Tuesday, June 08, 2021

No, Arizona is NOT planning to use Zyklon B for executions

You may have seen an article claiming that Arizona, in an effort to get around difficulties in obtaining chemicals used for lethal injections, is planning to use Zyklon B, the infamous compound used by the Nazis to murder over a million Jews in Auschwitz.  When I first heard this, I too was appalled, but I can assure you that while I won't object if you are appalled by executions, you should not think that the State of Arizona is using the same formula the Nazis did.

It is true that Zyklon B contained Hydrogen Cyanide, and it is true that Arizona is planning to use Hydrogen Cyanide, so this article from the Guardian is mostly correct:

However, Zyklon B, like Zyklon A, an earlier iteration, is not just Hydrogen Cyanide.  It contained that chemical, plus diatomaceous earth as an adsorbent, and an irritating compound to warn people of the danger. You can see more about that in the Wikipedia article on Zyklon B.

Zyklon B was actually used rather extensively in the US in the pre-WWII era to fumigate freight trains, and clothing.  The irritants added are significant, because they make the compound safer for its intended use, by giving a powerful warning if it is accidentally spilled.  One of the irritants used, Chloropricin, is sufficiently irritating that it was used during WWI as a tear gas, which while not fatal in itself, caused Allied soldiers to vomit and then remove their gas masks, which allowed the toxic chemicals combined with it to kill them.

Arizona will not be using either an adsorbent, or an irritant, because it will not be using a pesticide.  Instead, it will be using Hydrogen Cyanide directly, in the same way as was used in American gas chambers for executions in the 1920s.  The Hydrogen Cyanide is actually manufactured on site, as it were, by dropping capsules of Sodium Cyanide into a pail of Sulfuric Acid.

Importantly, Arizona will NOT be adding any irritants such as are present in Zyklon B, because, not to put too fine a point on it, they are not Nazis.  I make no representations as to the humanity of execution by Hydrogen Cyanide, but it is surely far more humane than the use of Zyklon B, which created additional agony to the victims of the Holocaust.

While my legal practice did not include Libel Law, it seems to me that alleging that Arizona is proposing a far more horrible method of execution that it actually is, could be libelous.

I began looking into this because I was horrified that anyone could take the Nazi legacy so lightly as to wish to re-implement Auschwitz even on the scale of single executions.  My horror changed to anger at being lied to.  I suspect that this lie was not intentional, but just another example of social media confusion and amplification.

It is possible that others have overlooked the differences between Zyklon B and Hydrogen Cyanide because they just don't know how horrible Zyklon B as a murder agent is.  I studied the Holocaust quite extensively in religious school in the 1970s, but it was not clear to me until today why the victims at Auschwitz were screaming and clawing the doors of the death chambers.  After all, Hydrogen Cyanide has an almost pleasant smell, reminiscent of almonds.  The truth is that the added irritants, paradoxically used in commerce to make it a safer compound, added to the already unimaginable horror and pain of dying en masse in a crowded "shower".

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Pandemic is Over

Really?  Yes.

I got vaccinated, so the pandemic is over for me. It’s not perfect protection, but there is no such thing. By the end of next month pretty much anybody who wants to be vaccinated, will be vaccinated, which is, again, not perfect.   It is however, essentially by definition, as good as we can get*.

(*) There will continue to be cases in the unvaccinated population, which will bring us closer and closer to full herd immunity, but that hardly seems worth waiting for.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Akai Max-49 Gate problem Legato workaround

 I really like my Max-49.  It is a handy keyboard controller, with an extensive Midi implementation, and includes drum pads and several soft sliders.  The arpeggiator is very handy, and most importantly, it includes CV outputs.

The problem I have experienced is if I am not using the arpeggiator, and try to play legato, it will not retrigger the gate output when I play a new key.  The result is that you lose the initial envelope on that new key, and depending on how it is patched, you may eventually find the sound drifting away, i.e. if you are using AD envelopes, which I frequently do, because I like my Wiard Envelators.

The workaround is to use the MIDI out, in my case to the Cwejman S-1 monosynth, which not only has an extensive MIDI capability, but has lovely envelopes with individual outs on the front panel.  The only problem is that I have to use the workstation driving the MIDI interface to create a tunnel between the Max-49 and the S-1, which is easy enough with Midi Patchbay, though it does take a lot of equipment.

