Saturday, October 1, 2016

Chicago's inner city reality

The BBC recently made a short documentary titled 'The lost streets of Chicago'.  It's less than 15 minutes long, but it reveals the tragic reality of inner-city life there.  It's worth your time to watch it.  After you've done so, I'll have a few things to say about it.

Finished it?  Well, think about these things.

  1. How many families did you see - fathers, mothers and children all living together?  There were virtually none.  Family life is largely non-existent in our inner-city ghettoes.  The result is that children grow up without the role models of father, mother and family stability that the rest of us take for granted.  That, in turn, feeds the nihilistic self-destructiveness of ghetto life.
  2. Notice how everybody blames everyone except themselves for the problems.  It's always someone else's fault - the Man, the gangs, the system, the police, etc.  If it isn't some one else, it's some thing else:  drugs, or guns, or whatever.  No-one's willing to say, "The problem starts with me, and if I want to change it, I have to start by changing myself."
  3. Notice, too, how everyone simply goes along with the daily routine.  They accept the problems as a fact of life, and wait for outside intervention to deal with them.  They won't - perhaps they believe they can't - do anything about them for themselves.  In most of the places I've lived, that attitude is conspicuous by its absence.  If that sort of violence began to creep in, neighbors would form watches to keep an eye on their own streets.  If some individuals didn't adhere to the unspoken social compact, they wouldn't be around for long . . . one way or another.  (See, for example, how we kept order in Louisiana after Hurricane Gustav in 2008.  What's stopping inner-city locals doing the same for their own communities?)
  4. The people involved are human beings, with human feelings, emotions, etc.  However, when they get together in their gangs - as demonstrated by the rapping youngsters waving guns at the camera - they stifle those feelings and emotions, and become high on a group dynamic of destructive behavior.  The police and the authorities, of course, respond to those groups as groups, rather than as individuals - so those in need of help to change don't get it, because they're never addressed as individuals.  It's a no-win situation for both sides.
  5. Basically, the authorities don't care.  They could stop this nonsense almost overnight by cracking down hard;  but that would take a large investment of money, and time, and staff, and a lot of hard work.  They don't have those things to spare . . . so they ignore the reality of the situation, and paper over the cracks.

Food for thought, indeed.


Cycling through Finland . . . in March . . . in hip-deep snow

Noel Coward famously said that "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun".  However, it seems that the deep midwinter snow in far northern climes attracted at least one Englishman - and on two wheels, at that.

Tim Moore began a 10,000-mile journey along the Iron Curtain in Finland, riding a Cold War-era MIFA 900 East German urban shopping bicycle (which broke in two on more than one occasion).  He's written a book about his experiences, titled 'The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold'.

It'll be published in the USA in November, and on October 6th in the UK.  Here's an excerpt from the book to whet your appetite, published in the Telegraph in London.

When the writer Tim Moore heard of  a new bike trail tracking the old  Iron Curtain, he found himself recklessly inspired. To a child of the Cold War  who had spent his boyhood twiddling  through eerie Soviet signals on  a short-wave radio, the freedom to roam this continent-cleaving frontier still seemed extraordinary.

Having retraced the 1914 Giro d’Italia on a 99-year-old bike with wooden wheels for his last book, and taken on the Tour de France for another, all that remained was to select an authentic steed for the challenge. And quite soon, for €56 via German eBay, he found it: a vintage East German shopping bike.

Superficially a match for capitalist urban bicycles, the MIFA 900 lacked gears, featured a terrible ‘spoon brake’ that had elsewhere died out with the penny-farthing, and was so poorly engineered that it routinely broke in half.

Moore  had barely turned a pedal in a year, and was about to turn 51. The planned trip was 10,000km – three times further  than he had ever ridden in one go. And for the sake of consistency, he set off during the Arctic winter...

To the cyclist, snow is like sand. If you’ve ever ridden a bike on  the beach, you will have an idea of  the consequent impact on speed and ease of progress.

Every kilometre was an attrition of gasps and slithers, one more battle in this hopeless campaign to conquer a hostile infinity.  I gazed through a fleece-framed slit across iced lakes and forests, my snood-muffled huffing the only sound in a cryogenic realm of white silence.

I saw my first reindeer, a mournful taupe column shuffling through the snow with antlers downcast, on their lonely trek to a farmer’s casserole. Once every hour or so a car barrelled waywardly past, piloted by a blank-faced man in a docker’s hat with a fag between his lips.

To preserve my bond with humanity I duly saluted each and every one, though with my many-gloved hands wedged fast in my pogies (as I’m afraid those oven-mitt handlebar covers are known), all I could manage by way of  greeting was a wink. Until we hit minus-13,  and my eyelashes started freezing together.

It was way past six now, and the sun’s long goodbye was gilding the alabaster wilderness  in a manner that would have doubtless looked wonderful through a heated windscreen. I lowered my gaze to the Garmin GPS screen, and watched the temperature flash down to -14.2C.

Somewhere inside their six-layer cocoon of rubber, merino wool and polythene, my toes died, a farewell klaxon-scream of agony fading into wooden numbness.

Far more terrible, though, was the message that soon emerged from within my pogies: the thrice-gloved fingers that had been clawed rigid round the bars all afternoon now felt fluidly, lazily aglow, drawling for release from their four-walled thermal prison.

Here they came, the opiate delusions of hypothermia, luring me off to a peaceful, stupid death.  Withdrawal, confusion, sleepiness, irrationality… My mind riffled desperately through  the stages of hypothermic consciousness that preceded ‘apparent death’ in an online chart I’d found, hoping to recall which one bore the dreaded footnote: ‘By this stage you may already be too far gone to recognise the problem.’

