Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When three find out they're about to become five . . .

. . . how are the three going to react?



Is Memphis becoming a 'no-go area' for visitors?

Early last month I wrote about a flash mob attack at a Memphis shopping mall that left three people in hospital.  The perpetrators were Black youths.  The victims weren't.  It was racism at its worst, even though the mainstream media wouldn't comment or speculate on that.  Political correctness forbids such honesty.  Political correctness has also (to date) prevented any solution to the problem being implemented, because to be effective, it would inevitably focus on one race group in the city and send a large proportion of its young men to adult or juvenile jails.  Local politicians won't allow that.  It'd be bad for their image among the electorate, you know.

Now another incident in a nearby area has reinforced concerns.

Police said a large group of teens flooded the streets near Central High School Friday just before 10:00 p.m.

“Had I had been armed we would have had a lot of kids laying in the Bellevue street that night,” Sharon Mourning said.

. . .

“All of a sudden just bout 20 kids are on top of my car with about 40 more kids around my car and they kicking, they stomping, they jumping, you know they hitting the windows,” Mourning said.

The victims said the kids were all over the place wreaking havoc.

“They was just laughing and hollering, and doing what they were doing and having fun with it,” Mourning said.

Police reported a 51-year-old man was attacked in his car after honking his horn at the teenagers to move out of the way.

“They had done bricked his car, stomped his car, did the same thing,” Mourning explained.

Mourning reported seeing the teenagers beat an elderly man and another teenager, “I actually looked at the child. His face was bleeding. You know they had done beat him.”

Police confirm a 55-year-old man and a 16-year-old were assaulted in the area at that time.

. . .

Mourning told us a summons is not enough and claimed this is a problem on a bigger scale, “Memphis is going to burn if they don’t control these children.”

There's more at the link.

Uh-huh.  Up to 60 kids described as being involved by victims . . . and the police issued just three 'juvenile summons' tickets and then let the perpetrators go home.  That'll scare them straight . . . I don't think!  Furthermore, if Ms. Mourning had been armed and used a gun that night, she'd have found herself in the sort of trouble I wrote about last month.  No matter how justified your self-defense might have been, political correctness will still crucify you if you fire on a mob of teens, particularly Black teens.  That's the way it is these days.

I've known of the crime problem, juvenile delinquency and racial tensions in Memphis for many years.  Tennesseans talk about it much like people from Illinois talk about Chicago, or Michiganders talk about Detroit, or Louisianans talk about New Orleans.  "There's [insert name of state] . . . and then there's [insert city name]."  That's about the size of it.  I've now reached a point, based on feedback from friends and acquaintances as well as news reports such as this, that I'm no longer prepared to leave the Interstate highway system in or near Memphis unless I absolutely have to - and that's happened only once in the last couple of years.  I went armed and ready for trouble, and stayed that way until I was heading away from the city once more.  (My reaction's fairly mild compared to one acquaintance, who now insists that if his family and friends in and around Memphis want to see him, they have to drive to meet him outside the city.  He won't go to their homes at all.)

I guess the next (anti)-tourist slogan should be "Visit Memphis at your own risk".  Perhaps they should change the name of Elvis Presley's home to 'Dis-Graceland' while they're at it . . .


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I hate to say "I told you so!" . . .

. . . but I did.  In March.  And I've been repeating it since then, most recently last month.  Now it's here.

A patient at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.

The patient was in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which had announced a day earlier that the person’s symptoms and recent travel indicated a possible case of Ebola, the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have traveled to that region.

The person, an adult who was not publicly identified, developed symptoms days after returning to Texas from Liberia and showed no symptoms on the plane, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the patient came to the U.S. to visit family and has been hospitalized since the weekend.

There's more at the link.

The victim has been staying with family, so the odds are pretty darn good that at least one or two of them may have been infected.  He may have had contact with hundreds or even thousands of people - fellow passengers on the plane that brought him;  everyone he's brushed against while walking in the street, or shopping at a supermarket, or sharing an elevator;  everyone he's eaten with, or shared a restaurant with, or . . . you get the idea.  Even if he never touched them, but sneezed or coughed in their vicinity (thereby dispersing droplets of body fluid), they're at risk.  Furthermore, the odds are pretty good that some people who've had contact with the victim are now in other cities besides Dallas.  They'll have flown somewhere, or driven somewhere, or taken the bus or train somewhere.  Are they carrying the infection?  Your guess is as good as mine.