If anyone has figured out a way to convince the Max-49 to retrigger the CV gate on every note, I would love to hear about it.  My time spent puzzling over the manual, and paging through the configuration menu did not reveal a solution.

The other "workaround' is just to play staccato, if you wish.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Privacy Policy

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Monday, September 07, 2020

American History, and then some




You will hear, especially if you engage on Facebook with devotees of the Left, that America has a bloody and violent history.  You will be asked to deny, if you can, the enslavement of Blacks, and the extermination of Indians. Rather than quibble over language, if they happen to overstate the case, as indeed they likely will, it is better to acknowledge it.  Yes, American History is stained in blood.  Agree.

The problem is perhaps the context?  Is America really unique?  Let's take a quick look at the rest of the 


To keep it quick, let me mention just a few names.  Tamerlane, Stalin, and Leopold II of Belgium.  Tamerlane is a fellow who built mountains of skulls outside the cities he conquered, Stalin I hope you already know about, and Leopold was the brute who wrecked havoc and murder on the Belgian Congo.

Do Belgians attend struggle sessions where they force each other to apologize for the crimes of Leopold?  Never mind, they probably do, when they aren't enjoying strong beer, and mayonnaise on their fries. Which, along with the art and architecture are some of the fine things about Belgium so lets get to the 


Has American History been a mere cavalcade of blood and horror?  Of course not.  Never mind the Civil War that ended Slavery, and the Civil Rights movement that took the defining words of our founding and applied them fully to all Americans.  Think of some smaller stories, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Navajo Code Talkers, and, why not, he is deservedly famous, Jackie Robinson.

I had the privilege of attending an airshow in Oshkosh Wisconsin a few years back at which some of the remaining Tuskegee Airmen were honored.  Was America still a racist country then?  Yes.  Did they suffer discrimination?  Yes.  Nonetheless they were given the opportunity to fly the finest aircraft of WWII into combat, and they performed heroically.  (Just btw, I am biased toward the P-51 Mustang, because I was fortunate enough to take my first flying lesson in one.  What a plane!)

The Code Talkers were young Navajo men who invented, implemented, and used under fire in combat, what is, to my knowledge, the only unbroken tactical code of WWII.  Were they mistreated, both as a people and as individuals before and even after the war?  Yes.  Nonetheless they were honored with a vital mission during the war, and in the years after the war, when the need for secrecy finally ended, they were honored publicly as well.   I recently read a fine book you might also enjoy: Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII.

Finally Jackie Robinson heralded the modern era of black celebrity athletes and entertainers.   Anyone who tells you that America has a racial caste system has to ignore a lot.  Not just the black millionaires and billionaires, but the poor whites who suffer depression and die from opioid abuse, not just in Appalachia but all over our country.


Why am I writing all this?  Here is part of why:

This slide was presented at a "Racial Sensitivity Training" for employees of the Sandia National Laboratory, in Albuquerque New Mexico.  I suppose, as a White Male myself, I should feel proud that my efforts to display a "can-do attitude" have been noticed, and are deemed worthy of discussion.  However, I feel it more important to note that essentializing a positive attitude as a White Male attribute is Racist, Sexist, nonsense.

I've learned a lot about "can-do", from women, starting I suppose with my Mother, who taught me at Telethons years ago (some of my readers perhaps recall Super Sunday, which is still a thing) the importance first of showing up, then of picking up your pack of cards, and then dialing the numbers.  "If you don't ask, you won't get". I've been privileged to work with other people, some not white, some not men, and some not either, who gave me further lessons, by their example, of how to get things done.

Returning to my Mother, apropos of nothing in particular, she was also the one who taught me, again by example, that when you see something wrong, you say something about it.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

The Wrong Kind of Binary

The Wrong Kind of Binary

Binary of course means two valued.  Ones and Zeroes.  Computer math.  Very useful stuff, but not the subject today.

There is another sort.

Politicians hate making choices.  To make a choice is to disappoint someone, and they want to make everyone happy.  Everyone except their designated enemies, but that is also not the subject today.

One way to avoid the appearance of making choices, even when one must be made, is to pretend that there is no choice.  Rather than explain the trade-offs involved in a decision, simplify to a binary option, where only one choice is the "obviously correct" one. 