It didn’t help that sleepy, irrational confusion had been my default state for 48 hours. How much further? I looked at the Garmin and met a blank screen – the battery had gone.

Hysteria welled in my guts. Did I have 5k left? Ten? The celestial dimmer switch was on the twist from dusk  to dark, and I hadn’t seen a car for at least two hours.

When the road now curved uphill I succumbed to full-blown panic, pedalling so hard that my studded rear wheel began to fishtail wildly through the snow and its underlay of polished ice.

Sweat sluiced down me, defrosting my eyelashes and stinging the mad red orbs behind them. Calm the f— down! With a supreme effort I steadied my breathing and slithered to a halt, and there, winking through the trees and the frosted gloaming, was a cluster of lights.

So unfolded the longest, hardest days of my entire life. The mornings began with a bleary, fearful peek through many layers of bedroom glass, scanning the sullen sky, the thermometer nailed to the window frame outside, and beneath it the wobbly, last-gasp slalom my wheels had traced through the snow the night before.

Twelve hours later I would stumble into a hotel reception, or a log cabin, or a reindeer farm, and stand there, shuddering and melting, while my refrigerated, undernourished brain struggled to process thoughts into speech.

There's much more at the link.  Entertaining and informative reading - with plenty of misadventures thrown in.  (I learned a lot about saunas.)

The book certainly sounds like an entertaining read, although the journey is not one I'd care to retrace myself!  I'll be adding it to my 'To Read' list.


Friday, September 30, 2016

WARNING to owners of Smith & Wesson M&P15/22 rifles

If you own or use a Smith & Wesson M&P15/22 rifle, similar to those illustrated below (click the image for a larger view):

then you would do well to avoid shooting it until potential problems have been resolved.

Project Appleseed is a widespread and very highly regarded shooter training program, teaching people of all ages how to use a rifle accurately and competently.  (I've recommended them in these pages before.)  They've just warned all their instructors that the M&P15/22 rifle is banned from their ranges until further notice.  Here's their warning in full.

To: All Appleseed Instructors



The AOC has received a rash of reports regarding safety issues with the Smith & Wesson M&P 15/22, including a shooter getting injured as a result of an out-of-battery discharge (see reports below).

As responsible Instructors, we have a duty to maintain safety at our events. If we know a rifle to be potentially unsafe, we shouldn’t allow it on the line at all.

At this time the least risk course of action would be to exclude the Smith & Wesson M&P 15/22 from future events until Smith & Wesson formally investigates the problem and issues an official corrective action.


Bowie, MD: A shooter (RHS) firing a M&P 15/22 with Remington 22 Thunderbolt Ammo had an out of battery discharge. A Metal Fragment hit the arm of a shooter next to her (LHS) in her right arm. She, did not realize that she had been hit with fragments at first and continued to fire until blood begin to pool (time est. 11:10am) feeling only a warm sting. Instructors rendered first aid applying a compression type bandage to stop the bleeding. Shoot boss suggested that she go to local hospital or emergency clinic. She was able to drive herself to the hospital. They took x-rays of the area and found a fragment deep in her arm. Hospital suggested that she see an Orthopedic surgeon or her Doctor on Monday to have the object removed but surgery should not be required.

Casper, WY: This past weekend we had a student show up with a 15/22. She had been using it pretty regular, since she had also attended our recent boot camp. After about 8 sets of squares, she began to notice the malfunction. Upon careful observation, it was noticed that as she reset the sear the rifle would discharge. We called cease fire and immediately removed this rifle from the line, and replaced it with a loaner.

Once off line, it was field stripped and upon inspection, found that not only was it firing at reset, but also when the safety was engaged. Further inspection found that the trigger pin and the hammer pin were both loose. They both had moved about 1/16th of an inch to the right. Just enough to be loose on the left side of the receiver. The pins were gently hammered back in and function checks performed. After about 3 sets, the hammer pin slid out again.

The rifle was reassembled and tagged out, student was told that 1) the rifle needed to be seen by her gunsmith; or 2) (my recommendation) sent back to the manufacturer for repair/replacement.

Michigan Senior Instructor: The SI wanted to shoot an AQT with his 15/22, but he needed to verify the zero. Another instructor volunteered to take the rifle over to another range, put it on a bench, and confirm zero. While shooting the first string, after pulling the trigger, the extractor shot out the ejection port along with the case and the extractor spring. The case was retrieved and it was observed to be split down the side, indicating that the rifle fired out of battery. Fortunately, the instructor was alone on the range, and no one was injured. The rifle was sent back to S&W, and it was repaired and returned. A copy of one page of the manual was enclosed, highlighting the need to keep the rifle clean and only use certain types of ammunition, insinuating that the problem was operator error, not a design flaw. The Senior Instructor sold the rifle shortly thereafter.

Michigan Instructor: “Back before I was more familiar with this model, we had a malfunction of the Extractor during an event – it simply fell apart during a course of fire. I took it to Williams and they said it needed to go back to S&W. To save time I just bought a new extractor, springs and dowel pins and replaced them myself. Tested it and it worked fine, that’s until it malfunctioned again after several hundred rounds down range.

“As the old saying goes 'two is one and one is none' – I had purchased several extractors, springs and dowel pins – replaced it a second time and it worked fine all up until I had a 'Run-Away...'  Luckily I had the muzzle pointed down range as it spit out the balance of 30 rounds down range without the need to have a finger on the trigger...

“I contacted S&W and they sent me a repair tag and shipped it back to them. Upon its return I noticed that they replaced the hammer, sear and all the springs were replaced with “Blue” springs. The rifle performed well the after that but I never brought it back to an Appleseed. It now sits in the vault as an expensive club.”

Montpelier, VA: I’ve witnessed out-of-battery firing and squib from M&P 15/22’s twice but never from a 10/22.