People, I can't emphasize this too strongly.


There isn't even an effective palliative treatment for Ebola.  The only thing they can do for you is isolate you, give you lots of liquids and enough food to stay alive, and hope for the best.  Furthermore, there are only four hospitals in the entire United States that have the specialized isolation units required to handle Ebola patients.  Better by far to avoid infection than to hope you'll survive a disease that, in this outbreak so far, has killed more than half of those who contracted it.

I recommended some time ago that it might be a good idea to stock up on pathogen-filtering surgical masks and nitrile examination gloves.  I'd also suggest laying in a supply of bleach (which, mixed with water, is a standard disinfectant measure), hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.  I repeat those recommendations again, with a rider to buy them NOW.  At the moment they're all freely available.  Once we have a few more cases, particularly after one occurs in a city other than Dallas . . . they won't be.  Furthermore, follow the guidelines to avoid infection.  They're sound common sense.


EDITED TO ADD:  And now they tell us the patient first came to the ER with symptoms on September 26th, but went home (or, in other words, was allowed to go home).  He was re-admitted to hospital and isolated on the 28th after testing positive for Ebola.  WTF???  If he showed symptoms on the 26th, he'd have tested positive on the 26th.  Given the deadly nature of the disease, why did no-one in the ER put two and two together and realize what his symptoms might indicate?  Why did no-one take a detailed medical and travel history and figure out what he might be carrying?  And where did he go, and with whom did he have contact, during those two days?  He sure as hell was infectious during that time!!!  They can start by checking every single person who was in the ER with him on the 26th, staff and patients alike . . .


This is more than a little gross.  The Telegraph reports:

Doctors treating a teenage girl who had become unable to drink water without being sick were shocked to excavate a gigantic nine-pound hairball from inside her stomach.

Ayperi Alekseeva, 18, from Kyrgyzstan, suffered months of dehydration and malnourishment because she couldn’t eat or drink, and came close to death.

But when doctors in the capital city of Bishkek cut open her stomach, they found a giant mass formed from years of eating her own hair and hair picked up from the floor.

Ms Alekseeva will be go home with her parents at the end of the week, and has promised to stop chewing on her hair.

There's more at the link.

Ye Gods and little fishes . . .


This is an economic must-read

I know many of my readers aren't economists, and don't like to wade through turgid reams of economic documentation.  Nevertheless, I want to highlight the importance of the 16th Geneva Report, titled 'Deleveraging? What Deleveraging?' (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format), produced by the International Center for Monetary and Banking Studies.

I mentioned it on Sunday, and I've been going through the 125-page report since then.  It makes truly appalling reading.  I don't propose to quote from it at length.  It really needs to be read in full and in context to make sense.  However, I will put up half a dozen graphics from the report, reduced in size to fit here.  If a picture tells a story, these are a horror movie.

As the Telegraph headlined its analysis (yesterday) about the report: 'Mass default looms as world sinks beneath a sea of debt'.  Go read the Telegraph's perspective for a concise view, or (highly recommended) make the time to download the full report and read the whole thing.  It's worth it.

I'll give the Telegraph the last word.  Bold print is my emphasis.

The only way the world can keep growing, it would appear, is by piling on debt. Not good, not good at all.

There are those that say it doesn’t matter, or that rising debt is merely a manifestation of economic growth. And in the sense that all debt is notionally backed by assets, this may be partially true. But when rising asset prices are merely the flip side of rising levels of debt, it becomes highly problematic. Eventually, it dawns on the creditors that the debtors cannot keep up with the payments. That’s when you get a financial crisis.


The 'death' of shop class?

I wasn't raised in the USA's educational system, so many aspects of it seem strange to me - getting academic credit for learning to drive, civics classes, stuff like that.  Nevertheless, one thing I've often heard mentioned by my local contemporaries-in-age is the fun they had in 'shop class' - a catch-all phrase covering vehicle maintenance, welding, woodwork, simple home and farm repairs, and anything else covered in a practical, 'this-is-how-you-do-it' manner using tools and basic materials.  It sounded similar to (although more comprehensive than) the woodwork classes I took in the equivalent of the eighth, ninth and tenth grade, teaching us to work safely with the tools associated with carpentry.  I wish there'd been some vehicle maintenance, welding and other useful skills thrown in, but in South Africa those weren't on the standard school curriculum.  (If you went to a technical high school, on the other hand, you got a lot more of that sort of thing.)

