Saturday, July 30, 2016

Doofus Of The Day #918

Today's award goes to a naive bird-watcher in Perth, Australia.

A Mandurah woman's post this week on a popular Perth Facebook page has drawn widespread interest - and no shortage of hilarity - after she thought she'd spotted a "black duck" on a grassed area near a lake.

On closer inspection it turned out to be a large sex toy.

There's more at the link, including a picture of the offending 'duck' and a call for suggestions by the newspaper for appropriate captions.  I'm sure that literary- and photographically-minded readers like mine can help them out!


Hungry little critter, isn't he?

He'd probably figure out how to unlock it, too, given enough time.  Raccoons are smart little critters.


Lessons to be learned from a fatal gunfight

In December last year, David Stokes died in a gunfight with police in Cleveland, Ohio.

The prosecutor's office released two videos Tuesday of the encounter that took place in December during the drive and after Stokes' arrival at the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland.

Stokes was taken there after being arrested during a traffic stop on an outstanding burglary warrant. Officers also found a bag of cocaine and heroin in his car.

The suspect was hand searched before he was handcuffed, the Metroparks Police have said, but managed to conceal the handgun inside a boot.

. . .

Moments later, as McLellan maneuvered the car into the garage, Stokes pulled the gun from behind his back and shot twice as the ranger dove from the moving car.

Schultz and McLellan opened fire. Stokes escaped through the car window and can be heard yelling "kill me." He was gunned down and died the following day.

McLellan was shot in the bulletproof vest covering her right torso and recovered from the incident.

There's more at the link.  Here's an edited version of the video released by prosecutors.

There are several important lessons to be learned from this shooting.

  1. For police, the importance of thoroughly searching and securing suspects has been driven home once more.  Mr. Stokes should not have been able to hide the gun and get into the vehicle with it.
  2. Note how fast the action went down once it began.  There was no prior warning - just the sound of the first shots.  Many, perhaps most gunfights experienced by civilians are likely to begin the same way.
  3. Notice how many shots were fired.  All involved - officers and criminal alike - were not concentrating on their sight picture.  If they had been, and put their rounds where they would do the most good (or harm, depending on which side of the gun one was on), the encounter would have been over almost at once.  You can clearly see flying glass inside the car as the vehicle's windows are shot out, but it seems few or none of those bullets hit the man inside.  He was still able to escape through a shattered side window and try to run for it.  Police marksmanship was very poor - but under the stress of a lethal force encounter, that's not surprising.  Shooting for your life is much more sudden, and much more stressful, than shooting at the range.
  4. The blast and noise of the gunshots would also have been a factor, magnified as it was by the echoes in the underground parking lot.  I'm sure none of those involved were wearing hearing protection.  On the other hand, in the heat of the moment, they may not even have noticed.
  5. Officer McLellan was extremely fortunate to avoid injury, thanks to her bulletproof vest.  If she hadn't been wearing it, or if the gunman had been able to aim at a part of her body not protected by it, she might not have survived.  The gunman's handcuffs probably played a part in that.
  6. Note the determination of the gunman.  He shouted "Kill me!" as he exited the car.  He was absolutely determined to shoot it out with the police.  I don't know what motivated him to be so fanatical, but there it is.  There was only going to be one outcome to that gunfight.  The police had no choice but to act as they did - just as you or I may have no choice if faced with a potentially lethal attack.

Folks, if you or I get into a gunfight, it's likely to escalate just as quickly, and just as dangerously, as this one.  For another example of that, take the shootout with police in Dallas a few weeks ago, and how the shooting erupted out of nowhere.

If we're unfortunate enough to get into a gunfight, either as innocent bystanders or defending ourselves, the speed of events, and the danger, will be just as real.  Watch, learn, and plan accordingly.


Friday, July 29, 2016

I couldn't have put it better myself

Received from multiple sources, origin unknown:



I bet they had to change their underwear after that . . .

