My thoughts on the Las Vegas shooting

Let’s  talk honestly about the latest mass murder that has America outraged.

the Las Vegas shooting killed fifty eight (at last count) and wounded hundreds. I don’t want to focus on the shooters motives as we don’t know them yet. The timeline of the shooting, as it is changing and so far a lot of speculation.

So the focus is on the gun. The implement used to commit the crime is the low hanging fruit of mass media at this time.

The Vegas shooting is being touted as the worst mass shooting in American history. Maybe it is, but it is not the worst mass murder in American history.

Timothy McVeigh used a Ryder truck and a load of fertilizer to kill over a hundred and twenty five. The truck driver in Nice drove a truck through a crowd (much like the concert crowd) and killed eighty nine. And of course 9/11 used loaded aircraft to kill thousands. The Ricen attack in Japan, the Anthrax mail attack, the Unabomber never shot anybody.

Has any politician called for the prosecution of Ryder for someone using their truck as a weapon to kill? Banned trucks? Background checks to buy a plane ticket?


the using of a Bump Fire stock by the Las Vegas shooter is about as important and the octane rating of the Nice truck attract fuel. Or the manufacturer of the barrels that McVeigh used in Oklahoma City.

The decision to commit mass murder is the problem, not the tool used to commit the crime.

Had the Vegas killer used the slingshots made for throwing water balloons on the beach to hurl improvised explosives at the crowd been less of a crime? Should he have driven a truck through the crowd?

Not to say that the weapons used are insignificant (obviously they are not) but to focus on them is a misdirection. Many times used by the less moral of us to push an agenda that has little or nothing to do with the act itself.

The idea that the shooter would have been less effective with a normal stock on his rifle is as inane an argument as his choice of ammunition or rifle manufacturer.

The politically genius, but logically foolish, idea that a person who has made the decision, planned, and equipped himself to commit the murder of as many people as possible, would have stopped at the front door due to a sign banning guns on the premises is the height of idiocy.

Evil is in the heart of man, the weapon, tool, implement used to carry out that evil is nearly irrelevant.

Every generation has had the same arguments, going back centuries like;

The cartridge case ammunition will enable soldiers to waste ammunition.

That damn yankee rifle you load on Sunday and shoot all week (lever action)

The wheel lock is made to be easily concealed.

The Roman gladius sword is a killing blade

The iron sword is an advantage over the brass sword

The chariot, the sling, not to mention the bow and arrow at the Battle of Hastings were all criticized by the weak minded and the losing side as unfair, unsporting, uncivil.   I’m sure the mounted knights didn’t like the advent of firearms either.

Will we ever know the circumstance surrounding the motivations or events leading up to the Las Vegas shooting? I hope so.

Should we legislate (“we have do do something”) based on the implement used to commit the act of mass murder? No.

Is there anything that can be done? Maybe.

Perhaps not demonizing anyone who disagrees with you over any and every topic. Grandstanding and triangulating stances on political issues, not based on truth, but sound bites and polling data. Maybe we dont need politicians, but Statesman.

Could anything have prevented this crime. Probably not, but trying to say that if your particular issue had been addressed previously that the deaths would have been fewer or the crime not committed at all and must be implemented now is disingenuous and insincere.

I pray for all the victims and families that have been affected. But please don’t make it about a political party agenda.


Charlottesville protesters, on both sides

I am familiar with Mas (took a course with him years ago) and I believe he hits this particular nail on the head:


Monday, August 21st, 2017
The recent violence in Charlottesville, culminating in the death of a young woman and the injuring of several more people at the hands of an apparent racist has triggered grief, outrage, tribalism and…hypocrisy.

I’ve written about American tribalism before, here. The recent Charlottesville experience splashed a huge bucket of kerosene onto that particular fire. And with it, came vast Continue reading “Charlottesville protesters, on both sides”

Michigan Foster Parents suing State for Gun Rights

As an adopted parent and a foster parent, this ticks me off.


Michigan Couples Sue Over State’s Attempt To Disarm Adoptive And Foster Parents

Most media savvy gun control advocates try to insist that nobody wants to ban guns in America and that anybody who says otherwise is either paranoid or guilty of fear-mongering.