I'm therefore both saddened and infuriated to read that in many states, 'shop class' is going away because of the time demanded to teach more politically correct subjects.  Forbes has an interesting article on the subject.  Here's an excerpt.

Shop classes are being eliminated from California schools due to the University of California/California State ‘a-g’ requirements. ‘The intent of the ‘a-g’ subject requirements is to ensure that students can participate fully in the first-year program at the University in a wide variety of fields of study.’  (a) History/Social Science (b) English (c) Mathematics (d) Laboratory Science (e) Language other than English (f) Visual and Performing Arts (g) College Preparatory Elective Courses ... Shop class is not included in the requirements, thereby not valued and schools consider the class a burden to support.

. . .

The UC/CA State system focuses on theory and not applied skills; a belief that learning how to swing a hammer or understand the difference between a good joint from a bad joint is part of a by-gone era, and as a society these skills are not something to strive for – something people resort to when they are out of options.

. . .

75% of the students in California are not going to attend university yet they are taking classes that will help them get into UC and CA State schools. Just like there are people who are not inclined to become welders or machinists, not everyone can be a rocket scientist or a football star.

. . .

As shop teachers around California retire, high schools aren’t replacing them and shop classes are closing. There is no training for teachers going through university to learn how to teach shop. This trend isn’t limited to California, according to John Chocholak who has testified in front of California State Assembly and Congress on the subject of shop class, he is seeing shop class killed in Florida, Wisconsin, Texas and many other states. Shop class is dead and so are the potential trades people that would be born out of that early exposure to a tool or machine.

What is America going to do without skilled workers who can build and fix things?

There's more at the link.

This ties in with Mike Rowe's efforts to promote apprenticeships and the trades, most recently on his Profoundly Disconnected Web site.  If young people are to graduate high school without even the basic proficiencies required to get into a trade school or qualify for an apprenticeship, what's that going to do to American industry?  (I note the existence of the Association for Career & Technical Education.  It appears to operate in many of the technical trade fields that are most in demand by industry;  but even there, I note that a number of non-technical fields such as HR, marketing, finance and administration have crept into its mission.  I'd have preferred to see it more strictly focused on technical trades as such, where the problem is most acute.  Still, it's their business, and I wish them every success at it.)

Of course, there's always the risk that automation and computerization might eliminate even technical jobs.  Taki's Magazine recently argued that 'Whatever blue-collar American jobs haven’t already been shipped overseas are rapidly being supplanted by embarrassingly more efficient hi-tech gizmos, thingamabobs, and doodads'.  However, I think such gizmos are more likely to be encountered on the assembly line than maintaining vehicles in the field, solving plumbing problems, and repairing electrical installations.  It would be cost-prohibitive to make and have on standby enough automated assistants to do all the day-to-day jobs currently undertaken by technicians and specialists - and then, who (or what) would maintain them in their turn?

I have to agree with the author of the Forbes article.  Without skilled workers, where are we going to find people who can fix things?  And if shop class goes away, what will that do to the already greatly diminished supply of candidates who want to learn to be skilled workers?


Monday, September 29, 2014

A fascinating musical rediscovery

I'm really excited to learn that a music text dating back to the boundary between the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance has been revived, and is about to be issued as a CD.  The Telegraph reports:

Choral music not heard since the time of Henry VIII has been brought to life for the first time in 500 years, as an academic unearths an untouched manuscript and shows it to a modern choir.

The manuscript, a book of 34 religious songs, was given to Henry VIII as a lavish gift from a French diplomat in his early reign.

Containing songs referencing Henry and his then-bride Catherine of Aragon, it is considered the most "luxurious" surviving diplomatic gift of its kind.

It remained in the Royal Collection after the king's death, and was later given to the nation by George II where it has remained untouched in the vaults of the British Library ever since.

Dr David Skinner, a Cambridge fellow, has now examined the manuscript for the first time in hundreds of years, before bringing the music back to life with ensemble choir featuring nine singers and period instruments.