As Bob Owens of Bearing Arms concluded:
As a general rule of thumb, out of battery discharges are rare, and run away guns even more so. The fact that a national rifle training program feels compelled to ban the entire line of M&P firearms because of these issues is disconcerting, to put it mildly.

I couldn't agree more!  I don't own an M&P15/22, but if I did, I would immediately retire it to the gun safe until Smith & Wesson investigates the problem and comes up with a solution that, in Appleseed's opinion, will render the rifles safe to have on their ranges once more.

Meanwhile, if you want a semi-automatic .22LR rifle, the time-honored Ruger 10/22 is ubiquitous, and has a well-earned reputation for reliability and accuracy.  Another, sometimes lower-cost alternative, which uses a tubular magazine beneath the barrel rather than a detachable unit, is the equally popular Marlin Model 60.  I've used both rifles, and can recommend them from my own experience.  Base models are usually available in the $175-$250 range (although a highly customized 10/22 can run well into the four-figure bracket, if you've got that kind of money to burn and feel so inclined).


Black Lives Matter is conspicuous by its silence

Chicago had a rough month in August.

Malik Causey was one of 91 homicide victims in Chicago in August, the deadliest month in the city in two decades and the latest milestone for a metropolis becoming known for its murder rate. Already, killings here have jumped 46 percent over the same period last year, climbing past the 500 mark — a total larger than Los Angeles and New York combined.

An analysis of the August toll shows more clearly than ever who's dying in the Chicago slaughter and what's behind it: surging violence in a handful of the city's most impoverished neighborhoods, which are riven by loosely organized street gangs.

Young African-American men are the chief victims. In a city that's one-third black, the overwhelming majority of those murdered in August — 71 — were, like Malik, African American. Another 11 had Hispanic surnames. Almost half were in their teens or early 20s.

And more than 70 percent of those shot to death appeared on the Chicago police's "Strategic Subject List," which includes 1,400 people considered likely targets of violence based on gang involvement or criminal record.

There's more at the link.

And Black Lives Matter doesn't have a single bloody word to say about it . . . although it has plenty to say about individual black lives lost to police gunfire, even when the policeman was himself black, and the victim had both a gun and a lengthy criminal record.

I wonder if anyone at all in BLM understands the meaning of the word 'hypocrisy'?


This may be a buying opportunity for 9mm pistols

In January this year Ruger introduced its 'American' 9mm. and .45 pistols, being slightly updated versions of their excellent SR9 and SR45 models.  It's just announced the compact version of the 9mm. American.  Tamara, who had the chance to shoot it extensively before the launch, has interesting things to say about it here.

I have little doubt that the 'American' pistol line will be at least as good as the SR line that preceded it.  I highly recommended the full-size SR9 and 9E pistols, and the compact SR9C model, to my handicapped and disabled students, and did the same in these pages for the latter model;  and the SR45 remains my preferred full-size carry pistol in .45 ACP.  I have a number of the SR models in my gun safe, and won't be replacing them with the new version.  (Why get rid of a perfectly good gun?  That's also why all my Glocks are third-generation guns.  The fourth-generation design didn't offer enough improvement to make it worthwhile to upgrade them.)

However, the launch of the 'American' line may mean that bargains will become available as shops try to move their last stock of the old SR series pistols.  Just because they're last year's model doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them - far from it!  If you're in the market for a full-size or compact pistol, I highly recommend that you keep your eyes open for those models, and do an Internet search from time to time.  (For example, right now, CDNN is offering the Ruger 9E on special at only $289.99.  Tamara said nice things about that model in her review of it.  If I didn't already have more than enough Ruger 9mm.'s, I'd take advantage of that.  No, CDNN isn't paying me or offering me any other consideration to mention it - I just want my readers to know that good deals are out there.)

I'll try to get my hands on one of the Ruger American line to test it, and let you know what I think of it.  Given my very satisfactory experience with the SR series, I'm pretty sure it'll be a worthy successor to them.


Voter fraud rears its ugly head yet again

This time it's in Virginia, according to the Washington Post.

The FBI and local police are investigating how at least 19 dead Virginians were recently re-registered to vote in this critical swing state.

. . .

All of the forms had been submitted by a private group that was working to register voters on the campus of James Madison University, according to the Harrisonburg registrar’s office. The group was not identified. No charges have been filed.

. . .

House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said the case was not proof of voter fraud because no one had actually managed to cast a vote in the names of the dead.

“First of all, there was no voter fraud — they caught him,” Toscano said. “Nobody cast a vote. . . . There’s still no evidence of that going on in the state. But there is evidence every time you turn around that the Republicans are trying to make it more difficult for citizens to vote in elections.”

There's more at the link.

If Mr. Toscano actually believes what he says, he's an imbecile.  Registering someone to vote who is not, in fact, eligible to vote is by definition voter fraud!  (It's also a crime, but Mr. Toscano doesn't venture onto that territory at all.)

I've been in more than three-quarters of the states of the Union, mostly while serving as a pastor.  In almost all of them I've come across reports like the above - and in every single case that I can recall, it was a Democratic Party-leaning operative or group that was responsible for the crime.  Every.  Single.  Case.  Why that should be, I can't say . . . but perhaps others can.

Incidents like these certainly lend credence (and urgency) to the call for prospective voters to identify themselves to the authorities before they can register to vote, and identify themselves again at the voting booth before they are issued a ballot or allowed to access the voting machines.  If we have to produce identification to prove our eligibility to drive a car, or buy a gun, or purchase a house, or whatever, what on earth is wrong with insisting on the same precondition before casting a vote to determine who's going to govern us?