According to a lawsuit filed in a Michigan federal court, however, anti-gun bureaucrats at the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are subjecting gun-owing adoptive and foster parents to a stark choice: their Second Amendment rights or their kids.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include William Johnson, a disabled veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and his wife, Jill. The Johnsons were asked by the state to serve as foster parents for their grandson.

According to the complaint, when the Johnsons arrived to pick up the child at a MDHHS facility, William (a Michigan concealed carry licensee) was searched and ordered to produce his concealed carry license, even though he wasn’t carrying a gun. It also says he was told by caseworkers he would have to provide them with the serial numbers of all of his guns.

The complaint alleges that both MDHHS caseworkers and a judge involved with the placement told the Johnsons that as a condition of fostering the child, they’d have to surrender certain constitutional rights, including the right to have an accessible, loaded firearm inside or outside of their home.

The complaint quotes the judge as stating, “We know we are violating numerous constitutional rights here, but if you do not comply, we will remove the boy from your home.” Likewise, the Johnsons claim, MDHHS caseworkers told them “there would not be a power struggle, that they would just take his grandson and place him in a foster home.”

Another complainant in the lawsuit is a pastor at a Baptist church, chair of a county DHHS board, a Michigan concealed carry pistol licensee, and an NRA certified range officer. His wife is a published author and librarian. They would like to foster children at their home but have refrained from doing so because of the requirement to surrender fundamental rights under the Second Amendment.

The lawsuit claims violations of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to equal protection and to keep and bear arms. It asks the court to permanently bar enforcement of the MDHHS anti-gun policies and to award the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and costs for bringing the suit.

This is hardly the first time state officials have threatened adoptive or foster parents over their possession of firearms. A similar lawsuit was filed last year in Oklahoma, and the NRA has championed legislation to prevent discrimination against lawful gun owners who wish to adopt or foster children, including in Florida, Nevada, and Texas.

It says something about gun control advocates that they will insist their agenda is necessary for the well-being of children, at the same time they will coldly rip kids from caring homes or banish students from school for purely symbolic anti-gun purposes. The sad case of the Johnsons and Masons also demonstrates how deeply entrenched anti-gun orthodoxy is in official bureaucracies, even in places – like Michigan – where lawful gun ownership is considered part of the social fabric.

Robots and industry

Will robots rescue, or threaten, the airline industry?

Yesterday it was reported that US airlines were suffering a “staggering pilot shortage”.

Passenger and cargo airlines around the world are expected to buy 41,000 new airliners between 2017 and 2036. And they will need 637,000 new pilots to fly them, according to a forecast from Boeing released this week. That staggering figure is matched only by how many will leave the profession in the next decade — particularly in the U.S.

Retirements at U.S. airlines will start to rise precipitously starting in 2021 as the current crop of pilots turns 65, the mandated age of retirement. More than 42% of active U.S. airline pilots at the biggest carriers will retire over the next 10 years, about 22,000, according to a recent report by Cowen & Company.

In the next 20 years, airlines in North America are going to need 117,000 new pilots, Boeing estimates. And the farm team for training and recruitment in the U.S. — the military and regional carriers — are already struggling to find and keep aviators.

The coming retirements exceed the active U.S. regional airline pilots corps, which stands around 19,000.

Without enough pilots, the amount airlines can fly will be capped. And an acute shortage may wreak havoc on air travel, grounding planes and reducing air service to some cities if routes are cut or curtailed.

It’s already happening.

Last month, Horizon Air, the regional arm of Alaska Airlines, said it was canceling 6% of its schedule — more than 300 flights — from August to September because it doesn’t have the pilots. And Republic Airways filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016 in part because it was “grounding aircraft due to a lack of pilot resources”.

There’s more at the link.

This pilot shortage has been developing for several years, and airlines and the military have been devoting a lot of time and attention to dealing with it. Perhaps the best-known technological approach is DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS). The program “envisions a tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would promote the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft, enabling operation with reduced onboard crew”. An early iteration was flight-tested last year.

Yesterday, a turboprop plane took off from a small airport in Virginia that from the outside, looked fairly unremarkable.