Dr Skinner said the existence of the manuscript had been known to specialist scholars, but added no-one had ever studied it, leaving the parchment pages "white as snow" when he opened it.

Given to Henry VIII around 1516, it was tailor-made for the Royal couple and produced in the workshop of Petrus Alamire, a scribe and musician who went on to spy for the king.

There's more at the link.

For classical and choral music buffs, this is an extraordinary release.  Some of the material hasn't been heard, let alone recorded, for hundreds of years.  It's been performed in completely authentic style by Dr. Skinner's ensemble group Alamire, using traditional instruments of the period such as sackbuts and cornetts (the latter is fascinating, and not to be confused with the brass cornet).  If you'd like an example of how obsessive Dr. Skinner and Alamire are about musical authenticity, as well as some beautiful period singing, take a look at this video. It's a teaser for a 2009 TV series by David Starkey celebrating the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII, who was probably the greatest single patron of English music.

Amazing stuff for enthusiasts.  I'm looking forward to their new CD.  (If you'd like to hear more of Alamire's music, check out David Skinner's YouTube channelBeautiful!)

You can pre-order the CD on Amazon;  it'll be released in mid-October.  I've got my order in already.


I wouldn't have believed it possible

I was astonished to read that experiments were conducted with a Convair B-36 strategic bomber landing and taking off on a tracked undercarriage.  This was tried because the very heavy bomber broke through several concrete runways with its original single-wheel main undercarriage, which concentrated its massive weight (for the day) on a single point per side.  As the National Museum of the USAF reports:

When the XB-36 was designed during World War II, specifications called for two main landing gear wheels to be equipped with the largest aircraft tires produced in the United States to that time. Manufactured by Goodyear, the tires were 110 inches in diameter and 36 inches in width. Weighing 1,320 pounds, each tire was 30 percent nylon cord construction, the equivalent of approximately 60 automobile tires or 12,700 pairs of nylon hose.

Because of the enormous pressures imposed by the XB-36 upon concrete runways when equipped with single wheels, it could takeoff and land safely at only three airfields (the Convair field at Fort Worth, Texas, Eglin and Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Fields). As a result, the single-wheel landing gear was redesigned and production B-36s incorporated four smaller wheels and tires on each of its main landing gears.

There's more at the link.  It was hoped that a tracked undercarriage would spread the weight more evenly, and also permit operation from semi-prepared landing strips.  You can read more about it here.

The system was first tested on March 29th, 1950.  Here's (silent) footage of the tests.

What surprises me is how they were able to make a tracked undercarriage unit that could withstand the strain of accelerating its track from a standstill to the B-36's landing speed of over a hundred miles per hour, without shedding its track or suffering internal damage.  That must have been a very robust track unit indeed!

Tracked undercarriage was also tested on other contemporary aircraft.  You can see pictures of them at the link.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Never Trust Anyone Who Hasn’t Been Punched in the Face"

I was intrigued to read an article with this title in Taki's Magazine.  Here's an excerpt.

The cause of civilizational decline is dirt-simple: lack of contact with objective reality. The great banker-journalist (and founder of the original National Review) Walter Bagehot said it well almost 150 years ago:

History is strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world gave a chance for it.

Every great civilization reaches a point of prosperity where it is possible to live your entire life as a pacifist without any serious consequences. Many civilizations have come to the state of devolution represented by modern Berkeley folkways, from wife-swapping to vegetarianism. These ideas don’t come from a hardscrabble existence in contact with nature’s elemental forces; they are the inevitable consequence of being an effete urban twit removed from meaningful contact with reality. The over-civilized will try to portray their decadence as something “highly evolved” and worthy of emulation because it can only exist in the hothouse of highly civilized urban centers, much like influenza epidemics. Somehow these twittering blockheads missed out on what the word “evolution” means. Evolution involves brutal and often violent natural selection, and these people have not been exposed to brutal evolutionary forces any more than a typical urban poodle.

. . .

Men who have fought know how difficult it is to stand against the crowd and that civilization is fragile and important. A man who has experienced violence knows that, at its core, civilization is an agreement between men to behave well. That agreement can be broken at any moment; it’s part of manhood to be ready when it is. Men who have been in fights know about something that is rarely spoken of without snickering these days: honor. Men who have been in fights know that, on some level, words are just words: At some point, words must be backed up by deeds.

