, that California was first to ban assault weapons in 1989, following the 1989 Cleveland Elementary School shooting in Stockton, CA. 34 children and a teacher were shot, killing 5 of the children, with an AK-47 knockoff. THAT WAS 29 YEARS AGO! The Federal ban did not pass until 1994, which was proposed by Senator DiANE FEINSTEIN of California, 24 YEARS AGO! It was supported by 77% of the public and President George H. W. Bush, and backed by former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, the 10 year ban expired in 2004. This is not a case of Deja Vu, but of gross negligence by the Congress. The ban also banned large ammo magazines. A new ban was introduced to Congress in December 2015, but was not passed.

The magnificent seven states banning assault weapons are California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. Most also prohibit magazines of more than 10 rounds. With 2018 population figures, 87.4 million Americans are covered in these states and the D.C., which out of 328 million, represents 26.6%, a little over a quarter of Americans.

The simplest thing to do, considering today’s situation, would be to ban the sale of assault style weapons until age 21, either state by state, or at the federal level. Also, closing the gun show loophole to background reviews, as well as private and Internet sales. The California law prevents anybody from bringing assault type weapons into the state or shipping them into the state, as well as magazines containing over ten rounds.

It has now been revealed that the Parkland, Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz had legally purchased ten rifle like weapons. Unfortunately, mass shooters are competing for immortality by having a high or the highest body count, as if they were playing a video game. The Las Vegas sniper had 12 semi-automatic rifles, each equipped with a high-fire-rate bump stocks. Big Data could identify such threats, if computer records were kept of gun sales. The police had made 20 visits to the Cruz’s home. He was mentally evaluated by social services after he cut himself on social media. He should have been declared a threat to himself or others at that point, and prevented from purchasing weapons under Florida law. I don’t know if the law could allow for the seizure of his weapons.

After each of three major shootings, polls to ban assault type weapons showed about 56% were in favor. However, just before the election, only 36% were in favor, the lowest poll showing.  A Washington Post-ABC poll today found that 77% of people thought that more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the shooting.   58% thought that stricter gun control laws could have prevented the shooting, but there is no rise in support for banning assault weapons from 51% in 2016.

It has been 14 years since we have had an assault weapons ban, and they are now the weapon of choice for mass shooters. President Trump was the keynote speaker of the NRA convention, and thanked them for their support in the election, and promised to do good things for them in return. They were his biggest donor, at $31 million. Also, considering the Republican House and Senate, many people are pessimistic. Republican and potential Senatorial candidate Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has to be embarrassed after not responding to three mass shootings, and is trying to cast blame to the FBI.  His pro-gun efforts have earned him an A+ rating from the NRA.  Florida astronaut and Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is for banning assault weapons and limiting magazines to 10 bullets.  Trump only won Florida’s 29 electoral votes in 2016 by a 1.2% margin.  Thank God for the students, who are saying that it is not about your politics, it is about protecting them.


Posted in Assault Weapons, Big Data, Children, Congress, Donald Trump, FBI Director, Governors and State Legislatures, Gun Control, Guns | Leave a comment

It’s Not the NRA Money, It’s the Gun Voting Block

It’s not the NRA money, it’s the Gun Voting Block

Congressmen cannot be impressed by tiny NRA donations, but by fears of the gun voting block.

The total Congressional contributions of the NRA only amounted to $1.1 million. It might sound like a lot, but with 238 Republicans in the House and 51 in the Senate, totaling 289, it averages only $3,800 per candidate. Senators get more of the pie than Representatives. In the case of Irvine’s Mimi Walters, the $2,000 she got was on ONE-Thousandth of the $2 million that she raised for the 2016 campaign. Darrell Issa (retiring) is the richest man in the Congress, worth $250 million. The NRA’s $2,000 to him is less than 0.001 per cent of his fortune, that is less than ONE-one hundred thousandth of his personal worth. But it would cost him far more votes if he turned it down.