All those who claim that insisting on voter identification is somehow "making it more difficult for citizens to vote in elections" (to quote Mr. Toscano) are either deluded, or doing so deliberately in order to make voter fraud easier for their supporters.  I see no middle ground there.  I'm sure you can guess which of those two choices I'd vote for as being the true reason!


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Definitely a political tingle!

MSNBC presenter Chris Mathews famously stated in 2008 that he "felt this thrill going up my leg" as President Obama spoke.  (He still hasn't lived that one down!)

A Trump supporter recently provided a "thrill" going up the whole body to an electorally-minded vandal.

Shocking, I know . . . but what do you expect in the current political climate?


That's real purty . . . and real expensive!

A new world record price for a knife has been realized at an auction in Illinois.

A knife presented to President Theodore Roosevelt brought a world record price of $414,000 at auction this past weekend, Sept. 9-11.

It is believed to be the most ever paid for an American knife at auction, according to the auctioneer, Rock Island Auction Co.

(Click the image for a larger view)
The previous world record price for a knife at auction reportedly was $270,000 in 2006 for a piece that was linked to Sam Houston.

There's more at the link.

It's a very attractive knife, and has great historical interest . . . but it's still a knife.  I might pay that much for an historic sword, or a set of matched pistols, that were used in some historically significant duel, but a knife?

Oh, well.  As long as the purchaser's happy . . .


Guinea fowl and snakes???

I noticed a report that a school in Fremont County, Wyoming, on or near the Shoshone Reservation, has a problem with rattlesnakes migrating near the premises.  There's a long list of precautions taken by the School Board and local authorities to keep children safe.  One of them is:

After speaking with a biologist with the Game and Fish, the district is looking into the feasibility of having a Guinea Fowl farm in the affected area.

I did a quick internet search to find out what guinea fowl had to do with snakes.  Some references claimed that the former kill the latter, or at least drive them away.  Others spoke disdainfully of guinea fowl ignoring snakes, even going so far as to let them hang out in their warm coops.

Can anyone tell me - and perhaps other interested readers - how guinea fowl can/may/will help with a snake infestation?  Please let us know in Comments.



BLM in the USA and 'refugees' in Sweden - something in common?

I find it more than a little ironic that Sweden - a nation that prides itself on opening its doors to 'refugees' - is now fighting an epidemic of lawlessness caused by those same refugees.

The inflow of asylum seekers in Sweden, a country with one of the most liberal laws towards refugees, is putting an increasing strain on the country's police. There are now reportedly 55 areas in the country, where the law is not fully upheld.

The number has risen from 50 in February, when the police last gave a comprehensive report on the issue, and last week, when the law enforcement agency gave an update. According to media reports, the service is facing a major crisis of self-confidence, with as many as three officers on average asking to resign on a daily basis. Internal polls say four officers out of five have been considering a change of profession lately.

“We have a major crisis. Many colleagues are choosing to quit,” police officer Peter Larsson told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “A drastically worsened working environment means many colleagues are now looking for other work.”

If officers go into a no-go zone, they risk being verbally attacked or pelted with stones. Patrol cars may be set ablaze or stolen.

Crime rates in the blacklisted areas are on the rise, the police report said. The offenses range from vandalism to drug crimes to sex assaults and gun violence.

There's more at the link.

And what happens when police are told not to go into a zone of lawlessness?  Consider Baltimore, 2015:

Despite a firm denial by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a senior law enforcement source charges that she gave an order for police to stand down as riots broke out Monday night, raising more questions about whether some of the violence and looting could have been prevented.

The source, who is involved in the enforcement efforts, confirmed to Fox News there was a direct order from the mayor to her police chief Monday night, effectively tying the hands of officers as they were pelted with rocks and bottles.

. . .

On Monday, [Maryland Governor] Hogan suggested the mayor waited too long to request a state of emergency.

That followed criticism over her remarks over the weekend, when she said it's important to give protesters the opportunity to exercise their right to free speech.

She seemed to take that notion a step further: "It's a very delicate balancing act, because, while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well."

Again, more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Another example?  Sure.  How about Chicago?

Starting Jan. 1, officers were required to fill out the “investigatory stop reports” following changes in the state law and an agreement the Police Department made last year with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois that required Chicago officers to more thoroughly document their street stops.

The reports have caused controversy within the department because officers have complained they are too time-consuming and confusing to fill out. As a result, street stops made by Chicago police officers have plummeted significantly.

After hearing feedback from officers about new stop reports, interim police Superintendent John Escalante worked with the city’s Law Department and the ACLU to simplify the forms.

The changes, which are being completed and go into effect March 1, will eliminate some redundancies in the reports ... Instead of being two pages, the new stop reports will be reduced to 1 ½ pages, Police Department officials said.

More at the link. Again, bold, underlined text is my emphasis - and, in this case, it looks suspiciously as if the new reporting requirements were designed to achieve that result.  That sure sounds like a disincentive to the police, if you ask me.  "Do your job - then fill out a form that'll take a long time, during which you can't do your job!"

And what about Los Angeles?

Run away. If a police officer is confronted by a suspect with a weapon, those entrusted to set policies for the Police Department believe officers should run away. That’s the recent finding from the Los Angeles Police Commission which has turned Monday morning quarterbacking into a weekly agenda item at the three-ring circus they preside over every Tuesday morning.

. . .

The Commission is becoming nothing more than a politically motivated rubber stamp for the warped worldview of a handful of activists that they pander to. In this instance, only Commissioner Steve Soboroff was willing to let facts and reason prevail.

The message the Los Angeles Police Commission is sending to officers confronted with a violent and dangerous suspect is clear: You can save your life or save your job, but you cannot do both. You choose.

More at the link.