But inside the cockpit, in the right seat, a robot with spindly metal tubes and rods for arms and legs and a claw hand grasping the throttle, was doing the flying.



The demonstration was part of a government and industry collaboration that is attempting to replace the second human pilot in two-person flight crews with robot co-pilots that never tire, get bored, feel stressed out or become distracted.

. . .

Sophisticated computers flying planes aren’t new.

But the ALIAS robot goes steps further.

For example, an array of cameras allows the robot to see all the cockpit instruments and read the gauges.

It can recognise whether switches are in the on or off position, and can flip them to the desired position.

And it learns not only from its experience flying the plane, but also from the entire history of flight in that type of plane.

The robot ‘can do everything a human can do’ except look out the window, Langford said.

But give the programme time and maybe the robot can be adapted to do that too, he said.

The programme’s leaders even envision a day when planes and helicopters, large and small, will fly people and cargo without any human pilot on board.

The programme, known as Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS), is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and run by Aurora Flight Sciences, a private contractor.

. . .

Elements of the ALIAS technology could be adopted within the next five years, officials said, much the way automakers are gradually adding automated safety features that are the building blocks of self-driving technology to cars today.

Again, more at the link.

Here’s a video clip of the ALIAS system being demonstrated on a helicopter and a light aircraft. I suggest watching it in full-screen mode, to see the smaller inset videos to best advantage.



There’s even a possibility that aircraft might fly without co-pilots at all. Instead, multiple aircraft might have a single pilot, with all of them being assisted by ALIAS-type systems in case of emergency, directed by a controller on the ground.

NASA is exploring a related possibility: moving the co-pilot out of the cockpit on commercial flights, and instead using a single remote operator to serve as co-pilot for multiple aircraft.

In this scenario, a ground controller might operate as a dispatcher managing a dozen or more flights simultaneously. It would be possible for the ground controller to “beam” into individual planes when needed and to land a plane remotely in the event that the pilot became incapacitated — or worse.

. . .

The potential savings from the move to more autonomous aircraft and air traffic control systems is enormous.

In 2007, a research report for NASA estimated that the labor costs related to the co-pilot position alone in the world’s passenger aircraft amounted to billions of dollars annually.

Automating that job may save money.

More at the link.

Here’s another video, showing the ALIAS hardware and software controlling a Boeing 737-800NG simulator. It’s a very short step from this, to putting it aboard a real airliner (replacing the co-pilot’s seat) and taking it flying.



Of course, this automation technology might also pose a real threat to airline operations as they’re currently structured, because it can be applied to other modes of transport as well. Karl Denninger hypothesizes:

Prediction: Within 10 years every single airline will be reduced to carriers that operate routes consisting entirely of flights of more than 1,000 miles, most over water.


Because self-driving cars.

. . .

Look folks, most cars today can be retrofitted … Show me a $500 Lidar array that can do the job and suddenly that $2,500 retrofit becomes not only possible it’s easy and it’s an option roughly equivalent in cost to a leather seating package on new vehicles. At that point the “take rate” will be 90%.

Today I can drive from my home to Atlanta in about 5 hours. All-in, including “mandatory” 1 hour pre-take-off airport arrival requirements it takes me almost 4 hours assuming no weather or schedule delays to fly that same route … Actual operating cost of said autonomous vehicle is materially cheaper than the flight is and I can take a nearly-unlimited amount of cargo with me at no additional cost … The day I can get into the car at midnight in the back where I have equipped half the fold-down rear seat and trunk into a comfortable place to sleep, push the button, go to sleep and wake up at 6:00 AM (1 hour time zone shift) in Atlanta in time for two espressos before a business meeting Delta is bankrupt.

. . .

Folks, there is no business model for the airlines as they exist today once this becomes rationally expensive … Not only is this more-convenient and “on demand” rather than on someone else’s schedule nobody gets bumped, nobody gets groped, there’s no “extra fee and insult” garbage the airline industry has turned into a maze of and it’s cheaper on top of it.

The airlines have cut their own throats, in short, and technology is about to kill them all, with the exception of 3,000 mile flights and over-water segments where you simply can’t do it any other reasonable way. That’s a fraction of their current capacity and operating schedule and I’m going to enjoy watching them all burn in bankruptcy court.