Another way to look at this is the total amount spent on Congressional Races in 2016, thanks to is $4.06 billion. This covers 435 in the house and on average 33 in the Senate, or 468 races, with an average of $8.7 million per race. Out of the $4.06 billion, the NRA $1.1 million is 0.027% of total spending. For comparison, $2.39 billion was spent on the 2016 Presidential race. The NRA spent $31 million, which was 1.3% of the total, still very small.

Since one third of households in the country own guns, and a large portion of those may be personally invested in the gun culture, rather than just owning a self defense weapon, The NRA rates every Congressman, with Republicans typically having an 86% rating,and Democrats an 8% rating.

In the 2016 presidential race, gun owning households voted for Trump by 63% to 31%, and households without guns backed Clinton 65% to 30%, according to SurveyMonkey. This was true state-by-state. For those owning guns, Trump was overwhelmingly preferred in every state except Vermont. For those not owning guns, Clinton was overwhelming preferred in every state except West Virginia, but with too little data from Wyoming. This was the largest geographic split of any issue. Whites were 83% of gun owning voters. Trump won whites without a degree in gun-owning households by a larger 74% to 21%. He won whites with college degrees in gun-owning households by 60-34, almost the average for gun owners.

On the happier hand, the Upshot of the NY Times just before the inauguration polled on 29 ideas for gun control, and found that 85%-90% approved of highly effective:  universal checks for gun buyers; bar sales to violent criminals; bar sales to mentally ill;  and no sales to terrorists.  Expand mental health treatment, good by itself, was also approved by about 85%, although evaluated as only mildly effective by experts.  Universal checks for ammo buyers is approved by 73%, and is considered highly effective.  An assault weapons ban was approved by about 67%, and was also considered highly effective. A high capacity magazine ban and a semi-automatic gun ban were both approved by 63%, and considered highly effective.

What the response to gun tragedies brought to light were Congressional attempts so sneak underneath the radar expansions of dangerous gun additions. The Las Vegas tragedy tabled the legislation to sell more effective gun silencers, which would give police extreme difficulty in locating a shooter. It also revealed the “bump stock” legal device that effectively makes a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon. The Florida school shooting brought to light Congress working to legalize national recognition of concealed carry rights from any state. The problem is that some states have concealed carry permits on demand, and also will grant that to people who aren’t even residents of the state. Another anomaly was brought to light, that long guns can be bought by 18 year olds in many states, but other guns require the age of 21. This was meant for shotguns or single shot hunting rifles, but now includes semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifles.

Whereas my first conclusion two articles ago was that the gun industry was at fault, we now see that gun owners vote as a block to support candidates who are pro gun, even though many of these voters support universal background checks and improving mental health treatments.

Posted in American Carnage, Congress, Donald Trump, Gun Control, Guns, Mimi Walters CA 45th, Politics, Trump Administration | Leave a comment

Trump: Let’s Not Politicize This Tragedy, Except to Help Me

Trump: Let’s not politicize this tragedy, except to help me.

Trump, Republicans, and Murdoch puppets, always immediately respond to American gun carnage events with statements not to consider gun control, or assess blame, or “politicize” the event, but to mourn the killed and wounded. Then they blame it all on “mental health”.

I saw Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where the school shooting just occurred, struggling to recall these words when just confronted with the shooting in his state.

Trump immediately tweeted that we had to do something about mental health. His Twitter account was immediately trolled by people who recalled that one of his first acts as President was to cancel Obama’s regulation that guns should not be sold to those that the IRS had declared mentally incompetent to fill out their own tax returns, which is just a sliver of the people with mental problems. Some also mentioned his attempts to destroy health plans and Medicaid that would cover mental health problems.  Then there were those that commented on the President’s own mental health.  With sharp trollers like that, why does the President even bother to tweet?

Within a day, however, the right wing feasted on the report that the FBI could not follow up on a phoned-in warning, to say the FBI was at fault, and had to stop their Trump investigation. In another day, now Florida Senate candidate and Trump buddy Gov. Rick Scott declared that FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was nominated and confirmed for a non-partisan ten year term six months ago, should resign. Talk about instant politicization.

