Monday, October 24, 2016
It seems 'street art' is alive and well in Melbourne, Australia.
An abandoned car in North Fitzroy has been completely painted in gold to the delight of many local residents.
The crumpled Toyota Camry had been sitting in North Fitzroy, near the intersection of McKean Street and Michael Street, for a couple of weeks before getting the makeover.
One local said that whoever crashed the car into the tree probably took off in a hurry, as the driver's side window was left down and the keys were still in the ignition.
In proof that just about anything can become a piece of street art, the installation has become an overnight landmark.
There's more at the link.
Clearly, the artist got Camry'd away . . .
I'm sure that by now, most of my readers have learned about the incriminating e-mail sent by the Clinton campaign as long ago as 2008, and just revealed by Wikileaks. In case you missed it, here's the salient excerpt.
I also want to get your Atlas folks to recommend oversamples for our polling before we start in February. By market, regions, etc. I want to get this all compiled into one set of recommendations so we can maximize what we get out of our media polling.
There's more at the link.
Zero Hedge points out:
The email even includes a handy, 37-page guide with the following poll-rigging recommendations. In Arizona, over sampling of Hispanics and Native Americans is highly recommended:
Research, microtargeting & polling projects
- Over-sample Hispanics
- Use Spanish language interviewing (Monolingual Spanish-speaking voters are among the lowest turnout Democratic targets)
For Florida, the report recommends "consistently monitoring" samples to makes sure they're "not too old" and "has enough African American and Hispanic voters." Meanwhile, "independent" voters in Tampa and Orlando are apparently more dem friendly so the report suggests filling up independent quotas in those cities first.
- Over-sample the Native American population
- Consistently monitor the sample to ensure it is not too old, and that it has enough African American and Hispanic voters to reflect the state.
Meanwhile, it's suggested that national polls over sample "key districts / regions" and "ethnic" groups "as needed."
- On Independents: Tampa and Orlando are better persuasion targets than north or south Florida (check your polls before concluding this). If there are budget questions or oversamples, make sure that Tampa and Orlando are included first.
- General election benchmark, 800 sample, with potential over samples in key districts/regions
- Benchmark polling in targeted races, with ethnic over samples as needed
- Targeting tracking polls in key races, with ethnic over samples as needed
Again, more at the link.
This absolutely confirms the recent revelation that the Clinton campaign was up to shady tricks (to put it mildly) in major media polling of potential voters. They've been doing it for years - don't forget that the e-mail quoted above dates back to 2008!
It also explains recent triumphalist claims by the Clinton Campaign, for example: 'Hillary Clinton is so far ahead of Donald Trump in the race for the presidency that she no longer even feels the need to pay attention to the Republican nominee.' As is now clear, she's mainly ahead in polls that have been deliberately skewed in this way, so as to portray her as so far ahead that the election is effectively a 'done deal'. I suppose that's to try to persuade potential Trump and Republican voters not to bother to cast their vote, as there won't be any point. Instead, they should stay home on election day and let events take their presumably inevitable course.
Thing is, of course, they're not inevitable. Other polls (for example, this one) portray the race as much, much closer. All of us have a voice, and every voice (and every vote) counts. It's up to us to use them.
In company with Old NFO and Lawdog, I headed for the Texas Panhandle this weekend, to do some research into an area that will be prominent in at least two more Walt Ames novels. We met up with Alma Boykin on arrival, and she acted as our tour guide for the weekend.
We began at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon. It's one of the nicest small-to-medium-sized museums I've ever seen (and I've visited many of them, on three different continents). It's very well laid out, with an excellent collection of exhibits. It covers the prehistoric geology, biology and zoology of the area, its importance to several Native American tribes, the arrival of white settlers and the cattle industry, the development of the oil industry, and all sorts of ancillary topics. There's a very nice collection of regional art (several examples of which I was sorely tempted to 'borrow' for the walls of my home), and a clothing and textile section that we didn't visit, but mentally noted as a place to bring the lovely Phlegm in future (she's very into that sort of thing).