In March this year, a Navy E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft was landing on the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower when an arresting cable snapped.  This flight-deck video is silent, so don't adjust your volume controls.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

I bet the flight crew had to change their underwear after that . . .


Issues with the Red Cross and its aid programs

Yesterday, while commenting on non-governmental organizations and aid issues in the Third World, I said:

[Other NGO's] would raise, and expend, a great deal of money with little or nothing to show for it in terms of concrete, worthwhile results.  (The Red Cross, sad to say, was and still is notorious for this among people who truly know what goes on under such circumstances.)

Some readers were upset about this, claiming that the Red Cross did very good and very important work, and that my comments were unwarranted.  I'm afraid that's simply not true.  For example, in an in-depth investigation of the Red Cross's efforts in Haiti, NPR claimed:

When a devastating earthquake leveled Haiti in 2010, millions of people donated to the American Red Cross. The charity raised almost half a billion dollars. It was one of its most successful fundraising efforts ever.

The American Red Cross vowed to help Haitians rebuild, but after five years the Red Cross' legacy in Haiti is not new roads, or schools, or hundreds of new homes. It's difficult to know where all the money went.

. . .

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people, but the number of permanent homes the charity has built is six.

. . .

The organization, which in 2010 had a $100 million deficit, out-raised other charities by hundreds of millions of dollars — and kept raising money well after it had enough for its emergency relief. But where exactly did that money go?

Ask a lot of Haitians — even the country's former prime minister — and they will tell you they don't have any idea.

There's much more at the link.  It's well worth reading this highly detailed report in full.  It doesn't detail precisely how the money was spent, but according to information at my disposal, less than ten per cent reached Haiti in any form whatsoever - and much of that went to other aid organizations, who siphoned off most of it for their own 'administrative costs'.  I know that Red Cross supplies were on sale in local markets within hours of their arriving on the island - a fact attested to by many aid workers and military servicemen who were there.  (A later US Senate investigation confirmed many details from NPR's investigation, and added new complaints.)

In a background piece explaining why and how NPR went about its investigation, an NPR correspondent responded to several questions.

What made you decide to look into the American Red Cross's earthquake recovery spending in Haiti?

I spent a lot of time last fall with Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger from ProPublica looking at some of the problems the American Red Cross ran into in its disaster response to Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac and found the charity had put this inordinate focus on public relations that really hurt its effort to provide disaster relief. We found in one case the Red Cross diverted 40 percent of its emergency vehicles to press conferences and in another case drove empty trucks around to make it appear as though services were being delivered. After those stories, we started to hear from people about things that went down in Haiti. At the same time we started noticing that the numbers it was giving the public about how it spent donors' money didn't make sense. Since then the Red Cross has changed the language it uses around those figures. So with that in mind, we really started looking at the spending the Red Cross did in Haiti.

While you were working on this investigation, if someone asked you over dinner "What's going on with all that money raised by the Red Cross to rebuild Haiti?" was there one anecdote that just immediately jumped to mind for you?

I found myself saying the same thing over and over again: The Red Cross spent five years and almost half a billion dollars in Haiti — and built six homes. That seemed to sum up the situation a bit.

Again, more at the link.

After these and earlier complaints about the US Red Cross (which Pro Publica describes as having been the victim of a 'corporate takeover'), I'm afraid I profoundly distrust it, particularly after personal experience seeing it in action in Africa over many years, and then in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005 (about which I wrote in some detail at the time).  I've long since made a few decisions about that organization:
  1. I will not contribute to its campaigns.  Instead, I'll support other organizations where I can be sure my donation will be used for its intended purpose.  (Inside the USA, the Salvation Army is my #1 choice.)
  2. I will not rely on the Red Cross for support in the event of a disaster, and will do all in my power to avoid using its services.  I simply don't trust the organization.

Your mileage may vary, of course.


No s***, Sherlock!

I guess someone's (not) taking the heat for this.

How hot is it in upstate New York? So hot that horse manure is bursting into flames.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation ... learned that the owners of a horse stable had been storing the manure in large piles that frequently spontaneously combusted in the excessive heat and dry conditions.