Then Trump tweeted that the FBI was spending too much time looking for Russian collusion in his campaign, and that was harming their effectiveness, trying to exploit the tragedy for his own advantage. People who know how the Department of Justice work, pointed out that the investigation by Special Prosecutor Mueller was independent of the work of the justice department, and of the FBI. There are 37,000 workers in the FBI, hardly a reason for the Director to resign. The problem was that the FBI did not share the warning with local police, which was a similar mistake made with Egyptians training in piloting that led to 9/11.

That reminds me, why are 130 people working in the White House with only temporary clearances?

If a goof by someone in the White House meant that a President would have to resign, the country would now be run by a Congressional intern in the line of succession.

I am also offended by Trump’s photo-op with doctors and first responders, and Gov. Scott, and the Florida D.A., all carefully lined up and posed, with wide smiles at being photographed next to the president. What about the Tragedy?

The shooter in Florida left clues everywhere, and was well known to police who visited him many times, the school, which expelled him, and various social media. In this case, Big Data analysis would have easily identified him as a potential hazard, and flagged his background check, if we had laws that were really effective in preventing the sale of guns and ammunition to such potentially dangerous people.

Again, Democrats can’t call for gun controls because they would be taking advantage of a tragedy (to prevent future ones), but Trump, Murdoch, Scott and other Republicans can.

Posted in American Carnage, Big Data, Children, Donald Trump, FBI Director, Gun Control, Guns, Politics, Trump Administration | Leave a comment

It’s the Gun Industry, and its NRA

It’s the Gun Industry, and its NRA

Its not mental health, since we are going to always have mentally challenged individuals, even in the White House.

It is not people not stepping forward, since the police were called several times to the shooter’s house, and he was expelled from school because of problems.  He left pictures with weapons on his social media website. 

While Florida law allows gun and ammunition sales to 18-year-olds, it prohibits sales to the mentally ill, something cancelled nationally by the Trump Administration.  Yet it was still in effect by Florida law, and the police and schools failed to activate this, probably because he was not officially declared mentally ill by a court.

It was not Donald Trump or even the Congress, since the gun industry, through the NRA front, makes sure that every supporter is well funded, and any detractor opposed for reelection, and their opponent well-funded.  They monitor every vote, and keep a record to damn their opponents, or any rare strayer.

It is not the lack of school guards, since they had a safety officer.  How does one expect a retired soldier or policeman to go against a semi-automatic gunman, who may be wearing body armor, and have a bump stock allowing automatic firing, with a well thought out plan of attack? The guard doesn’t wear armor or a helmet, doesn’t have location intelligence or surveillance.  If trained as a policeman, they call for the SWAT team, with 6 armored personnel and an armored vehicle.  If trained as a soldier, they have full armor and an armored hum-V, with 5 other armored soldiers in their squad.

With all the explicit days of TV coverage, they never go to the source of the gun manufacturer and sales stores.  The NRA is just their well-funded and obedient front.  Even NRA members favor complete gun purchase reviews.  What really is needed is for the gun industry to give up its total immovability, even on reasonable measures highly approved by the general public and even by NRA members.  Also stopping ranking aevery lawmaker on every vote, and opposing any who need to stray.  As an example, how many guns are they really going to sell to those declared mentally incompetent?  Do they really need to sell bump stocks and armored vests?  Would it really hurt them to allow computerized records for background checks.  How many people really buy magazines of over 20 rounds. The terrible publicity that they eventually get from mass shootings probably costs them more customers than these safety measures will cost them.

To see how powerful the gun industry is, their 2016 economic impact was $51 billion.  There are 301,000 jobs in the industry.  There were 15.7 million background checks that year.  According to open, the NRA gave $1.1 million in contributions to Republicans, almost all from organizations, and $3.2 million in lobbying in 2016.  Locally, they gave only $2,000 to Mimi Walters, Darrel Issa, and $1,000 to Dana Rohrabacher, but $3,500 to Devin Nunes.  Contributions were given to 214 Republicans, for an average of $2,681, and a total of $573,750.  The NRA spent $11.4 million to support Trump, and $19..8 million to oppose Hillary Clinton, totaling more than $31 million.  For perspective, in 2015-16, Mimi Walters raised $2 million, including $1 million from PACS.