Not surprisingly to readers who know our proclivities, the firearms collection occupied much of our time. Of course, being who and what we are, we identified two mislabeled exhibits; Lawdog spotted a Colt M1877 revolver that was labeled as the Lightning model, but was in reality the larger Thunderer, while I spotted a Winchester 1873 carbine model that was mislabeled as a full-length rifle. Alma, who's researched at least two of her books in the museum's archives and knows everyone there, noted the details and handed them to a member of the staff before we left. Apparently they have a lot more guns in storage than those on exhibition, so we're hoping that one of these days, we may be able to arrange a behind-the-scenes visit to look at the rest of their firearms collection. I'm betting we'll be able to find several more errors in cataloging!
After a late lunch, I put my head down for a nap while Lawdog and NFO visited a few other local museums; then Alma took us to Trail Boss, a local barbecue restaurant, for supper. The food was delicious, and made the visit worthwhile on its own merits. We'll be visiting there again. (I tried to look innocent while suggesting to Lawdog that he try their 'Ghost Riders In The Sky Cheeseburger'; but unfortunately he noticed, just in time, that it included two slices of ghost pepper cheese. He gave me one of those looks, and very rapidly chose a different dish!)
After supper, Alma took us back to her family's home to meet her father. Inevitably, he and Old NFO had both been based on the same Pacific island at various times during their respective periods of military service, so the conversation rapidly degenerated into "Do you remember?" and "Was that like this when you were there?" and "What about old so-and-so?" I get the feeling NFO's been everywhere, done everything and met everyone. It's a lot of fun to eavesdrop on his conversations.
Sunday morning was spent at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. It really tugged at my heartstrings - the terrain and vegetation there are so like parts of Africa, where I grew up, that I literally couldn't tell them apart visually. I felt right at home. I reckon I could take any of my local friends, drop them into parts of Africa, and defy them to realize that they'd left the US at all. Also, the place is almost oozing with memories . . . if I were the superstitious type, I'd say it was haunted. There's so much history in that canyon that you can almost hear the spirits calling to each other. It's a remarkable place. (Click the image below for a larger view.)
Among other things, we visited the general area where the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon took place in 1874. Again, one can almost hear the ghosts whispering there. The deliberate slaughter of so many of their horses broke the spirit (and the resistance) of the Comanche tribe, which retreated on foot to its reservation in the Indian Territories (today part of Oklahoma). According to Alma, the Comanche have from time to time held memorial services in the canyon to commemorate what was, for them, a national tragedy, with permanent spiritual as well as practical implications.
After lunch at a tourist stop in the Canyon, it was time to head for home. We said our goodbyes to Alma, with promises to visit again soon. We were greatly amused by Lawdog's comment that we were 'heading back east' - which for NFO and I usually means the far side of the Mississippi river! Lawdog's stamping grounds are in west Texas, which is very different from east Texas, so I can see what he was getting at. On our way through one of the towns where he'd served as a deputy sheriff, he entertained us by pointing out the locations of some of his adventures. ("That's where I shot Santa... and that's the joint where Pearl stole the steaks.") We wheedled some more details out of him here and there. He'll be describing those incidents and more in his forthcoming book.
I learned a lot, and I'll be using the information in future Westerns. We'll be heading back to the Panhandle soon for more research (and more good food and company!).
Sunday, October 23, 2016
I'm back from my weekend trip to research aspects of my next Western novel. I'll tell you more about it tomorrow, after I've caught up on some sleep and persuaded Ashbutt to stop trying to help me compose a blog post by walking across the keyboard and batting at my fingers.
In a gloomy, but penetrating analysis of world prospects, Raúl Ilargi Meijer makes some sobering points about the wider implications of the current US election campaign.
It’s over! The entire model our societies have been based on for at least as long as we ourselves have lived, is over! That’s why there’s Trump.
There is no growth. There hasn’t been any real growth for years. All there is left are empty hollow sunshiny S&P stock market numbers propped up with ultra cheap debt and buybacks, and employment figures that hide untold millions hiding from the labor force. And most of all there’s debt, public as well as private, that has served to keep an illusion of growth alive and now increasingly no longer can.