There's more at the link.

I find it amusing (and also a bit sad) that some people today are so out of touch with nature that they don't realize the process of decomposition produces heat.  I've seen the same thing in hot climates in Africa.  Put large quantities of dung, or moist vegetation, or anything like that into heaps, and the natural process of rotting, aided by the high outside temperature, can produce spontaneous combustion.  I've even seen a pile of seaweed that was smoking!

The fun part comes when you have piles of miscellaneous bits and pieces start to do this.  The combined smells from rotting offal, plant matter, ash, dung, etc. that are all blending into the smoke is . . . well, let's just say you don't want to smell it again!  For that reason, among others, Third World garbage dumps are an . . . interesting olfactory experience - NOT!


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Conservative versus alt-Right

Courtesy of Vox Day:

Love Taz's hairdo . . .



Aid organizations, corruption, and the clash of cultures

Long-time readers will know that I was involved off-and-on with aid organizations in the Third World for many years, from the late 1970's through the mid-1990's.  I saw at first hand the chaos and instability in which many of these organizations worked.  The best of them (Doctors Without Borders, the Salvation Army, and a few others) learned to 'go with the flow', working in the midst of chaos and getting their job done as best they could.  Far too many others simply became submerged in the chaos, demanding desperately that someone - anyone! - restore order so that they could do what they saw as their job.  Needless to say, their demands were all too often lost in the uproar.  As a result of their inability to "improvise, adapt and overcome", they got little or nothing done.  Others would raise, and expend, a great deal of money with little or nothing to show for it in terms of concrete, worthwhile results.  (The Red Cross, sad to say, was and still is notorious for this among people who truly know what goes on under such circumstances.)

Strategypage has a very interesting article about NGO's (non-governmental organizations), peacekeeping, international aid, and the problems encountered in those sectors over the past couple of decades.  I recognized much of what is said there from my own experience.  I've never worked in the Middle East or South-East Asia, discussed in much of the article, but the problems are the same as those encountered in Africa, where I was.  They're just on a larger scale.

Here are a few excerpts from the article.

One reason so many people are going hungry in conflict zones is because too much of the donated food and other supplies are not reaching those who need it. The UN, Red Cross and thousands of other foreign aid organizations are having a harder time raising money mainly they are having an even harder time dealing with the growing revelations about the extent to which foreign aid is stolen after arriving in the countries where it is needed.

. . .

Aid groups are also beginning to confront the harmful side effects of their good works. The worst side effect is how rebels and gangsters sustain themselves by stealing food and other aid supplies, as well as robbing the NGO workers themselves.

. . .

In the late 20th century the number of NGOs grew explosively. Now there are thousands of them, providing work for hundreds of thousands of people. The NGO elite are well educated people from Western countries that solicit donations, or go off to disaster areas and apply money, equipment, and supplies to alleviate some natural or man-made disaster. Governments have been so impressed by the efficiency of NGOs (compared to government employees) that they have contracted them to perform foreign aid and disaster relief work that was once done by government employees.

Problems, however, have developed. The employees of NGOs, while not highly paid, are infused with a certain degree of idealism. These foreign NGOs bring to disaster areas a bunch of outsiders who have a higher standard of living and different ideas. Several decades ago the main thing these outsiders brought with them was food and medical care. The people on the receiving end were pretty desperate and grateful for the help.

But NGOs have branched out into development and social programs. This has caused unexpected problems with the local leadership. Development programs disrupt the existing economic, and political, relations. The local leaders are often not happy with this, as the NGOs are not always willing to work closely with the existing power structure. While the local worthies may be exploitative, and even corrupt, they are local and they do know more about popular attitudes and ideals than the foreigners. NGOs with social programs (education, especially educating women, new lifestyle choices, and more power for people who don't usually have much) often run into conflict with local leaders. Naturally, the local politicians and traditional leaders have resisted or even fought back.

. . .