Since assault weapons were allowed to be sold in 2004, over 8 million have been sold.  While semi-automatic AR-15s are often used by mass shooters, except for the long range of the Vegas shooter, they could be replaced by semi-automatic pistols.  So banning them again may not be effective.  It doesn’t pay to identify who made which gun in each shooting, since they all make similar guns.

Since states have a drinking age of 21, since that is when youths become more responsible, shouldn’t that be the age of allowing gun purchases?

Let’s go back to who has complete control of the whole gun culture, the gun industry itself.

Posted in Gun Control, Guns | Leave a comment

Cyber Security Threats to Our Elections, and State and Local Prevention

Cyber Security Threats to Our Elections, and State and Local Prevention

Much of cyber security is not only done at the NSA, Homeland Security, and McAfee level, but has to be done at the level of individuals and the computers which they operate.  The Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta had his computer hacked by responding to a phishing message, which his IT assistant thought was okay.  Edward Snowden is supposed to have increased access to classified material by easily borrowing the password of a colleague in his unit.  He also removed material in a micro SD card.  Hillary Clinton’s campaign was shocked in the last two weeks by finding that her messages (unclassified) had been transferred to a civilian computer by her assistant Huma Abedin for printing, which was shared by her husband, the notorious Anthony Weiner.   While the Russians tunneled into the DNC and DCCC computers, it was not publicly revealed how.  Revealing Democratic emails forced the resignation of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

The point of this history, is that much of protection lies in the hands of individual users, and of local and state government that handles elections.  It is up to all of us to secure ourselves against interference by anybody, and appropriate instructions have to be given to all such users.

States and local government control their own voting machines and computers.  These are controlled by individuals who may or may not be the IT specialists for the system or network.  I know nothing about the many types of voting machines, but if Target’s card readers could be hacked, the voting machines should also be investigated.  In the less than 1% victories by Trump in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the voting computers and software should have been investigated, but this was blocked by the Trump campaign.  Clearly, for voting to be secure, the software and voting machines should be finely checked by a committee of computer experts, both for cybersecurity, and to check for any basic mistakes in the software itself.  Blocking this would show the now typical dominance of political protection over finding the truth, and preventing any future hacking.

On the individual level, every user involved should be locally given a course in cyber protection.  I took a short two-hour course at UC Irvine.  At the end, they handed out tooth brushes, which said something like:  if you wouldn’t share your tooth brush, don’t share your password.  Every computer involved in handling voter totals should be equipped with the best cyber-protection software, regardless of the price.  Since election computers and machines are only used twice a year at most, they are probably the least examined and protected.  The software must be updated with each new protective release.  Since some old software becomes unsupported, such as Windows XP, those computers should be replaced.  Some protection software is provided by the Russian company Kaspersky. The US security agencies agreed that they would not recommend this software.  

The public can’t begin to know what the classified agencies know about current threats.  Secretary of State Tillerson summed it up when he said that if the Russians (and Chinese, etc.) want to interfere in the elections, they will find a way.  The point is that there are vulnerabilities that are created or discovered by governments that civilians are not told about, because governments need to use them, or because lax civilians won’t protect against them, and criminals will exploit them.

Then there are the complete US computer gerrymandering programs to group the minority party in the state to as few a number of districts as possible, so even a small majority party excess at the state level can dominate state and House representation.  This is much more dangerous to democracy since it can be done in each state with, initially, openness and full legal status.  Eight years later, we are still slowly getting the courts to rule against these, state by state.

We can be assured that in this year’s elections, we will be bombarded by Big Data companies to direct our votes, whether by air, by land, or by sea, which today means mail, phones, tv, internet, social media, cellphone apps, newspapers, etc.  We also will be bombarded by our polarized cable news channels, and the Trump challenges to freedom of speech (even now applied to those “traitorous” Congressional Democrats) and of the “fake news” press, or news media.