. . .

Modern “civilized” males don’t get in fistfights. They don’t play violent sports. They play video games and, at best, watch TV sports. Modern males are physical and emotional weaklings. The ideal male isn’t John Wayne or James Bond or Jimmy Stewart anymore. It’s some crying tit that goes to a therapist, a sort of agreeable lesbian with a dick who calls the police (whom he hates in theory) when there is trouble.

There's more at the link.

I'm not sure that I altogether agree with the author.  My own life experience has shown me that one doesn't have to be a rootin' tootin' fist-fightin' man to be strong.  Examples:

  • The missionary priest in Africa who faced down a mob of armed guerillas intent on committing murder, rape and robbery upon his flock. He shamed them by standing in the middle of the road in his priestly robes, calling the ones he knew by name, reminding them of their naughtiness as little children in his Catechism classes, and asking them whether they really wanted to harm their younger brothers and sisters.  They decided they didn't, and slunk off with their metaphorical tails between their legs.
  • Two sisters who were gang-raped while trying to help the victims of violence in an African township. They returned to the same township as soon as they had recovered from their injuries. When the locals couldn't believe that they'd be so foolish as to risk the same treatment again, they said simply that God had commanded them to forgive those who persecuted them;  so they had done so, and would not report them to the police, but would continue to help those who needed them.  This so shamed the thugs who'd raped them that they had to leave town.  They didn't dare show their faces there again.
  • Courage takes many forms.  Consider the courage shown by Sabra and Erik in the birth and death of their latest child, about which I wrote on Saturday.  If that's not courage of a very high order indeed, I don't know what is . . .

On the other hand, I do agree with the author that 'civilizational decline', as he puts it, tends to be associated with a 'wussification' of that civilization.  Conscription was the first sign of this;  there were not enough volunteers to defend a nation, so its citizens had to be coerced.  Later, that developed into the much smaller volunteer armies we see today. They are no longer representative of the vast majority of their fellow citizens, many of whom would rather flee across the border than face up to military service.  As Robert Heinlein famously put it in his 'Notebooks of Lazarus Long':

No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on this custom declined. So did Rome.

I've noticed the difference in my own friends and acquaintances.  Those who've willingly put their lives on the line for their countries, or to defend their loved ones in dangerous situations, have a different way of looking at the world than those who haven't.  That's not to condemn the latter at all, you understand.  It's just that once one's had to face up to the reality of 'kill or be killed', to quote the old aphorism, it changes you.  You're never the same person again.

What do you think, readers?  What counter-arguments would you offer, if any?  Read the whole article, then let us know in Comments.


I guess 'Industrial Disease' is now an official diagnosis

The International Centre for Monetary and Banking Studies isn't pulling any punches in its latest annual Geneva Report.  The Financial Times reports:

The 16th annual Geneva Report ... predicts interest rates across the world will have to stay low for a “very, very long” time to enable households, companies and governments to service their debts and avoid another crash.

The warning, before the International Monetary Fund’s annual meeting in Washington next week, comes amid growing concern that a weakening global recovery is coinciding with the possibility that the US Federal Reserve will begin to raise interest rates within a year.

. . .

... the report documents the continued rapid rise of public sector debt in rich countries and private debt in emerging markets, especially China.

It warns of a “poisonous combination of high and rising global debt and slowing nominal GDP [gross domestic product], driven by both slowing real growth and falling inflation”.

The total burden of world debt, private and public, has risen from 160 per cent of national income in 2001 to almost 200 per cent after the crisis struck in 2009 and 215 per cent in 2013.

. . .

Luigi Buttiglione, one of the report’s authors and head of global strategy at hedge fund Brevan Howard, said: “Over my career I have seen many so-called miracle economies – Italy in the 1960s, Japan, the Asian tigers, Ireland, Spain and now perhaps China – and they all ended after a build-up of debt.”

There's more at the link.  Underlined text is my emphasis.

I've written about the problem of debt many times in these pages.  It's . . . well, it's not exactly 'nice' to see it being re-emphasized in the financial media, but it's somehow grimly satisfying.  There are still those who argue that debt's not a problem for sovereign nations because they can print the money to repay it, or replace 'old debt' with 'new debt', or inflate it out of existence, or even simply refuse to repay it . . . but we're not hearing so much of their idiocy any more.  People are waking up to reality.