In trade offs involving potentially fatal outcomes, there is an easy way to do this.  Simply say that "even one death is too many", and any course of action that might kill a single person is immediately off the table.

It is difficult to overstate the moral bankruptcy of this line of argument, especially because of its deep emotional appeal.  There is a kernel of truth after all, for the person who dies, and the family, of course that one death is a tragedy.  At the same time, it elides a simple truth: choices must be made, and we need to make them in a sensible way. Engineers learn early that there are always tradeoffs. "Fast, Cheap, Correct, pick any two".

However, if there are only two numbers in your number system: Zero, and "too many", you will be unable to make even the most basic computations. Two numbers aren't enough.

Even basic computations are not good enough.  A proper grasp of statistics and probability is essential to evaluate the various paths that are always before us.  How can you compare what you can't quantify?  By feel?  Not good enough. By appeals to emotion?  Definitely not good enough.

Maybe this is the time to come out in favor of replacing Calculus with Statistics in High School Math?  If Innumeracy was rare, the false choice arithmetic wouldn't hoodwink so many, and our leaders would maybe step up their game.

A man can dream, right?

Friday, July 24, 2020

My Perfect Minivan Ride, With the Gestapo

My Perfect Minivan Ride, With the Gestapo

Portland Oregon seems an unlikely place for the inauguration of a Fascist Police Force in America, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the unlikely is likely.  When I first heard about the famous minivan abduction I was puzzled.  Why would the police read someone the Miranda warnings, and then just let them go?  What was he suspected of?

The short video that went viral was not much help either.  It took more than a moment for me to ignore the voice pleading with the officers to "use your words".  What was that about? A kindergarten teacher too terrified to return to class, yet comfortable attending a protest cum riot?  Who talks that way?

But that is not the point, I suppose.  The point is that the officers came up wordlessly, and took a man away, in a minivan, without, as many commenters pointed out, a warrant.

A warrant is not necessary to make an arrest, Probable Cause is, so my first suspicion was that he had been observed vandalizing something, or assaulting someone.  But that isn't what happened.  Apparently he was seen standing near someone who may have shined a laser in an Officer's eyes, and was wanted for questioning.  The officers took him away in the minivan because of the growing crowd, which made it impossible for them to speak to him on the street.

I hope there were more people there than "use your words" lady, because annoying as she was, she did not sound like a threat.

Let's be clear: there is no riot exception to the requirement that Probable Cause exist before an arrest can be made.  There is also no question but that being taken off the street by armed government agents is an arrest, contrary to whatever claims were made. The officers were wrong.

In the 80s the "Preppy Handbook" came out.  It  told you how to wear Penny Loafers and Polo shirts, what names and hairstyles were Preppy and so on.  It was followed by a slew of other handbooks, including "The Lawyer's Handbook".  I think I lost my copy, but I remember it had a section on different kinds of arguments you could make, depending on how much you were paid.  The most expensive one was the "bolt from the blue", which meant you could say anything at all, unless you were immediately struck down by the eponymous bolt.

Arguing that there should be a sort of riot extension to the Terry Stop requirements might not be that bad, but it is close.  Maybe the correct question is if the Judge would just yell at you from the bench, or would ask you to join him in chambers, so he could yell at greater length?

Speaking of Lawyers, can you imagine the one who came in to the office where they were questioning this fellow?  After hearing the tale of how he came to be there I suppose the officers heard: "Ok.  Now you will tell him he is free to go, and walk him to the door."

That said, it is also not exactly the sort of thing the Gestapo were feared for.  The problem was not that they would grab people off the street and release them an hour later, it was that they would grab people off the street, take them to an office somewhere, and then shoot them in the head, or trundle them off to a concentration camp. 

Now do you get the title?  I am falling between two chairs, the reflexively pro and reflexively anti-Trump.  I can't possibly get behind the notion that the deployment and actions of the Feds in Portland was "perfect", because, well, they clearly weren't.  At the very least some more training needs to be given to these officers so they stop coming up with creative ways of dealing with the difficulty of conducting street interviews during unrest. 

Should the officers wear better identification?  Sure.  Is it frightening that they are in military style camouflage?  Yes.  Am I disappointed in the way things are going in this country?  Of course.

And yet.