More at the link.

I must admit, the thought of being able to avoid almost all airline travel is a very welcome one. I long ago grew sick and tired of airlines handling me as if I was a cow on the way to the slaughterhouse, cramming me into an aluminum tube with minimal space or facilities (not to mention the TSA treating me with utter disrespect in the process!). I hope Mr. Denninger is right.

Hat tip to

Its not only the airline industry that is working in this area.

The railroads have been working at it for years under the guise of Positive Train Control. Whenever an accident occurs, the media and politicians immediately screech for PTC.  Using government subsidies to research and develope the system that may reduce the accident that so far are the result of having one person on the engine. Most of the wrecks on the tube are either Metro (or equilivant) train with operators only on the engine or Amtrak. What is the common factor…one person operators.

While accidents will always happen, using the call for PTC to develope a system that leads to one major change…crew reduction to one member. Cost saving and reduction of workforce while having a ready excuse for incidents. PTC is a control and a restriction while reducing personnel costs. The crew will still be blamed for any occurrences, be that one man or two.

The development costs and research time along with the government monies could be much better spent on a work/rest program, call windows, scheduled days off, fatigue reduction programs that would be much more effective in incident reduction.

Spoken as a Locomotive Engineer with over twenty years service.

Disney day 7, going home

Finally going home.

What made me think I could keep up with a ten year old at Disney? My back hurts, knees, ankles. I have more moleskin on my feet than skin on my feet. But Mercy had a great time. And I learned a few things along the way;

When the weather forecast in Florida calls for rain…it means it.

Mercy was five the first time we came here and she remembers much of it but why would anybody bring an infant or toddler to Disney unless they were working on frustration management.

The bad thing about the Avatar rides, three hours waiting for a five minute ride. Watch it on YouTube with headphones and bounce in your chair.

The good thing about the Avata rides, the other lines at Animal Kingdom are a lot shorter.

I had forgotten the various smells of international travel…ers.

Disney runs like a well oiled machine, the buses, meals, characters, everything. I wish my company would come down and study the Disney model.

Nothing here is free, nothing here is cheap. Accept it and deal with it.

Seventeen hour drive home. I’m gonna do it in two days. We have a meeting with the adoption lawyer on Tuesday afternoon about how to handle our foster boys case. DCS has decided to terminate the parental rights and he is going. Into “the system” unless we keep him. How we are going to do that is still to be determined. Foster parenting a child in the adoption pool, guardianship, adoption are all on the table but he is not high on the list for open adoption. Ten years old, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Chiari Malformation, and other various developmental issues. But we will see.

some pics;

All in all, it was great. But time to go home and get to work. Mamasita has been carrying it all for too long.


Disney day 1

got here in the afternoon so no parks today. Shopping and eating.

weather was great until about 5:00 then it started raining buckets

The lovely wife and I have officially been apart for the longest time since I shook her hand and asked if she was single. I don’t know how people take separate vacations, I don’t like this at all.

Contemporary Resort is awesome. Next time if we all four come, this is the place.

phrase of the day;

“get an umbrella Dad, lets go for it”

Road trip day 2

I have discovered that all the people on the highways, regardless of age, sex, vehicle or state they’re driving in. All believe themselves to be better than average drivers.

Tennessee is great for road trips. The highways are clean and in great shape, the people nice can be, the stretch of 24 between Nashville and Chattanooga would be awesome     on a bike.

Georgia…not so much.

Mercy is doing great and has found that Waffle House is good but can’t compare to IHOP. She still won’t touch grits.

every wreck we have seen, and their have been a few, are from rear endings.

I love having reactive cruise control for road trips.

Mercy is taking pics and sending them to Mama, FaceTime every night.

Phrase of the day;

“Does every exit have Waffle House?”

Road trip

road trip to Disneyworld!!

just Mercy and me (Mercysdad) on this trip. The lovely and long suffering wife volunteered to stay home for this one. New foster son has some appointments and stuff going on he can’t miss.

Just north of Chattanooga Tennessee. Mercy is doing great taking a lot of pics with my phone.

Mercy nesting.

phrase of the day;

“I love Lou-eesy-ville”