Business order, industrial counter-order and economic disorder . . . I think Dire Straits got it right in 1982.

Was it really more than thirty years ago that they released that albumDamn, I'm getting old . . .


In memoriam: Werner Franz of the Hindenburg

I note in the Telegraph's obituary column that Werner Franz, the last survivor of the crew of the Hindenburg airship, died recently.

As a 14-year-old cabin boy, Werner Franz was the youngest member of the Hindenburg’s 60-strong crew when the hydrogen-filled Zeppelin caught fire and crashed at Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6 1937. Of the 97 people on board, 36 passengers and crew and one person on the ground were killed when the airship crashed in an enormous fireball.

. . .

He had been clearing the dinner dishes in the officer’s mess when, at 7.25pm, he heard a thud and felt the airship shake. The Hindenburg lurched, and its nose began tilting upwards. “Directly overhead there were flames,” Werner Franz remembered.

One memorable photograph of the disaster shows the airship buckling as a fireball rises from its back. Near the nose of the ship, what looks like a spray of water escaping was actually a torrent from the Hindenburg’s ruptured water tanks. Werner Franz believed that getting drenched when they burst protected him from the flames and heat and may have saved his life.

(Click the image for a larger view)

“At first I was shocked, but the water brought me back,” he recalled at a commemoration ceremony in 2004. Gripping both sides of a picture window as the airship sank towards the ground, he kicked open a service hatch used to load provisions, swung his feet out and jumped. He can be seen in newsreel footage of the disaster, leaping the few feet to the ground, and running for his life. “I was doing it instinctively. I didn’t think,” he said.

His timing could hardly have been better. The airship was just low enough to allow Franz to land on a canvas ballast bag, which cushioned his fall, but high enough for him to dash beneath the port side of the airship before it collapsed on the ground in a burning mass. Having jumped clear of the Hindenburg, Franz ran for his life away from the blazing wreckage, as the flames were driven in his direction by the wind. As a result he escaped with singed eyebrows and soaking wet clothes; otherwise he had barely a scratch.

The day after the disaster, as a US Navy search team picked through the smoking wreckage, Werner Franz asked them to look for his pocket-watch, a present from his grandfather. It was found amid the debris, a mangled scrap of blackened metal but still ticking.

There's more at the link.

Apparently one of the passengers on board the Hindenburg, Werner Doehner (who was 8 years old at the time), is still alive in California.  However, Mr. Franz was the last survivor of the crew.  May he rest in peace.


General Motors: 29 million reasons not to buy their vehicles

Ever since the politically manipulated, ethically flawed and legally dubious bailout of the US motor vehicle industry, I've said flatly that I'll never buy another new GM or Chrysler vehicle.  That hasn't changed.  However, there also appear to be other reasons not to buy GM vehicles.

Last week an acquaintance took delivery of a new pickup from one of General Motors' brands.  Two days later it died during his morning commute, coasting to a halt in the middle of rush-hour traffic.  Fortunately he was able to signal his need to get off the road, and other drivers made an opening so he could pull off to the side.  It turned out that there were several recall notices affecting his brand-new pickup, none of which appeared to have been rectified before the salesman handed over the keys.  One of them appears to have been responsible for his problem - but the dealer has refused (so far) to refund the towing charge to get the vehicle from where it broke down to its service premises.  Needless to say, his comments on the subject, and on the dealer, are incendiary.  (I suspect the subject is far from closed.)

Upon hearing his tale of woe, I did some research.  During 2014 General Motors has recalled over 29 million vehicles in North America alone.  It's been fined $35 million for delays in issuing the recalls, and has set up a fund to compensate those injured or killed as a result of defects in its vehicles.  Last month it appeared that at least 19 deaths were 'eligible for compensation', out of 445 claims lodged so far and in the process of adjudication.  Meanwhile the recalls continue, the most recent one occurring just last month and affecting upwards of a hundred thousand vehicles.  (Time compiled a list of interesting facts about GM's 2014 recalls that make grim reading.)