I don't know about you, but I'm seeing left-wing, progressive pressure on police that will inevitably result in precisely the same sort of no-go areas in the USA that Sweden is currently experiencing.  Would anyone deny that measures such as those described above are making it close to impossible for the police to do their jobs?

The next step, of course, is for our law enforcement personnel to realize (as have their colleagues in Sweden) that they're in a no-win situation, and resign en masse.  That will be scary . . . not because the criminals will jump at the chance to do as they please (although they will), but because the broad mass of honest citizens will then stop them the hard way, without worrying about such niceties as legal requirements.  I'm just waiting for that to happen during the next Charlotte, or the next 'flash mob' eruption, or anything like that.  I happen to know that a great many senior law enforcement personnel, in federal, state and local agencies, are seriously worried about precisely the same thing.  You can take that to the bank.  I talked with one of them, a former colleague, just last night.

The USA isn't Sweden.  There, most people have been 'pacified' and are disarmed.  In America . . . not so much.  If the police lose control - or have it taken from them by left-wing, progressive elements - the result is likely to be very nasty indeed.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Truck woes

Regular readers may recall my truck's electrical system woes, which have been a problem off and on for three years now.  Furthermore, three and a half years ago, I had to replace the gearbox after the original unit was drained of transmission fluid when a hose came loose.  I bought a Jasper reconditioned unit, with a three-year warranty . . . and sure enough, just after the warranty expired, it's broken down.  (The mechanic at the local service station rolled his eyes when I told him that, and said he's seen it more than once with such units.  He advised that if I want to fit any major reconditioned component like a gearbox, buy it from the manufacturer and from no-one else, because only the manufacturer will stand behind it as they should.)

I suspect I'm going to have to give up on the truck.  I can't pour another three thousand dollars plus into yet another gearbox, and the ongoing electrical problems are eating up smaller amounts on a regular basis.  There's no point throwing good money after bad.  It's a pity, because the truck (a 2005 Ford F-150) has only just over 70,000 miles on the clock (I bought it at about the same time as my disabling workplace injury, so I simply haven't driven it very much).  The engine and all other components have never missed a beat, and have been very reliable.  However . . . enough is enough.

I won't sell the truck as a going concern.  I regard it as a lemon now, and there's no way I'm prepared to sell a lemon to anyone - not even if they know about the problems.  (It's been my experience that sooner or later, someone will sell that lemon to someone else without being fully up-front about its problems.  I've had that happen to me once before, and I'll be damned if I allow anyone to do it to someone else using my truck!)  I won't even trade it in.  I'll sell the engine to someone who needs a good one, and perhaps some of the other parts (wheels and tires, body bits and pieces, camper shell, etc.) to local folks who can use them on their vehicles.  I'll junk the rest.

I guess I'll have to look for a cheap local runabout to tide me over until I can afford something better.  I can't monopolize Miss D.'s car - she needs that herself.  Maybe I can trade the engine for something suitable.  Otherwise, if any of my readers are interested in buying an excellent-condition 2005 Ford V-6 4.2-liter truck engine, needing only to be transplanted into their vehicle, let me know.


My mom would have boxed my ears instead

I suppose, in this day and age, non-corporal punishment is the norm . . . but it still seems to me that a California teenager got off lightly.

It was a morning that any mom with a teenager could relate to, said Nicole Poppic, a 34-year-old veteran and mom of three in Northern California. While her son Alex, 10, and daughter Sammi, 4, were ready and waiting to leave for school, Poppic's oldest child, Cara, 14, had overslept, and then she spent even more time arguing with her mother about, well, everything.

"When we finally got in the car and I looked at the clock and realized that we were running late, I started doing the 'mom' thing," Poppic told TODAY Parents. "My lecture went something along the lines of, 'You need to start thinking about other people, Cara. You are not the only person in this family, and you made your brother and sister late, too."

Then Poppic heard Cara’s favorite band, Panic! at the Disco, start playing from the passenger seat of the car. "That is when I saw that Cara had put in her headphones and was staring out her window, completely ignoring me," she said. "I reached over and took her phone off her lap, unplugged her headphones, and threw her phone out the car window."

But in case that maneuver doesn't convince you that Poppic is winning at parenting, she went one step further: after making Cara wait while she dropped off both her younger siblings at their school, Poppic wrote her daughter a tardy note that told the attendance office at Cara's high school the unvarnished truth about their morning from her perspective:

. . .

After she returned home, Poppic retrieved Cara's phone from the neighbor's yard no worse for the wear and posted a photo of the letter to her Facebook page, where it has been liked more than 7,000 times and shared over 32K times since the beginning of September.

(Click the image for a larger view)

There's more at the link.

My parents wouldn't have wasted time on gentle persuasion.  They had a rather more robust style of parenting!  (It was a different world in those days, of course.)


Sad Puppies, loud giggles, and a new book

Back in 2015, I called for a boycott of Tor Books, because one of that company's editors made scurrilous and completely untrue remarks.  Despite efforts to get the company to deal with the situation, that wasn't done to anyone's satisfaction.  (You can read all my posts about the issue, in reverse chronological order, by clicking this link.)

The root of the problem was liberal dominance (and manipulation of) the Hugo Awards.  Groups opposed to that included the Sad Puppies (formed by Larry Correia's fans, and joined by many others) and the Rabid Puppies (led by Vox Day, and rather less willing to compromise and 'be nice' towards the Social Justice Warriors who infested - and still infest - halls of mainstream-publisher-science-fiction.  I've never been a member of either group, although I certainly supported the Sad Puppies' campaign.  Furthermore, the Sad Puppies did not join my call for a boycott of Tor Books, although the Rabid Puppies did.