These false growth numbers have one purpose only: for the public to keep the incumbent powers that be in their plush seats. But they could always ever only pull the curtain of Oz over people’s eyes for so long, and it’s no longer so long.
. . .
‘Leaders’ such as Trump and Le Pen can only be seen as intermediate figures necessary for nations, and indeed the world, to adapt to an entirely different paradigm. One that is at best based on consolidation, on trying not to lose too much, instead of trying to conquer the world.
But also one that is likely to lead to warfare and mayhem, because nobody’s been willing to address even the possibility of no more growth, and therefore everyone will be looking to squeeze growth out of any available place, starting with their neighbors, and the globe’s weakest. It’s the Roman empire all over again, where the core strangled the periphery ever harder until the Barbarians and the Visigoths decided it was enough and then some.
That is the meaning of Donald Trump, and of Brexit. You’re not going to understand these things without taking a few steps back, and without looking at history, and especially without acknowledging the possibility that, in economics, perpetual growth may indeed be what physics has always said it was: an impossible pipedream.
Trump has a role to play in this whether he wins the election or not. He’s the big red flashing American warning sign that the increase in poverty that has so far been felt only among those who it has hit, will shake the familiar political landscape on its foundations, and that this landscape will never return.
There's more at the link. Recommended reading.
Let us never forget the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, on this date in 1983.
In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team - BLT 1/8), the death toll were 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II's Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Armed Forces since the first day of the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens in general prior to the September 11 attacks, and the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens overseas. Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast. Thirteen later died of their injuries, and they are numbered among the total number who died. An elderly Lebanese man, a custodian/vendor who was known to work and sleep in his concession stand next to the building, was also killed in the first blast. The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 9,525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.
There's much more at the link.
In the immortal words of Robert Laurence Binyon:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
This video from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is kicking up a certain amount of angst in the Middle East and among Palestinian supporters and activists. You can read all about it at Legal Insurrection. Me . . . I'm just laughing at it, and enjoying it.
I think I could have done a much better British Civil Servant accent than that actor . . . and since my father once served as escort commander on the Cairo to Haifa Railway during one of his journeys in World War II, I daresay I've a hereditary claim on the office, dammit! Mine! - or should I say, Mine too!
I'll be heading out on a research trip for my next Western this weekend. Blogging will be very light, unless I have Internet access on Saturday evening, in which case I'll try to put up a post or two. Meanwhile, please amuse yourselves with those on my blogrolls in the sidebar.
Normal blogging will resume on Monday morning.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Vox Day wrote a regular column for WND some years ago. Today, on his blog, he reprinted one of his articles from 2004. It struck me very powerfully, and I thought it would do the same to my readers. Here it is, in full.
Tibetan religious tradition has it that when the Dalai Lama dies, the Buddha of Compassion leaves his body and incarnates in the body of a young child. The monks immediately go out in search of this blessed child, and when they find him – as they inevitably do – he is tested by a group of high lamas and enthroned as the reincarnation of his successor.
Imagine, however, if the lamas refused to recognize that the Dalai Lama was, in fact, dead. Suppose that instead of going in search of the Buddha’s new carnal home, they hooked the corpse up to a life support machine and waited patiently for the Holy One to awake and rise up. It’s not hard to see that they would be doomed to disappointment, and furthermore, would fail to find the next Dalai Lama as well.
This is precisely our dilemma today, for America, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, is dead. By every measure, large and small, the original vision of limited government by, for and of the people has been folded, spindled and mutilated beyond recognition. When one reads the Constitution, one simply marvels at the distinct difference between its words and our present reality.
Our paper Federal Reserve Notes are not Congress-issued gold and silver coins. Our direct taxes are not apportioned. We are entangled in a veritable web of foreign alliances, Congress shamelessly makes laws regarding speech, religion and guns, and the judicial branch has arrogantly assumed for itself unchecked supremacy over the other two branches.