Many southern states block released felons from voting, amounting to about 6 million potential voters.  Florida leads other states with 1.5 million felons.  This is very skewed to disenfranchising minorities and Democrats.  Since the popular vote difference in the 2016 presidential election was 3 million in favor of the Democrats, this is a very significant amount.

Republican states also pass voter ID laws, which discriminates against the poor and minorities, and also old people who can no longer drive.   Trump is now trying to make this a national requirement, to inconvenience voters in Democratic states as well.

Finally, there is the complete dominance of the Congress by Republicans, who can delay supreme court appointments, and draft whatever legislation they want secretly within their own party, and completely dominate all Congressional committees.  Again, perfectly legal.  Then they approve whomever they want to lifelong judicial appointments, regardless of review by the American Bar Association. 

We have a long, uphill battle.  Are the Russians the real threat, or as Cassius says in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:  “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings”?


Posted in Big Data, Clinton, Congress, Cybersecurity, Donald Trump, Education, Equal Treatment Under the Law, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedoms, Secrecy, State Department, Trump Voting, US Intelligence Agencies, Voting Rights | Leave a comment

Some Physics of the Half-Pipe

Some Physics of the Half-Pipe

What goes down can come back up.

Obviously, the opposite of “What goes up must come down.”

Do I really need to disqualify myself as an expert in half-piping at my age? This is just a introduction to the physics as I, a TV viewer, see it, for other Olympics viewers.

The basic physics is that you go down hill and pick up speed, then you direct it against the sides of the pipe to come to their top. At the start, you first go downhill along the side of the half-pipe or deck, and then turn into the pipe. With good judgement, you come to the lip with excess velocity, so that you can do some twists and flips or rolls.

Since you are still partly pointing downhill when you jump, you have some extra altitude as the lip is falling off downhill as well. With a little inward push, you also have extra distance to fall and maneuver before you hit the side of the pipe.

The top of sides of the pipe have to be vertical, or else you would overshoot out of the pipe, or be thrown back too much toward its center. Hence the exacting name of the “half-pipe”. There is an extended flat bottom, called the “tranny”.  This gives you more downhill to gain more speed, and to compose yourself.

The walls are 22 feet high, and made of polished concrete.  Snowboard half-pipes are actually elliptical in shape.

The highest jump in a half-pipe record is 24 feet 11 inches by Peter Olenick at the Winter X  Games in Aspen, Colorado.

The blue stripes are used as markers to judge your angle to get enough downhill distance and altitude in your next jump, in which to make more maneuvers.

You can’t take too much distance down, or you will not be able to complete the required number of jumps.  The Olympics half-pipe is extra long to allow for another one or two jumps.

If you don’t fully rotate a turn, instead of your board heading down and across the pipe, it will land parallel to the side, encounter enough resistance to stop you, and your rear will fall on the side, disqualifying that run.

So to have successful runs, you must have practice and experience. But you also have to adapt to the hardness or softness of the snow, the wind, and your injuries. You also have to adjust your spins or flips to the amount of height that you have, and your angle if you need to gain more height at your next maneuver.

If you are out of control, just like in ordinary snowboarding, you can turn perpendicular to the slope and come down slowly.

Remember, this is for viewers. If you are going to run the half-pipe, train with a professional.

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Yet Another LA Awards Show: Traffic Congestion in the US and California

Los Angeles has won the INRIX Traffic Scorecard award as the most gridlocked city on the entire planet!  This is given out by the transportation analytics company INRIX, which tracks many drivers.  This is reported on by Katie Pyzyk on Feb. 7, 2018 in the SmartCities DIVE.  Going directly to the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, they estimate that the direct and indirect costs of congestion in the US alone amount to nearly $300 billion in 2016, or $1,400 per driver on average, while US drivers spent an average of 42 hours in congestion last year, or 9% of their driving time.