Amid all the unpleasantness about Tor and the various Puppy denominations, one amusing streak ran through the debate.  Declan Finn wrote a series of satirical posts on his blog portraying (highly) fictionalized SJW attempts to attack, silence or control various Sad and Rabid Puppy figures.  Most of them were very funny, and I enjoyed reading them.  (Yes, Miss D. and I were portrayed in one of them.)

Declan has now published his collected Sad Puppy posts in book form.

'Sad Puppies Bite Back' is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, and very reasonably priced for everyone else.  I've been enjoying re-reading Declan's wit, and chuckling all over again.  He had a lot of fun with this, and I daresay you will too.  Highly recommended as light, entertaining reading.


Damned if they do, damned if they don't, redux

On September 1st, I posted an article with the above headline, showing how cops in Chicago were abused by locals when they tried to do their job.  The past two days have seen two more incidents where the cops just couldn't win for losing.

In the first, a California Highway Patrol vehicle tried to stop a group of people performing illegal spins and donuts in an intersection - only to be attacked by those involved.

Clearly, those attacking the car (and performing illegal stunts in the road) have no respect whatsoever for law and order, and none for those trying to uphold and enforce it.

Next, a tragedy in San Diego.

A San Diego-area officer fatally shot a man who witnesses claim was mentally challenged and unarmed Tuesday afternoon, marking the latest victim in an unsettling series of black men killed by police.

. . .

Upon arriving, the first responding officer discovered a black male in his 30s frantically pacing back and forth, "not only endangering himself, but motorists," Davis said.

The officer allegedly ordered the man to remove his hand from his front pant pocket. When the man didn't comply, the officer drew his firearm.

A second officer arrived shortly thereafter and prepared to stun the man with a Taser. But as the officer prepared the electronic device, the man allegedly pulled out an object from his pocket, placed his hands together and took "what appeared to be a shooting stance," Davis said.

Both officers discharged their weapons simultaneously, fatally striking the man with several bullets as well as a high-voltage Taser shock. He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead Tuesday evening.

. . .

Olango's sister can be seen breaking down in tears.

"I called for help, I didn't call for you guys to kill him!" she screams in the video. "Oh my God, you killed my brother!"

Again, more at the link.

Initial video released by the police appears to confirm that the officers did not fire until the deceased man pulled something from his pocket and appeared to aim it at them.  Under the circumstances, I can't think of a single cop I know who wouldn't have fired at him.  I'm well trained and experienced in the use of firearms, and I can assure you;  if I'd been there, I'd have fired too!  You simply don't have time to wait until you know for sure whether or not the thing in his hands is dangerous or not.  If you wait, and it is a gun, you're going to be dead before you know what hit you.  You dare not take that chance.

Another aspect is that several shots were fired.  Again, this is standard procedure.  I've written extensively about the so-called 'stopping power' of handguns.  In a nutshell, handguns have lousy stopping power compared to a rifle or shotgun.  It's normal for multiple handgun rounds to be needed to subdue an opponent - and even that may not be enough to stop him killing you.  There are innumerable cases where a dozen or more hits did not disable an attacker.  Again, if I'd been in that officer's shoes, and I'd been armed only with a handgun, I'd have fired multiple times as well.

Unfortunately, people aren't going to consider the facts of the matter.  They're going to react out of emotion:  anger, loss, shock, and anything else you can think of.  The protestors at the scene chanting "Hands up!  Don't shoot!" were repeating a lie, the same lie that's at the root of everything Black Lives Matter does;  but they no longer care that it's factually a lie.  It's become a meme, a cultural assumption that transcends factual truth.  They won't be told, and they won't listen to it even if you tell them a thousand times.  Truth has become irrelevant.

So, two incidents.  In one, criminals arrogantly attacked police for daring to interfere in their wrongful activities.  In the second, police were forced to defend themselves from what they had to assume was an attack;  yet, having done so, they're being pilloried for "shooting an unarmed man".  More riots and demonstrations are likely to follow.

Police can't win for losing these days.  I wouldn't blame the next San Diego cop who's asked to respond to a 'man behaving erratically' call if he said, "Sorry - I ain't going there.  Tell those on the scene that they're on their own.  I'm not going to put my head on a politically correct chopping block for them any longer."  Trouble is, if more police do that - and many of them are doing that, implicitly if not explicitly - then all of us are going to suffer from the inevitable breakdown in law and order.  Those thugs that attacked the CHP police vehicle will grow bolder, and move into our neighborhoods . . . and the cops won't do a thing to stop them, because they know that if they do, they're going to be blamed.

Mr. Trump was right during Monday night's debate.  We need law and order.  It's a foundational requirement before we can fix our society.  Yes, I know that certain elements in our justice system are inherently and unashamedly racist, or high on a power/ego trip of "Respect mah authoritah!"  We've examined their conduct in these pages many times before, and we know they need to be slapped down.  That doesn't alter the fact that without law and order, our social structure itself is doomed.

So how do we get out of this handbasket?


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Doofus Of The Day #931

I thought of titling this post "How (not) to win friends and influence people", but that's already been taken.  Nevertheless, I think it's safe to say that one fumble-fingered federal agent has probably not made a friend.

Authorities say a federal agent accidentally shot a deputy’s leg at the sheriff’s station in Lemon Grove while unloading a handgun that was seized by a joint task force Monday.

. . .

The agent and other members of the unnamed task force recovered the .22 handgun while serving a search warrant in East County, Caldwell said.

The task force members returned to the sheriff’s station on Main Street to secure evidence about 5:30 p.m. While unloading the handgun, the agent accidentally discharged the gun, striking the deputy in the lower leg, Caldwell said.

The deputy was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive.

There's more at the link.

For the unnamed agent's benefit:  joint task forces are formed to act upon shared information . . . not ammunition!


Terrorism as taxation?