Regardless of whether one see these changes as blasphemous treason against the Constitution, or as reasonable and necessary modifications to what was designed to be a living document that evolves with the times, it is impossible to deny that they have been made. It is likewise impossible to assert that a massive central government possessing eminent domain, owning over a third of the land and claiming more than a third of all income is either limited or small.
For many years, conservatives and other freedom lovers have placed their trust in the Republican Party, hoping that it would fulfill its promises to return America to its national birthright of freedom and individual liberty. Those promises, unsurprisingly, were broken by the party of Abraham Lincoln, who is most famous for converting what had been a voluntary Union of free association into a forced Union by military might.
Any last vestiges of hope in the Republican Party have been shattered by the current regime, wherein a Republican President, Republican House, Republican Senate and Republican-nominated Supreme Court have demonstrated that they have zero interest in the timeless vision of America’s founders. Supporting them in the hopes that they will revive American liberties is akin to hoping that shock paddles will suffice to revive a month-old corpse. American freedom is not only dead, it has been rotting for some time.
There are those who say that a vote for a third-party candidate, such as the Libertarian’s Michael Badnarik or the Constitution Party’s Michael Peroutka, is wasted. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, these are the only votes that are not wasted, for positive change will only come from those outside the corrupt bi-factional system. After all, it was neither the Tories nor the Whigs who fought for American independence.
Like the Tibetan lamas, we must go in search of those in whom the spirit of freedom and liberty burns. The revival of American liberty is still in its infancy, as only 482,451 people voted for the Libertarian and Constitution presidential candidates combined, 0.96 percent of those who voted for the victorious Republican, George W. Bush. But that is 482,395 more people than the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, and as for those who believe our present bipartisan system is eternal, well, tell it to the Whigs.
Or, for that matter, to the optimates and populares of Rome. The choice is simple, if not easy. A revival of liberty or the continued stink of an extinct republic as it decomposes into dictatorial empire.
America is dead. Let us go, then, and find her.
Being an immigrant to this country, I perhaps see this more clearly than some who've lived here all their lives, because I came to it 'fresh'. When I became a chaplain for an agency of the federal government, I took the oath of law enforcement office administered to all federal law enforcement officers.
I ... do solemnly swear ... that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
I took that oath in the full understanding of what it meant, and I was determined to keep it. I have done so, both in my active service and in my retirement. Yet:
- FBI Director Comey could take the same oath and blatantly ignore and/or violate it in his handling of Hillary Clinton's testimony and his recommendations to the Attorney-General.
- DEA agents can blatantly ignore and/or violate it in their search and seizure policies, including asset forfeiture practices that appear to utterly ignore the Fourth Amendment.
- In cases such as Ruby Ridge, Waco and others, federal law enforcement agencies and officers can blatantly ignore and/or violate their oaths in taking unconstitutional action against those they deem to be malefactors. Subsequently, their actions are often retroactively approved, or excused, or covered up, while investigations are misled and legal action against the individuals responsible for such acts is often blocked.
I'm forced to ask whether federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and officers would do likewise if it came to imposing and enforcing blatantly unconstitutional legislation such as gun confiscation. I fear many officers would put their own interests first (their salaries and pensions, and the needs of their families), and do so. I don't know how many would actually honor their oath of office and refuse to do so, even in the face of losing their jobs and resultant personal hardship.
I saw that in South Africa, too. Many black policemen, themselves victims of discrimination under apartheid, helped to enforce the racist laws of that policy against their own people. As a result, they and their families were targeted by terrorists. Many were killed or maimed for life as a result . . . but because they had no other means of support, and because without the protection of their police uniforms they'd have been attacked by their own communities, they kept right on enforcing racist laws and discriminating against their own people. When democracy finally came to South Africa in 1994, the results for many of them were . . . not good.
I hope and pray Vox Day is wrong. I fear greatly that he's right. The United States of America, as envisioned by its founding fathers and as believed in by many of us (including myself), may indeed now be irretrievably lost to us. If Hillary Clinton wins this election, I think that will serve as confirmation of that fact.