As part of my ongoing saga of dealing with my pickup's electrical problems (although it's not a GM product), last week I took it in to an auto electrical specialist to let them run extensive diagnostic tests.  They didn't find the answers I'd been hoping for, but I took the opportunity to have a long talk with one of their technicians about which used cars were worth buying today, particularly in the light of my acquaintance's problems with his new pickup.  The tech gave me a lot of interesting facts from a professional perspective, but one thing he said struck home.  He said that in his opinion, any US- or Canadian-built GM vehicle made since about 2005 generally wasn't worth buying.  He believed that the company's assembly lines had been run in a careless, slapdash manner, with all sorts of component and build quality defects that he'd encountered time and time again when he repaired problems resulting from or caused by them.  As far as he was concerned he'd buy older (pre-2005) GM vehicles, or ones that he'd checked out personally and could be sure that their problems were fixed;  but unless I had the technical ability to do that, I shouldn't buy one, new or used.

He added that GM wasn't the only car company making poor products these days.  He advised me to read customer feedback about their vehicles at the Car Complaints Web site, and to pay particular attention to their 'Worst Vehicles' list.  He said it's an invaluable resource when deciding what (and what not) to buy.  I've only taken a quick look at it so far, but it certainly seems to live up to his claims.

Food for thought.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

It's hard to keep a good man down . . .

. . . or should that be "good to keep a hard man down" - or up, as the case may be?

Readers will recall that a few days ago, I mentioned an Australian 'brothel investigator' whose job was to visit suspected illegal brothels, partake of their sexual services, then file a report to the authorities.  It seems that the news report generated more than a little interest.  The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

In the past three years a 60-year-old man from Lyonswood Investigations was hired by 10 Sydney councils to have sex with sex workers and help strengthen their legal case against underground operators.

After Lyonswood managing director Lachlan Jarvis revealed last week he was on the lookout for recruits more than 20 resumes arrived from men hoping to land the role.

"It is evident from the responses that everyone has a different idea of what is needed to succeed in the job," Mr Jarvis said.

. . .

Of the applications received last week the "pick of the bunch" had arrived from an "older applicant" who spoke of how he visited brothels before getting married "many decades ago".

"He asked whether needing to be helped into bed would be held against him in the selection process and ... whether the council would pay for his Viagra," said Mr Jarvis.

There's more at the link.

Hmm . . . would 'lifting an aged brothel investigator into bed' count as a sufficiently sexual service if he didn't have ratepayer-funded Viagra to finish the job?


A tragedy, a death, and a plea for help

Two fellow bloggers could really use your prayers and support right now - and your financial help, if you can afford it.

Sabra, wife of Erik Onstott, became pregnant some months ago, and they were looking forward to the birth of their next child.  Tragically, they learned that the baby suffered from limb-body wall complex (LBWC), an unsurvivable genetic defect. The child could not live outside the womb.  Sabra described the shock of the discovery here, and Erik wrote about it here.  It's heartbreaking to read their articles, but they're a vivid testimony of faith in the face of unbearable news.

With what I can only describe as heroic courage, bolstered by their strong Christian faith, Eric and Sabra decided to carry the child to term and give it all the love they could in the short time it would live.  Not being able to tell whether it was a boy or a girl (due to the extent of its deformity), they decided to name it Psalm-Angel Guadalupe.

The child was born last Wednesday, and lived for only an hour and a half.  During that time they gave him/her all the love that they could, and entrusted his/her life to the Creator when it was over.  Erik posted a number of pictures on his blog.  I hope he won't mind if I re-post this one.

I mourn with them for their loss, and pray that they may find comfort in their faith.  If you'd like to leave a message of support on Erik's blog post, I'm sure they'd appreciate it.

Even more than verbal, moral or spiritual support, they could use a little material support right now.  During the pregnancy they were forced to move out of their rented home, and they've had further troubles since then.  There are also the expenses of giving birth, interrupting their work, and so on.  Friends have set up a YouCaring donation page for them, which gives more details of their needs.  As of this morning it was still several thousand dollars below the initial fundraising target of $7,500 (which was determined some time ago, and may by now be inadequate).

If you're able to contribute, I'm sure they'd be very grateful for your financial support.  Miss D. and I have done so, and we'd like to ask all our readers, and all our fellow bloggers, to consider donating whatever you can to help them.  Thanks to everyone, and God's blessings to Erik and Sabra.

May Psalm-Angel Guadalupe, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.