NGOs have formal legal recognition in many countries and internationally they, as a group, have some standing. NGOs have become a player in international affairs, even though individual NGOs each have their own unique foreign policy. But as a group, they are a power to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, there is no leader of all the NGOs you can negotiate with. Each one has to be dealt with separately. Since NGOs also come from many different countries (although most have staff that speak English), peacekeepers can also run into language and cultural customs problems. NGOs have turned out to be another good idea that, well, got complicated in unexpected ways.

This move from delivering aid to delivering (often unwelcome) ideas has put all NGOs at risk. The NGOs have become players in a worldwide civil war between local traditional ideas and the more transnational concepts that trigger violent reactions in many parts of the world. Now, concerned about doing more harm (or a lot of harm) than good, NGOs are at least talking about how to deal with some of the dangerous conditions their presence creates.

There's much more at the link.

The article makes very interesting and informative reading for those interested in this field. It's also very depressing, because it's very clear that too many NGO's have learned nothing except how to complain.  If you donate to such causes, I can only suggest that you limit your donations to those who have proven over and over again, in the crucible of disaster, that they know what they're doing and are efficient and effective at doing it.  There aren't all that many of them.



There's a great holster sale at Simply Rugged

Those of you who follow my shooting posts will recall that I'm a big fan of Simply Rugged holsters.  They're larger than some of their competition, but very strong, offering both ease and speed of use and also good protection to the handgun.  They offer the flexibility of either strong-side or crossdraw carry, and optional IWB straps permit both inside- and outside-the-waistband carry using the same holster.  I now own seven or eight of them, and I've been very happy with them.

I wanted to give you a heads-up about their 'Christmas in July' clearance sale.  You can pick any pre-made holster off their 'Gear to Go' page, and use the coupon code 'GTGSALE' at checkout to take 10% off the marked price.

The sale runs until the last day of July, so you only have a couple of days.  It's limited to those holsters listed on the 'Gear to Go' page, but there are a lot of them there.  You might find just what you need if you click over there and scroll down.  Recommended.  (And, no, in case any one was wondering, I'm not being compensated in any way for mentioning Simply Rugged.  I just like their products.)


Flying waaaaay too close to the edge

While fighting the Sage fire in California earlier this month, a DC-10 tanker aircraft made a low pass that almost turned deadly. Watch in full-screen mode for best results.

He can't have been more than twenty to thirty feet above that last ridgeline . . .


At last, beer you really can pour back into the horse!

It's long been an English idiom that "This beer is so bad, it should be poured back into the horse it came from!" (or words to that effect).  Well, perhaps now we can.

A solar-powered machine that can create drinkable water out of urine, could now be used to make beer, according to researchers.

The researchers at the University of Ghent created a device that uses a solar-powered boiler and special membrane to separate the urine into two parts: water and fertiliser.

Having tested the method at a music festival in Ghent, where the team collected 1,000 litres of water in 10 days, it is now looking at using the water to make beer.

"We call it from sewer to brewer," Sebastiaan Derese, one of the researchers from the University of Ghent, told Reuters. "We're able to recover fertiliser and drinking water from urine using just a simple process and solar energy."

. . .

Separate research has shown other innovative uses for urine. The University of the West of England created a pair of socks that can send a text message in an emergency when powered by urine.

There's more at the link.

So, there you have it:
  1. Collect large quantities of horse urine.
  2. Process the horse urine through this new device.
  3. Use the water thus obtained to make beer.
  4. If the beer is good, use in the traditional manner.
  5. If it's lousy, give it to the horse to drink, then proceed to Step 1 again.

I suppose this machine might even produce a sort of 'perpetual motion beer'.  Drink the first batch;  dispose of the resulting 'output' by collecting it;  then process it through the machine to produce more beer.  I can see the slogan now:  Prevent waste!  It's ecological!