If it is lost, what do we do? There's no point in trying to reform or renovate the present laws and institutions of government. They're so deeply, irredeemably flawed, from a constitutional point of view, that I think that'll be flat-out impossible. It may, indeed, be time to look for a new America, one that embodies the true aspirations of the old - and this time, take rather better care to ensure that those aspirations don't die of neglect.
Sadly, doing so will inevitably mean open conflict with those who hold our founding fathers and their aspirations in contempt. Let's hope and pray it doesn't come to that. I've seen and experienced three civil wars in three different countries. There are seldom, if ever, any real winners among the ordinary people like you and I . . . just overwhelming suffering.
Thanks to the 'evil years' of South Africa's internal unrest (amounting to an intermittent civil war situation in many parts of the country), from 1976 through 1994, I didn't have the kind of life that most young people today would regard as 'normal'. I've written about some aspects of it in the past.
One of the things I remember about those years is the music. South Africa's hit parade was weird. Among the usual US and European groups and their international hits, you'd find something like Juluka singing about 'Mud Colored Dusty Blood' - a bus massacre in the eastern Cape. Songs about mass murder reaching the hit parade? Shows how seriously warped South Africa's consciousness was at that time.
Be that as it may, one of the most popular disco groups in South Africa was Boney M. It always struck me as incongruous that an all-black group could be so popular among the white community, but that was just another facet of our country during those seriously weird years.
I was reminded of Boney M. by this post over at Legal Insurrection, where the author confesses he was a big fan of the group when he studied in Moscow. He says they had a huge following there, and posted this video of their hit 'Rasputin', performed at a disco festival in Russia some years ago, to prove it. Certainly, the Russian dancers lend an exotic air to it - and the thousands of fans seem to be having a great time. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.
It's ironic that when 'Rasputin' first came out, the Soviet Union banned it on the grounds that it disrespected their history and culture! I guess the Russian people decided that didn't matter. After all, the real Rasputin was every bit as disreputable as the song implied.
I know many people today, particularly those born after the disco era, won't have heard of Boney M. at all. For their benefit (and because they bring back many memories), here are two more of the group's biggest hits. First, the song that gave them their breakthrough, 'Daddy Cool'.
Next, a song drawn from America's criminal history, 'Ma Baker'.
They seem so dated now . . . but back then, we grooved to them. (Yes, even an old fart like me was once a groover!)
I'm intrigued by a new bicycle lock that's claimed to be more thief-deterrent than its predecessors. Its Indiegogo page claims:
Many of today's U-Locks are vulnerable to even simple hacksaws or crowbars. Some electronic locks that have fancy technology like GPS tracking and are app enabled can even be zapped into submission with an inexpensive taser. Serious thieves use serious tools like battery operated angle grinders and blow torches - that's what it takes to cut through a quality lock. SKUNKLOCK is a hardened medium-carbon steel U-Lock that's as difficult to compromise as the strongest U-Locks, AND comes with a surprise: it's pressurized inside with a noxious chemical deterrent that slams the would-be thief with noxious chemicals. The chemicals are so disgusting they induce vomit in the majority of cases, and elicit an instinctive response to run away immediately.
. . .
Can't a thief just wear a mask or protection?
Technically, yes. Will it help them steal your bike? Probably not. The formula that we've developed is detectable through even some of the most robust gas masks (unfortunately, we learned this the hard way!). More importantly, we aren't strictly relying on chemicals incapacitating the thief to prevent the theft. There is no technology that can guarantee theft prevention; however, we do believe SKUNKLOCK is the best lock on the market to deter theft. Not only does an attack on the SKUNKLOCK release chemicals onto the thief that create a scene that makes people take notice, it also has economic implications for the thief. Our formula irreversibly ruins the clothes worn by the thief or any of the protection they may be wearing, and replacing these items is likely more expensive than the resale value of your stolen bike (generally only 1/10 of the retail price). You don't need to be perfect, you just have to be the best protected on your block. So more than likely, a thief will attack a more hassle free bike parked nearby than your bike.
There's more at the link. Here's a promotional video for the Indiegogo campaign.