Los Angeles drivers spent 102 hours in peak traffic in 2016.  Close runners up were Moscow with 91, and Sao Paolo with 86.  Then came San Francisco with 79, Bogota with 75, London with 74, Atlanta with 70, Paris with 69, and Miami with 64.  In fact, 10 of the top 25 global winners are in the United States.

But wait, the prize (that is, price) for the award paid by Los Angeles drivers is $9.6 billion, or about $2,400 per driver.  Los Angeles has proposed solutions to their problems at:

The Southern California Association of Governments has a Regional Transportation Plan/ Sustainable Communities Strategy at for 2016-2040.

If you think in terms of commuting 50 weeks a year, that is two hours of frustration per week.  For 40 working hours, that is suffering 5% of working time during your commutes.  You are also spending this time with stop-and-go inefficient trucks and SUVs packed as tightly as possible.  The smog enhancement factor must be enormous, and this occurs every workday.  Probably, we have the cleanest cars with smog equipment and required biennial inspections, and special clean fuels.

Ms. Pyzyk points out that customers do not visit businesses if they are going to be caught in heavy traffic.  You can add to this difficulties in visiting relatives and friends.

Here are the top 9 congested US cities in a table with the INRIX press release:

The per driver cost in each of these top cities of course beats the average US per driver cost of $1,400.  Number 10 in the US is Seattle.  They spent 55 hours in congestion, with 12.6% of drive time, for an average driver cost of $1,590, and a total cost of $2.0 billion.

The average speed on streets in LA was 11.07 mph, in SF 11.54 mph, and in New York, 8.23 mph.

US Rankings of other California cities, with peak hours spent in congestion, cost per driver, and total cost per city follow:

14 San Diego………..46, $1,345, $1.48 B

22 Santa Barbara….36, $1,417, $101 M

26 Concord…………..33, $958,  $228 M

29 Sacramento………28, $952, $609 M

35 Fairfield……………26, $962,   $42 M

36 Dublin………………26, $1,003, $17 M

38 Escondido…………25, $819,   $37 M

54 Dana Point………..21, $1,183, $17 M

58 Davis………………..21, $833,   $22 M

69 Oceanside…………19, $899,   $54 M

74 Oxnard……………..16, $817,    $92 M

83 Stockton……………15, $734,   $85 M

84 Salinas………………15, $782,   $40 M

85 Vallejo……………….14, $786,  $46 M

87 Vacaville…………….14, $802, $26 M

For even smaller cities, with not too much congestion, the total cost can still mount up.

I must tame your ecstatic celebrations by pointing out that we lost the Tom-Tom Tracking Index competition, which only placed LA as number 12, with a 45% congestion level, and with Mexico City taking first place with a 66% congestion level.  Ten of the top 25 cities are in China.  However, Los Angeles again is first in the US, followed by number 30, San Francisco, with a 39% congestion level.  New York was third in the US but number 49th overall, with a 35% congestion level.  Seattle was 53rd, with a 34% level, and a surprise winner, at number 65, was San Jose with a 32% level.  Finally, Miami at number 75 and 30% congestion, and Portland at number 82, with 29% congestion.  Honolulu and Washington D.C. were 89 and 90th, tied at 29%.  Boston has 28% congestion, and San Diego and Atlanta have 27%.  Just focusing on California now, Sacramento and Riverside come in at 22%.  Fresno has 19%, and Bakersfield 18%.  Notice, we are now below half of Los Angeles’s 45%.  Irvine did not make the list, which ended at 9% congestion.

This reminds me of a story.  UC Irvine Nobel Laureate, chemist Sherry Rowland, and UCI chemist Donald R. Blake, examined air samples from Mexico City.  They found major pollution from leaks from propane gas cylinders, which were used for cooking.  The hoses linked up to them were leaking.  This shows the importance of using our scientific capabilities and excellence in helping countries around the world meeting their challenges.  This requires dedicated government funding for this purpose.

Posted in Air Quality, Autos, California Smog, Equivalent Electric Car Emissions, Los Angeles Congested Traffic, Smog worldwide, World Smog | Leave a comment