As for the socks sending text messages . . . better watch where you're aiming when you've had too much beer, lads.  The message might be self-incriminating, which would be the ruinurination of you!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jerry Pournelle on free trade

Dr. Jerry Pournelle, one of the doyens of science fiction, has commented on his blog (one of the oldest in existence) about the issue of free trade.

One reason Conservatives are advised by Conservative leaders to disagree with Trump is his position on Free Trade. The problem for me is that I do not see Free Trade, particularly laissez faire Free Trade, as necessarily Conservative at all.

The advantages of Free Trade are lower prices for stuff. That means they are more cheaply produced. As the economist David Ricardo wrote, there is a principle of comparative advantage that coupled with free trade guarantees maximum profits for when there are no trade restrictions, and impediments to free trade are supposed to be mutually disadvantageous.

But do understand, what is conserved is lower prices. Nor social stability. Not communities. Not family life. Indeed those are often disrupted; it’s part of the economic model. Under free trade theory, it’s better to have free trade than community preservation, better to have ghost towns of people displaced because their jobs have been shipped overseas; better to have Detroit as a wasteland than a thriving dynamic industrial society turning out tail finned Cadillacs and insolent chariots and supporting workers represented by rapacious unions in conflict with pitiless corporate executives.

. . .

What was conserved by turning Detroit into a wasteland? How was that conservative? Wouldn’t it be more conservative to argue that if everyone pays a little more for stuff made here, by people who work here, we are better off than having it made south of the border and inviting our people to go work there at their prevailing wages?

There's more at the link.  Scroll down the page until you come to the relevant section.

Plenty of food for thought there.  I'm on the fence about free trade.  There are undoubted international advantages, but not so many national advantages.  The question is, where do our priorities lie?  Being an 'international sort of person', and an immigrant to the USA, I used to come down on the side of international advantage.  Now, having had time to assess the results of more than half a century of free trade and internationalization . . . I'm not nearly so sure that was a good idea - at least, not for Americans.


"How a Champagne-Laden Steamship Ended Up in a Kansas Cornfield"

That's the fascinating headline to this article at Atlas Obscura.

Hawley and his intrepid team have quite the incredible passion: discovering and excavating steamboats from the 19th century that may have sunk in the Missouri, but now lie beneath fields of farmers' midwestern corn. “Ours is a tale of treasures lost,” says Hawley. “A journey to locate sunken steamboats mystery cargo that vanished long ago.”

In 1988, Hawley and his crew uncovered the steamboat Great White Arabia, which sank in 1856 a few miles west of Kansas City. The discovery yielded an incredible collection of well-preserved, pre-Civil War artifacts. Hawley, along with his father, brother and two friends, unearthed over 200 tons of items, the equivalent of 10 container trucks. Many of these artifacts, from shoes to champagne bottles, are on display at the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City. Its tagline is “200 tons of treasure.”

While most rescued sunken treasure is heavily water damaged and covered in rust and barnacles, the cargo of the Arabia was in relatively pristine condition, about as immaculately preserved as the day she sank 160 years ago.

Now Hawley and his team are excavating another steamboat, again buried not underneath the waters of the Missouri, but in a field a few miles southwest.

The first mystery is, of course, how a boat that sank mid-river ends up buried in a field. The answer lies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During the latter half of the 19th century, the Corps of Engineers undertook projects to forcibly alter the shape of the Missouri River. The plan was to bring the banks closer together, and by narrowing the width of the river, speed up the current, making boat passage much faster.

One such place was near Parkville, a few miles north east of Kansas City. It was here in 1856 that the Arabia sank after hitting a snag of a sycamore tree, sinking in minutes. As the course of the river was altered decades later, the steamboat became preserved not under the muddy waters of the Missouri, but in a corn field.

There's more at the link.

Here's a video report on the ship and its rediscovery.

I find the whole story absolutely fascinating.  The discovery dates back to 1988, and the museum to 1991, but I'd never heard of it until I read this article.  Next time I pass through Kansas City, I'll have to make a point of visiting it.


Political "Gigglesnort!"