I think it's an ingenious idea. However, I can think of a few drawbacks, too.
- What happens to your bike when the gas is released? Doesn't the stench make it unrideable until it's been thoroughly cleaned? Looks like you might strand yourself, as well as deterring a would-be thief. Also, wouldn't the skunk oil or whatever it is penetrate softer materials like the bike's saddle, or any pannier or container mounted on the bike? That would mean you'd have to replace all such items, as I'm sure the smell wouldn't wash out.
- What about surrounding people and businesses? If a thief releases the gas, and it's sucked into a shop's air-conditioning or heating system, it might make the entire shop unfit for habitation, and render some or all of its stock unsaleable. I can see all sorts of lawsuits coming out of that!
- What if you get a thief without a working sense of smell?
I'd personally prefer a somewhat more robust deterrent; something like the 'Blaster', a South African anti-car-hijacking device, shown in action below.
Now, if one could fit something like that to a bicycle, with a gas cylinder concealed within the frame and an exhaust jet aimed up through the middle of the saddle, timed to go off as the thief rode it away . . .
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Laughing out loud at this one from Wirecutter.
Yep. That's farm kids all right, anywhere in the world. I've been highly amused to find American farm kids behave just the same as African farm kids. They all have the same acceptance of nature and the real world, and lack false sentimentality. Salt of the earth - and naughty with it!
I'm obliged to Charles Hugh Smith for reprinting the observations of an Australian reader about a recent extended power failure down under. Here's an excerpt.
It was a fascinating opportunity to observe firsthand what happens when an electricity dependent society and economy has an extended and complete loss of electrical grid and communications.
Key observations for my local area are:
1. Many people have small petrol generators thanks to our lovely coastal wilderness and a preoccupation with Glamping (Glam Camping).
2. Very few people had a store of petrol at home more than 5 to 10 litres [1.3 to 2.6 US gallons]. (usually kept for use in lawn mowers, brush cutters, chainsaws). Some owners of small boats had up to 20 litres [5.3 US gallons] on hand.
3. When the electricity goes out ... the pumps at fuel stations don't work. To my great surprise, only 1 fuel station in my nearest city of about 14 000 population had (or quickly acquired) a back-up generator to work their fuel pumps. There was a 3 hour wait for customers to get from back of queue to the pumps ... and a ridiculous show of 'bulk buying' where people didn't just take fuel that they personally needed; they showed up with between 3 and 8 X 20 litre (5 gallon) fuel cans as well as filling their cars. Hopefully the canned fuel was distributed among family and friends. (My assertion is that the owners of the station should have rationed fuel to 40 litres per customer to keep the que moving faster and to make sure everyone had some, rather than creating an 'all or nothing' situation.)
. . .
6. The full loss of grid, grid back-up and other smaller backups caused telecommunications and data transmission to practically cease. This meant limitations of EFTPOS in stores. Banks were shut, ATM's didn't work and some shops that were open could only take cash. Generally though, everyone muddled through the sketchy electronic payment systems one way or another. Internet access failed for the most part. Social media pretty much collapsed ... my two daughters though their social lives were over. I didn't miss it. My wife found more time to do other things too.
There's more at the link.
Highly recommended reading for everyone who routinely prepares for emergencies (as we all should). There's good information there.
This advertisement for Armstrong beer was made by an agency in Cape Town, South Africa, so I presume the beer is also South African. The agency has tried to put a men-scared-of-women-but-outsmarting-them twist on the consumption of beer, but it falls flat for anyone who knows Africa. If African women in typical African society tried to stop their men consuming beer, they might just get beaten flatter than a pancake! Patriarchy is alive and well there.
Still, it's an amusing advertisement - to me, all the more so because of its inherent contradictions.
I've never tasted the stuff myself - it wasn't on the market when I left South Africa two decades ago. I drank Windhoek, Amstel or Castle Lager, or Hansa Pilsener. Old hands from that part of the world will doubtless join me in salivating at the memory of a long, cold one (or two, or three) after a hot day in the African sun.
EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to a reader's comment, you'll find more details of the advertisement here.