John Robb thinks so.

Liz Alderman at the NYTimes reported that terrorism is squashing Europe's first glimmer of recovery since the financial crash.  EU economic growth has been halved since spring, with France now at zero.  Here are some details:
  • Tourism is sinking.  For example:  "In France, growth in nightly hotel room bookings after the Paris attacks fell to single digits from 20 percent. After the Brussels bombings, bookings went negative, and after Nice, bookings fell by double digits."
  • Daily security costs are spiking.  Here's an example from a single venue, "the Paris Plage, a makeshift beach erected along the Seine, a dozen armed police officers guarded an entry checkpoint on a recent day. Army troops marched past families playing in the sand and half-empty activity points along the river. The patrols, cost taxpayers about 1 million euros, or $1.1 million, a day."
  • Broad spectrum economic damage.  For example:  retail sales are slumping due to low traffic in stores and large numbers of entertainment events are being cancelled.

Although Europe has suffered terrorism before, this time it's different.  Instead of big and relatively infrequent terrorist attacks, these new attacks are small, numerous and geographically dispersed.  This change is a big deal, because it makes it possible for terrorists to turn attacks into "a tax" that depresses economic activity by imposing new costs and changing economic behavior.

There's more at the link.  Interesting reading.

It's a two-edged sword, of course.  Terrorism hits things like tourism, retail shopping centers, and so on.  On the other hand, security expenditures increase, and even ordinary consumers will spend more on protecting themselves and their families (and, of course, their homes and possessions).  As evidence of that, witness the surge in firearms sales after every major terrorist attack or urban unrest (e.g. after the Pulse nightclub attack in Florida, the riots in Charlotte, etc.)  Also, people who might be afraid to vacation in major centers (which are more likely to be the focus of terrorists, due to their high public profile) may bring unexpectedly brisk business to less fashionable (but safer) areas that they otherwise might not have patronized.

Nevertheless, terrorism does drag down the areas where it occurs.  If attack follows attack, with no time for those areas to recover, it can have a very negative long-term effect.


First World job security in a Third World invasion

To reinforce the point I tried to make in my first post this morning ('This election is about the First versus the Third World'), here's a profound and sobering article by David Hunt.  He titles it 'The Omen of Lost Shirts'.  He examines the growing trend to bring in cheaper (and often less skilled) labor to replace expensive, highly-qualified First World workers, and what it means for the latter and the society in which they live.  Here's an excerpt.

I was struck some time ago by a picture of two Air France executives being set upon by protesters over layoffs.  The protestors assaulted them, ripped their shirts off and – possibly – intended even worse before they managed to escape and obtain police protection.  The specific details of the layoffs are only circumferentially related to my central point: executives of a company announcing layoffs were physically assaulted.

In a similar vein, consider one specific protest that happened during the height of the “Occupy” movement: protesters angry at Bank of America’s (BoA) foreclosures descended – not on the company’s facility as I would opine would be a legitimate location – but to the home of one executive.  Not content to trespass on the lawn, they stepped onto the porch itself, frightening the man’s son who was at home (bolding added):

But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be "mob." Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise...

And lastly, consider two different levels of emotional display clearly evident in this video of a Carrier executive announcing the coming closing of both the Indianapolis production facility and the distribution center.  First, immediately relevant, is the very visible and barely-controlled fury at the announcement.

The second, the executive’s reptilian coldness in reading – and sticking to – a script (even if, inside, he felt uncomfortable about it), I’ll discuss a little later.

Just Short of Boiling

Unless you’re comatose you have heard that companies are replacing, wholesale it seems, American workers with H1-B visa holders. For example, Disney called their IT personnel into a meeting; many of these persons were top performers, having received excellent performance reviews with some winning top corporate honors.  They were informed that their jobs were being transferred to cheaper foreign workers, told that their severance pay relied on their staying to train those workers before they were shown the door… and then they were terminated.  Now they’re filing suit.

This is an epidemic. Abbott Pharmaceuticals just did it.  As have Harley Davidson and South California Edison.  Intel announced a 12,000-person layoff even as they lobby for more H1-B and L1 visas.  Taco Bell is shipping jobs overseas.  And it’s not just skilled labor: Tesla’s new factory seems to have used imported manual labor, saying they “expect their subcontractors to obey all laws...” – doubtless wink-wink.

A decade-old letter to the editor in the EE Times said “In my department, more than 20 Americans were ordered by corporate management to train our own replacements.” and added “I strongly suggest American students avoid the technology and engineering fields.”  And a similar training-your-foreign-replacement action at BoA arguably contributed to one employee committing suicide.  More broadly, being downsized in general increases the risk of suicide; one study reports losing one’s job increases it by 2.5 fold.

. . .

There’s even a book out about this wholesale replacement of American workers with cheaper immigrants:

And it’s not just cheaper labor; Shelly Palmer posted an antifreeze-level-cold LinkedIn post about how he replaced people with technology and commented (bolding added):

To the hundred or so people we’re about to get fired, I apologize. We make a living by analyzing problems for our clients and offering them solutions that create shareholder value. We’re just doing our job so you can lose yours. I’m pretty sure that one day (sooner rather than later) a machine-learning algorithm is going to replace most, or all, of my job too.

He apologizes. He apologizes.  As I asked in the comments, without immediate reply, how would his crocodile tears look had he learned Mr. Lee, whose job he eliminated, committed suicide from the loss of face and income?  I’m sure the fat wad of cash deposited in his bank account ameliorates his guilt; no doubt that his anticipated job loss will be after he’s gotten his lucre… he’s just following orders, er, doing his job.