Christopher Burg delivers a lovely smackdown to both political parties - or, at least, to their establishments.  An example:

The Democrats are selling a world where the disarmed populace is entirely at the mercy of the lawless but remain safe from unapproved, dangerous speech and any potential transgression against Mother Gaia, real or imaginary, is punished via summary execution.

There's more at the link.  Go read it all for a good laugh - albeit a painful one, because I think he's more right than wrong.

I'm also having a lot of fun seeing the textbook conservatives and neocons in despair at Donald Trump's progress, and the progressive left's despair at Hillary Clinton's ditto.  I continue to maintain that the former should now vote en masse for the Libertarian Party to register their protest, and the latter for the Green Party for the same reason.  That would make the next few election cycles a whole lot more interesting.  Let's get four parties into our political system, instead of two.  Break the stranglehold!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Just a big soppy underwater puppy dog

It may be a sea lion, but it's behaving like a lot of Labradors I've known!


What sort of terror attacks will come next?

After all the incidents of recent weeks in Europe and the USA, I suspect we're in for a long period of such disruptions.  Some will be relatively small, using knives or firearms.  Others will be much worse, using explosives or arson.  Following questions from readers as to what to expect, I'm going to discuss a few likely possibilities here.  In case you're worried about it, I'm not saying anything new.  Wannabe terrorists have openly discussed these and other ideas on the Internet for years.

First of all, I think we can expect small-scale 'lone wolf' attacks in ever-increasing numbers.  Individuals or small groups will use firearms, home-made explosives or arson (fueled by gasoline or whatever they can lay their hands on) to attack night clubs, churches, cafes, festivals, etc.  Such attacks are almost impossible to defend against in advance, because the perpetrators will seldom need to talk to others about them.  Little or no co-ordination will be necessary.  The armed citizen has a decent chance of disrupting or stopping such attacks if he or she is prepared, alert and ready to act.  I hope and trust most of my readers will be that kind of person.

On a larger scale, I've been warning for years (as regular readers of this blog will know) that I expect one or more Beslan-style attacks on US schools.  It would be relatively simple for groups of terrorists to sneak across our porous southern border, congregate in two or three or four towns and cities where they could blend into already-resettled populations of Middle Eastern refugees, scope out local schools, obtain firearms and fuel such as LP gas cylinders and gasoline, manufacture home-made explosives, and prepare for co-ordinated attacks with other groups.  It's a nightmare scenario, but I have no doubt whatsoever that it's in the minds of terrorists right now.  Our schools are almost completely unprepared for such attacks.

Another likely possibility is the use of LP gas tanks, either stand-alone units, or gas cylinders on trucks, or actual LP gas tankers (road, rail or ship-borne), as blast and incendiary bombs.  They can be absolutely terrifying in the destruction they cause.  For a start, in case you've never heard of a BLEVE (Boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion), here's a video explaining it.

The force of such an explosion depends, of course, on the amount of fuel available.  For example, here's a road accident in Russia that caused several consecutive explosions of individual gas cylinders.  Each explosion is relatively small, but is still big enough to devastate a single shop or dwelling or passing vehicle, and kill people nearby with flying fragments of the cylinder(s).

An entire tanker truck filled with liquid natural gas or propane would be far more dangerous.  Consider the disaster at Los Alfaques in Spain in 1978, which killed over 200 people and injured as many again.  There have been many others. Here are three that were caught on camera.

Now, imagine that one of those explosions took place in an urban area - a built-up residential or commercial district.  Think of it in the business or shopping districts of New York, or Chicago, or Los Angeles.  Think of the casualties it would cause, and the carnage as the entire area became clogged with people trying to escape, others trying to get closer to gawk, and emergency services trying to get in and out. It would be catastrophic.

I'm not saying this because I like being alarmist.  I lived in an environment of terrorism for many years, and I've seen at first hand the sort of things these people can and will do.  I've seen rocket attacks on oil and gasoline storage tanks from a nearby road;  bombs planted in restaurants;  gun and knife attacks on innocent civilians;  mob violence directed against anyone and everyone who did not agree or sympathize with one side or another;  and so on.  Those were all relatively unsophisticated.  In our urbanized, highly concentrated western cities, something like a gas tanker attack would be far more dangerous.  Even more so would be an attack on a LNG carrier like the one illustrated below.

Such a ship, in harbor, would be an extraordinarily attractive target, provided terrorists could be found with sufficient knowledge and expertise to board her and plant their explosives in the right places.  It would cause immense damage and many casualties.  Needless to say, extraordinary precautions are taken to stop that happening.

LP gas isn't the only threat, of course.  A gasoline tanker could be hijacked, driven into a transportation tunnel (say, the Holland Tunnel or the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City), stopped halfway through it, its valves opened to empty its cargo into the road, and an incendiary device used to ignite it.  The resulting fire would almost certainly kill a lot of people in the tunnel, cause so much damage that the structure might become unsafe for future use, and disrupt traffic (and emergency responders) for days, or weeks, or months.  (Even a minor fire can do a lot of harm, as happened in 1949.)  Multiple co-ordinated attacks of that sort might bring an entire city to a standstill, causing immense economic disruption.  (Yes, I know trucks and hazardous materials are banned from such tunnels.  Do you think such a ban is going to deter or stop a terrorist?  Even physical barriers might not be enough, particularly if he and/or his accomplices can shoot or grenade their way past defending officers to open the barriers.)

The same sorts of attacks could be launched on individual buildings.  The World Trade Center was attacked with vehicle-borne bombs in its basement in 1993.  Regulations and precautions notwithstanding, it's not at all impossible for similar attacks to be launched in future, particularly if security grows lax (or can be suborned . . . how many security personnel have been recruited from population groups that might be sympathetic to, or susceptible to intimidation by, terrorists?).  Tanker trucks would obviously not fit into basements or parking garages, but smaller vehicles could carry drums or cylinders of fuel, or bombs.

I'd say those are the most likely forms of terrorist attack we have to anticipate.  I've no idea how likely they are in the short term, but I know terrorists have discussed them on their bulletin boards and in messages.  The authorities are well aware of it.  One hopes adequate precautions have been taken, but the powers that be simply can't guard every tanker truck, or every LNG rail car, or every piece of critical infrastructure such as tunnels or bridges.  Such attacks will be attempted, as sure as I'm sitting here.  We'd better all be hoping and praying that the authorities foil them before it's too late.  We can help by being alert, reporting suspicious behavior, and most of all being prepared to stop perpetrators ourselves if at all possible.

We live in an age of terrorism now.  It's a fact of life.  We'd better get used to it, and conduct ourselves accordingly.


Doofus Of The Day #917

Today's award goes to two over-enthusiastic Army junior officers in England.

Two young Army officers set fire to a mess during a boozy dinner after they tempted to settle a disagreement by shooting flares at each other.

A room and corridor in the officers’ mess at Allenby Barracks in Bovington, Dorset, were gutted by fire after the incident at a “fathers and sons” dinner to celebrate the end of a training course.

Flares were fired after the unnamed officers decided to settle an argument by taking a kayak into the swimming pool outside and firing at each other on Friday night, Forces News reported.

. . .

The incident happened during a dinner to celebrate the end of a three-month course for young tank troop commanders of the Royal Armoured Corps officers who had recently graduated from Sandhurst.

One of the flares, which were not military ammunition, was fired through a window in a seven story block and managed to set the room alight.

When personnel tried to put out the fire, sources said the base’s fire hoses had been shut off due to fears over Legionnaires disease following an outbreak on the base in January.

The whole block was left empty for the weekend until the fire alarms could be reset.

Army sources suggested the incident was being viewed as “high jinx rather than criminal damage”.

One former officer told the Telegraph: “They wouldn’t be the first to fire flares at each other at the ‘Bovvy Hilton’. This sort of thing used to happen all the time in my day.”

There's more at the link.