Let Them Eat Pink Slips

So refer back to that Carrier executive’s announcement: it contained so little empathy for the fact that he’s announcing to these people the destruction of their lives, at least in the short term, as well as significant ripple effects in their community that it approached mathematical definition of zero.  It’s possible that he did, in fact, dislike the task which he had been assigned, but his hectoring of the workers to “be calm” and “be professional” and “keep up the output and quality” even as he says, in translation, “Your future has been utterly overturned” bespeaks a dearth of EQ – the hip-hop-happenin’ term these days.  Like Shelly Palmer, just above, I’d bet his bonus assuages any residual remorse he might have.

And while I can, on an intellectual basis, appreciate the economic arguments in favor of offshoring – like the one put forth by scholar Walter E. Williams, a man whose views I generally admire, here, – I will counter that the greatest global economic good does not necessarily equal the greatest American good.  Nor does it take into account other factors like national security concerns.

There's much more at the link.  Sobering, infuriating, worrying reading.

I'm not sure whether either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton fully grasp the size of this problem;  but I suspect the former does so in more realistic terms than the latter.  Of course, Mr. Trump may well have used the laws of the land to do precisely the same thing in his businesses;  one doesn't know.  However, as a businessman, I think he knows more about the subject than any professional politician. Can he effectively address the problem?  Only time will tell . . . and the decision of the electorate in November.


This election is about the First versus the Third World

I watched the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump last night, in the company of a few friends and fellow bloggers.  I wasn't wildly impressed by either candidate.  I'd score it a draw as far as its effect on the election is concerned.  I think most voters have already made up their minds by now.  Those that say they haven't won't find much in last night's debate to sway them, IMHO.

What did strike me was the contrast between the candidates' approaches to the rest of the world.  Donald Trump was emphatic about protecting American jobs and our national economy, if necessary by renegotiating international trade agreements, restricting immigration, etc.  Hillary Clinton was much more globalist in orientation, looking to admit more refugees, work together with other nations (whatever that means), and so on.  She basically saw the United States as just one nation among many, whereas Donald Trump saw it as the 'first among equals' with the right to put its own interests first.

I think that's the key to this election.  If you look at what's happening in Europe, with literally millions of refugees streaming into the continent from the Middle East and Africa, parts of it are rapidly taking on the character of the Third World from which they come - complete with Third World problems.  The ever-increasing sexual assaults on women?  That's the result of Third World attitudes, where women are possessions, first of their fathers, then of their husbands, and have little or no say in the way they're treated.  Third World men are treating First World women in the same way they treat their own women - and the First World is shocked and disgusted . . . but why?  Anyone with two brain cells to rub together would have understood that this was inevitable.  Merely admitting someone into First World borders doesn't wave a magic wand and transform their thinking and their attitudes.

In the same way, demands for benefits, welfare, etc. are stretching to the limit European social support structures and systems that were set up to deal primarily with the needs of local citizens.  No-one stopped to think that an influx of refugees would overwhelm them.  I'm not being racist when I observe that matters so simple as how to use a flush toilet are proving to be serious issues in certain nations and cities where Third World 'refugees' congregate.  These people have never had the opportunity to use such facilities before, and no-one in Europe could conceive of the need to teach adults how to use a modern toilet.  The result has been a sudden surge in broken, clogged and otherwise damaged sanitary facilities in the camps set up to house these people, and in the accommodation provided for them once they've made it through processing.  The European taxpayer is, of course, footing the bill for repairs.

This also ignores the fact that Europe is importing its own next generation of economic problems.  Unemployment among younger people in Europe is already extraordinarily high.  Spain reports a youth unemployment rate of 43.9% as of July this year.  Italy's at 39.2%, Greece is 47.7%, and France is 24.4%.  Germany, by contrast, has only 7.2% youth unemployment.  With nations already struggling to find jobs for their own younger people, how on earth are they going to offer employment to so many 'refugees'?  (Of course, they're mostly not 'refugees' at all.  They're economic migrants, using the fiction of being refugees to seek a better life elsewhere.  Unfortunately, they'll do so at the expense of the people of the countries they're overwhelming with their numbers.)

If Hillary Clinton becomes President, I think her policies - as expressed in her election materials, and during her comments last night - are almost guaranteed to bring more of the same problems to this country.  (They're already here, of course, in the millions of illegal aliens infesting our land;  but that problem is still manageable at present levels.  It won't be if the influx continues, and if the present infestation is not cut back drastically.)  Donald Trump, on the other hand, appears to be firmly against that, and wants to reserve American jobs for Americans.  I strongly support that perspective.  Sure, some immigration will be necessary.  I'm an immigrant myself, and I'm very grateful to this country for offering me the chance to make a fresh start and find a new home.  However, I brought with me skills that this country needed;  I entered legally;  and I've supported myself.  Illegal aliens don't do that.  Many come here with no skills at all.  They're a net drain on the economy, when you factor in health care and other support costs.  We can't afford that.  It's that simple.

The tide of economic migrants from the Third World to the First World is ever-increasing, because the populations of Third World countries have increased so drastically that they have no expectation of anything worthwhile if they stay there.  There will never be enough jobs, enough social support structures, enough housing, enough health care, to meet their needs:  so they're trying to move to a place that can offer them those things.  Unfortunately, by seeking to leech off the American or European taxpayer, they're imposing an impossible burden on us - one that's completely unsustainable.

That's what this election is all about.  If we allow Hillary Clinton's policies to prevail, the Third World will be all around us within a few years (it already is, in some parts of this country).  America will be dragged down - economically, socially, and in due course politically - to the level of most of South America.  If Donald Trump's policies prevail, the tide may yet be stemmed, and even, perhaps, reversed.  I'm not at all sure that Mr. Trump will make a good President;  but I am sure that in this area at least, the policies he's expressed are light years ahead of his opponent's.