It sounds as if not much has changed since my younger days in the military . . . and the incident confirms yet again that armies (and young men in uniform) are much the same all over the world!


What a hurry and a scurry and a flurry . . .

I'm not generally impressed by or interested in political party conventions.  They're heavily scripted public relations exercises, designed to portray the party and its candidates in the best possible light.  However, when things go wrong, they can become a lot of fun - at least to outside spectators.

I'm afraid the high jinks and shenanigans surrounding the Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia this week have been so delicious as to provoke the onset of schadenfreude.  Frankly, the consequences of the party bureaucracy's misconduct are richly deserved, and one can only hope there's more to come.  They deserve every bit of it.  The party structure is supposed to be neutral towards its candidates until one is selected, whereupon it swings into action to support the chosen candidate(s) during the election process.  Instead, it turns out that the Democratic National Committee has been partisan throughout the selection process, actively conspiring against one candidate and for another, and hoodwinking the party's own members in the process.  No wonder the members are angry.  They have every reason to be!

What I find most strange about this whole thing is that more heads have not rolled over the issue.  Only the DNC's chairperson has resigned - and that won't take effect until after the convention.  For such egregious misconduct, one would have expected that every single person involved should have resigned the moment their activities were uncovered.  If they did not do so, someone should have fired their asses instanter.  However, such conduct is apparently too honorable to be expected.  I seriously question whether most of the guilty parties will be punished at all.  The ethical and moral blindness of the party's leadership is astonishing.

I suppose, in a way, it's similar to the problem that the Republican party establishment had with Donald Trump.  He defied the establishment, running his own campaign his own way, and going over the heads of the party's bureaucracy to appeal directly to its members.  He succeeded.  His Democratic Party rival, Bernie Sanders, tried valiantly, but couldn't overcome the entrenched establishment of his party in the same way.  I think that was a great pity, for the sake of American democracy overall.  There's nothing like skewering the self-proclaimed powers that be!

I'm also greatly enjoying the DNC's attempts to 'spin' the crisis.  They're now trying to blame President Putin of Russia for the debacle.  I don't think he'd have hesitated for a moment to arrange it, if he could have;  but the DNC should pause to think about that.  If he is, indeed, behind the Wikileaks revelations, why would he release so many of them now?  Surely he should have held onto them until they could have the greatest impact on the electorate as a whole, just before the election date?  To me, that suggests that if he is involved, he's 'keeping the best wine until last' - he's got a whole lot more information that he's going to release at the most appropriate moment, from his point of view.  Some people in the DNC appear to be very worried about that - with good reason.  (It would be the best possible outcome, IMHO, of Hillary Clinton's criminal misconduct in using an unsecured private e-mail system for classified communications of state.  Serves her right!)

Of particular irony is this comment:

If the Russians were behind the leaks, said former CIA director Michael Hayden, “they’re clearly taking their game to another level. It would be weaponizing information.” He added: “You don’t want a foreign power affecting your election. We have laws against that.”

Oh, really?  Well, Mr. Hayden, what about US interference with elections in Ukraine a couple of years ago - interference that had a great deal to do with subsequent Russian intervention in that country?  'We have laws against that', you say?  Well, then, why didn't the US government itself obey them?  It's not the first time the USA has done that, of course.  Try Haiti and Chile, among others.  Pot, meet kettle.  Kettle, pot.

You know what would be the best possible outcome of this whole kerfuffle?  Let disgruntled Republicans, who can't stand the thought of Donald Trump as their party's candidate, vote instead for Governor Johnson of the Libertarian Party.  Let disgruntled pro-Bernie Sanders Democrats, who can't stand the thought of Hillary Clinton as their party's candidate, vote instead for Jill Stein of the Green Party.  With luck, this will lift both minor parties out of the doldrums and into the mainstream of future political activity.  That might be the beginning of the end of the US's de facto two-party system.  Far better, IMHO, to have four mainstream parties, and meaningful choice for the electorate.  Bring it!